CAMBODIA CURLTURE / TRADITIONAL & FESTIVAL
The Cambodian New Year takes place from April 13th -15th, during the dry season when farmers do not work in the fields. Astrologers determine the exact time and date by calculating the exact moment the new animal protector (tiger, dragon, or snake) arrives. Cambodians spend the entire month of April in preparation for the celebration, cleaning and decorating their house with candles, lights, star shaped lanterns and flowers. During the first three days, everyone travels to the pagodas to offer food to the monks.
Pchum Ben is a religious ceremony in September when everyone remembers the spirit of dead relatives. For fifteen days, people in Cambodian villages take turns bringing food to the temples or pagodas. On the fifteenth and final day, everyone dresses in their finest clothing to travel together to the pagodas. Families bring overflowing baskets of flowers, and children offer food and presents to the monks. Everyone says prayers to help their ancestors pass on to a better life. According to Khmer belief, those who do not follow the practices of Pchum Ben are cursed by their angry ancestors.
Another very colorful festival is the Water Festival or the Festival of the Reversing Current. It takes place in late October or early November and marks the reversal of the Tonle Sap River so that it once again flows south from the Tonle Sap Lake into the Mekong River. The highlight of the three-day festival is the boat races that are held in Phnom Penh. Individual villages build their own boats by hollowing out a log to make a dugout canoe that is rowed by as many as forty people! The prow and the stern of the canoe turn upward and the prow is painted with an eye, just like the war vessels on the wall of the temples at Angkor Thom. On the first two days of the festival, pairs of boats race each other. At sunset on the third day, there is a big race and everyone believes that the river is happy, the fish will be plentiful and the rice crop will flourish.
Day of Hatred
Cambodia must be one of the only countries in the world which has a holiday called the "Day of Hatred!" This was a holiday in May which was created by the People's Republic of Kampuchea and the State of Cambodia as a national holiday to remember the crimes of Pol Pot and his regime. Therefore, the government tried to change this fear and resentment into an annual "Day of Hatred" in which the crimes of Pol Pot were remembered in ceremonies at village cemeteries and Tuol Sleng (the Khmer Rouge torture center). However, although this is still a public holiday, most people do not think of it as a holiday to think about hatred!
Weddings are the most important social events in the lives of young people. Men usually get married between the ages of nineteen and twenty-four and women between the ages of sixteen and twenty-two. Most families want their children to be married by the age of twenty-five, otherwise other people might wonder why the family is unable to find people willing to marry their children!! There are traditional ways in which a family should decide if a partner is suitable or not. Each family appoints a representative to investigate the other family who makes sure that the other family is honest and, hopefully, wealthy. Once the two families agree to the wedding, they exchange gifts of plants and food and then they consult an astrologer who chooses a lucky date for the ceremony. The wedding ceremony takes place at the bride's house. The bride and groom exchange gifts and rings. Their wrists are tied together with red thread that has been soaked in holy water. A Buddhist priest delivers a sermon, and married guests pass around a candle to bless the new couple. After the ceremony, there is a grand feast. People eat fruit, meat, and small round cakes filled with rice or coconut. Musicians play traditional instruments like the ones seen in this unit's figurine collection.
Most Cambodians are Buddhists. Accordingly, they do not look on death as the end of life. Rather, they consider it the beginning of a new life that they hope will be better than the one which ended. Therefore, just as performing the wedding rituals correctly is very important, it is also very important to perform the ceremonies for death in the correct Buddhist tradition. Otherwise the relative will not be able to pass on to their new life. When a person dies, their body is washed, dressed and put into a coffin. Flowers and a photograph of the deceased are usually put on top of the coffin, which is then carried to a special Buddhist pagoda to be cremated. All the family members walk with the coffin to the pagoda. If the dead person was important, everyone in the village also joins the procession. Family members sometimes show their sorrow by wearing white clothing and shaving their heads. White is the traditional color of death instead of the Western idea of black. Because the rituals connected to death affect the ability of the dead person to have a happy next life, many Cambodians were distraught that they were not able to perform the correct rituals for loved ones who died under the Khmer Rouge regime.
Cambodian children do not celebrate their birthdays and it is not a special day for them. Often their parents just remember what season they were born in, but not the exact day so they don't know for sure. During the Khmer Rouge years, many people were separated from their families and they lost their birth certificates. However, all Cambodians know which year they were born, and what it means in the Chinese animal calendar: Do you know which year were you born in and which characteristics you should have?
