Buddha Faces at Angor Wat, Cambodia

This is a close up taken of the Buddha faces in Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

I like the texture in the image. More than that, I was stunned as to how the statues were constructed.DSC_0377

Unlike many of the Buddhas I saw in China which were carved out in situ from a big piece of rock, the statues hereΒ were assembled from blocks of rock stacked together.

This begs two questions. For one, how to control the carving so that the profiles and details match with the adjoining blocks and that when assembled togetherΒ give the 3D they want.

Secondly, how did transport, lift and stack the heavy blocks together?

While we were there, we were just bewildered!


60 thoughts on “Buddha Faces at Angor Wat, Cambodia

  1. It is amazing! And beautiful. Just watched a show about how they believe the Stonehedge might’ve been put together— Ancients were brilliant!

  2. I remember a television series about clever, modern architects, builders and archaeologists trying to discover how the ancient Mayans, Egyptians and the rest built pyramids and huge statues among other things. They never got it quite right and always ran into difficulties.

    So much for modern intellects!

  3. We have been visiting Gothic Cathedrals here is Spain, and feel the same way, how did they build these great monuments without the equipment and technology! you have some great photos! thanks for visiting my blog! I hope you will visit again.

  4. Good questions! Beautiful shot of the Buddhas, too! Angkor Wat is one of the places on my bucket list. We almost went there years ago, but had to skip that and visit family first.

  5. Hi Michael:

    I like your questions. So, the curious mind went looking for an answer (or possible answer). in Michael Coe’s Angkor, And the Khmer Civilization, page 155, there is a section called “Architecture and the Building Trade”. Coe cited Claude Jacques who explained that most sacred structures were made of sandstone instead of timber, due to the ideology that gods are immortal , and should be honored by using stone that may last forever.

    Coe also cites the transportation of these massive stone faces: The stone masons bored two holes on either end of the surface. then they drove wooden pegs into the area, tied with ropes and moved them. The stones are mortarless and are held together by friction! There were suggestions that elephants were used at that time to transport these big pieces,

    There are a lot more interesting facts cited by scholars. Thanks for raising an interesting question.

    Something unrelated to your questions but could be shared with your other readers on the color of these scuptures: Many people said that these stone faces resemble the face of the Angkor’s Buddhist king: Jayaverman VII.

    See my post: My Cambodia Trip, Part II


    Also my ebook on iBookstore: “Angkor Wat, Cambodia”

    I also want to reblog your post if you don’t mind. It will remind me of doing some more reading, and perhaps going back one day to revisit, and writing another book on “sacred architecture”. I did collect a number of books and papers for my personal interest….just for the love of art and culture!

    Alum Denise

    • Hi Denise,
      You are welcome to reblog my post.
      The blocks are likely transferred by elephants or manual labor, maybe with the help of timber logs as rollers or sledges.
      The more intriguing part is having to raise them for stacking, which mean that they had to assemble a frame of some sort for raising or to construct some ramps near it which are later removed.
      Given there are not a lot of lateral forces on the statutes – due to hurricanes or earth quakes, the friction between blocks should suffice.
      Look forward to reading your next book!

  6. Thank you for your explanation from an engineering angle. I do have some interests on sacred architecture, but in no way near to publishing a book on an academic base. My books are for fun and coffee table! πŸ˜‰

  7. Looks like you got the “moving” piece figured out already. As for the “carving and aligning” piece, two options:
    – stack all blocks in position, *then* carve out the face from the stacked blocks currently in place, how you would a giant slab of rock.
    – stack all blocks at “human height”, carve out the face, mark, disassemble, move to final position, reassemble.

    Or at least that’s how I would proceed. Blocks have a “standard” size. They can just stack everything, and friction will hold everything together. So you can just “build a slab” and then carve it. And there you have your edges aligned nicely πŸ™‚

    • Hi, I think the second scenario is more likely. If you look at the figures, there are some mismatches between adjacent blocks. This would not have occurred if they are stacked at the final collation and carved Insitu. Thanks very much for the comment!

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