A team of researchers have formally presented the true form of the statues of Jayavarman VII, one of the earliest Buddhist kings of the Khmer empire, during a meeting of the International Coordinating Committee of Angkor (ICC-Angkor).
The clarification was made after a French research team, who had found statues of the former king with a broken torso and broken arms, made a different claim about the statues’ form.
The 33rd technical meeting and the 26th plenary meeting organised by the ICC-Angkor from Tuesday to Wednesday at the headquarters of the Apsara National Authority in Siem Reap province were attended by more than 300 participants.
During the meeting, the joint working group of the Apsara National Authority and the Ecole Francaise d’Extreme-Orient (EFEO) said the true gesture of Jayavarman VII statues was in the form of a sampeah – a Cambodian traditional way of showing respect.
People had long been curious about the true form of the former king’s statues. Some researchers said the king was meditating while others argued that he was raising his hands in salutation, although no evidence had been found to support either one.
A Facebook post by the Apsara National Authority said: “The joint team had presented evidence through archaeological and scientific studies where they scanned and assembled fractures of the statues kept at the Angkor Conservation Centre. The broken arms of the statues perfectly matched when they were joined.”
The post stated that this finding was a breakthrough which had finally resolved the confusion over Jayavarman VII’s statues.
Nara Institute archaeologist Sok Keo Sovannara on Wednesday commended the precise reconstruction of the statues as it would no longer confuse younger generations.
“At first, we didn’t know that the hands belonged to the statues of Jayavarman VII. But when we took them for conservation at the Angkor Conservation Centre, we realised that they were.
“We did not announce the discovery of the arms at first because we had not yet planned to repair and assemble them,” he said.
Keo Sovannara said that despite the reconstruction of the present statue, he had also found other statues of the king in meditative form.
“I have another picture showing that he has another gesture in a meditative form. Maybe this statue has not yet come to the attention of anyone because the statue only has its torso displayed in the Angkor Wat.
“If I conduct a study on his crossed legs and his clothing, it would show that the statue of Jayavarman VII is in meditative form,” he said.
After the two-day meeting, the French embassy announced through a Facebook post that the National Museum of Cambodia had signed an agreement with the Musee National des arts asiatiques – Guimet (Guimet National Museum of Asian Arts), the Centre for Research and Restoration of the Museums of France, and the EFEO.
The agreement aims to hold a large exhibition on Khmer bronze statues and statues of sleeping Vishnu at the National Museum of Cambodia.
“The collaboration between France and Cambodia helped clarify curiosity about the hands of the famous statues of Jayavarman VII.
“Through the work of researchers of the Apsara National Authority and the EFEO, it can now be known that the hands of the statues of Jayavarman VII were in the form of a salutation at the chest,” the French embassy said.