Khmer Language and Literature
Cambodia's national language is Khmer. It is the only language taught in the country's schools and is used in government documents. The Khmer writing system comes from an Indian alphabet that was brought into Cambodia over a thousand years ago. In Khmer, everyone refers to each other as older brother and older sister, or Aunt and Uncle. Many ancient words are borrowed from Pali or Sanskrit and many more recent words are from French, words such as "chocolate" and "gateaux." Khmer grammar is very simple. For example, there are no tenses. If you want to change "I go to the market" into the past tense, you just add the word already. But Khmer is precise in ways that English isn't. Like many languages, it has many words for articles which are useful for Cambodian people, for example there are over one hundred words for rice!! Also, there are different words for "you," depending on whether you are speaking to a child, a parent, a Buddhist monk, or a member of the royal family. Under the Khmer Rouge regime, they tried to forbid some of these pronouns so that everyone was placed on the same level. Among educated Cambodians over forty years of age, French is still a second language. In the mid 1980s, however, French was overtaken informally by English as the European language that urban Cambodians wanted to learn. In rural areas, not many people speak a foreign language.
The greatest piece of literature in Khmer is called The Reamker. It is the Cambodian adaptation of the Indian epic of the Ramayana. It dates from the fifteenth or sixteenth century. The story of Hanuman and Sovann Macha (which is described separately) is derived from this story and made into a dance. Many Cambodian dances, and shadow plays are also taken from the Cambodian version of The Ramayana. The Ramayana is found in many cultures throughout Southeast Asia. Cambodians also like to tell their children "chbap"s or moral proverbs which school children memorize, as well as stories from the Reamker of folk tales. The chbap teaches the values of Cambodian society, such as being obedient to your elders and protecting those who are less fortunate than yourself
The famous khmer dance the legend attribute the original of choreography khmer of king Jayavarman II, who teaches to Java. In 12th century, the god Indra descending on the earth, offered to Jayavarman II the kingdom of Cambodia, the attributer of royalty and the mythical Apsara, who delivered to khmer the secrets of choreography Apsara…. Most of Cambodia's traditional music was lost during the Khmer Rouge era. During this time many Khmers settled in the USA and Europe, where a lively Khmer pop industry developed. Influenced by US music and later exported back to Cambodia, it has been enormously popular.
Cambodian is famous for its sculpture. Even in the pre-Angkor era, the Khmers were producing masterfully sensuous sculpture that was no simple copy of the Indian forms it was modeled on. The earliest surviving Cambodian sculptures dates from the 6th century. In Phnom Penh at National Museum displayed all kind of statue in different period. Khmer architecture reached its period of greatest magnificence during the Angkorian era (the 9th to 14th centuries). Some of the finest examples of architecture from this period are Angkor Wat, the of Angkor Thom and Preah Vihear temple.
Cambodians are always celebrating a festival of some sort, and do so with relish geading out to a popular pagoda with family and friends or taking off for the provinces unsurprisingly, festivals are the busiest times for shopping and traveling. The major celebration of the year is Bonn Chol Chhnam Thmey (Khmer New Year mid- April). Another important religious festival is Bonn Pchum Ben (this religious festival for dedicating to the diets people).
Cambodia is primarily an agricultural country with 85% of the people living in rural area .The majority of the population ( about 95% ) is ethnic Khmer, with minorities made up of Chinese, Vietnamese, and Malay Muslims, along with some highlander from various tribal origins. The population was 13.04 million (in 2002). According to official statistics, around 95% of the people who live in Cambodia are ethnic Khmers ( ethnic Cambodians), making country the most homogeneous in South-East Asia. Over the centuries, the Khmers have mixed with other groups residing in Cambodia, including the Javanese(8th century), Thai ( 10th to 15th century) and Vietnamese (from the early 17th century) and Chinese (since the 18th century). Cambodia's diverse crunchiest (ethno linguistic minorities, or hill tribes), who live in the country's mountainous regions. Collectively, they are known as Khmer Loeu, literally the "Upper Khmer". The majority of the hill tribes are in the northeast of Cambodia, in the provinces of Ratanakiri, Mondulkiri, Stung Treng and Kratie.
