Volume 1, Issue 1, March–April 2020.
Wat Preah Keo Morokat
The Silver Pagoda
The Temple of the ‘Emerald Buddha’ or the ‘Silver Pagoda
The Royal Palace stands beside the Mekong River in Phnom Penh, capital of the Kingdom of Cambodia. It is a complex of 10 important buildings that has served as the royal residence of the King of Cambodia since 1866. Within the southern part of the Royal Palace a majestic, Khmer architectural style, Buddhist Temple known as Wat Preah Keo Morokat is located: The Temple of the ‘Emerald’ Buddha. The architect of this famous wooden building constructed between 1892 and 1902 during the rule of King Norodom (1834–1904). One of the greatest kings of the Norodom dynasty was Neak Okhna. The architecture itself was inspired in part by Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok. The Temple of the Emerald Buddha was rebuilt in brick in 1962 by King Norodom Sihanouk.
Situated in the landscaped garden surrounding the Temple of the Emerald Buddha there are other structures including a library, stupas, shrines, monuments and galleries of the Reamker. There is also an equestrian statue of King Norodom that was created by the French artist Eude in 1875 and erected in the garden in 1892. An enormous stupa stands north of the statue, which contains the sacred ashes of King Norodom. The interior walls of the galleries of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha are covered with mural paintings and frescoes depicting stories from the Reamker, the Khmer version of the classic Indian epic, the Ramayana. The frescoes were painted in 1903–1904. The Temple of the Emerald Buddha was formerly known as Wat Uborsoth Rottanaram, where the King worshipped, prayed and practiced Buddhist rituals, and the elegant, gracious building could be reached by a staircase of white Italian marble from Carrara.
The Temple of the Emerald Buddha was formerly known as Wat Uborsoth Rottanaram, where the King worshipped, prayed and practiced Buddhist rituals, and the elegant, gracious building could be reached by a staircase of white Italian marble from Carrara. The Temple of the Emerald Buddha—which is also known as the ‘Silver Pagoda’ because its floor was made using 5329 silver tiles weighing more than 5 tons—is a sacred place in the Khmer Culture, where many priceless Buddhist and other historical objects (gold, silver, gemstones and ivory ritual and ceremonial objects) have been preserved in significant quantities. Under the Khmer Rouge regime and following the invasion of Vietnam, a number of gold and silver objects were stolen or destroyed, but the Temple of the Emerald Buddha remains a spectacular sight. In the middle of the southern part of the Pagoda sits a very impressive, deep emerald green Buddha upon a magnificent gilded pedestal that adorns the entire interior of the building. The Emerald Buddha statue was made in the 17th century from the highest quality Baccarat-crystal. In the front of the seated Emerald Buddha stands a life-sized, 90-kilogramme, 22-carat, solid gold Maitreya Buddha adorned with 2086 diamonds, the largest of which weighs 25 carats and is set on the crown, another 20-carat diamond is set in the chest. On either side stand statues of the Buddha, one in gilded bronze and the other in silver. All the statues were created at the royal silver and goldsmithing atelier close to the Royal Palace between 1906–1907. On the right side, a carved gilded structure can be seen on which solid gold figures illustrate the different stages of the Buddha’s life.
Other highlights of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha are: a silver and gold stupa containing: a relic of the Buddha, a priceless present from Sri Lanka; an important silver Nandi bull found in Tuol Kuhear (Kandal Province) that dates to around the 7th century; and to complete the treasure held in this unique temple there are hundreds of gold, silver and ivory Buddha and deity statues surrounding the Emerald Buddha in show-cases. Many precious gifts given to the Khmer kings by foreign monarchs and heads of state are exhibited along the walls of the pagoda, near the entrance. The Wat Preah Keo Morokat, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is truly the perfect place to observe and admire the spectacular craftsmanship of Khmer Art.