Incest, filial duty and the loneliness of exile are the themes of popular folk beliefs
surrounding Wat Norkor Bachay, located along Route 7 in Kampong Cham.
In the an-nals of Khmer legend, the temple was built by a prince named Preah Bath
When Bach-as' son was four years old, he was dispatched to the imperial Chinese court
to be educated in the arts of combat and statesmanship.
The ancient portals of Wat Norkor Bachay, on Route 7 in Kampong Cham province, attract Chinese visitors.
Unbeknownst to the son, two years into his Chinese training his father was taken
ill and died. The succeeding prince abandoned the temple built by Bachas and relocated
to an area untainted with the memory of his predecessor.
When the son eventually learned of his father's death and the dereliction of the
family temple, he made plans to return to Cambodia.
Anxious not to lose an apt student and potential valuable pawn in the machinations
of empire, the Chinese officials overseeing the boy's education misled him into believing
that it was unsafe or outright impossible to ever return to Cambodia.
By his early thirties Bachas' son had risen to a position of a valued adviser of
the Chinese emperor, and had bestowed on him the honorific "San Bau Kong"
(Man of Three Doctorates).
But the memories of his homeland and the family he left behind there haunted the
son, prompting him to eventually flee China to return to Cambodia.
Returning to his home village, the son hid his identity from the people for fear
of being seen as a threat to the area's new prince. Taking the name "Prom",
he took shelter with a kindly woman in her fifties, whose beauty and passion led
him to marry her in spite of her age.
Shortly after their marriage, Prom's wife confessed to him that she was the widow
of the realm's previous prince, with a son who decades before had been sent away
Realizing to his horror that he had married his own mother, Prom revealed his true
identity and begged her forgiveness for his sinful deception.
Neang Pov, Prom's mother stupa, at Wat Norkor Bachay.
Prom's wife/mother then instructed him to build twin, opposing stupas in the compound
of his father's Norkay Bachay temple to store their remains after their deaths in
order to minimize the potential damage their incestuous relationship had incurred
on their respective karmas.
Years after their deaths, emissaries of the Chinese emperor arrived at the temple
in search of their long-lost expatriate advisor. When informed of his death, the
emissaries had the honorific title "San Bau Kong" inscribed in the wall
of the temple as a tribute to their errant charge.
Popular with Chinese
The inscription remains in the wall to this day, and has made the temple a popular
destination for ethnic Chinese who make daily offerings there.
Regular temple-goers credit the temple spirits with answering prayers for assistance
in matters ranging from financial matters to fertility problems.
"My business is going very well," a temple regular told the Post of the
positive results of her offerings of fruit and incense. "I come to pray here
very often especially when my business has a problem."
Her sentiment was echoed by Ngoun Koth, 66, a member of the Wat Norkor Bachay, who
added that the temple spirits could be counted on to deliver on prayers "in
up to 90% of cases".
Sadly, like other ancient temples in the Kingdom, Norkor Bachay has also been victim
to artefact plunder and unalleviated structural deterioration.