An Excursion to Phimai พิมพ์ อีเมล
เขียนโดย Major Erik Seidenfaden   






                                      An Excursion to Phimai
                          a temple city in the Khorat province.

        Lecture delivered before the Siam Society on 16th June 1920


                                       Major Erik Seidenfaden
                              late of the Provincial Gendarmerie.


Though  we  in  Siam  cannot  boast of such splendid and mighty
temple  ruins  as  those  of  Angkor  Thom  or Angkor Wat in Cambodia,
still  we  have  got  some  which  are  well  worth visiting  as for instance
those in Sukhothai, Sawankhalok, Lopburi or Phimai—not to  speak  of
others,  which  to  a  certain  point  are   still  finer, but  are   far  away  in
the   wildernesses  of  Southeastern   Khorat  or  at  the  frontier  of   the
Ubon   province   and  Cambodia. Lying, in  the  midst  of  virgin   forest
they  defy  all  others  than  the  indefatigable  traveller  who is prepared
to spend weeks in visiting them.

Phimai  however  is  not  too  far away, and can easily be visited
in  the  course  of  a   few  days,  being one  of  the  finest  examples  of
Khmēr  architecture  which  we  possess in  Siam It is about the temple
in Phimai and how to reach it, that this paper is going to tell.

Phimai or Vimāya as its old name sounds is situated in the
province   of    Nakhon   Rajasima   (also    called    Khorāt)   about   56
kilometres  or 35 miles to N. E.  of  the  provincial  capital  of  the  same
name. Phimai  was  no  doubt  formerly, i. e. in the days  when the Cam-
bodian  sway  extended over  the  greater part of  the present Siam, the
capital of a big province and the seat of  a vice-roy,—subject directly to
the Khmēr king in Angkor Thom  (Nakhon Luang of  the Siamese). This
fact  is  proved, not  only  by  several   inscriptions  on   the  walls  of   its
grand  temple,  but  also  by  the  existence  of  the remains  of  a  great
chaussée  running  from   Phimai  in  a S. E.  direction  down  over   the
Dangrek   hills  (that   formidable  barrier  between  the  N. E.  Siamese
plateau  and  Cambodia as  well  as  the  Prachin  province) to  Angkor
the Great, the ancient and glorious capital of the Khmēr.






As  this  paper is intended to serve as a kind of advertisement
for the Phimai ruins and thereby induce people interested in architec-
ture,  art  and   acehaeology   to   visit them, I    shall    now    proceed
to    explain   how    you   are    to  travel   to   Phimai.  First,   a    word
about   equipment:    Take   with    you   a   campbed,   folding    table,
chairs,   cooking   utensils   some   tinned   provisions,  a   cook   and
a   "boy;"    a   small   tent   will   also   come   in    handy.    The    best
time for doing the trip is the cold season i. e.  Decb-February;  March-
April  being  too  hot. Starting  from  Bangkok  by  the  train leaving at
9. 48  you  arrive  in  Khorāt  at  18. 08. The  first  part  of  the  journey
is   not   very   interesting   the  railway  running  due  North  through  a
flat  and  swampy  country  intersected  with   numerous   klongs   and
studded  with  small  lakes and  ponds, a home of innumerable water-
fowls  and   a  paradise  for  the   birdshooting  sportsman.  Here and
there you see clumps of feathered bambus hiding small villages, and
on the banks of the klongs  the  poor  huts  belonging to  the  tillers  of
the soil, who mostly are in  the  employ  of  the  big  landowners living
in  Bangkok.  Sometimes  you  get a  glimpse of  the  broad glittering
Mēnām  Chāo  Phraya  stretching  away  on your  left  hand and if you
travel in the season when the rice is being brought down to  Bangkok
from upcountry, you may see  passing  down  the river whole fleets of
riceboats which with their bellying white sails resemble flocks of giant
seagulls.  You   pass  Bang   Pa   In, an   idyllic   island   whereon   the
King's   summer  palace  is  situated, and after  nearly  two  hours you
arrive   in   Ayudhya,  Siam's   old   capital   (A.D.  1350-1767).  From
the  railway  line  you  just  get, to  the  West, a  glimpse  of  the island
on    which   the   oldest   city   Dvāravatī  (Thēvaravadi   in   Siamese)
was    built   by   the   early   Indian   settlers. To   the   East   you   look
over  a  vast  plain  studded  with  ancient   Prangs   and   Phrachedis,
huge     reddish     piles     of     masonry     overgrown     with      green
vegetation  which  in  the  golden  days  of    Ayudhya  were  rich   and
splendid temples, since spoiled by the Burmese those  true disciples
of  Huns and  Vandals, when  they  in 1767 conquered and destroyed
the  old  capital. But  the  train  rolls  on   and   the   liue   now    swings
towards N. E. still  passing  over lowlying ground but soon  afterwards,
at  Ban  Phra Kēo, we  meet  the  high  and dry land, the old  coastline
in  reality, of  about   1500  years   ago.    At Ban Pha Chi junction  the








