How Old Is Angkor Wat? 12 Facts About Angkor Wat Cambodia

Angkor Wat Reflection in the water

One of the most amazing places to travel in Cambodia is Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is located in Siem Reap and is a fascinating place to travel to.

Angkor Wat was founded in the 12th century by the Khmer Empire; the Angkor Wat complex is over 1,000 years old. Even though the complex is over 1,000 years old for many years, the world did not know it existed as it was buried in the dense Cambodian jungles.

When you travel to Angkor Wat, you are amazed by its antiquity, beauty, and majesty. There are so many interesting facts about the temple complex.

Buddhist Monks At Temples
Buddhist Monks At The Angkor Wat Temple. Copyright: Adrian Wojcik

How Old Is Angkor Wat?

The Khmer (Cambodian) Emperor Suryavarman II built Angkor Wat in the 12th Century; the Angkor Wat area was the capital of the Khmer empire which is now present-day Cambodia.

Angkor Wat was originally constructed as a personal mausoleum for Emperor Suryavarman II. It was a Hindu temple that was dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu.

Many people may be surprised at how old Angkor Wat is. But the Khmer empire was a compelling period in Cambodian history. During the time of Angkor Wat, the Khmer empire stretched as far away as the Yunnan Province in Southern China to Vietnam to present-day Myanmar.

To understand how powerful the Khmer empire was, you only need to visit present-day Angkor Wat in Cambodia to see the majesty of this temple; the Khmer empire had so much wealth and power that they could build impressive structures like Angkor Wat.

The Angkor area and Angkor empire’s power peak was during the 11th to 13th centuries; at this time, Angkor Wat was one of the world’s largest urban centers. Countries from all over Asia would flock to Angkor.

Here are 12 of my favorite facts about Angkor Wat.

1 – Angkor Wat Was Built in the 12th Century

Angkor Wat was built for Emperor Suryavarman II, the Khmer King, from 1113 AD to about 1145 -1150 AD. in fact, Emperor Suryavarman II was the builder and architect of the Angkor Wat Temple.

Emperor Suryavarman II is considered a brilliant emperor. Emperor Suryavarman II had a strong military force, organized government, and major architectural projects as Angkor Wat during his reign. He is thought by many historians to be one of the greatest Khmer Emperors ever to live.

2 – Angkor Wat Was Built As A Hindu Temple

Emperor Suryavarman II, the architect, and mastermind of Angkor Wat was also a practicing Hindu; he built the Angkor Wat Temple as a dedication to the Hindu god Vishnu.

Why Suryavarman II dedicated the Angkor Wat Temple to the Hindu god Vishu we really do not know. Most of the previous rulers of Cambodia focused their Hinduism on the Hindu god Shiva.

In fact, it seems that Emperor Suryavarman II love the Hindu god Vishnu so much that when e died, he was posthumously given the name “Paramavishnuloka,” which means “He Who Entered The Heavenly World of Vishnu.

Angkor Wat With Trees Growing Out of It
Roots At The Angkor Wat Temple in Siem Reap Cambodia, Copyright: ruslankphoto

3. – Angkor Wat Was Hidden for Thousands of Years

The Angkor Wat temples are spread over 400 acres, which makes it the largest religious monument globally; despite how large the complex is, the temples were hidden in the jungles of Cambodia for thousands of years.

The Angkor Wat area was active in the 12th and 13th centuries; eventually, the temples were grown over by jungles and largely hidden from the rest of the world. Henri Mouhot, a French explorer, is credited with having rediscovered the temple complexes in the 1840s.

Today you can see some of the temples as Henri Mouhot found them – grown over with the jungle coming out of the massive temple structures.

4. – Angkor Wat Means Temple Capital city

In the Khmer language, the name Angkor Wat translates to mean “temple capital city.” The word Angkor means “capital city,” and Wat means “temple.” So literally, the name Angkor Wat meant the ” temple capital city” or simply “temple city.”

The Angkor Wat “temple city” was built as a state temple and city complex that was the commerce and political center of the Khmer empire. Hence, the area was literally a city, but in the heart of Angkor Wat city was the Angkor Wat temple.

5. – Angkor Wat Was the Center Of Southeast Asia

During the time of Angkor Wat, the area was the center of Southeast Asia. Emperor Suryavarman II was known to be a great diplomat. He established formal diplomatic relations with China as early as 1116 AD. This lead to increased trade and commerce with China.

Emperor Suryavarman II also spent a lot of time and effort in forcing military action with Champa (present-day Vietnam). Most of this military action was not successful. There was a short period between 1145 and 1150 where there was some success, but it did not last long. Historians are not sure if King Suryavarman II died in one of those battles with Champa.

6. – Angkor Wat is a Khmer Architectural Masterpiece

Angkor Wat is considered to be a masterpiece of Khmer architecture, art, and culture. As the architect, this also means that Emperor Suryavarman II was also an architectural genius,

In 1992 the Angkor area became a UNESCO world’s heritage site; Angkor Wat is also considered the world’s eighth wonder.

7. – Angkor Wat Is The Name Of The Largest Temple

The Angkor Wat Temple is the largest temple in the Angkor Wat complex and also the most famous; the Angkor Wat area is named after this temple.

As the Angkor Wat temples were designed and built for immortal gods, the architects only used the very finest and most long-lasting materials they could find.

8. – 72 Temples In The Angkor Wat Area

There are 72 major temples in the Angkor Wat area; this does not include the hundreds of minor temples scattered throughout the area. You could literally spend weeks looking at every temple complex.

9. – Angkor Wat Faces West

The Angkor Wat temple faces west which is the direction that the Hindu god Vishnu is associated with. This is interesting as most Khmer temples face east.

Angkor Wat at Sunrise
Sunrise at Angkor Wat and a lily pond. Copyright: Laurent Dambies

10. – Angkor Wat Offers Magnificent Sunrise and Sunsets

One of the most popular things to do on a visit to Angkor Wat is to visit it for a magnificent sunrise and sunset. It truly does not get much better than some of the sunrises and sunsets that you see over the Angkor Wat temple complexes. You can climb a small hill and watch the sunset over the magnificent temple ruins.

11. – Angkor Wat Has Elaborate Art

The Angkor Wat temple has over 1,860 carved apsaras, hundreds of meters of bas reliefs depicting Hindu legends and scenes from contemporary life. The temple structures have some amazing art and carvings that you can not see anywhere else in the world.

12.- Angkor Wat Has A Relief of Emperor Suryavarman II 

There is a bas relief of Suryavarman II. He is the first Khmer Emperors to be depicted in art, and it really shows have skilled the Angkor Wat artisans during the 12th century were.

This bas relief of bas relief of Suryavarman II is on the south gallery of Angkor Wats walls and shows him seated. This is interesting as it gives us some insight into the Emperor and what he looked like.

I have been to the Angkor Wat in Cambodia many times. It is a magnificent architectural structure that is worth visiting. Because of its majesty, it is considered the eighth wonder of the world.

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Anita L Hummel

Hi, I live in Hanoi, Vietnam but spend time traveling the region. I love to share with you things I see and learn through my travels.

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12 Facts About Angkor Wat