Angkor Wat: Time, Space, and Kingship

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University of Hawaii Press, 1996 - Architecture - 341 pages
In her exploration of Angkor Wat, Mannikka found that the key to understanding the temple lay in the measurement system used by its original builders. By translating meters into cubits, she uncovered a highly sophisticated system of philosophical and religious principles expressed in the temple measurements themselves. Their lengths record precise astronomical information, including a definition of the celestial ecliptic, the north-south oscillation of the sun each year, and equinox and solstice days. The meaning represented in the measurements and their patterns transforms ordinary space into a sacred environment. The measurements connect the temple to the stars and the cosmos, bridge the gap between human and divine realms, help unite the king and his deity - in short, they define how time, space, kingship, and divinity exist inseparably from each other. Mannikka takes the reader on a detailed tour of Angkor Wat, moving from the western entrance bridge, across the long causeway to the central galleries, and up to the central tower itself, showing what the design of the temple tells us about Khmer beliefs regarding their king, their deities, and the world around them. Detailed temple plans illustrating measurement patterns and numerous photographs of all parts of the temple accompany the text. Angkor Wat: Time, Space, and Kingship shows clearly the role that astronomy, history, cosmology, and politics can play in determining a structure's format and dimensions. The new methods of architectural analysis pioneered here will serve as a model for architectural historians in Asia and elsewhere.

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This is an amazing study. Who would have thought that design of this monument could be so closely tied to exacting mathematics that connect almost every aspect of Angkor Wat's design and proportions to cosmic significance. While it is not surprising to find that the temple has specific directional and astronomical alignments, the author's analysis of proportions and associating them with concepts of both space and time is revolutionary. The key to this is Mannikka's discovery of what she believes is the cubit that all of the measurements of Angkor Wat were based upon. If this is correct, and her findings seem to overwhelmingly suggest that it is, then she has unlocked meanings previously unknown to this monument and proposed a system of analysis that could be applied to other monuments. This project was a tremendous undertaking and it makes a tremendous contribution. I recommend this very technical study for serious scholars of South and Southeast Asian archaeology, art history and religious studies. 


Measurement Patterns and the Outer

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About the author (1996)

Mannikka is curator, Visual Resources Collection, in the Department of Art History, Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas.

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