Northern  railway   branches  off   to  the  left  while  we  continue  going
N. E. After having  passed  Saraburi ("the  town  at  the sea"  the name
again  reminding  us  about  that  not  so  very  distant period when  the
sea  rolled  its  waves  near  to  this  place)  the landscape changes  its
character  entirely  and  becomes  hilly.  To   the   North   you   see   the
outlines  of  Khao  Phra  Buddha  Bāt  the  famous place of  pilgrimage
and   now   we   are  nearing   the   Dangrek   mountains,  the  ramparts
which   to   the   West   and    South    surround    the    four   big    North
eastern    provinces    of    Siam.   In    Gengkoi     another    locomotive
is   harnessed   to   our   train   to   assist  in   hauling  us  up   over   the
hills  to  the  plateau  of  Khorāt. Up  it  goes  through  the  rugged   hills
covered with impenetrable  virgin  jungle. Here  and  there  a  passage
has been blasted through the black or red  rocks, and  sometimes  the
line has to make such curves when rounding certain  hill  promontories
that you can  see  both  the  locomotives  and  the last  waggon  of  the
train at the same time. The construction of the part of the line, i.e. from
Gengkoi, was started in  1897  and  the  town of Khorāt  was  reached,
finally  in  1900.  The  building  of  that  stretch   of   the   railway   which
climbs up through the jungle coverered hills, cost  the  lives  of  several
thousand Chinese coolies and also of not a  few  European engineers
and overseers. When you pass the station  of  Muok  Lek  (which  gets
its   name  from  a  peculiarly  shaped  solitary  hill  called  Khao  Muok
Lek  i.e. "the  ironhatted  mountain," near  by), you  see  the  tomb of  a
young  Danish  engineer,  K. L.  Rahbek, who  died  of  fever  and was
interred    here. The    huge   mortality    during     the    construction   of
the   railway   was   due    to    the    jungle    fevers   prevalent    in   this
region,  the  hills  being  clothed   in    dense   jungle   or   virgin   forest
called  "Dong   Phraya   Fai" (i.e. "the forest of the Lord of fire")  which
has   from  olden days had a bad reputation for being a feverriden and
very   unhealthy   one.  The  train  climbs on and  on,  the scenery  shifts
rapidly, sometimes black and menacing walls of  rock encompass  the
track but sometimes the hills recede, and  you  then  look  to the  North
and  South  over  the  top  of  the  dark  and  luxurious  forest  to  a  con-
fusion  of  distant  chains   and   summits   wrapped   in   a   blue   haze.
Though  the  forest  presents  a   most   luxuriant  and wild scenery with
its true giants of secular  trees  hung  with  lianas, orchids  or   fantastic
creepers, you seldom see any animal  life  with  the  exception of small








clouds   of   butterflies. Still  there  is  no  doubt  that  in  the  mysterious
depths of the forest are hosts of big  game, wild  elephants (which  you
are  not  allowed  to  shoot), tigers, leopards, samburs, wild  cattle  and
even rhinoceroses, indeed Dong  Phraya  Fai  is  the  paradise  of  big
game hunters. At Pāk Sok  the  line  reaches  its  highest points: 396.5
metres  or  about  1300  feet  over  the  sea  level. From  this  point  the
ground slopes  gently  down  to  the  city  of  Khorat  which  is  only  175
metres  or  616  feet  over  the  sea level. Before the construction of the
railway  a  journey  from  Bangkok  to  Khorāt  was  a  rather formidable
task, the  first  part  from  Bangkok  to  Saraburi or Gengkoi was  easily
made  by  boat, but  thereafter  you  had  to  travel  by elephant, pony or
by foot, the luggage  or  merchandise  being  transported  on  th    back
of   pack-bullocks. The   trip   from  Gengkoi  to  Khorāt   or   vice  versa
generally    took    about  11   days   and   was   exceedingly    tiring  for
both  men  and  beasts. Just   before   emerging   from   the  big  forest
the  train  pulls  up  at   a  small  station   called   Nakhon  Chantu'k. Not
far  away  in  the  jungle  are  the  ramparts of  an old city now deserted,
the  army  keeps  a  pony  stud  here. Near  by  there  is also an old cop-
per mine, the working of which has been given  up  as unprofitable long
ago.  After   this   place  the  country  opens  up  and  paddy  fields  and
villages become more and more numerous as  we  are nearing  Khorāt,
the  line  twice  passing  over  Lam  Takong an affluent to the Mūn  river
which  born  in  the  wilds  of  Dong   Phraya   Fai  flows  in  an  Easterly
direction  and  passing  North  of  Khorāt  town  falls  into the Mun some-
where  East  of  the  town  Before  reaching  Khorāt  we  pass  a station
called  Sung  No'n, i. e.  the  tall  hill, near  which  are  lying  two  ancient
cities  one  to  N. W., the  other  to  the  East  of  it: the  former  is called
Mu'ang  Sēmarāng,  the  latter  Mu'ang  Khorāt  Kāo, in   both  of  which
are  found  archaeological  remains  of   considerable  interest. Several
temple  ruins  and  a  huge  resting  Buddha  all made of sandstone and
of Cambodian origin are also to be seen there. These old cities may have
been  Cambodian   fortresses   dating  from  a period   long   before the
present   town   of   Khorāt   was  built    In  Khorāt   you  may  stay at the
railway  station  or  better    if   you  can   arrange  so   with   the  French
Legation  in  Bangkok, at  the  unoccupied  consulate  building which is
not  far  from  the  station  and  quite  a  comfortable  place  at  that. The
town itself is not very interesting nor picturesque being too dirty





















and  its  roads  always  in  a  pitiful  state  of  disrepair. The  population
seems mainly to consist of Chinese in whose hands is the whole trade
of   N.' E. Siam,  the   town  being  so  far  the  terminus  of  the  railway
from Bangkok. To  Khorat  arrive, and   from  it   too  start  the  innumer-
able  caravans  of  bullock  carts which bring the products from the four
provinces  of  Khorāt, Ubon, Roi  Etch   and   Udorn   returning   to   the
same  loaded  with  all  sorts  of   foreign   goods. From  Khorāt also is
exported  annually  a  great  number  of  cattle  and  pigs  destined   for
consumption   in   Bangkok   or   for   export   to   Singapore.  The   non-
Chinese  population  of  the town—which really is the most numerous—
is  called Thai  Khorāt  or  formerly  Lāo Klāng, i. e. the middle Lāo, but
is  for  the  greater  part  of  Cambodian origin mixed with Thai from the
Mēnām   valley   and   especially  Lāo  from  the  region  of  Wiengchan
sprinkled  with  some  Mohn   exiles.  The  last   named   have  quite for-
gotten  their   mother   tongue  but   not  their  ancestral  spirits  who are
still   worshipped   fervently   here  even by those who  are  not  of Mohn
origin : in fact the "phi's" of Khorāt are "Phi Mohn."

