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Ancient City of Ondong

Date of Submission: 27/03/2020
Criteria: (ii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of the Kingdom of Cambodia to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Punhea Loeu district, Kandal Province
Coordinates: N11 49 26 E104 44 33
Ref.: 6459
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Description

Oudong was an ancient city of the post-Angkorian period (1618-1863 C.E), located in present-day Psadek commune, Punhea Loeu district, Kandal province, about 35 km Northwest of Phnom Penh city via National Road Number 5. The city faces Kampong Loung village and Tonle Sap river on the east, Vang Chas village and Oudong market in the north, National Road Number 5 on the south, and its southwest side faces Prasith mountain. It is approximately 10Km away from another post-Angkorian city of Longvek.

The city remains are near a distinctive   mountain called Phnom Oudong (Oudong Mountain) and consist of many archaeological findings left from Pre-Angkor, Angkor and Post-Angkorian periods such as sandstone architectural elements and artefacts resulting from the worship of Animism, Hindusim, Mahayana Buddhism, and Theravada Buddhism. Those artefacts include the laterite foundations, door set elements of the ancient temple, the statue of Nandin and Buddha on Naga, the house of Neak Ta and spirits, and an Islamic vihara. Additionally, a great Artharush Vihara and Maravijjaya Buddha are on the lower peak of the mountain. Importantly, the site contains 16 stupas of earlier Theravada Buddhist Kings and the Royal family of the Oudong period, of which13 are on the mountain, and 3 are at the foot of the mountain.

Recent LiDAR images reveal that the ancient Oudong city covered a large area, with Oudong mountian forming the point with construction in to all four cardinal directions. A remarkable settlement was located around the Royal Port (Kampong Loung) on the Tonle Sap river that connects to the ancient city of Longvek. Many significant names in the area still used today clearly trace the infrastructure and management plan of the city. For instance, Srah (pond) Sarpeyuth, Srah Dhammakerti, Vang Chas (old palace), Vihear Loung (royal vihara), Vat Knong Vang (the pagoda located in royal palace), Preah Sre (royal rice field), Khlang Sbek (leather storage), Psa Dek village (blacksmith village), Cham village. In addition, archaeological research shows a large and important iron kiln located in the city (Boeung Samrith area, close to Oudong Mountain).

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Today Oudong is well-known as a tourist attraction site due to its historical background as an ancient city of the post-Angkorian period, and persistent religious and cult beliefs   maintain the mystical sacred aspect of the site.  

Oudong city flourished from the early 17th century to the mid-19th century CE on a site that had been important in the early periods of Longvek, whose Ang Chand established many religious foundations on Oudong mountain and the area nearby.  The construction of an image of Buddha attaining Nirvana on the lower peak of the mountain is an example. Also, he built many pagodas and Buddhist viharas, such as the Vihara of Vat Tep Pranam. 

The site continued to be occupied and icn 1618 C.E, King Jayajetha II established his capital in Oudong. The choice of this location was closely related to the model of construction of cities in the history of Cambodia, referringback to the Angkor period and forward to Phnom Penh city. The location was selected firstly based on the proximate mountain (Oudong mountain, used as a sacred mountain for the Kingdom and also the central point for urban planning). Secondly, one side of the city faces and is close to the river or water (Tonle Sap), which served religious needs and also was gateway for different products trade goods and cultural items.

The location and the city area of Oudong could be described as a political centre, trading centre, and religious / cultural centre.


Criterion (ii):
Political Centre: Oudong city was established   about 10 km from the previous capital city, Longvek (1528-1594 C.E), which used some locations in Oudong   to build significant religious structures. Later, in the early 17th century, King Jayajetha II chose to build his capital city in Oudong, making it as the main political centre of the Kingdom.

According to historical records of the Portuguese the urban planning of Oudong city was well managed and organized. Some wooden houses were built in a straight horizontal and vertical lines, one next to another with significant shape and style. They were described as looking clean and comfortable, while other houses were not built following the straight line, but the shape and style were similar. These houses were scattered both on the flat area next to the rice fields and also along the river. Roads provided easy access to the villages and facilitated local transportation inside the city which is mainly the oxcart.

Further from the houses, the Royal Palace of Oudong was also well constructed. It was built almost in a square shape, surrounded by a strong wall, with the main entrance to the south and smaller gates on the other sides. Before entering the complex area of the Royal Palace, there is a control post and also another wall. The compound of the palace had two big basins, a garden, a great hall, residential quarters of the King of Particular note, the capital city of Oudong was also not only the residence for Cambodians, but was also open to multiple nationalities with village enclaves specifically designated for Chinese, Cham (probably Java), Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and others.

