Weekly Challenge – Masterpiece; The Temples of Angkor

“Make your lives a masterpiece, you only get one canvas.”

E. A. Bucchianari



In a recent post I included two shots from Angkor Wat (click here).  Based on the happy coincidence that this week’s challenge is “Masterpiece”,  I thought I’d share some additional captures from that amazing place.  Angkor was the culmination of our journey throughout Southeast Asia which included Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.  As a photographer the trip was a feast for my eyes and heart as well as my lens. The temples of Angkor were definitely the highlight for me.



“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.”

John Ruskin

One of the largest archaeological sites in the world, Angkor was the center of the Khmer Kingdom from the 9th to the 14th century.  It is made up of dozens of temples, or wats, as well as an intricate system of waterways – the work of an exceptional ancient civilization.  In this post I’ll focus on the architectural detail of the temples; to see the main temple as a whole, go to my previous post here.



“No human masterpiece has ever been created without great labor.”

Andre Gide

The temples are in various states of reconstruction.  Ta Prohm, featured in this post’s first photograph, is the least updated and was actually my favorite.  There you can see how incredibly nature has integrated with the structures – growing over, through and around the various buildings.  It also lends perspective to the massive amount of work that went into preservation, including that of some of the most famous, Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Bayon.



” Expect the masterpiece, it is true reverence to man.”

Frank Lloyd Wright

Although Angkor was never actually “lost” and hence wasn’t quite “found”, explorer Henri Mouhot is credited with bringing it to the attention of westerners in the early 19th century.  Engineers have suggested that to build the temples today would require about 300 years, although centuries ago it was built in under 40.  (Perhaps building permits and architectural fees were different in those days!)  It is estimated that 5 million tons of sandstone were used to build the structures, all of which had to be transported by river from over 25 miles away.



“Who am I to tamper with a masterpiece?”
Oscar Wilde

The temples, although teeming with tourists, maintain an air of quiet dignity and spirituality.  Because they are so large, it is possible to find solitude and peace around many of their corners.  Some of the most interesting aspects of exploring them are the many windows, doors and corridors throughout.









“To create a masterpiece, you must first become a masster.”

Lorrin L. Lee

Another interesting element of the complex is the existence of beautiful walls and lines of pillars that once connected various walkways and buildings but which now, for the most part, stand alone.







Architects give us temples in which something marvelous is obviously going on.”

Kurt Vonnegut

The temples are also famous for their many beautifully intricate bas-relief carvings of Hindu mythology as well as depictions of various wars and other elements of life in centuries past.  Angkor Wat itself is home to 2,000 apsara (Hindu nymphs) carvings.





“A real building is one on which the eye can light and stay lit.”

Ezra Pound

Finally, a few examples of some of my favorite elements of the temples, each exhibiting the remarkable craftsmanship of the many workers whose talent combined to create a masterpiece of imagination and engineering.











The artist always has the masters in his eyes.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

With apologies for a much longer post than is my norm, an interesting update.  In June of 2013, newly-developed laser scanning technology revealed a huge cityscape far larger and more complex than archaeologists previously believed. Current thinking is that decades of monstrous monsoons and massive droughts created issues with Angkor’s vast waterways which eventually brought about the destruction of the city.

So what do you think?  Centuries from now, what will archaeologists find of interest from today’s masterpieces?  What will cause them to be lost to future generations until they are found again?  Will we be under water like the lost city of Atlantis, destroyed by massive natural events like Pompeii, or like the Khmer rulers, fall victim to our own efforts to sustain our environment?  Nothing lasts forever, so whatever is to happen, let us hope our legacy is as glorious as that of the Temples of Angkor.





213 thoughts on “Weekly Challenge – Masterpiece; The Temples of Angkor

  1. WOW…….I am in awe…these are all so beautiful (in their own way) ….so mysterious at the same time…especially love the first “Nature wins”…WOW!!
    Love traveling with u….THANKS…..hoping to see them someday!!

  2. Love, love, love them ! Especially Close Quarters, Aligned and sandstone Smile…..I was extremely drawn to sandstone smile, And who is smiling? A dragon? The subtle hues are beautifully captured. One can only imagine the vibrant colors they must have been centuries ago. I too want to go there! Tina, you mastered the masterpiece!

  3. Have been to this temples before – through other bloggers, never heard about it before I start blogging, but there is so much I never heard about.
    Your photos are just fantastic … and I like how you have picked up the temples for different angles … not just the mayor details. Strange we used the same quote for this challenge … the John Ruskin one.
    Excellent post.

    • Thanks Viveka! Yes I saw that quote a few times–guess it rang true for several of us! Appreciate your lovely compliment-happy to share such an extraordinary place.

      • It’s a fantastic post you have created .. of an very extraordinary place. Thanks for taking me there again … through your eyes.

