Cambodian enthusiast Allan Lim is on an exceptional journey to encapsulate the grandeur of the ancient Khmer world in one comprehensive platform. His revolutionary venture, Beyond Angkor, presents a panoramic view of over 13,000 historical sites peppered across mainland Southeast Asia.
Lim’s initiative arose from a void he noticed in the availability of a centralised resource detailing the many historical landmarks across the region.
The installation and training consultant at Genie Solutions Software in Queensland, Australia, launched Beyond Angkor to illuminate the awe-inspiring cultural and architectural heritage reflected in the staggering number of temples across Southeast Asia.
“I unveiled the platform because there was a glaring lack of a centralised source recording and mapping all these historical sites,” Lim said.
According to the website, Cambodia alone boasts an astonishing 11,591 temples, a tribute to the scale and majesty of the ancient Khmer civilisation.
Beyond Angkor doesn’t limit its scope to Cambodia. The platform has also documented the presence of Khmer temples in Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, tallying up to an impressive total of 13,018 sites so far. Lim’s ambitious venture serves as a one-stop resource for researchers, historians, and enthusiasts captivated by the rich cultural legacy of the region.
“There are countless books, articles, maps, and websites about the topic, but the information was scattered and disorganised. Beyond Angkor aims to illuminate the scope of the Khmer world, exhibiting all the historical sites scattered across mainland Southeast Asia,” Lim revealed.
Beyond Angkor, still in its nascent stage, has already achieved substantial strides, chiefly owing to the tireless efforts of Lim and his collaborator, Mark Ord. In addition to temples, the website covers a broad range of subjects, including ancient cities, villages, museums, reservoirs, and even prehistoric sites. For example, it showcases the prehistoric rock paintings of Laang Komnou and the enigmatic temple mound site of Tuol Boeung Preah.
The platform encourages community participation, inviting users to contribute their knowledge and discoveries to the database.
“The site is new and the majority of content has been contributed by Mark and me. However, we actively encourage users to contribute their insights, thereby enriching our database,” Lim explained.
The collaborative model ensures the accuracy of the information while adding a sense of collective effort, similar to Wikipedia’s ethos. While historical accuracy can never be guaranteed, as Lim acknowledged, the majority of sites listed are well-researched and known as historically significant temple sites.
In his effort to make the information as comprehensive as possible, Lim also draws from French records of early 20th-century explorations.
“We try to provide as much detail as possible as to what may be found at a remote temple site, and based on any pre-existing carvings or stones that may be present, we compare it to other known sites to determine the possible art style and the century it was built in,” he added.
As the platform grows, so does Lim’s task of managing the increasing wealth of content. Despite the challenge of an overwhelming amount of work, Lim’s dedication is clear, as he continues to enrich the platform with his countless hours spent scanning satellite imagery.
“I have identified approximately 5,000 undocumented sites, many of which show discernible landscape formations indicative of moated temple sites,” Lim said.
Allan Lim’s ambitious endeavour could unveil concealed aspects of the Khmer civilisation and sketch out an all-encompassing portrait of Southeast Asia’s historical tapestry. Each site added to Beyond Angkor offers fresh insights into the region’s past.
For instance, consider Prasat Neak Buos, an 8th-century temple complex in Preah Vihear. It is a fascinating window into a time when this region was on the frontlines of history.
“The temple site was strewn with landmines and was inaccessible for many years. Today, visitors can appreciate the enigmatic beauty of the site thanks to the clearing efforts of the Department of Fine Arts and Culture,” independent researcher Andy Brouwer commented.
The richness of the Beyond Angkor platform extends to the historical sites in modern day Cambodia’s neighbouring countries as well.
“Our endeavour does not face much contention, as these sites are widely documented in research papers and books,” Lim added.
Beyond Angkor’s crowning feature is its unique, interactive map, showcasing the location of historical sites by type, condition, and art style.
As Lim himself pointed out, “The main highlight of Beyond Angkor is the unique graphical interactive maps showcasing the location of historical sites”.
Yet, the journey is far from over for Lim and his team. The continuous discovery and verification of newly discoverd ancient sites keep the platform in a perpetual state of evolution. Despite this, Beyond Angkor is already proving invaluable to those looking to delve deeper into the rich heritage of Southeast Asia’s ancient civilisations.
Many sites listed on Beyond Angkor may appear as mere fragments of stones amid paddy fields to the untrained eye. Still, each site holds the potential of unveiling hitherto undiscovered aspects of the Khmer civilisation.
As Lim put it, “While many of these sites might not seem remarkable to most, documenting them is vital to capture the locations where historical sites once stood.”
Allan Lim’s visionary project, Beyond Angkor, could unlock the hidden layers of the Khmer civilisation, creating a comprehensive snapshot of Southeast Asia’s historical legacy. Through his endeavours, the ancient world of Cambodia continues to live on, intriguing historians and enthusiasts alike.
For more information about Beyond Angkor: https://beyondangkor.org/index.php/Main_Page