The National Museum of Cambodia, located near the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, has the largest collection of Khmer artefacts in the world. Entry to the museum costs $10 for foreigners over 18 years old and $5 for those under 18.
About the National Museum of Cambodia
The National Museum of Cambodia is located in a purpose built structure. The museum was constructed in phases from 1917 to 1924 during the time when Cambodia was governed by the French as part of their Indo-China Empire. The design of the building has distinctive Khmer influences, although the European architectural influences make it distinct from more traditional Khmer designs. The National Museum of Cambodia was established to promote and preserve Khmer culture and is active in partnerships with other museums both in Cambodia and abroad. The museum also receives funding from a number of private individuals and trusts as well as large international organisations such as UNESCO.
The National Museum of Cambodia holds a wide range of artefacts sourced from across the one-time Khmer Empire which included parts of Eastern Thailand and as well as sections of Central and Southern Vietnam. The collection also covers a wide period of Cambodian history from pre-historic times, through the golden era of the Angkor Kingdom, onto later Khmer history in the period of decline that followed. The artefacts in the museum can be groups into 4 categories although the way they displayed generally follows themes according to the exhibitions being displayed at any current time:
- Wooden Objects: The collection of wooden objects all date from Angkor and post-Angkor period. The four most notable of these being:
- An Adorned Buddha carved in the 16th Century.
- The Kinari Box created in the 19th Century.
- A pedestal made from woven bamboo in the 19th Century.
- The Tep Praman which is a wooden carving of man worshipping fro the 16th Century.
- Ceramics: The collection of ceramics dates back further than the collection of wooden objects because of the greater durability of pottery, and indeed some of the pieces on display are believed to been created around 5,000 BC. The four best known ceramic objects are:
- The Elephant Vessel with a receptacle shaped like an elephant created at an undated point during the Angkor Period.
- A stoneware jar with a wide lip made in the 12th Century.
- A plain earthenware jar dating back to the pre-Angkor period which is remarkably intact given its age.
- A glazed stoneware jar for keeping fermented fish sauce dating back to the 12th Century.
- Stone Objects: The stone objects at the museum are its most famous artefacts. Many of these are Angkor period pieces elaborately carved from sandstone mined in Siem Province. The four stone objects to look out for when you visit the museum are:
- A sandstone statue of the Hindu god Vishnu carved in the 6th Century.
- A sandstone statue of a devi, which is a female supernatural being from Hindu mythology, created in the 7th Century.
- A beautifully carved statue of King Jayavarman VII in a meditative pose from the 13th Century. King Jayavarman VII was the mpst prolific temple builder of the Angkor period and this statue is probably the most iconic piece in collection held at the National Museum.
- A wonderfully ornate section of sandstone lintel found in the archaeological zone near Siem Reap. This 10th Century architectural features Vishnu supported by the mythological Garuda symbolically combining Indian traditions with South Eastern Asian beliefs.
- Bronze Objects: The National Museum holds an impressive range of bronze statues. Bronzes feature heavily in Khmer artwork during both the pre-Angkor period and the Angkor period. The four must see bronze statues are:
- A statue of the Lord Buddha standing up cast in the 6th Century.
- A reclining statue of Vishnu from the 11th Century.
- A statue of the Lord Buddha with monastic robe from the early 12th Century.
- A statue of the Lord Buddha flanked on each with side by Bodhisattva made in the 12th Century.
Location of the National Museum of Cambodia
The National Museum of Cambodia is located 2.3 km by road from Phnom Penh Railway Station.