Until today, some of these foreign villages are still recognisable through archaeological findings and foreign records or through the name of the villages and some distinct jobs and professions such as blacksmith, gold, silver, copper and iron smiths and ceramic kilns were also found. Recent excavation shows that Beoung Samrith, located near Oudong mountain was a large iron kiln. This kiln is suggested to be a biggest iron kiln the Southeast Asia at that time.

Contemporary reports mention that the city had other important buildings, such as pagodas, prayer halls and many storage facilities, but did not clearly mentioned other facilities such as schools and hospitals. However, it is also well-known that in those days pagodas functioned as the places for education.

Therefore, the ancient city of Oudong was composed of different infrastructures and facilities to provide and support   a political centre for both local and also foreigners through a well-constructed administrative infrastructure, and a strong ability to produce significant products.

Commerce / Trading Center: Cambodia is well-known as a source of good rice. However, rice was not the only   significant product to be found in Oudong city, but there were many other products which originated from other countries in Southeast Asia and also Europe. The port of Oudong city was   located in the area of present day Kampong Loung (Royal Port), which still houses many workshops of blacksmiths and artisans, especially working in silver of high quality and reputation, in traditional designs passed down from their ancestors, which are still today sought by royal and wealthy clients.

According to some foreign records such as Portuguese and Dutch, and also the documentation from Cambodian Royal Chronicles, Cambodia in the post-Angkorian, mainly Oudong, period based its economy on trade with the counties in both Asia and Europe, such as India, China, Japan, Portuguese, Holland and also England, and this trade made Oudong city became the residence of those foreigners.

Oudong city was considered an important port in Southeast Asia for trade in raw silk, rice, lacquer, animal skins and horns, ivory, bee wax, honey, alum and iron ore. Furthermore, there were also products from the highland areas such as natural resin (benjamin) and gum. Additionally, crops, vegetables and fruits, were available for trade.

Products from Cambodia were described as being of high quality and were bought in large amounts, mainly by Chinese and Japanese. For instance, its pepper was highly prized; “a ship of peppercorns were easily sold in a short time” (Bassett, 1962). Thus, Oudong city was administrated as an important city through providing good and large amounts of natural products from its port to Asia and also Europe in the Oudong period.

Criterion (iv): Religious Centre: In the Oudong period, the main religion was Theravada Buddhism. However, contemporary religious structures and artefacts found on the site especially on Oudong Mountain, show that the people believed not only in Theravada Buddhism, but also Animism, Hinduism, Mahayana Buddhism and Islam.

Regarding  Animism, it is important to know that Oudong Mountain itself has a spirit according to local legend, and  is the place of many local spirits and deities (Neak Ta). Believers especially the local people, pay high respect to the spirits there., particularly to request   kitchen utensils to use during a celebration ceremony or marriage, or help on any health issue and happiness.

Traces of Hinduism can be seen in many remaining artefacts such as the statue of Nandin, while traces of Mahayana Buddhism are seen in the statue of Buddha on Naga, which is dated to the Angkor period. A substantial number of religious buidings and statues were dedicated to Thereavada Buddhism, such as the reclining Buddha, Maravijaya Buddha, Buddhist viharas and also stupas, and interestingly, an Islamic mosque was also constructed on Oudong mountain.

Most of the religious places have been worshipped before Oudong Mountain became a sacred place for Oudong city. Also, there is a continuity of installing the stupas of the Kings and Royal family on the mountain since the early period of Oudong until the present day. Since Oudong has been selected as a sacred mountain, one can note the absence of any dwelling, warehouse or treasure vault.

Power came from capital accumulated by the dynastic funerary vestiges, the stupa themselves, and through them the King,who represents the pantheon . Also, it may be surmised that the mountain housed the royal chapel, in continuation of the Angkorian experience in which a temple-mountain was surmounted by a tower-sanctuary hosting the statues of the ancestors.

Among the 16 stupas we can see two principal types : decorated (Chetei Trong Kreoung) and non-decorated (Chetei Moul / Cheteik Leat).

“Cheti Trong Kreoung” is a type of stupa that is decorated with a kind of silk textile motif. Distinctively, this type of stupa usually is built on a square plan and every corner is designed to have multiple levels. It has full decoration, starting from the bottom to the top. It is clear to see this type of design on the stupa of Preah Ang Doung. Particularly, the stupa of Preah Ang Doung has very beautiful motifs made of different glazed ceramics. Some of those patterns subseuently deteriorated or collapsed, but were restored continuously by the following kings. Another unique design is the figure of elephant heads surrounding the lower part of the stupa. This type of design is very rare in Cambodia. Such decoration of elephant heads on stupas were firstly found in Sri Lanka and later adopted by many Buddhist countries in Southeast Asia.

