The attack and devastation of army Cham contributed to rock the Hinduism tradition, which made the Angkor civilization lively in Angkor era to its foundation. Due to the fact that the King only took care of building temples but not the citizens’ lives, after the attack, Khmer people’s country was sunk in the disaster. At that time, the country needed a savior. And he appeared: King Jayavacman VII.
After defeated the Cham army and became a King in 1181, Hayavacman VII rebuilt the Angkor. He established a new royal city named Angkor Thom.This city cover the city, which Ydayadityavacman II set up around the Lady Phnom temple. Jayavacman VII also had a moat dug with the length of 4km and width of 100m, and he also had a stone wall built to protect the royal citadel. There are five gates from the citadel. Four gates face four orients and one triumphal arch in the East. Upon the entrance, gates are the arches with the carving of human faces. The centre of citadel is Bayon temple. King palace is more to the North side. The King let slaves to build many other temples like Banteay Kdei, Ta Prahm, Prea Khan, Neak Pan, etc.
The first monuments of Jayavacman VII were all adapted from Angkor Wat. However, two fantastic architectural monuments of Human Face tower and human statue lobby have materialized the topic of finding the immortal cure in the sea of milk. The spectacular contribution of Jayavacman VII is the development of imposing symbol. The religious topics are all expressed in the architecture in the sky.
The topic of finding the immortal cure has been created by Jayavacman VII in the vast scale. There are 54 statues which embrace the body of great snake in the way to Angkor Thom, the backs of them face the royal city; in the left side, there are Gods, and in the right sides are evils. The image of finding the cure is in around the mountain Meru and the centre of them is Bayon temple. The ocean is expressed through the image of lake surrounding the royal citadel. This is one of the strange artistic creations of Khmer.
Being in the centre of Angkor complex and also the strangest works of Jayavacman VII, Bayon temple is the most wonderful image of Khmer art of symbol. There are big statues of giant Gods in two sides of the entrance. The ending point of the rocky road and the beginning point of the citadel is the big rocky road like tower which rise to the height. Apart from Bayon, there is also a tropical forest where 82 types of precious trees and a yard where there are many precious elephants are decorated and it’s called Elephant Terrace.
Bayon is one of the astonishing things of artistic world. It is more broad-minded than Angkor Wat, rise to the height with the higher power but the scale of it is smaller.
The main arrangement is like the cross in the shape of a three floors pyramid. The outer two floors have full lobby while the whole system have towers with human heads carved. All the towers around seems balanced and has the diameter of 25m and 43m high with the ground.
There are 54 towers, 216 Buddha faces in Bayon, which look like a stone forest, which creates the impressive of holy and mighty. Each tower has four human faces with the height from 1.8 to 2.5m, which faces four sides. Those are the famous “Angkor smile” stone tower.
These human faces have materialized the appearance of King and Gods who are looking after everything everywhere. However, there is another legend about Buddha. In order to prove his great magic, he throw himself to the air and separated himself into thousands of Buddha which is sparking with light burn and star circle. People could not find another appropriate way to express that legend but the architecture in Bayon.
The mysterious cold faces look everywhere, which look like the face of King Jayavacman VII. That proves the theory of changing the belief in God to the King.
The whole Bayon temple is 43m high. In the middle of the palace, there is a pensive Buddha statue and this is the portrait of Jayavacman. The statues around are the high rank officials.
Like Angkor Wat, the inner sides of walls were decorated with many embossments. Beside the magnificent, people could see the truthfulness of traditional life. Beside the battle fields scenes, there are also the daily activities of people. All are expressed in details and lively. Bayon is the library of former daily life of Khmer people.
As well as the daily life of embossment in the wall, the inner part of lobby is carved with the life of royal people. There are scenes of dancing dancers, singers, and the king is riding the horse, etc.
The embossments of Bayon give us the full scene of playing and working of people; battle in the frontiers; daily life of royal palace; costumes of king and officials to the dancers, etc.
Only in the upper floor, there are religious embossments. Along the lobby walls in the third floor are the embossments of Buddha or Apxara dancer.
The main topics of embossments here are praising the peaceful moments and against the cruelty of the war. It could be the nice character of the young beautiful queen lady Jayaraya Devi that influenced the style of Jayavacman II, her husband. They were married when they were very young, and there is stone stele reserved the story of her when she had to see off him to the battle like below: “She felt like being sunk in the sorrow sea and cried like rain.”
The architecture of Bayon is open-minded, and it is relieved from the old structure to some extent. It could be drawn from the artists who were close to the people.
Not only in embossment, there are lots of round statue in Bayon. Those are the portrait statue of Jayavacman VII, statues of high ranking officials, portrait of Buddha and the Bodhisattva. Along with the embossment, the round statue in Bayon especially the portraits statues have contributed to the unique architectural style of Bayon.
The labor, money and ability of the Cambodian people have gone to this enormous Bayon. The labor work and creation of workers to carve the statues in Bayon is beyond the imagination. According to the calculation of an art researcher in France named B.P. Frosliette, in order to car all the stone shapes here, 1,000 skillful sculpture makers and 20 years are needed. It is obvious that the creation of Khmer people is not small.
Like Angkor Wat, the old Bayon was sparkling with red lacquer but not just in stone like now. The remains show that there are the stone details, which lacquered in red color, gold or silver. One stele shows that to decorate the statues of king, they had to use five tons of gold, five tons of silver and 40,000 gems cube.
Though he tried to express himself as the savior of the country, King Jayavacman VII still fell in the mistakes of the former kings, which are focusing on building the temples. For 40 years on his throne, he used the bigger amount of stone compared with all the former kings in total. Therefore, the decline is like the underground spring crossing this country. Due to the people have to pay a lot of efforts in building the temples instead of water supply constructions, the forces are less and so did money. Lakes became the stagnant marsh. The water resource constructions became the disease nests. The decline of Angkor is indispensable.
Angkor was collapsed right after the finishing of Bayon temple. After Bayon, no mountainous temple was built. That was the light of the most splendid brilliant phase of Angkor architecture and history. However, it arise in the brilliant period then being drown to the dark right after then.
People left, era was changed, however, Bayon was still the most romantic and strangest architectural monument of Khmer people, which is longing with the creation of human beings.
Looking back to the Angkor world, people feel like trusted more in themselves. They could believe in their hands and mind which have majestic strength. The great art time with those, big masterpieces were destroyed by wars or climate, but there’s no reason to make it revival.