Weekly Challenge – Masterpiece; The Temples of Angkor

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

E. A. Bucchianari

NATURE WINS, TA PROHM

NATURE WINS, TA PROHM TEMPLE

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.

DOORWAY TO MAGIC

DOORWAY TO WONDER

“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.

YESTERDAY'S GLORY

SHADOWS OF A GLORIOUS PAST, BENG MELEA TEMPLE

“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.

DIGNIFIED DEITY

DIGNIFIED DEITY – BAYON TEMPLE

” 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.

ASKEW

ASKEW

“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.

DOORWAY TO A WALL

DOORWAY TO A WALL

ONCE A WINDOW

PORTAL TO THE PAST

TWO WINDOWS

TWO WINDOWS

CLOSE QUARTERS

CLOSE QUARTERS

“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.

FROM PILLAR TO POST

FROM PILLAR TO POST

ALIGNED

ALIGNED

DISCONNECTED

ONCE CONNECTED

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.

BLACK AND WHITE

BLACK AND WHITE

SANDSTONE SMILE

SANDSTONE SMILE

PRAYERFUL

PRAYERFUL

“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.

STONE CARVING

STONE CARVING

NATURAL LIGHT

NATURAL LIGHT

TEMPLE GUARDIANS

TEMPLE GUARDIANS

NUTS AND BOLTS

NUTS AND BOLTS

SANDSTONE FILAGREE

SANDSTONE FILAGREE

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.

To see more “Masterpiece” posts, click here.


 

 

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

  1. As always, your images are just beautiful. What an amazing place and it would seem you held up to several days of “temple crawling.” 🙂 Somehow, I just don’t see our modern masterpieces standing the test of time Angkor has.

    • Thanks Andaremos! Reading thru my posts you’ll see I despise early mornings but make the sacrifice often when I travel. Angkor was one that I especially loved shooting at sunrise because of the beautiful golden tones. The place literally glowed 🙂

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  3. Great post. Your pictures are just beautiful. It’s not easy to capture the real beauty of temple through the lens; but you have done it incredibly well. Like this post a lot.

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  5. Wonderful photos. I really enjoyed this and especially the questions at the end.
    What will cause them to be lost to future generations until they are found again?
    I’ve thought of this when pondering Chichen Itza. Nature has an amazing capacity to reclaim a place once we humans step aside for awhile. We see that here on our farm too. A building or field that goes unused by humans for a generation or two becomes almost unrecognizable as trees and vines move back in. My guess is that if future archaeologists discover the ruins of any of today’s architectural masterpieces, they would have been temporarily “lost” because they were in placed abandoned for greener pastures or rendered irrelevant by the passage of time and exhaustion of their reasons to exist, like the ghost towns of the Old West.
    Thanks for the great post.

    • Hi Bill, and thanks for your thoughtful comment! Your scenario about the future is much more pleasant than mine, lets hope you’re right! Chichen itza is on my list!

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  7. Those were some amazing temples, thanks for giving us a tour of Ankor Wat
    I’m inviting you to link up to Travel Photo Mondays, the link is up all week, hope you can join us..

  8. I love the Ruskin quote. Have always dreamed of going to Angor Wat, and to exactly those countries you went to. They would be my first choices if I had the funds! I’m glad you went – you did some really nice work there. All the “framed” ones are especially nice. And very well written!

    • Thanks BB. I hope you get to go one day. The trip is a really special one. Each country is quite different from the others and fascinating in its own way. Thanks for your lovely compliment.

  9. Those were amazing photos. Your creativity in shooting the different images is wonderful. Love them all. Absolutely fabulous!!!

  10. What an amazing collection of photos from an incredible place. Your photos are always captivating, but the detail in these is just wonderful. Don’t appolagise for a long post when its packed full of so much beauty…..a masterpiece indeed, and I feel we create functional spaces rather than beautiful ones currently.

    • Thank you Seonaid, as always, for your lovely comment! It is indeed a truly incredible experience to visit such a place. As for today’s efforts, I agree for the most part but hopefully there are at least a few exceptions! The Sagrada Familia in the original challenge post, for example, is Amazing. Hopefully great artists and architects will always find an outlet for their creativity!

  11. What an amazing place. Yet again I envy your travels. And these wonderful photographs are a delight, bringing me to a place I will likely never see in person.

  12. When I saw this week’s photo challenge subject, I knew I’d be in for a treat with your post. And as usual Tina, you didn’t disappoint…not only with the shots but the narrative as well.

    • Uh oh, do I have to start worrying about living up to expectations now Andy? LOL! Appreciate your kind comment and will do my best to deserve it! Thanks much 🙂

  13. Tina – your photography is incredible and I love seeing the places you’ve visited. I’m glad I’m not the jealous type, because your pictures are worth being jealous about!!

    Thanks as always for sharing. Yes, it was a long post but well worth my time.

    Nancy

  14. Tina, your angles, lighting and framing are all wonderful. Curious as to how the tree roots have incapsulated parts of the Ta Prohm temple. I have a 16 year old granddaughter who just returned from a two week work camp at a Unesco World Heritage site in Banska Stiavnica. I am sending her your post. Wonderful world we live in.

  15. This was so interesting to read. And your photographs took me right there. As to what archeologists might find of our civilization? Nothing as beautiful and long lasting as this I feel. To me, modern architecture does not have as much character as the architecture of days gone by.

    • Thanks for your comment Colline! I kind of agree with you – certainly nothing of this scale that I know of today. Imagine what some future civilization might think of Disney World LOL! There are a few amazing places-Sydney’s Opera House, New York’s Central Park, Mount Rushmore? Hard to imagine what might be interesting 1000 years from now!!!

  16. Thanks Madhu – yes the “up before dawn” thing did pay off in the end but it was definitely a challenge!! I agree, every temple we saw was a masterpiece in and of itself, and combined they are simply beyond imagination!

    • Thanks Nora! There was so much to see and shoot – a photographer’s dream. At one point I actually got separated from my husband and friends I was so intent on my shooting. THAT was a scary few minutes!

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  18. Very upsetting post. Why did I spend all that time and money going there when your photos show me so much more than when I was standing next to you when you took them? “Doorway To A Wall ” looks like a painting hanging in the Louvre. Amazing photos and historical info.

  19. Your photos are marvelous as always,and the light, incredible! Those temples are all masterpieces of architecture, every single one of them. I have yet to post on some of the smaller temples! 🙂

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