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The country of Cambodia is home to some of the most spectacular religious temples in the world.  These temples are centered on the village of Siem Reap, some 200 miles from Cambodia's capital of Phnom Penh.  Built during the reigns of several Cambodian kings the temples and edifices of Angkor Wat constitute the largest religious site in the world, and are built on a scale that rivals the pyramids in Egypt and the Mayan temples in Central and South America.  Though decades of political turmoil kept the world away from Cambodia, a new openness has allowed many people from other cultures to explore Angkor Wat and experience the wonder of its many temples and towers. 

While historical accounts differ slightly, it is generally agreed that building on the site of Angkor Wat began during the eighth or ninth century.  From this time until the mid-fifteenth century (with many stoppages due to regime changes and wars) several building projects were undertaken.  Many of the kings and rulers who came to power during this period started their own temples, pyramids, and other structures; these structures were designed to become their tombs upon their deaths.  However, as the landlocked Cambodian kingdom shrunk and faced pressures from other nations (in particular Thailand and Vietnam) Angkor Wat's importance faded, and the city was finally taken by the Thais and sacked in 1431.  

For the next four hundred years, the ruins of Angkor Wat are buried by the jungle, until a French Botanist discovers them in 1860.  From this time on, reconstruction work proceeded intermittently until finally being disrupted by the Vietnam War and perhaps the saddest and most difficult times any nation has ever faced during the rule of the Khmer Rouge and a long war with Vietnam.  With the return of Prince Sihanouk to Cambodia in 1991, international attention once more returned to Angkor Wat, and reconstruction efforts have moved ahead at a rapid pace. 

Because Hinduism had been the major religion in Cambodia since about the second century A.D., many temples in the country were built to honor Hindu gods.  However, the temples at Angkor Wat are devoted to the concept that the king was the earthly representative of the Hindu god Shiva (or Siva), and so the temples honor both Shiva and the king.  Many of Angkor Wat's temples are now used as religious sites by both Hindus and Buddhist monks.  

The temples of Angkor Wat are some of the most spectacular religious sites in the world.  Although war and chaos have kept these temples from taking their rightful place on the world stage, the new attention and efforts focused on reconstruction seem destined to restore Angkor Wat and place it firmly on the list of historical sites.  Hidden in the jungle for centuries, the epic scale of Angkor Wat is only now becoming clear.


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Chopsticks with Oyster Shell Ends
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Round Floral Tea Set / Vietnam
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Chopsticks with Snail Shell Ends


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