Bayon: the temple of 200 faces

In the center of Angkor Thom, capital of King Jayavaraman VII is the Bayon temple. It was the official state temple of the king and was built in the 12th or 13th century. The building's trademark are the hundreds of faces found on several towers. Nobody knows exactly how many there were originally. It is estimated that there were about 50 towers, added at various points in time, and today only 37 survive.

The Bayon has around 216 faces thought by some scholars to be the image of king Jayavarman VII himself, while others believe them to be the bodhisattva Lokesvara.

Angkor Thom was the last capital of the Khmer empire before it's fall. It is the largest in area in today's Angkor park.


This is the Bayon in 1909 as seen by photographer Pierre Dieulefis. A lot of reconstruction work has been done since.

An artist's representation made in 1899 of what Bayon should have looked like as photographed by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra.

Tour guide explains in Italian to tourists how the Lingam structures represent a phallus and womb. It is an abstract representation of the Hindu god Shiva. These sculptures can be found in almost every temple in Angkor.

It's very impressive how archaeologists rebuilt all this from complete rubble. I wonder if they got it right.

Here you can see some replacement stones were added because the original haven't been found.

The famous face towers have two, three or four faces. The government of Japan has been helping to restore this site.

The Bayon is full of inscriptions of famous battles and mythological events. Every wall there is a depiction that tells a story. You can stay hours just looking at the walls. Get a book or look them up online before a visit, it helps to understand what you see.

A second floor was added later to the temple, that's why some parts of the construction are so close together. Researchers believe that the temple originally was a single level structure.

In a tight corridor you can find impressive stone sculptures of Apsaras and Buddhas.

Asian tourists enframe themselves every single chance they can.

A statue of Buddha sits in a dark corner with several sticks of incense burning at its feet.