The  present  city  was  built  during the reign of  King Phra Narai
Mahārāj  (1656-1688)  who  let  French   Military   Engineers   construct
the fortifications, which consist of  earthern  ramparts  crowned  in  part
with walls of brick  or  sandstone, provided  with bastions, broad moats,
still  partly   filled   with   water, and   four  gates   of   which  last only the
Western  one  has  been preserved  entirely, looking  quite picturesque
with  its  superimposed   tower. In  Wat Klāng and at the San Chāo Lak
Mu'ang  are  interesting  relics  from the Khmēr time, namely statues of
Narāyana (Vishnu), Ganes'a, Nāga's, etc.pointing to the existence of a
Brahmanical sanctuary and a Khmēr settlement long before the founda-
tion  of   present  day  Khorāt. The   walled   part   of   the  town   cannot
hold the entire population, and near the railway  station  lies the  suburb
of  Paru  with  its  flourishing  fruit  gardens, the  soil  of   which  is   nour-
ished  by  a  sort  of  irrigation  system, while  between  the  station and
the  western  city  wall  lies  another  quarter  called  Poh  Klāng  mainly
consisting  of  a  street  1⅓  kilometer  long,  lined  on both sides with a
multitude  of  Chinese  shops. Most  of  the  government officials  live in
their  own  quarter  outside  and  S. W. of  the  walled  city and  finally to
the  South  of  the town are the barracks and the  aerodrome of  the 5th
Division  of   the   army.    For   the    journey   from  Khorāt   to   Phimai,









ponies, bullockcarts and a guide  are  necesary  items. When I, some
few years ago, was stationed in Khorāt, you could get  a  pony, includ-
ing  saddle, for  2  Ticals  and  a  bullockcart  for  3  Ticals  a day ; the
guide  will  probably  cost you  another  couple of Ticals a day. To get
these  things  you  must  approach  the governor who no doubt will be
glad  to  assist  you. The  best thing, however, will  be  to  let  the care-
taker  of   the  consulate  arrange  matters.  I  consider  one  pony   for
yourself, one  for the  guide  and  two bullockcarts amply sufficient  for
your trip. The  distance  from  Khorāt  to  Phimai is, by the road I went
in  1918, fifty  six  kilometres, and  you can of course easily cover that
distance in one  day  if  on  horse-back and without any luggage, but I
recommend  you  to  travel  by  easy stages; so much the more as the
roads  are  usually  in  a  very  primitive  state; it  will   then   take   you
2½ days  to reach  Phimai. I  will  now  presume  that  we are ready to
start,   so   we   leave   our   comfortable  residence  at  6   o'clock   in
the   morning    and    ride    followed     by    our   guide   through    the
old   walled   city,  entering   by   the    Western    gate    called    Pratu
Chom  Pon, passing   the   lively   business   quarter  and  leaving   by
the  Southern  gate  called   Pratu  Chainarong or Phi. The last  name
'the gate of the dead"  it   has  got  because   all   dead   have  to    be
carried   out   through   this   particular   gate, to   do  it  by  any of   the
other    gates    would   call   down   calamity   on   the   town   and   its
inhabitants.  Not   far  from  the town we  skirt  a  large  swamp  called
Hua Talē, which stretches far away to the S. E. of the town, and follow
the  "tāng luang"  or  government  road  which  goes   from  Khorāt  to
Buriram  and  which  is  provided  with  poles  on  which  the distance
for  every  10  Sen  (400   metres)  is  indicated.  At  Salā  Nok  Hong.
12 kilometres from Khorāt, we  stop  and  take  our  combined  break-
fast   and   tiffin  and  in   the   afternoon  another  7   kilometres  bring
us   to   Tā   Chāng  (Elephantford)   the  "port   of   Khorāt",  a  village
with  a  gendarmerie  post  lying  at  a  point  of  the  Mūn  river, where
this—for  some  few  months  every   year—begins   to   be navigable
We find accommodation in a  resthouse  belonging  to  the Mūn  river
Navigation   Company. While  the  scenery  between  Khorāt  and Tā
Chāng is open country dotted with villages  and  abounding in  broad
paddyfields, it  is  not  so  between  Tā  Chāng  and  Phimai  where it
mostly is high forest-covered land: indeed we pass through the edge




















of  the  great  forest  Kōk  Luang, which from  the  big Southern  plain
Tung Kadēn stretches Northwards stopping only  at a short  distance
from  the  Mūn  river, while   it   Westwards  continues  until  it  blends
which DongPhraya Fai  and  Eastwards  till  it  meets  the  forests  of
the Ubon province. This  huge  forest  which  seemingly  is  deserted
holds  many  interesting  things  not  the  least  being   the  many   old
cities, some built in squares, and others in  rings, but that  is  another
story. The  second  day  after a ride of 13 kilometres  we  stop in  the
village  of  Nong  Tayoi, where  we  get  our  tiffin under  the  splendid
shady mango trees in the Wat. In the afternoon, having  done another
13  kilometres, we  leave  the "tāng   luang"  and,  turning  N. E. for  a
short distance, halt at Ban Nong Krasang, where  we  camp  outside
the Wat at the edge  of  the   Nong. We have now only 11  kilometres
left  to  reach   Phimai.  In   the   early   morning  of  the  third  day  we
trot   through  t he  dew  dripping   bamboo  jungle, startling  numbers
of junglefowls and crow pheasants which abound here, and suddenly
we  meet  the  telegraph  line  running   Eastwards   from   Khorāt   to
Ubon.   We    follow    this     for    sometime    but   soon    afterwards
turn    directly   North   and   having   crossed   a   lot   of more or less
delapidated    wooden   bridges   spanning    a    number   of    small
streams, we   now   see   the   ancient   city   of   Phimai  looming  up
against   the   sky   with   its   ramparts   and   tall   trees.   We    enter
through the Southern gate—Pratu Chai—built of sandstone  and just
sufficiently  high  to  let  a howdah'd elephant pass through. The gate
is an exact copy of those in Angkor the Great. We pass along a long
and straight street lined on both sides with the houses and gardens of
the inhabitants, besides several rather uninteresting wats. Right at the
end of the street you see the Southern Gopura or entrance to the great
temple   with   its   terrace   in   front,  S. W. of  which  is  seen a build-
ing called "Phra Klang" or the "treasury'' built of sandstone  blocks or
blocks  made  of  "silālēng"  this   wellknown  natural  sort  of  cement.
This building is certainly of Khmēr origin and  was  probably used for
secular purposes. We do not enter the temple  at  once but  walk our
ponies round the exterior enceinte  following  the  street  which leads
us to the Mūn river, on the high bank of which a somewhat neglected
bungalow will be our residence during  the  time  we stay  in the town.
The  town  of  Phimai  is  built  in  a  square,  surrounded  in  part   by