  4. Wow! These are masterpieces for sure Tina! Great shots hon and an excellent entry for the challenge. Thanks for sharing this beauty hon. 😀 *hugs*

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  6. Absolutely fascinating — so glad you shared all that you did (and the quotes were perfectly intertwined!). Madhu has posted beautiful images from these amazing temples, also — it is interesting seeing how different visitors and photographers “see” the temples through their camera lens.

  7. Great and educative post. Interesting information for general culture and fantastic photos (as usual); especially, (to me) the “Two Windows” and “Temple Guardians”!

    • Thanks Z, appreciate your comment. Would indeed have loved to see them in their glory, or even more as they were being created. Imagine all of the artists and craftsmen at work leaving their personal mark on the masterpiece! Must have been awesome!

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    • My pleasure, thanks for stopping by and for your lovely comment. Definitely do NOT miss it while you’re so close!! We are headed to China for a month very soon and I am SOOOO excited! How long have you lived there?

      • Cambodia is on the ‘must see’ list this year. Angkor Watt is top of the list. We have done the Philippines, Vietnam and Seoul Korea over the last few years. Our hope is at least Cambodia and Thailand this year. China has been our home for 3 years (just starting our 4th). This probably will be our last since my contract is done next June/July. We are in Shanghai which is very modern and western, but still has some interesting sites. We also have visited Hong Kong, Xi’An and Beijing. Where are you going in China? You sound like you are on an Asian tour… awesome!

      • DEFINITELY do Cambodia and Angkor–both are amazing. Loved Thailand also but preferred Cambodia. Our China trip is all over really, Beijing, HK, XiAn, Shanghai, Lijang, Deqin, Zhongdian, Guilin, Longsheng, Hangzhou. Trying to do as much as we can since it will be our only trip there. Very excited! Any ideas/thoughts/suggestions greatly appreciated!

      • Wow you are really doing it all. I have never been to Guilin, but hear it is fantastic. Xi’an was one of my favourites. We took the local public bus and it was much cheaper and was nice to do at our own pace. Beijing we went on a tour since we couldn’t get to the section of the wall we wanted without one. It was amazing to see, but rushed if you wanted to walk as far as you could.
        We are in Shanghai and the Bund is the place to be. All the amazing buildings are there and the skyline is fantastic. We enjoyed the Financial Tower with its glass tiles on the floor. Things are really spread out so it depends on what you want to see… When will you be in China? PS without a VPN you can’t access facebook, blogs, twitter and the like due to restrictions. You can purchase a VPN for few months, but probably best to do it before you get there.

  10. Stunning! Not only is the architecture amazing, but also the way you captured and framed your picture with light.

    • Thanks much Mary Lynn! It’s an amazing place – a must-see really. I appreciate your comments about the light – up before dawn is not my thing so I was relieved it turned out to be worth the extra effort and then some!!

  11. Another great combination of excellent photography and so many wise words, I found this post most inspiring. Love the quotes you picked!
    Sunny greetings from hot Norway

    • Thanks Dina! As a kid studying abroad I visited 15 countries. I was a French major so France was my #1, but Norway was right beside it! I have SO many great memories from your beautiful country! Hot, however, was not one of them LOL. Appreciate your kind comment.

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  14. Fantastic photos, Tina. I especially loved the deity profile at Bayon Temple. Have never seen that perspective before.

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  19. I find it interesting and sad that the great civilization of the Khmer Kingdom was corrupted by the influence of the notorious Khmer Rouge of Pol Pot in modern Cambodia. See ” The Killing Fields”. It is likewise that most great civilizations eventually are corrupted in due time by political forces run amuck. Your cynical bro

    • Sad indeed, as Pol Pot was high on the list of most despicable tyrants ever. Unfortunately I suppose there will always be despots. But the good news is that we found the Cambodian people to be among the gentlest, most easygoing, warm and friendly people we’ve met anywhere. They are enjoying peace and prosperity much more, I think, than those who have never known its absence.

  20. Your photographs of this unique place are stunning Tina. The light, the composition, the focus. I have seen many (identical) photos of Angor Wat before, but you have managed to show it in a very different light. The details of the carvings, the temple guardians shot, the story and the quotes – I actually want to go there, and I never did before… you have captured this masterpiece perfectly.
    Jude xx

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    • Thank you Amy – it truly is a masterpiece. I can only imagine what it will look like in 20 years when the excavation of the underground city combines with that of the temples!

  23. The intelligence behind the creation of some ancient architecture is mind boggling. The use of texture, color, pattern, light and proportion is amazing. Your photos capture some of that so beautifully. Suzie

  24. Beautifully captured, great understanding of use of light and I love your attention to the smaller detail. You have given a different slant on this place – and I can’t wait to get out there!

    • Thank you Al! Amazing how massive the complex is, and how much incredible attention to detail. I like to imagine the flurry of activity that must have been present as the structures evolved over time!

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