World Travel GuidesUNESCO World Heritage Site Preah Khan Temple, Angkor

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Preah Khan is a sprawling monastery ruin in Angkor. In fact, it was one of Jayavarman's largest construction project.

The name Preah Khan means "sacred sword". Preah Khan functioned not only as a temple, it was also a Buddhist university with over 1000 teachers. The foundation stele of Preah Khan was discovered at the temple, providing archaeologists and scholars valuable insight into the function and management of the temple.

Preah Khan occupies the site that was previously the palace of the earlier king, Yasovarman II and Tribhuvanadityavarman. Just as Ta Prohm was dedicated to Jayavarman VII's mother, so too was Preah Khan, built five years after Ta Prohm, dedicated to his father, Dharanindravarman.

Preah Khan served for a while as the temporary residence of Jayavarman VII which his palace was being constructed at Angkor Thom. Since the 1920's, the École Française d'Extrême Orient (EFEO) has undertaken restoration projects that were well documented. As in the case with Ta Prohm, the scholars are faced with the question of how much to restore. They have decided to take the approach of allowing the temple to coexist with its surrounding jungle. As a result, Preah Khan also provides latter-day Indiana Jones the opportunity of its many nooks and crannies, and coming face to face with fallen walls and roofs.

Lights diffusing over the floor at Preah Khan.

I have explored Preah Khan on two different visits. On my first visit in 2002, I practically rushed through the ruins, as we had so little time to fully explore it. So I was determined to return, which I did, in 2006, and on my second visit, I was able to thoroughly cover this temple to my full satisfaction.

One of the most unique structures you'd come across at Preah Khan is a two storey structure - the only one of its kind in all of Angkor. This double storey building is located close to the eastern end of the Preah Khan complex. Explore it when you are there.

Construction Details

Built in the second half of 12th Century
by King Jayavarman VII (reigned 1181-1220)

How to reach Preah Khan

The usual way to reach Preah Khan is via Angkor Thom. Take the road north, leaving Angkor Thom through the North Gate. The road continues northeast for 600m, then east for 300m and then north for another 250m. There, you see a turning on the right which takes you to the western entrance of Preah Khan.

Most people would ask their transport to drop them at one entrance and pick them at the opposite entrance. Me, wanting to explore the ruins twice, asked them to stay put so that I can cover Preah Khan again, on my way out. It all depends on how much time you have in your hands. If you are travelling independently, it is best to hire a tuk tuk. I can recommend the tuk tuk driver who drove me there. His name is Mr Han (see contact below), and you can call to see if he is available to take you.

Preah Khan west entrance.

Inside Preah Khan.

Passage through Preah Khan.

Carvings at Preah Khan.

Structures at Preah Khan.

Stupa at Preah Khan.

A two-story structure (the only one of its kind in Angkor) at Preah Khan.

Tim and Chooi Yoke with the wall relief of a garuda at Preah Khan.

Return to Angkor UNESCO World Heritage Site
Angkor Travel Tips or to Cambodia Travel Guide

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