earthem  ramparts  and  broad  ditches, and  measures  from  3  to  4
kilometres in circumference. The ramparts  are  provided  with  stone
gateways  on  their Southern, Western and Northern faces, but on the
Eastern  Side  they  are  broken by a large water reservoir called Srâ
Phlēng. A  part  of  the  Northern  rampart  with  its  N. E.  corner miss-
ing  was  probably  destroyed  by  the  river which here skirts the town.
Parts of stone walls are seen on the top of the ramparts on both sides
of  the  gateways  on  the  Southern  and  Western face as also on the
whole  of  the  remaining   part  of  the  Northern one; these stonewalls
were  probably  never  quite  finished.  Outside   the  town   the   jungle
reaches right up to the moats, the  ground  between  the  town and the
forest in the South being intersected  by numerous klongs and rivulets
besides being very swampy. A  watercourse  called  Nām  Khem  (the
salt  stream)  which  is  probably  an  old  branch  of  the Mūn river—or
perhaps  it  was  its  maincourse  long ago, who knows—though partly
dry during the  dry  season, is  in  the  rainy  season  sufficiently  full  of
water  to  justify  one  in   calling   Phimai  an  island. This  watercourse
is a favourite breeding place of  the  crocodiles and it is not difficult  to
get hold of their  eggs  here. The  temple  lies  a  little  to  the  North  of
the centre of the town, the space  between  its  exterior  enceinte   and
the city walls, being divided up in numerous square blocks  separated
by streets cutting each other rectangularly, testify to the skill of the   old
Cambodians in town planning. The  town  itself  is  like  one  forest   of
tall  dipterocarpii,  mighty    broad    crowned   secular   tamarinds    or
mangotrees and graceful sugar and cocospalms, swaying  to  and  fro
in the breeze; over  all  is  cool  shade  and  in  many  places  you  find
small  tanks  filled  with  clear  and  fresh  water. The   inhabitants   are
the  wellknown  Khorāt  Thai,  active   and   industrious  people,   good
weavers  of  silk  and  thrifty  traders whom you meet witn   everywhere
in  Eastern  Siam. Though  they  speak that  rude  Thai  dialect   which
is  peculiar  to  Khorāt, their  dark complexion, and their manners  and
traditions  all  point  to their  descent  from  old  Vimāya's  Cambodian
temple builders; some few  speaking  that  tongue  still live in the  town
and not many milesSouth of the town begins  the  Khmēr-peopled  Am-
pho'-district of Nangrong.

Two      enceintes     surround     the    temple      or      innermost
sanctuary,  the   exterior   one   consists   of   a   stonewall  from  3 to 5















meters high, built in a square  and  still  well  preserved in parts. There
are  four  gopuras  or  gate-buildings  built  in   the  crossform  so  well
known  from  the  Cambodian  temple  architecture. It  is  to  be regret-
ted  that  three  of  them  are so badly damaged  as  to  prevent actual
passage  through  them: only  the  Southern  one is in a comparatively
good  condition. A  terrace  flanked  by  lions  and  nāga's leads up to
the last  one  which is in itself a small temple containing seven narrow
chambers; on the faces of two of the pillars in the middle passage are
seen short inscriptions in  Khmēr. Having  passed  through  this  gate-
way we find ourselves  in  the  first   or  outer  courtyard  and  there  in
front  of  us  lies (he sanctuary itself enclosed by its galleries and with
its  three  towers  soaring  up among gigantic old trees, a sight which
fills  ones  heart  with  delight.  Indeed  a  finer  sight  than that you will
hardly  find  in  this  country. Before  entering  the  sanctuary  itself, let
us  cast  a  glance  round  the  outer  courtyard  which  surrounds   the
sanctuary  and  its  galleries on all four sides. We notice close to and
East  of  the  Southern  gopura  a  small  and  low terrace on which is
lying  a  stonefigure of  superhuman  size  representing  Hari-Hara, a
form  under  which Vishnu  and  S'iva combined, were adored  during
a  certain  period. Another one; also  of  Hari-Hara, lies  close  to  the
causeway   leading   from   the   Southern   gopura   to  the  sanctuary
Both to the East and West of this are seen some decayed Buddhistic
temples  of  Thai  origin, the   bases   of   which   are   constructed  of
materials   taken    from    much   older   buildings   of   Khmēr   origin.
Close  to  the  Vihāra  lying  to  the  West  of  the  sanctuary  are seen
remains  of   two   buildings   made   of   sandstone. Major   Lunet  de
Lajonquière  in  his  excellent  description of  Phimai  (see "Inventaire
descriptif des monuments du Cambodge" Vol. II p. p. 293-296)thinks
that  one  of  these  was destined  for  the  king and his courtiers, and
the  other  one  for  the court-ladies  during times of pilgrimage, when
the  king  and  his court  came  to  worship  here ; a  theory well worth
believing. With  regard  to  the  Buddhistic  temple  lying  N. E.  of  the
sanctuary, this   was,  acccording  to  H. R. H. Prince  Damrong,  built
by Prince Thēp Phiphit during his short reign as an independent ruler
of  Phimai, during the  interregnum  which  prevailed   in   Siam   after
Ayudhya's downfall in A. D. 1767. Four big and  deep  squareformed
"Srâs " or water basins are also situated in the outer  courtyard  lying








between the corners of the galleries surrrounding  the  inner courtyard
and  the  enceinte  of  the outer courtyard. These basins are  generally
filled   with clear  and  good  water  used  by  the  citizens  for  drinking
purposes. The  building  materials  used for the different constructions
were probably taken from the place  where  these  basins now are  as
the  subsoil  here  in  Phimai—as   nearly  over  all  in  the  Khorāt  pro-
vince—consists   of   a  red   sandstone  or  l aterite, just  the  material
wanted  by  the  old  Khmērs   for   their  grandiose   temple   buildings.
Inside  the  courtyard  grow  many  tall  and   splendid  trees:  tamarind,
dipterocarpii and mango trees giving  a  welcome  shade and  adding
to the picturesqueness of the place.

