To understand more about Khmer culture, tradition and history, most of the national and international researchers always rely on ‘inscriptions’ that are mostly carved on stones. Though historical evidence have been archived and many books have been written, there are still a lot of newly found inscriptions that certainly proves the Kingdom’s history and identity from the early times.
Aside from being a Khmer Linguistics instructor at Mean Chey University, Hun Chhunteng has been researching for years about Khmer inscriptions to unlock his curiosity. Collaborating with his former classmate Mao Dim and Suon Sopheaktra and with the support and advice from his seniors, Mr Chhunteng shared his newly discovered inscriptions in a well-known journal Kambuja Suria earlier this year.
The book gives detailed information about new 10 inscriptions and 2 re-exam inscriptions that the author found in various places in Cambodia. From one inscription to another, the author divides the book into four categories which provide information about the inscription, history and meaning of inscription, transliteration text and revised version of those written form.
The first category describes the texts on the inscription, generation of language, Conventional date of inscription, its Provenance, who and how they were found, rubbing, kind of stone and its size. For the second part, the book explains in details about the relevant events before having it printed.
To illustrate, the first chapter tells about inscription that was found in the area called, Toul Angkor Trapaeng Trav. It was inscribed in the 6th or 7th century. It was found in Trapaeng Trav village in Takeo province and was recently stored in the National Museum work shop. It was made rubbing twice by a RUPP’s professor and Bati’s high school teacher.
It was found by Mr Ich Sarom and his wife after a group of soldiers dig their plot of land. Mr Sarom shares in the book that there were some powerful people and soldiers who asked him to dig his plot of land secretly in 1985. They didn’t allow others to see, even him. The next morning, he saw a broken stone on the spot. He kept it in his house until an old man saw and took it. But the old man’s family got sick from the day he brought home the stone. Sarom then decided in 2010 to give the stone to the Takeo Department of Culture and Fine Art.
There are 15 lines of letters inscribed on the stone. But the stone was broken; the author can only read the remained parts of it. He assumed that it was inscribed to tell about the tradition when people offered clothes to God in the ancient times.
The author has included the original form of letter and its transliteration text before describing it into this generation’s language to make it more understandable.
Though I am neither an archeology nor a history student, I still find the book very useful as it helps me to understand more about culture, tradition, identity and history of my country. I like the way that he categorised and how he explains the events before all those inscriptions were printed. There are a lot of interesting stories like the spiritual beliefs of people relevant to the inscribed stone.
Author: Hun Chhunteng
Publication: Buddhist Institute (Kambuja Suriya Edition 4- 2018)
Initiate by King Sisovat in 1921, the Buddhist Institute was successfully established by King Monivong in 1930. The main role of this institute does not merely focus on research of Cambodian literature, language, but also Buddhism and education.
Later in 1954, King Norodom Sihanouk linked Buddhist Institute with Preah Sihanouk Raj Buddhist University which produced a lot of outputs as such Kambuja Soriya magazine, the Tripitaka Scripture, publication of Mores and Customs Commissions as well as Khmer dictionary.
Currently, many documents are being collected to rebuild the Buddhist Institute’s collection, for the benefit of local researchers. And researchers are still working actively to figure out as aspects of Khmer culture issues.