Angkor Thom means “The Great City”, it was the capital of Khmer Empire. From all four gates of Angkor Thom, walking straight to the center of this great city you’ll reach Bayon, the state temple. This Mahayana Buddhist temple built by Jayavarman Ⅶ, was designed to be the heart of the Khmer Empire, not only geographically, but also spiritually.
Jayavarman Ⅶ is a king who believed in Buddhism rather than Hinduism. Compared to the large scale of Angkor Wat, Bayon is quite small in size. On the higher level of the temple, 54 face towers rising above, (though some of them are already destroyed or missing.) each tower has four smiling Buddha faces gazing serenely to four directions.
We came here twice during this trip, both in the early morning when the sun is rising and the crowds are low. It’s magical the skills of the carving artists a thousand years ago, the eyes of the buddhas look closed or open depending on the lighting sometimes. slowly the sun starts to illuminate the faces one by one. It seems like their eyes are opening up under the sunshrine. These faces saw the rising and falling of the Khmer empire, saw the prosperity and genocide of the Cambodian history.
Looking at those faces I suddenly found that there is a third eye on the forehead of every buddha. The third eye is the symbol of the vision of true reality. On top of the four faces of each tower, a lotus flower is fully bloomed.
Jayavarman Ⅶ was a king who went out to the battlefield and led his army through wars. Maybe that’s why he had such sympathy towards people. This is shown on the galleries of carvings on the walls in Bayon. Angkor Wat depicts Hindu mythological stories, whereas Bayon’s carvings focused on historical narratives and scenes from daily regular people’s life. For example, chefs cooking, a man BBQing a piece of meat, a young lady giving birth, a husband goes to war and the wife follows him out.
There’s no more text remains today that describes the life of the Khmer people here a thousand years ago anymore. But luckily these beautiful stone carvings still stand.