We  will  now  contemplate  the  sanctuary  itself  with  its   three
prangs  or  towers, its  library  or  treasury   and   the  roofed   galleries
which, built  in  a  square, surround  them   and   which   measure   300
metres   in   circumference. Though  most  of  the  galleries  have  now
crumbled away, some  parts  still  in  good  preservation  retaining  the
roof, give  us  a  good  idea  of  the  manner  in  which  they  were  con-
structed. The galleries  are  closed to the exterior  and  we notice here
a row of false i. e. closed   windows   with   curiously   turned    gratings.
On   the   interior   side   they   were   open  and   provided   with a  row
of    columns    supporting      the    roof.  There    are—or     were—four
gopuras built cross-wise  like  those  of  the  temple  enceinte   already
mentioned, but  at  present  the  Southern gopura is the only  passable
one   and   it   is   in   this   that   we    find   the   two   most   interesting
inscriptions    consisting    respectively   of   25   and  7  lines, the   first
one   being   on   your   right   the   second   on   your  left  hand,   when
you   enter   the   gopura.  These  inscriptions,  which   are   in    Khmēr,
date       from       the      XI-XIIth.    Saka    (i. e.  Mahāsakarāj     whose
chronology       starts      with      A. D. 79),    and     tell     us     that     in
Mahāsakarāj    1030    (i.e.   A. D.  1108)  a   certain    Vīrendrādhipati-
varman   erected   in  this  gopura, in  the  door of which the inscription
is  engraved, "The  statue  of  the god Senāpati Trailokyavijaya, who is
the   senāpati   (general) of  the god Vimāya." That  inscription  proves
that  in  1108  the  central  sanctuary  with  its  god   Vimāy   (= Phimai)
was   already   constructed. Another  interesting point is that the above
date  helps  us  to  fix  the  date  of the foundation of Angkor Wat which













has  hitherto   been   uncertain. The  discovery  of  the two inscriptions
(made  by  me, when I, in  company  with  Messrs. R. Belhomme   and
J. J. McBeth, visited Phimai in December 1918) enables us  to  inden-
tify   king   Paramavishnuloka  with  Sūryavaman II   (A. D. 1112-1162)
and to locate the construction of Angkor Wat in the course of the  XIIth.
century. When  I  say  that  I   found   the  inscriptions   just   mentioned,
I  am  perhaps  not  quite  right  because Major  Aymonier, the famous
French  archaelogist,  did   find   three  inscriptions, when   he   visited
Phimai in 1884 (see his book "Cambodge II p.p. 122-124), but his im-
pressions    must    have   been   very   bad   as   he   was   unable   to
decipher    more    than    a    few    words.  The    impressions    taken
during    my    visit    in   1918   are   not   perfect,  but   still   Professor
Cædès  has  been  able  to  decipher  and  translate  a  great  deal of
them,  the  contents  of  which  are  given  above  (See also Professor
Cædès' article in "Journal  Asiatique",  Jan-March 1920 p. 96). When
Major L. de Lajonquière visited  the  ruins  he was not able to find any
inscriptions  at  all  and  it  seems  as  if he did not even believe in the
existence of them. It is to be hoped that some  exact  impressions  of
all four- inscriptions  will  soon  be  obtained  to enable  the experts to
give  us  a  full  and  complete  translation  of   their contents.  We  are
now  in  the  innermost  courtyard  facing  the  three  towers which, we
notice, are  built  in  two  lines, two  towers  in  the  first   and   a   third,
the   main   tower,  in  the  second  line. The  two  foremost appear by
their  more  primitive construction to be much older than the third and
biggest  one, being  built  of  rugged  laterite  blocks  and being quite
unadorned  on  the  exterior. While  the  Western  tower is now empty,
not so the Eastern one, inside which we find  a  splendid sitting male
statue of superhuman size, the  material of  which  it is made being a

dark  green  stone  polished smooth as marble. The execution of this
statue with its  powerful  body and  impressive  but  somewhat  brutal
looking   face   is  so  masterly  done, that  I  venture  to  say,  it easily
holds  its  own  with  many  of the  statues  from  the  old  Hellas.  It  is
a  great  pity  that its  arms  and neck have been broken and its  nose
rather  damaged,  else,  it  would   have   been  perfect. On   its   right
hand is seen a female statue in a kneeling position, the execution  of
this  statue  is  also very fine, but the head placed on its broken  neck
does  not  belong t oit  being too big and quite out of proportion.  The 








inhabitants   of   Phimai  believe   that   the   statues   represent   Thao
Phromathat   (Brahmadatta)  and  Nang    Orapin   (Aravinda = Lotus),
the  former  being  a  legendary  king of Phimai, the latter a capricious
but  fascinating  girl  of  surpassing  beauty  won  by Thao Phromathat
after many tribulations. Quite  a  lot  of  places in the KhorĂāt province,
as  well  in  the  Central  as  in  the Western and Southern part, remind
one  by  their  names  of this legend, as for instance Mu'ang Nangrong
(Nang=girl, rong=cries) to  take  one, and  the  Lāo  and  Khmēr bards
still  sing  to  day  about  the  king  and  his love. As far as I understand
it,  this  legend  has  its  counterpart  in  a much older Indian myth  from
which  it  probably  is derived  (like that about Phraya Pān and  Phraya
Kong  in  Nakhon Chaisri), but  one  is  perhaps   allowed   to   believe
that   there   is   a   substratum   of   truth   in   the   local   legend,  Thao
Phromathat   being  a  Cambodian viceroy  in  Phimai  and founder of
the  oldest  sanctuary.  We  will  now  examine  the  main  tower  which
is  a  superb example of the noble Khmēr architecture, resembling the
towers  of  Angkor  Wat  and  being  of  a  much  superior  design and
execution  than  that  of  the  two  other  towers, and consequently of a
more   recent   date   than   those.    The   height   of   the   tower  must 
originally have been not less than 18 metres, but  the top having been
destroyed,  it  now  measures  only  about  13  metres (according to a
tradition  the  top  was  pulled  down  by  invading  Lāo  hordes, which

cannot  have  been  others  than  the  armies of  the  famous  king   Fā
Ngom,  who  by  the  middle  of  the 14th  century  extended  his  sway
from Luang Phrabang and Wiengchan Southwards over the Mēkhong
valley  and  the  territory  of  the four  big  North  eastern  provinces  of
Siam.)  The  tower  is  built  of  a  finely  cut  sandstone  of  reddish  or
yellowgreyish  colour  which, when   exposed   to   the   changing  light
during  day  time,  develops  a  whole  scale of  delicate tints finest  to
look  upon  at  sunrise  and  sunset, or  better still  when  the rays of  a
brilliant  full  moon  streaming  down  through   the  wonderful   tropical

night  is  at  play  with   its   dazzling   silverlight,  creating   a   fairyland
of the ruins and repeopling them with ancient Cambodia's splendours.
On  the top  of  the  prang  formerly crowned with the lotusflower some
brickwork  is  seen. H. R. H. Prince Damrong  in  his  small  but excell-
ent  guide  book  to  Khorāt  ( เที่ยว ตาม ทาง รถไฟ เมือง นคร ราชสีมา )
to  whom  I  am indebted  for  certain  historical  information, says that
















