Monumentality from Southeast Asia experienced spatially

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat in Cambodia is one of the largest sacred structures in the world. The temple complex is considered an expression in stone of the Khmer Empire’s Hindu-influenced divine kingship. However, at the end of the twelfth century the last great king of Angkor adopted Mahayana Buddhism as state religion and had the city of Angkor Thom with the famous Bayon temple built. On the third floor of the Humboldt Forum, painstakingly restored casts of Angkor Wat reliefs extending two times twenty-three metres across the space give visitors a sense of the monumental temple architecture of the World Heritage site. A model of Angkor Wat in reddish-coloured tropical wood, which was made on a scale of 1:50 by Cambodian craftsmen in 2007 for the exhibition “Angkor. Divine heritage of Cambodia” and then slumbered in the storage room of the Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin for ten years, gives an additional impression of the monumentality of the complex with its central temple towers and surrounding extended colonnades.

The whole cosmos in a book – Traiphum (The three worlds”) – a 33 m long painted leporello from Thonburi, Thailand (1767 A.D.)

A highlight of Buddhist imagery from Thailand is the illuminated royal Traiphum manuscript, the Book of the Three Worlds. King Taksin commissioned it in 1776 to assert his power after the destruction of the former capital, Ayutthaya. The 33-metre-long illustrated manuscript consists of paper painted on both sides with body colours and gold and folded like an accordion book. It represents the three-level Buddhist cosmos, where good or bad deeds determine in which part of the cosmic realm one is reborn. The exhibition shows one six-metre-long section of the illustrated manuscript at a time, which changes every few months.

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Room 311 – Southeast Asian Religious Art