Keeping tabs on Buddha’s figure

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

Keeping tabs on Buddha’s figure

Chan Sim is a small man with a long white beard. He wears square spectacles, which he perches on the end of his nose when he leafs through the handbook on statue design that he helped compile back in 2013.

Sim has just completed a particularly large order: 12 Buddhist statues commissioned by Prime Minister Hun Sen and submitted to the Ministry of Cults and Religion last month.

The statues all show the Buddha in different scenarios: reclining, protected by the seven-headed naga snake, meditating, the rotund “happy Buddha” associated with prosperity.

The most unusual sculpture is the Preah Ang Kvam: Buddha with four hands covering his face and ears.

“We rarely see him in shrine places like pagodas, but they use him in magic and for spiritual purposes to bring good luck,” explained Sim, who said the representation was traditionally most popular among soldiers.

Sim started working as a sculptor when he was only 14. Born in 1938, he has taught as a professor at the Royal University of Fine Arts and at other higher-education facilities both before and after the Khmer Rouge.

Both his children work with him on his statues, which is particularly important now that his sight is failing.

Sim has received awards and commissions from different ministries, and is happy that the government is working to maintain his traditional art.

The Preah Ang Kvam counts as one of the most unusual Buddha statues.
The Preah Ang Kvam counts as one of the most unusual Buddha statues. Scott Rotzoll

He is particularly concerned that the statues’ designs aren’t diluted by inaccurate imitations – a drive towards standardisation that the ministry appears to endorse.

“I have preserved the statues’ measurement documents since I started my job making sculptures,” he explains, adding approvingly that “the Ministry of Cults and Religion has collected all the information to make a book”.

“I think it is good that the ministry wants to have the right examples to show the Khmer people what proportions the statues should be,” he said.

Seng Someny, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Cults and Religion, said the 12 statues would be inaugurated as soon as Hun Sen could find time in his schedule to attend the ceremony.

Five-hundred copies of the book of designs that Sim spearheaded were donated to various institutions last year, and this year, 20,000 copies will be distributed to monks and ajas (laypeople), as well as to students who study Khmer motifs.

“We do hope that sculpture artists will use the right measurement of Buddha statue after we finalised the size in this book,” Someny said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia-Thailand rail reconnected after 45 years

    A railway reconnecting Cambodia and Thailand was officially inaugurated on Monday following a 45-year hiatus, with the two kingdoms’ prime ministers in attendance at the ceremony. On the occasion, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha travelled together from Thailand’s

  • Thousands attend CNRP-organised pro-democracy vigil in South Korea

    Thousands of supporters of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) on Saturday gathered in the South Korean city of Gwangju to hold a candlelight demonstration calling for the “liberation” of democracy in Cambodia. Yim Sinorn, a CNRP member in South Korea, said on

  • US Embassy: Chinese trade does not help like the West’s

    The US Embassy in Phnom Penh on Friday said relations between China and Cambodia did not create jobs or help industry when compared to the trade between the Kingdom and the US. “About 87 per cent of trade [with China] are Chinese imports, which do not

  • New airport study set for 2019

    A feasibility study on the construction of a new airport in the Kingdom will be launched later this year, according to a Ministry of Tourism spokesman on Monday. The plan was approved last week in a meeting held by the Ministry of Economy and Finance