Traditions and Cultures of Cambodia
The culture of Cambodia is one so interesting that individuals from the world over travel to the Kingdom’s shores for a taste of it all. From the temples, to the historical sites, to the soft smiles on the faces of young monks, there is just so much to see, feel, and experience here in Cambodia.
1. Custom & Practice:
Most of Cambodia's population live in rural areas as farmers. In the countryside, houses are made up of palm leaves and bamboo and are usually built on stilts to protect them from floods that occur annually. A rural village is made up of a group of houses that center around a Buddhist Monastery. Social standing is reflected by material possessions, which is apparent in wealthy and middle-class Cambodian tradition, custom and lifestyles.
In the rural areas, clothing is simple and material possessions are hard to come by. Women tend to wear cotton shirts with ankle length skirts. Ninety-five percent of Cambodians follow Theravada Buddhism. Men and women both wear a krama, a multipurpose cotton garment. It can be used as a head covering, loincloth for bathing, and as a bag for carrying items. In the city, Cambodians usually wear Western clothing. About 90% of Cambodians are Khmer.
It is a tradition in Cambodia to “Chhmaa muy” which means cheers in Khmer, and it is common for this to be relayed to every member sitting at a table before every swig is taken. “Chhmaa muy” or cheers makes a drink last long. When visiting temples, palaces or other important sites, remember to wear clothing that falls below the knees and elbows.
Hats and other items that cover the head are taken off when entering a temple as a custom and tradition in Cambodia. The sampeah is the usual form of greeting in Cambodia. Sampeah involves pressing the palms of the hands together in front of the chest, accompanied by a small bow.
The more important the person, the higher the hands are on the body. It is customary in Cambodia to pass things by touching your right elbow with your left arm and handing over the item with your right hand. Cambodians leave the chopsticks together on top of the bowl. Chopsticks sticking vertically out of the bowl resemble the incense sticks that are burned for the dead, which is not seen as a good omen.
The Khmer practice a blend of Buddhism and animism. Family is extremely important. Many have lost family members in Cambodia, and a significant number of households are headed by females due to the civil war. Extended family structures are the norm, with large numbers of children. Grandparents head the family, followed by parents, aunts and uncles. Families are patriarchal, with men as providers and women in traditional roles, their position reinforced by culture, religion, and gender. Children are taught respect and deference to adults and authority figures.
Cambodia is a collective society, where the group interests are more important than the individual ones. The family, the neighborhood, and the workplace are the main sources of social support and identity for Cambodians. Cambodians value harmony, respect, and courtesy in their interactions, and use subtle communication styles to avoid conflict and save face. Cambodians also have a strong sense of hierarchy and deference to elders and authorities.
3. Arts & Crafts:
Silk Weaving & Arts:
The art of silk weaving in Cambodia has contributed together with history of the nation and specially it has grown much more since the beginning of the first century, when textiles were used in the trade, whereas modern textiles have continued to follow tradition and crafts since ancient times. And produce beautiful arts depicted as a bas-reliefs on the statues of the Khmer ancestors. Nowadays, due to the needs and demands of the tourists, you will find out the Cambodian arts are more into the design of the temples you see in Angkor complex.
Craftsmen cut and carve copper plates to carve the various sculptures, making bowls, swords, bracelets and many other souvenirs you see throughout Cambodia. After all, the sword made from copper was used at the wedding. Also, the copper-and-bracelet-style hammers and bracelets have become a popular souvenir for tourists.
The workshops at Artisans Angkor’s headquarters are in the heart of Siem Reap. The silk farm is about 15 minutes outside the city. Both – the workshops and the craft center – are open to tourists every day. In the free tours you will learn a lot about the organization and revival of Cambodian handicrafts. By the way: You do not need to register beforehand. There are enough trained guides in different languages on site. At the end of the tour you will be led to a shop where you can e.g. you can buy a beautiful silk scarf or carved elephant. Because, of course, the products manufactured in the workshops of Artisans Angkor should also be sold. I was already in the workshops and in the silk farm and it was extremely educational. (Memo to me: write blog article about it.
Dancing and Music
Classical Dance of Cambodia, is an art inspired from the culture of Cambodian peoples . This classic dance believed to be from the epic poem of the Rama (Ramayana) dedicated to a Hindu holy man named Valmiki by Brahma, the god of creation. This literary, religious work, dating from around year 4, is known in several versions throughout India and Southeast Asia.
In Cambodia, history has been created to music and dance which performed by the Royal Ballet since the 18th century. Despite being an epic arts, it is also known in the villages, where it is translated verbally or dramatized in the popular shadow theater of Puppets, ballet has traditionally been a courtly art performed at the festival palace or princes. In Cambodian village, theater performances by actors wearing masks are very popular. Shadow plays, performed with black leather puppets that promulgate the Reamkern scenes, also enjoyed. Folk dance is popular in rural Cambodia and is performed spontaneously at a drum beat.
Painting and Sculpture
Cambodia's recent history has been traumatically tumultuous. Rather than suppressing art, it seems to have provided more subject matter for painters, poets, writers, and craftsmen.
Now that the country has moved on from those difficult times, the painters in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap continue to produce magnificent works of art that still capture the mosaic of emotions that surround Cambodian history and culture.
Paintings vary in medium but oil seems to be especially popular. Local landscapes and traditional Khmer patterns are common themes, as are scenes from history and Buddhism.
Prints are typically created by rubbing charcoal on rice paper, and while not as individualized as paintings, can still be remarkably beautiful when well lit.