Prince  Thēp  Phiphit, the  same  who  built  the aforementioned Vihāra
to  the  N. E. of  the  Sanctuary,  also  tried  to repair the tower, to which
some masonry bears witness. There  are  four  doors  all  preceded  by
porches,  the  Southern,  being  the  main  one, is  preceded by a much
longer  porch (avant  corps  is  the  appropriate  term  in French); all the
doors  are  framed  by  beautifully  carved  or  turned  columns adorned
with  carvings  of  flowers  or  the  graceful  form  of  dancing   girls. The
vaulted  interior  is  now  empty, save  for  the modern "Roi Phra Budda-
Bāt", but must  without  doubt  formerly have contained an image of the
Buddha  as on  the  lintels of  all  four doors there are carved scenes of
Buddha's life.  With  regard  to  this, Professo  Cœdès  has  been  kind
enough  to   furnish   the   following   explanation:  "On  the  lintel  of  the
Southern door(of which lintel most of the upperhalf is missing), one still
sees  clearly  Buddha  sitting  under the  Bo tree, his right hand making
the traditional gesture calling  the earth  as  witness to his r enunciation
of all wordliness, under him are seen Māra, the  tempter, with  his  army
of  elephants  and  demons  riding  on  rajasis  attacking   Buddha. The
scene  represents  an  episode  from Bhudda's  life i.e. the victory over
Māra  or  Māravijaya. On  the  lintel  of  the  Eastern  door is seen in the
centre  a  god   with  8  arms  and  3  ( or  4 )   faces   dancing   on   two
corpses  lying  on  an  elephant's  skin. The  Buddhistic  (Mahayanistic)
pantheon  possesses  a  divinity  the description of which corresponds
well  with  this  figure,  with  the  exception  of  the  numbe r of  the arms.
This   is   Samvara   (See   Getty  "The   gods   of   Northern  Buddhism"

p. 127).  This  author  says  "He  has  four  heads   He   is  represented

with   twelve   arms. The   original   ones   crossed    in   Vajra-hūmkāra
mudrā just  as  our  figure  does. The  upper  arms  hold  an  elephant's

skin,   which   entirely   covers    his   back   He  steps   to   the   left   on

the    nude     figure     of     a    woman     and     on     the     right treads

on     a     man. " But    as    Samvara   is     almost    unknown    outside

Tibet  and  China,  I  still  hesitate  to  accept  this  identification though
not   rejecting   it   entirely. I   ask  myself   if   it   is   not   possible   that
this  figure   is   a  special   local  form of Trailokyavijaya, because  this
divinity   is  mentioned   in   the    inscription    found   in   the   Southern
gopura. Trailokyavijaya   has   four faces,  eight  arms (just the number
of  arms  of   our  figure), he dances on the bodies of S'iva and Parvati,
his    two  nethermost   hands making the sign of vajra-hūmkāra mudrā








(See Foucher   " Étude sur  l'iconographie  bouddhique  de   l'Inde",  2d.
part, p. 58). So  far  good, but  the  elephant's  skin   is   not   mentioned.
Still   in   view  o f   the   popularity   of    Trailokyavijaya    in    India   and
Java   and   the   fact    that  he  is  cited  in  the  Phimai inscription, I am
inclined   to   accept    this   last   identification.  To   the   left   and   right
of   the   figure   of   Trailokyavijaya   one notices two rows of figures, the
upper   consisting  of   sitting   Buddhas the lower of dancing bayadères.
The    third    scene,  depicted    on   the    lintel   of   the   Northern   door
represents     the      statue      of    a    god    sitting    in    a    temple    to
which   god   different   persons   come   bringing    offerings. The statue
is    that   of   a    god     sitting    on    the    Nāga,   the    god    wears    a
mukuta   (crown),   ear-pendants   etc. and    one   is   at    the   first  view
inclined  to  identify   it   rather   with   Vishnu  than  with  S'iva,  but  there
exist   a  great   number  of  similar  statues  where the  person sitting on
the    Nāga    certainly    is    Buddha,    though     probably     under    the
Mahayanistic  form   of   Adibuddha   which    generally   is   represented
decked  with  the  royal  ornaments   (See  Getty   "The gods of Northern
Buddhism" p. 3). We  now  come  to  the  last  door,  the Western, on the
lintel   of   which   is   seen   Buddha   standing  clad  in royal garments in
the   attitude   of   the   statues  which   at   the   present  are called "Phra
Chao    song     khrüang"  ( พ ะ เจ้า ทรง เครื่อง )  It    is   well   known   that
these  statues  represent  Buddha  as  Rājādhirāja  or  the  king  of kings
in   the   apocryphical   legend    Jambupati    (See  the résumé in Finot's
"Recherches   sur   la    littérature    laotienne,"  published  in   Bulletin de
l'École   Française    d'Extrême   Orient,  XVII   vol.  No.  5, p.  66).   If    it
really  is  this  legend  which  is  represented  here,  I  think   that   Jambu-
pati  and  his  escort  are  to  be  seen  in  the  upper row of figures to the
left   of   Buddha, to  the   right, his   palace   is   seen; the  lower  row  (of
dancing girls and musicians) represent perhaps the sensual  enjoyments
in  the  gardens  (of  Jambupati)  so  treasured  by  him  before he  came
into the presence of Buddha."

The   superstructure  , which   begins   where   the  pilastershaped
walls  end   with  a   sort   of   capital   most   beautifully   executed,   must
originally  have   risen   gradually   like    a    sort   of    terraced    pyramid
up     to      the      top,      having      on     each    of    its    steps   rows   of
"acrotères"   i.e.   stones   formed   like   "Bai   simā's " and  carved  with











figures  of  rishis  (Siamese: rüsi = hermit)  or many headed snakes, of
which  a  number  are still to be seen in their original places, and finally,
on  each  of  the  four  faces  of  the  tower and just over the porches, a
huge Garuda—the mount of the god Vishnu—is seen.

