Cultural Heritage may be tangible or intangible and is a product of selection by the involved society from past generations. Therefore, not all things from the past are heritage. Cultural Heritage is largely classified as being either from the Built Environment, Natural Environment, and cultural artefacts. 

Cultural Heritage of Cambodia - Sheet1
Angkor Wat Temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia_×1024.jpg
Cultural Heritage of Cambodia - Sheet2
Angkor Wat Temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Plan illustration_

Cambodia is culturally rich, with cave settlements dating as far back as 71 000 BC. The countries’ history spans from the Fou Nan period (1st to 6th Centuries), Chen La period( 7th and 8th centuries), and Angkorian period( 9th to mid-15th centuries), Post- Angkorian period (mid-15th to 3rd quarter of 19th centuries), and Modern Period( late 19th century until the present. Data collected from a recent survey recorded more than 4000 archaeological sites spread out all over the country. 

The country has heritage protection laws enacted in 1996. They have ratified international conventions and signed multiple bilateral agreements with China, Thailand, Vietnam, and the USA against the illicit trafficking of antique objects. These efforts have gone a long way toward preserving various heritage sites in the country. Several government bodies are concerned with the maintenance of specific sites, for example, APSARA (Authority for the Protection and Safeguarding of Angkor and the Region of Angkor) for the world-famous Angkor, Preah Vihear National Authorities for the Preah Vihear, and Sambor Prei Kuk National Authorities managing  Sambor Prei Kuk World Heritage Sites.

The UNESCO World Heritage List inscribes three Cambodian sites: Angkor, Preah Vihear, and Sambor Prei Kuk. State parties are encouraged to submit to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre a tentative list of names of properties they consider cultural significance. On this list, Cambodia has submitted 8 of its sites for nomination, in addition to the intangible. Assets, Cambodia lists its Royal Ballet, the Shadow Puppet Theatre, Tug War, the Long Neck Lute( Chapel), and the Khmer male Mask Dance Drama.  

Architecture and culture are heavily influenced by religion in Cambodia. The country’s religious composition comprises 90% Buddhist and 1% Christian, and the remaining comprises communities of Islam, atheism, and animism. Ancient Khmer guidelines guide to design and construction. Their use of time-specific features is one of the major dating methods employed currently to categorise Cambodian Architecture and organise accurate timelines. 

Cultural Heritage of Cambodia - Sheet3
An aerial view of Angkor Wat, which shows the scale of the moat that surrounds it_Photo: Getty, Much Better Adventures
Cultural Heritage of Cambodia - Sheet4
The faces of King Jayavarman VII on the Bayon, situated in Angkor Thom, a kilometre from Angkor_ Photo: Getty, Much Better Adventures


Famous World round was a popular tourist destination in South East Asia largely after its inscription to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1992. The site stretches over 400 km2, including densely forested areas. The site is historically significant in that it contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer empire, which was the largest dominating power in South East Asia between the 9th and 15th centuries. 

Several criteria supported its nomination and inscription to UNESCO; these included: 

  • Possession of the entire art range of Khmer art from the 9th to the 14th Century. 
  • The extensive influence of Khmer art was observed across South-East Asia. 
  • The Khmer empire’s reach extended far and heavily influenced the neighbouring communities politically and culturally; even with recent colonial boundaries, we can observe the influence to date in countries such as Thailand
  • Although Khmer culture draws deeply from Indian Culture, it evolved its own unique and individual characteristics with time. 
Temple of Preah Vihear_ Ko Hon Chiu Vincent_

Temple of Preah Vihear.

Preah Vihear was nominated and inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. The temple stands on the edge of a plateau that dominates the plain of Cambodia and is dedicated to Shiva. The temple dates back to the 11th century AD, while its history can be traced back to the 9th century when the hermitage was founded.  The temple standing quality and surviving detail of its carved stone ornamentation and its adaption to its natural environment are greatly appreciated and make it easy to learn about cultures and practices of a long time past. 

