Arts and Culture, Literature
revolutionary songs, popular legends, Jataka tales, mural paintings, Khmer Rouge regime
Myths and legends passed down orally through the generations form the heart of Cambodian literature. These popular legends are based on the great epics of ancient India, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, and on the Jataka tales, stories about the previous lives of the Buddha. Episodes from the Reamker have been portrayed throughout history in all Cambodian arts, from scenes carved in stone at Angkor to mural paintings on the enclosure wall of the Royal Palace at Phnom Penh. Cambodia’s earliest written documents are stone slabs inscribed in Sanskrit (dating from the 6th century) and Khmer (dating from the early 7th century), which provide a genealogy of Khmer kings and their endowments to the temples.
The first Cambodian novel, Suphat, by Rim Kin, was published in 1938 after the French introduced printing techniques to Cambodia. During the Khmer Rouge regime, literature was restricted to poems, written on themes of peasant and agricultural development, and revolutionary songs. Most Cambodian literary works published during the late 20th century were written by Cambodian refugees living abroad, mainly in France and Thailand.
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