The  last  building  to  be  mentioned  is  the library or treasury, a
small  rectangular  structure  lying  with  its  longitudinal  axis  East  and

West, and  close  to  the  West of the Southern porch of the main tower,
this  building  is now quite tumbled down and presents only a confused
heap   of   stones. But   strewn   on   the  ground round the building lie a
lot  of  sculptured  stones  fallen  down  partly  from  the  top   and  partly
from the porches of the main-tower, among  them  are lintels  on  which
are  depicted  different  scenes, here the heroic fight between Bāli and
Sugrīva  with  their  bows,  their  human and  monkey  warriors  and  the
war  chariot, a  wellknown  episode  from  the  Indian epic called Rāmā-
yana, which is still played by the Cambodian, Javanese  and  Siamese
lakhons   of   to-day;  or  there  one  sees  the  god  Indra  sitting on  the
threeheaded elephant, there again  another  god  sitting on the head of
the  monster  Rāhu  and  finally  a  row  of  standing  lions  and so on. A
patient research  will  reveal  a  lot of more beautiful details gladdening
the   heart   of   any  lover  of  art  or  archaeology. It will also be noticed
that the present surface of the innermost courtyard does not  represent
the  original  one  which  lay  considerably   lower,  by   the   care   of   a
former  thoughtful  Nai  Ampho'  the  earth  has  been  dug  away  at the
base  of   the   Northern  face  of   the  maintower, showing  the original
base  of  this  as  well  as the  stonepaved  courtyard and also showing
that the porches were approached by flights of steps

Outside   the   temple, between   this  and  the  river, i. e. North of
the  temple, lies  the  public  school  (Rongrien Kulanō) on the verandah
of  which  is  seen  a  collection  of  many  interesting   things  namely  a
standing    four-armed   statue    wearing    S'iva's    headdress   and   a
standing   fourarmed   statue   wearing   Vishnu's  mukuta, both  statues

are   of   natural  size  and   though  the arms are broken, of a very good
execution. The  heads  said  to  belong  to  Thao  Phromatat  and  Nang
Oraphin  are  also  kept  here  as  also a very big female head of a third
statue (this  last  one, as  also  some  other  fragments  of  statues  lying
in  the  Eastern  tower  may  have  belonged  to  statues placed formerly
in  the  now  empty  Western  tower). Some  ancient  pottery:  jars  of the










kind called "Hai  Khā"  as  well  as  some tall elongated vaselike ones
are   seen   here  too, but the most interesting piece is a fine statue of
a    woman   in   a   standing    position,  wearing   a   skirt    ("pā  sin"),
necklace   and   a  mukuta on her head, the face with its aquiline nose
and  full  lips  is  smiling  with  a  mysterious  and   blissfu  l smile. This
statue   is   called   Nang   Lavu   and   used  formerly  to  be in a place
called   Kōk   Lavu, some  40   kilometres  to  the Northeast of  Phimai,
where  a  watercourse   called   Lam   Plaimas  falls  into  the Munriver.
As   far   as  I  know  there  are no traces of any sanctuary there, it was
just  a  solitary  statue   standing  in   the   forest  and  though the place
was,— and is,— far away from any human dwelling, the statue used to
be  visited  on  moonlight  nights  by  young Lāo bards (Moh Lam) who
played   on   their   khēns   (reedflutes)  and sang lovesongs to her, but
so  fatal  were  the  consequences  of   this  uncanny  courtship that the
young   men   once   returned  to their  native villages were attacked by
evil    fevers,  soon    afterwards    to    die.  The   jealous  and resentful
Lāo damsels therefore forced the village elders to remove  the villages
further East to be outside the baneful and magnetic influence  of  Nang
Lavu  and  finally  the  Nai  Ampho' caused  the  statue to be brought to
Phimai to its present abode, where  it  seems to have lost its influence.
So   far   the   popular   tale  told  me  one  evening  when  I  sat  by  the
campfire. The  name Lavu  reminds  one  about  Lophburi's, old  name
Lvo, of the inscriptions. May be the name has some  historical  connec-
tion   with   that   other   old   Khmēr   city   which  is  still  more   ancient
than  Phimai   itself!   I  may add that another  curiosity  is  to  be   seen
near Phimai; about  half  an  hour's  paddling  upstreams  there  grows
on  the  left  bank  of  the  Mûnriver  a  huge  and  splendid  Banyantree
called   Ton   Sai   Ngām: seen    from     a     distance    it    resembles
a   mighty    green   cupola, and   it    is   said,  that   under    its   shade
a    whole   company   at   war   strength  can find rest. Her late Majesty
the Queen Mother visited it on her trip to Phimai in 1912.

Before concluding this paper some few words about  the scanty
historical    information    which   we  possess about Phimai may prove
useful.  As  will  be  seen  from   the   inscriptions,  this   place   was  un-
doubtedly   the   capital  of  a  big  province or petty kingdom subject to
Angkor  the  Great  about the year A. D. 1100, as it probably had been
for   several   centuries   before   that time, it is moreover reasonable to















believe  that  Phimai  is  a  very  ancient  town  of  the  Khmērs, who  in
fact  ruled  over  the  whole  of  the  Mūn valley long before  they  (about
A. D.  600)   went   down   and    conquered   Funan  i.e.   the    present
Cambodia  which  last,  inhabited  by a kindred race, once  embraced
the   whole   of   modern   Siam   as    well   as    the    Mēkhong   valley.
When   King  Rāmakhamheng  engraved   his   famous  inscription   in
Sukhothai   A. D. 1292,  the   present   provinces of  Khorāt and  Ubon
were    still    under    Khmēr-dominion.  Later   on,   during    the   wars
between  Phra  Chāo  Utong  or  Rāmātibodi I.  of  Ayuthia (A. D.1349-
1369) and Phra Para ma Lampongse of Cambodia, the Siamese con-
quered   the   territory  of   Khorāt   but  for  quite  a  long time their rule
was   confined  to  the Western  parts of this province and Phimai may
be  supposed  to  have  remained  Cambodian  for  some  time longer,
though  it   probably  once  was temporarily conquered  by  King  Chāo
Fa  Ngom's  Lāo  armies  as  mentioned  above.  After  this  there is  a
gap  in  the Siamese  chronicles  and nothing is heard about Khorāt or
Phimai  before  the  time  of King Phra Narai Mahārāj  who, as related
in  the  beginning  of  this  paper, sent   French   Military   engineers  to
fortify  the  town  of  Khorāt,  making  it  to one of the Kingdom's strong
fortresses  destined  to  guard  against  possible   invasions   into   the
Mēuām  valley  from  the  East.  Phimai  is  mentioned at  that  time as
being one of the  5  Mu'angs  subject  to  Nakhon  Rajasima. The  next
time we hear about Phimai  is  after the fall of Ayudhya  in 1767,  when
Prince  Thēp  Phiphit  of  the  Royal  House  of  Ayudhya  tried   to  rally
some of his countrymen  against  the  Burmese  invaders,  but   having
suffered  defeat  in  a  battle  at  Paknām   Yotagā (in  the   Prachin pro-
vince) he fled to Khorāt where he—after many  bloody  intrigues—was
raised  to  be  ruler  of  Phimai. His  kingship  was  however   of   short
duration,  as  in  1775  he  was  defeated  and captured  by one of  the
armies  which  Khun  Luang  Taksin  sent  up against  him. Since  then
Phimai has sunk down to the seat  of  an ordinary Nai Ampho'   though
it has recently been proposed  to make it the seat a governor (phu   va
rajakar changvad).