  • The temple is considered pure in its layout and planning because it spans a length of 800m, and sanctuaries and staircases follow the linearity of the plan, giving directional movement for the users of the space. 

Sambor Prei Kuk.

The site if Ishanapura was inscribed to the UNESCO Heritage list in 2017. The temple zone is part of the ancient remains of Ishanapura, which was once the capital of the Chenla Empire. This empire ruled part of South East Asia from the 6th to the 7th centuries. Their architectural feats set the pace for those later developed by the Khmer empire. 

  • The site displayed architectural and engineering resourcefulness that had yet to be seen elsewhere in South East Asia. The complex comprises the principal temples and ancillary structures supporting their operation. 
  • The complex is an extensive biography of the practices of the Chenla Empire, offering great insight into their cultural and religious practices. 
  • Inscribed in the walls of the temples in the Khmer language are ancient principles of the God-King that were further developed later during the Angkor period. This concept led to the level four-pillared four-pillared Thai administrative system that was in practice till the early 20th century.

Cambodia has nominated a further eight sited for inscription with the UNESCO World Heritage Site. These sites include :

  • The Site of Angkor Borei and Phnom Da- 2020
  • The Archeological complex of Banteay Chhmar- 2020
  • Beng Malea Temple- 2020
  • Koh Ker: Archeological site of Ancient Lingapura Or Chok Gargyar- 2020
  • Ancient City of Ondong- 2020
  • Phnom Kulen: Archeological Site/Ancient Site of Mahendraparvata- 2020
  • Former M-13 prison/ Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (former S-21)/ Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre (former Execution Site of S-21)- 2020
  • The ancient complex of Preah Khan Kompong Svay- 2020

These sites were nominated for their cultural value and current state, whether well-survived or needed renovation or restoration. This is done to preserve the culture and learn about its richness. Sites such as the Angkor Borei and Da represent the redefining of Indian architectural elements and their modification later into the local Khmer architecture. 


  1. Centre, U.N.E.S.C.O.W.H. (no date) Angkor, UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Available at: (Accessed: March 7, 2023). 
  2. Centre, U.N.E.S.C.O.W.H. (no date) Beng Malea temple, UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Available at: (Accessed: March 7, 2023). 
  3. Centre, U.N.E.S.C.O.W.H. (no date) Koh Ker: Archeological site of ancient lingapura or Chok Gargyar, UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Available at: (Accessed: March 7, 2023). 
  4. Centre, U.N.E.S.C.O.W.H. (no date) Temple of preah vihear, UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Available at: (Accessed: March 7, 2023). 
  5. Centre, U.N.E.S.C.O.W.H. (no date) Temple Zone of sambor prei kuk, archaeological site of ancient ishanapura, UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Available at: (Accessed: March 7, 2023). 
  6. Centre, U.N.E.S.C.O.W.H. (no date) Temple Zone of sambor prei kuk, archaeological site of ancient ishanapura, UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Available at: (Accessed: March 7, 2023). 
  7. Centre, U.N.E.S.C.O.W.H. (no date) The archeological complex of Banteay Chhmar, UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Available at: (Accessed: March 7, 2023). 
  8. Culture of Cambodia (2022) Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Available at: (Accessed: March 7, 2023). 
  9. General Country Data (no date) Cambodia [ICCROM Country Profiles]. Available at:,(Chapei)%2C%20and%20the%20Khmer (Accessed: March 7, 2023). 
  10. Hidden Architecture (2019) Angkor Wat temple, Hidden Architecture. Available at: (Accessed: March 7, 2023). 
  11. Kenny, S. (2023) The rise, fall and rediscovery of the mighty Angkor wat, Much Better Adventures Magazine. Much Better Adventures Magazine. Available at: (Accessed: March 7, 2023). 
  12. Up, A. (2018) The 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Cambodia [photos], ASEAN UP. Available at: (Accessed: March 7, 2023). 

An avid reader with an interest in social justice and architecture. Having grown up with an interest in art, she expressed herself through drawings and paintings and later architecture as an additional medium of expression. She believes architecture can aid is solving multiple social issues through careful planning and design.