“Chetei Moul” or rounded stupa can be called a bell-shaped stupa. It has a bell shape at the bottom part and gets smaller when coming to the top. It has minimal design, and is known to be the earliest type of stupa, invented in Sri-Lanka, and corresponding to the shape of the alms bowl of the Buddha Gotama

Another significant point is the worship of Cham (Java) people who are living around Longvek city (Tra Lengkeng area). Every year, Cham people who live in the area of the former Longvek city come to worship on Oudong mountain. Significantly, their offerings closely resembled to Cambodian.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Today, the active Oudong ancient city is gone. However, beside schooling Oudong ancient city is well-known and telling to the younger generation. The memory of elderlies, the name of the places, and also the remaining heritages on the site are the most fascinate and lives source to know and see how great Oudong city was.

There is no new construction of the stupa on Oudong mountain, but still the relics of the Royal members are inserted into the stupas of their ancestors on this mountain. Also, in 2004, King Norodom Sihanouk built a large and stunning stupa for the relic of Gotama Buddha on the site. Therefore, the belief in the importance of the site is undeniably connected to the people, especially the local people and the people from the ancient city of the Longvek and the royal family of Cambodia.

Oudong ancient city is under the management and protection from the Ministry of Culture and Fine Art, Cambodia. The protecting zone was made under the survey and studies. Furthermore, it is strongly prohibited to change the original state of the site. The conservation and restoration have been applying to some historical buildings and artefacts on Oudong Mountain. Importantly, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Art is working very closely with the local people who are living and benefiting the site in order to find a proper solution for both the heritage and the people.

Comparison with other similar properties

1. NATIONAL

Phnom Penh city (Chaktomuk) (Cambodia: 15th and 20th century up to the present): The traditional Cambodian model for a city from Angkorian times is to be built in a location where there is one side opens to the river and another side has the mountain. Notably, in Phnom Penh we find the junction and re-splitting of two rivers (Mekong and Tonle Sap merging and separating again into Mekong and Bassac), hence the name Chaktomuk -  four faces, in French quatre-bras, but there is no natural mountain in the area and an artificial mountain (Wat Phnom) serves this symbolic function so.

Although the city known as  Chaktomuk is said to have been founded in 1372, it became briefly the capital  of Cambodia (from 1432 to 1505), but the river and the port continued to be an  important place for exchange and trade both domestically and also  abroad, and some small foreign communities, including Portuguese, Dutch and Japanese are known to have remained, until in 1866 King Ang Duong moved the court from Oudong to re-establish his capital to be known as Phnom Penh, as it is today, with the Royal Palace at the Chaktomuk junction, still regarded as the symbolic heart of the country.

Longvek city (Cambodia: 16th century C.E.) : Longvek was also an important city of post-Angkorian period. The complex of urban planning has not yet been fully revealed, although its extent was revealed in recent LiDAR surveys. This city was also established between Tonle Sap Oudong mountain. Remains of religious buildings and icons   show evidence of this the early culture as well as its trading role. This port was mainly sold and exchanged products such as gold, gems, silks, ivory, rice, fruits, elephants, buffalos and rhinoceroses. The port also served as a departure point for travel and transport to places along the Tonle Sap, Mekong an Bassac Furthermore, archaeological excavations show fragments of many different kinds of ceramics from Japan, China and Vietnam. Importantly, the port of Longvek and Oudong appear to have had a strong relationship.

2. SUB-REGIONAL

Bagan (Myanmar: 11-13th century C.E.):The city of Bagan was also erected close to the river. There were many religious building was installed in the entire area. However, those religious buildings are mainly stupas for Gotama Buddha, built as acts of merit making, serving as city landmarks and also to mark military victories. Where the stupas were

installed, there were absent of the houses and settlement. This aspect is slightly different from Oudong city, as the city and the sacred site is adjacent to each other.

Sokhothai (Thailand: 13th century C.E.) : Sokhothai was very big and also famous city built along the river with many beautiful and important Buddhist structures such as stupas. However, those stupas were built to worship the Buddha. The city was having also an important port.

Ayutthaya (Thailand: 15th - 17th century C.E.): The site was constructed along the river where the city composed of the port. The site was constructed along the river where the city composed of the port. The port was also one of the important destinations to sell and buy the products. There are a great number of the Buddha stupas on the site.

Overall Conclusion
The ancient city of Oudong combined a complete infrastructure for both the people and the royal family, administrative systems, rice fields, workshops, markets and an important port. People were not only connected with other local communities, but they were a part of international communication and especially trading with the counties in Asia and Europe.