The  ruins  of  Phimai  are  of  such  beauty  and importance that
it   is   sincerely   to   be  hoped the government will soon take steps to
have them effectively protected against any acts of  vandalism, though
it must be said, to the  honour  of  the  different Nai Ampho's who have







resided there, that  they  have all taken some interest  in  the protection
of the ruins, and  the  population  itself  has   still   much  veneration  left
for  the  great  achievements  of   their  ancestors. Finally  I  beg here to
express my hearty thanks to my friend  Professor G. Cœdès, the  learn-
ed Chief Librarian of the National Library, for  all his  good  advice  and
for the interesting notes supplied by  him, to  Messrs  J.J. McBeth   and
R. Belhomme who  allowed  me  to  use  their   excellent    photographs
which   illustrate   this   paper,  and  especially  to  Prof. Finot,   Director
of   l'École  Française  d'Extrême  Orient   who  most  kindly  gave   per-
mission   to  reproduce  the  map  of  Phimai and the temple plans  pub-
lished  by   Major  L. de  Lajonquière  in   his "Inventaire  descriptif  des
monuments du Cambodge, Vol. II."




                                              Supplementary Note.

As will be seen from  the  preceding  lecture, this  was  delivered
as    far   back  as  the  month  of  June  1920, but on account of various
circumstances, among them the long delay caused by the reproduction
in   Europe   of   the   illustrations   which   accompany   this  article,  the
publication   was  retarded  until   now.  The    conditions   of    travelling
in  that  part  of  the  country,  i. e.  the  Khorāt  province  have, since the
author  lectured  on  the  Phimai  ruins,  changed  a  great  deal  for  the
better  by  reason  of   the  construction  of   the  North   Eastern  line  of
the  State  Railways   which   ultimately   will   reach   Ubon.  Instead   of
travelling    the   whole   distance   from  the  town  of  Khorāt  to  Phimai
by  pony  and  bullockcart, it  is  now  possible  to  continue  by rail  from
the   Khorāt   Station   to  Tā   Chāng.   As  stated  in the first part of  the
lecture  the  train  leaves  Bangkok  9.48  a.m.  and  arrives   at   Khorāt
(6.08  p. m.  Here  one  must  change  for  a  train  running to Tā Chāng:
Departure    6.30 ;   Arrival   7.19 p. m.   at   Tā   Chāng. By   doing   so,
one   avoids   the  tedious  journey  (19  kilometers)  along the cartroad
from  Khorāt  to  Tā  Chāng. The  first  night  has  of  course to be spent
here  at  Tā  Chāng  which   probably  can   still   be  done,  as   already
indicated,  in   the   resthouse  belonging  to  the  Mūn River Navigation
Company, or  in  one  of  the  temporary  railway  quarters. With regard








to    obtaining   ponies   and  bullock   carts   for the further journey, the
question   is   perhaps   more   difficult,  but   I   should   think   that   by
approaching  in  advance   the  governor  of   Khorāt,  this   gentleman
would  be  kind  enough  to  give  the  necessary  instructions   for   the
arrangement of  this  to  the  Ampho'  Tā  Chāng. The  second  part  of
the  journey  is  still  to  be  undertaken   as   formerly   described   and
will  take  about  1½ i  day. When  returning  from  Phimai  one  has  to
spend   another   night   in   Tā   Chāng;  leaving   this   place  the  next
morning   by   train   at   6   o'clock,  arrival in Khorāt 6.49 a. m. (i. e. at
the  railway  station), change  train   for   Bangkok   leaving  7.00  a. m.
and arrive in the Capital at 3. 16 p. m.

His    Royal    Highness    the     Prince    of    Kambaeng    Bejra,
Commissioner   General  of    the   Siam   State   Railways,  to   whose
kindness  the  author  is  indebted  for  much  valuable  information, for
which  he  hereby  begs  to  tender his best thanks, recently stated that

there  will   be   constructed   a station near Ban Túm (บ้านตูม) which is

about   32   kilometers  South   of   Phimai, and that construction trains
will   be   running   to   this   station  during  the  beginning of 1923 : the
whole  line,  terminating  at  Ubon,  will  be completed in 1927. H. R. H.
who desires to facilitate excursions to Phimai as much as possible, is
however  studying  the  question of finding  another  station  which  will
be  nearer  to  Phimai  than  the   first  one  named.  A  road,  possible
for  motor  vehicles, connecting  this  station  with  the  town of  Phimai
is under consideration.

We     may    therefore    hope    that,   withi     the     near    future,
excursions  to  the  interesting  and  picturesque  temple  ruins  of   this
ancient city  will  be  made  possible  without  much  inconvenience  for
the    tourist.  The   traveller   may  have  to  make  a  first  break  of  the
journey   in   Khorāt  or  at  Tā  Chāng  where  we  perhaps may expect
the construction  of  one  of  these  comfortable  railway  resthouses so
well  and  favourably  known; the  second  and  third  night  to  be spent
in    Phimai.   Including   the   return   journey   to   Bangkok   the   whole
trip  should  easily  be  accomplished  in  five  days  instead  of  7 days
as now.




Bangkok, December 1922.

                           E. S.

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