Cambodian Society
in the United Kingdom



According to a local legend, the Funan kingdom was founded by an Indian Brahmana named Kaundinya (called Hun-tien by the Chinese sources) in the lower valley of the Mekong in the first century AD. Buddhism and some forms of Brahmanical religion like Saivism co-existed in the region until the end of the fifth century AD.

Among the kings of the Funan dynasty, Kaundinya Jayavarman (478-514 AD) sent a mission to China under the leadership of a Buddhist monk named Nagasena. During the reign of the same Chinese emperor, two learned monks from Funan came to China in the early years of the sixth century AD to translate the Buddhist scriptures. King Rudravarman (514-539 AD) is said to have claimed that in his country there was a long Hair Relic of the Buddha. The Theravada with Sanskrit language flourished in Funan in the fifth and earlier part of the sixth centuries AD. Around seventh century AD, the popular usage of Pali language in southern region suggested the strong appearance of Theravada Buddhism in Cambodia.

The great emperor, Yasovarman (889-900 AD) established a Saugatasrama and elaborated regulations for the guidance of this asrama or hermitage, at the time, Buddhism, Brahmanism and Vasnavism flourished in Cambodia. During the reign of Jayavarman V (968-1001), the successor of Rajendravarman II, Mahayana Buddhism grew in importance. The king supported Buddhist practices and invoked the three forms of existence of the Buddha. In this way, up to the tenth century AD Mahayana Buddhism had become quite prominent.

Courtesy of the Royal Embassy of Cambodia in London, UK.


Historical Link Between Sri Lanka and Cambodia - Buddhism

Sri Lanka-Cambodia Relations with Special Reference to the Period 14th - 20th Centuries

by Dr. Hema Goonatilake
Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka, New Series, Volume XLVIII, Special Number Issued on July 21, 2003 to commemorate the 250th Anniversary of Upasampada in Sri Lanka

The emergence of Theravada Buddhism in Cambodia is conventionally traced back to the 13th century A.C. However, there is emerging epigraphical and sculptural evidence, that Buddhism of both the Mahavihara and Abhayagiri of Sri Lanka had made a strong early impact on the development of Theravada Buddhism in South East Asia when a good part of this region was dominated from about the 5th-6th century A.C. by the Mon Khmer culture, and later became part of the Khmer empire.

The movement of Buddhist monks and teachers from Sri Lanka to the region was facilitated by advances in navigation technology that witnessed a quantum leap during the period of the fourth-fifth centuries. This helped the spread of the Pali language, the lingua franca of Theravada through

Courtesy of Centre Buddhique International


Medecine in the Cambodian Ramayana

The Indian epic, Ramayana, said to have been written somewhere between 200 BC and 200 AD in 25,000 verses by Sage Valmiki (Buck 1976, p. xv), has exerted a more profound influence on various aspects of Cambodian culture than perhaps any other source from outside Cambodia. Along with its twin epic, the Mahabharata, and many spiritual and ritualistic features of Hinduism, the Ramayana came to Cambodia during the pre-Angkor or Angkor periods.

The Ramayana dominated Cambodian culture so overwhelmingly that it inspired a Cambodian version of the epic. The story of the Ramayana, and of what is considered its sequel, were written anonymously in the Khmer language between the 16th and 19th centuries (Pou 1979, p.xii), and called the Reamker (or Ramakerti). The two Indian epics represent the most important source of dramatic materials in South-East Asia including Cambodia. Most court dramas derived from these two epics and popular and folks play derived from them as well ( Brandon 1967, Leclère 1911, Thiounn 1956, Pech 1995).

Though the Reamker is taken directly from the Indian Ramayana, various aspects of the story were modified to suit Cambodian culture. The Reamker retained some elements of the Hindu belief system upon which the Ramayana was based, but was adapted to incorporate Buddhism. While in the Ramayana, Ram is believed to be an incarnation of Vishnu, a Hindu god, in the Reamker, Ram is seen as Bodhisatva, or an incarnation of Buddha. (Pou 1979, p. 22) One of the most significant effects of the arrival of the Ramayana in Cambodia was the transmission of the wealth of information it carried, including the wisdom of traditional systems of healing.

The main system of medecine in India, Ayurveda, as well as most of the knowledge content in the Ramayana, were based on the sacred scriptures, the Vedas (composed approximately between the 15th and 5th century BC). Ayurveda was practiced in Cambodia by the elite in the royal court,until it was extended to all strata of the population in the 12th century AD (Chhem 2000, p.25), and became an integral part of Cambodian medical practice.

Courtesy of the Nginn Karet Foundation for Cambodia