CAMBODIA'S first National Cultural Day on April 3 will pay special tribute to Jayavarman
VII - the leper king.
Conservation specialists carry out some delicate repair work.
A comprehensive restoration project of a 13th century statue of the greatest builder
in Cambodian history and recreation of the Leper King pavilion at the National Museum
are to be a feature of the day.
Parts of the front of the Museum have been painted as the inner courtyard and the
Leper King's "pavilion''. The water system of the four ponds has also been repaired.
But, the most pampered object is the recently restored statue of King Jayavarman
VII. Inauguration of the statue at the museum will mark the beginning of National
Museum director Kuong Samen said Jayavarman was an ideal role model for Cambodian
even though he lived 700 years ago.
"Jayavarman VII was a great emperor and he must be a symbol for our country,"
Jayavarman was responsible for the construction of Bayon, Preah Khan, Ta Phrom, and
the gates of Angkor Thom. What is less well known was he also built 102 hospitals
all over the country.
Samen said he was saddened that the Khmer people have lost sight of Jayavarman's
vision of Cambodia becoming a paradise on earth.
"The history, the greatness of this king and his Buddhist message of peace are
nearly forgotten by Khmer people, the government wants the Cambodians to remember
their habits and customs, their past in order to face the future serenely,"
Samen said that in March Prime Minister Hun Sen signed a sub-decree which appointed
a commission presided by the Minister of Culture HRH Norodom Bopha Devi and involving
other government departments such as tourism and information to promote Cultural
He said that they also plan to promote the day in Cambodian embassies in an effort
to raise international awareness of Khmer Culture.
But for the first cultural day the statue of Jayavarman will be the focus.
The statue's restoration has taken six months of effort by French expert Bernard
Porte, from the French Ministry of Culture, and a team of Khmer specialists.
The restoration has been difficult not only because of the technical problems associated
with a fragile seven hundred year old statue but also because of its spiritual significance.
While this final stage of restoration has taken six months it really began in 1924.
At that time six elements of the sandstone statue were discovered outside Angkor
Thom near the north gate; seven years later, in 1931, the head was found inside the
City in the area of the Dead Door.
The statue was roughly put back together. It stayed that way till November last year:
a religious ceremony was conducted and Porte's team were allowed to dismantle the
They cleaned up the seven components using scalpels and dentists' ultrasound tools
to remove the old cement, dirt and paint.
Areas of deterioration were repaired except for the patina where devotees had rubbed
the statue's knees as a way of paying tribute.
"This patina is a part of the statue's history, we decided to preserve it."
Once cleaned and ready, all the parts were rejoined with advanced but reversible
techniques such as special epoxy resins and removable stainless steel rods.
Porte said the aim of using the reversible techniques was to ensure if new better
methods of preserving the sandstone were discovered they could be used.
The French Laboratory of Research in Historical Monuments and scientists of the Louvre
Museum in Paris, France, are currently working with the Cambodian Technological Institute
to find new solutions to preserve all the sandstone sculptures.