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Temples of the 10th Century

After the death of Yasovarman I (c. 900), the kings lost power. The construction of the small temple Baksei Chamkrong was started, but not finished.

From c. 928 to 944, the capital moved to Koh Ker.

Rajendravarman II (944–968) restarted the capital Yasodharapura, with the East Mebon (652) and Pre Rup (961).

Baksei Chamkrong

Baksei Chamkrong from east
Baksei Chamkrong from east

The construction started in the early 10th century, it was then interrupted by the Koh-Ker episode. It was finished as an ancestor temple, dedicated 947 to the memory of the king's parents.

The small temple is located within the compound of the Phnom Bakheng.

A brick tower is standing on top of a dainty pyramid. The tiers of the pyramid are made of laterite; the uppermost tier is covered with moulded sandstone

As the pyramid is small, we can easily study the proportional reduction: The upper steps get gradually lower which makes them look more distant.

Four axial stairways rise in a single flight which gets proportionally lower at every tier of the pyramid. Each tier is framed by sidewalls. The north stairway is the best preserved.

Look at the brick tower: Its upper steps get gradually lower, the tower is also shaped like is a stepped pyramid.

On the door jambs are fine inscriptions. They tell the genealogy of the Khmer kings from the mythical beginnings, when the ascetic Kambu married the Apsara Mera.

The beauty of this temple comes from its harmony. From here on, the use of laterite and the slender shape of the pyramid can be seen as the determining features of Khmer architecture.

Baksei Chamkrong has become a trendsetter, the first steep pyramid in Angkor.


Baksei Chamkrong from northwest
Baksei Chamkrong from northwest

The great King Yasovarman I died about 900. His not so great sons followed him. One of them started the construction of Baksei Chamkrong, within the compound of his father's state temple Phnom Bakheng, and could not even finish it.

Only King Rajendravarman (East Mebon, Pre Rup) finished it in 947.

Photo Album


  • Glaize, p. 78
  • Stierlin, p. 137
  • Freeman/Jacques, p. 72.

East Mebon 

East Mebon from east. Aerial photograph courtesy of Dave Taylor
East Mebon from east. Aerial photograph courtesy of Dave Taylor
East Mebon: Elephant
East Mebon: Elephant

The temple was once surrounded by the water of the East Baray, which has since dried up. In its time, the temple was accessed by boats. There are jetties in the cardinal directions.

Five brick towers in a quincunx, on top of a flat pyramid, make a pretty ensemble. This arrangement resembles the top platform of Phnom Bakheng where the towers have vanished.

By inscriptions we know that in the towers were statues of Shiva and Uma in the likeness of King Rajendravarman's father and mother: Other idols depicted Vishnu and Brahma.

The towers of the quincunx are surrounded and enclosed by eight small towers, fire shrines, halls, and two walls with axial door pavilions. Each tower sheltered a lingam.

At the East Mebon lintel reliefs make a wonderful appearance: Indra, Vishnu as Narasimha, Garuda, Shiva, Kala, Yama, Ganesha and Skanda. Elephants are pouring lustral water from amphorae on Lakshmi.

On the walls are brick reliefs of guardians.

All brick walls were covered with a sculpted lime-base mortar; only a lot of small holes, aimed to aid adhesion, have remained.

Eight pretty elephants take care of the far corners of the pyramid.

Photo album

Pre Rup 

Pre Rup from east. Aerial photograph courtesy of Dave Taylor
Pre Rup from east. Aerial photograph courtesy of Dave Taylor
Pre Rup from south
Pre Rup from south

The name of the lingam in the central tower, and also of the entire temple, was Rajendrabhadresvara, which means: "Shiva the protector of [King] Rajendravarman".

Despite the fact that nobody really knows the meaning of the modern name Pre Rup, tour guides will explain it with unsavoury stories and "waste visitors' time" (Freeman/Jacques).

Corpses were never burnt in a Shiva temple!

The state temple of King Rajendravarman is centred by a three-tiers pyramid. It is 12 m high, measures 50 m square at the base, and 35 m square at the top platform.

The third, forth and fifth steps of the pyramid are compressed to a single step.

For the first time five towers, arranged in a quincunx, are on top of a steep pyramid.

Entering from east, we meet five stately towers (the sixth tower was never constructed).

The inner enclosure is framed by halls; in the north-east is the pavilion of a stele.

A pair of tower-shaped fire shrines opens west. Between them is the big rectangular pedestal of a vanished Nandi statue.

An imposing stairway runs up, guarded by lions.

The tower in the north-east is dedicated to Shiva, in the north-west to Uma, Shiva's spaouse, in the south-east to Vishnu, and in the south-west to Lakshmi, Vishnu's spouse.

The central and eastern towers have male guardians; the western towers are guarded by Devatas (Goddesses).

Doors and false doors have numerous lintels.

The outer enclosure of the temple, some 1000 m square, touched the East Baray at the north. It is now almost entirely destroyed.