History on the walls

Thailand March 30, 2016 01:00


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A North Korean studio recreates the reign of King Jayavarman VII in a gigantic mural

If the series of bas-reliefs on the outer walls of Bayon don’t tell you enough about King Jayavarman VII’s achievements, you might want to visit the Angkor Panorama Museum. Built by North Korea, the museum is a new destination in Siem Reap and its highlight is a 360-degree mural painted by North Korea’s Mansudae Studio.
“The panoramic painting is 122.9 metres by 12.9 metres,” says a young Cambodian guide at Angkor Panorama Museum. “Painted by 63 North Korean artists, it took 16 months to complete and has 45,000 human figures.
The mural starts with horrific scenes from the Cham War between the Khmers and the Vietnamese before moving clockwise to the construction of the famous Bayon Temple and ending with the daily life of Khmers in the 12th Century.
Mansudae Studio is an art studio in Pyongyang, North Korea. Spread over 120,000 square metres and boasting 1,000 of North Korea’s finest artists, it’s one of the largest art production centres in the world. 
The panoramic wall painting honours King Jayavarman VII, a devout Buddhist and great warrior who established Angkor Thom as the capital. He crusaded against the Cham and converted his Empire to Buddhism. Bayon Temple boasts a series of bas-reliefs depicting the king’s success through historical events on the battlefield.
Angkor Panorama Museum’s mural is way more patriotic and grandiose. The best scene is the battle against Cham warriors, which shows King Jayavarman on his elephant commanding his men to crush the Cham on the banks of Tonle Sap. 
Surrounding the viewing deck of Angkor Panorama Museum is an artificial jungle constructed from fake trees, rocks, huts and sculptures which seamlessly meets the painted wall.
Angkor Panorama Museum also screens 3D movies demystifying how the grandiose temples of Angkor were built. A trip to visit the museum includes a briefing on the ancient Khmer Empire.
>> The museum is open daily from 7am to 9pm.
>> Admission is US$15; the 3D movie costs $10.
>> Photography is prohibited.