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Salon du Tapis d'Orient

The Salon du Tapis d'Orient is a moderated discussion group in the manner of the 19th century salon devoted to oriental rugs and textiles and all aspects of their appreciation. Please include your full name and e-mail address in your posting.

Part 2: The Threads of Khmer History:
A ‘warped’ look at the temples of Angkor

by Jaina Mishra



I do not know if real textiles have been found from the 1000 year old ruins.


But the drape and fall of the fabric, as seen in the picture above, suggest that these are fine delicate cottons or silks, so it seems unlikely that they would have survived the forces to which even stone structures succumbed. Therefore, the material and colors of the sculpted garments can only be a guess. The only knowledge that we do have from that era is from the records of a Chinese traveler, Zhou Daguan (or Chou Ta-Kuan), who provided an account of life in the kingdom sometime before 1312. He was translated into French by sinologist Paul Pelliot in 1902.

In the Angkor period, unstitched cloth was used, while stitched garments for the upper body are seen in the later Bayon sculptures. The lower garment is a sarong- like cloth worn either as a wraparound skirt fastened at the waist with a jewelry belt, or as a ‘dhoti’ by drawing the loose end through the legs and fastening it at the back.


Note the two corners of the skirt peeping from the back of the waist, and the low circular arc in which it is tied in the front. In addition, a long broad sash is seen, which is either woven or printed. The medium of the sculptor restricts him from distinguishing a weave from a print - so again, it’s for us to guess what created the floral and other motifs that are seen. The sashes are pleated and tucked in, and emerge from the inner fold of the skirt on the right side, and is free flowing on the left side.

Simple four-petalled flowers are scattered across most textiles. Thin borders with varying designs are seen.


20: Flowers with a varying scatter density on the two sides

21: Large flowers with vertical stripes

22: Flat petalled flowers

23: Pointed petalled flowers in checkerboard pattern

24: Flowers & circles pattern

25: No pattern (or maybe it got wiped out) and a simple border

26: Border pattern

27: Sash with intricate zigzag weave

28: Intricate floral weave on sash

29: Hybrid floral-zigzag weave on sash

30: Curved or fish-scale weave on sash

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