Faces in stone

The mysterious smiling faces of Bayon Temple

By Alistair Bancroft

Asia

Asia

Dating from the late 12th century, Bayon Temple is the dramatic central temple of the ancient city of Angkor Thom, located just 3km north of Angkor Wat.

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Constructed during the reign of the King Jayavarman VII from the late 12th century to early 13th century, Bayon Temple stands magnificently in the heart of Angkor Thom.

The Bayon Temple is one of the most famous after Angkor Wat.

Faces of Bayon Temple. Image: Alistair Bancroft

Faces of Bayon Temple. Image: Alistair Bancroft

The Bayon Temple consists of 54 gigantic towers, representing the 54 provinces of the Khmer Empire period, each richly decorated with numerous gargantuan smiling faces of Jayavarman VII, carved into the stone at all angles.

Faces of Bayon Temple. Image: Alistair Bancroft

Faces of Bayon Temple. Image: Alistair Bancroft

The temple is also adorned with thousands of bas-reliefs, incorporating more than 11,000 figures depicting the activites of life during the era.

Image: Alistair Bancroft

Image: Alistair Bancroft

Demonstrating the ever-changing religious beliefs of the empire, Bayon Temple is characterised by both Buddhist and Hindu features.

Image: Alistair Bancroft

Image: Alistair Bancroft

Since the construction of the temple however, several of the towers have toppled and only an estimated 200 faces remain.

Alistair Bancroft

Alistair is a technologist based in London. Follow Alistair on Twitter @0_7734.