Many people in Cambodia speak English, French and Chinese.
The intricately patterned ikat silks (silks that whose threads are tie-dyed before being woven) created by the Khmer and Cham ethnic groups may come to mind when thinking of Cambodian textiles, but the peoples of Cambodia have produced many other cotton and silk textiles. Cambodians traditionally considered both domestic and imported textiles to be markers of identity, prestige, and wealth, and quantity and quality of textiles possessed by an individual or family contributed to their status within society.
Traditional dress in Cambodia is similar to traditional dress in neighboring Laos and Thailand.Sampot is the lower garment worn by either sex. The sampot for urban lower class and peasant women is a tube-skirt (sarong) approximately one and a half meters in length with both ends sewn together and is worn wrapped around the waist and secured with a cloth belt. Women of the middle and upper classes preferred to wear the sampot chang kben on a daily basis until the beginning of the twentieth century. This rectangular piece of cloth is approximately three meters long and one meter wide and is worn by first wrapping the cloth around the waist and stretching the ends away from the body. The outstretched ends are then twisted together and pulled between the legs and toward the back. The ends are tucked into the waist at the back, and the sampot chang kben is lastly fastened with a cloth or metal belt. Women of all social strata wear the sampot chang kben on special occasions such as religious ceremonies and weddings. Men also wear the sampot chang kben, but the traditional textile patterns worn by males differ from those worn by females. Traditionally, neither women nor men wore an upper garment. However, when the French colonial presence grew in Cambodia in the late nineteenth century, both men and women began to wear upper garments.
Even after the French presence in Cambodia from the 1860s onwards, Cambodians continued to wear traditional clothing. The Cambodian royalty and government officials combined the shot silksampot chang kben (in the appropriate color for the day of the week) with a formal jacket. In the beginning of the twentieth century, Cambodians adopted forms of western style clothing such as a blouse or shirt. Men more readily adopted trousers as the lower garment for daily use, and both sexes continue to wear the sampot chang kben for formal occasions. Lower class and particularly rural women still wear a tube-skirt, but the material may be printed batik-patterned cloth bought at the market rather than hand-woven silk or cotton.
The most important silk textiles of Cambodia are the ikat silks (hol), twill-patterned, weft ikat textiles. The pattern is made by tying vegetable or synthetic fibers on sections of the weft threads before the threads are dyed. This process is repeated for different colored dye baths until the patterns are formed and the cloth is woven. The two types of hol textiles have five traditional colors: red, yellow, green, blue, and black. The sampot hol is the lower garment mentioned earlier, made from hol cloth (hol cloth can also be used for sampot chang kben). Thepidan hol is a ceremonial hanging reserved for religious or sacred purposes.
The pidan hol is an example of excellent craftsmanship. It may be presented to a Buddhist temple or hung it in homes to create sacred space around the family's personal shrine. In a temple this textile is hung behind, above, or around the base of, a Buddha image. The narrative motifs of a pidan hol often depict tales of the previous lives of the Buddha.
The various ethnic groups of Cambodia also produce cotton material for religious clothing and other purposes, such as for bedding and for various household textiles. The royal courts also imported Indian chintz with patterns especially for the Southeast Asian market.
The kroma is the all-purpose utility cotton cloth used by either men or women throughout the country as a head or neck scarf, belt, or towel. It is also used as a bag to carry things. This rectangular textile has a checkered pattern, usually blue and white or red and white, with striped ends. Political groups such as the Khmer Rouge have used the kroma to symbolize membership.
The Cham, an Austronesian group, are highly skilled silk weavers who produce cotton tube-skirts or sarongs for both men and women. Three or four hundred years ago, the Cham reportedly used to produce batiks (wax resist-dyed fabrics) in cotton similar to that of their kin in insular Southeast Asia. Cham women weave a checked or plaid cotton sarong for men. Natural or white cotton is important in Cham religious activities; it is worn by Cham priests and used as a sacred object during religious ceremonies.
Other Mon-Khmer and Austronesian minorities living in the northeastern region of Cambodia weave cotton cloth on back strap looms for clothing and domestic use. The groups of both of these linguistic families weave similar textiles by attaching the warp beam of the back strap loom to a tree or part of a house in order the achieve the lengths of woven material needed for their loincloths.