During the thirteenth century, the Silk industry was created in Cambodia, at that time familiar as the Khmer Empire. Then, Chinese diplomat Zhou Daguan traveled to the province and reported the commencement of silk productions. Those with mulberry plants formed along the Basac and Mekong rivers in South Phnom Penh to produce silkworms. Such improvements were known by Angkor Wat.
You might also interest with: Angkor Centre For Conservation Of Biodiversity
Explore the Cambodian Fine Arts & Crafts – Artisans D’Angkor
From the greater 19th century to the 1970s, weaving methods developed and industry expanded to include Tonle Sap, Southeast Asia’s largest lake, and colonies like Siem Reap and Battambang. Cambodian Ikat, that is the dyeing method for producing unique designs, gained global recognition during the 19th century as the skills had developed. Thanks to a few of the families around that time who lived to produce silk.
Traditional silk materials and techniques are available in several types. The two main methods are uneven twill and Ikat, a faster technique that yields fabrics of single or two colors. The fabrics that include Pidan are used in worship services as a tapestry, Hôl Lboeuk used as even one of the purest, Chorebap used in wedding ceremonies, and Krama and Sarong used cotton and served multiple jobs.
Since the 1970s, under the Khmer Rouge century, the silk industry was damaged which almost diminished the industry. Colored clothing was strictly limited and black pajamas were imposed for the common people. The 1979 Vietnamese invasion did not bring success to that very silk industry which only recovered peacefully after the transitional government of 1993.
Traditional Weaving in Cambodia
Silk weaving is a very old art in Cambodia, which requires a lot of time and meticulousness, and can be finished according to various specific methods. Artisans Angkor chose to keep Khmer traditions alive and, thanks to custom looms, to provide silk pieces 100 percent crafted in Cambodian workshops. Travelers will visit Silk Farm to learn more about the method of silk processing, from silkworm cultivation to prepared goods, situated in the beautiful countryside of Cambodia. The most popular weaving types are described here,
Lboeuk is one of the most popular, especially tuned and sophisticated Khmer custom patterns. It is often used during formal and social events, marriages, on people’s scarves and dresses. It is a beautiful reflection of Cambodia’s customs and cultural heritage.
This design was designed to represent Jasmine flowers, which are usually regarded as a symbol of good luck. For many Cambodians, chorebap is also a highly spiritual and traditional sign, as people who are committed to Buddha use jasmine flowers as an invitation to him. Throughout ancient Cambodia, it was also a special Royal effort.
Kbal Spean River (Linga)
Linga is generally the Hindu God Shiva’s phallic symbol and can be used as a majestic statue in several Angkor temples: carved on walls and floors, or placed in the rooms. More specifically, many of these signs are carved on the Kbal Spean River Bridge-located in the Phnom Kulen National Park, a few kilometers away from Siem Reap-usually called the “Thousand Lingas River”
Romduol is a typical Cambodian flora, well-known for its mystical perfume that stays all day long. According to government policy, it became the official sign of hygiene and environmental preservation in Cambodia.
The Ahlunh is often used on older women wears during religious and folk ceremonies.
Who the Artisans Are
In 1999, Artisans D’Angkor was created to help young individuals to find jobs in their communities, encouraging them to learn their crafts and offering them a remuneration. It was built as part of a long-time project to integrate artisans trained by the Chantiers-Ecoles de Formation Professionnelle-whose goal is custom craft skills for energies. They retain a strong emphasis on the Khmer culture’s authenticity of its goods. They became the company with minimal public involvement in 2003, and are currently fully self-solvent.
What They Do
In the countryside of Cambodia, Artisan D’Angkor has created more than 1,000 jobs for both artisans and non-artisans by investing in new opportunities and building skills through training and conducting new rural workshops.
There are currently 13 workshops in twelve villages in the Siem Reap region including silk, stone carving, wood carving, and workshop finishing. Young mentee aged between 18 – 25 get selected from rural areas through skillset and incentive testing, and accept free training for six-eight months. We are taught in classes of 15 to less than 30 mentees, and for the length of their session earn a remuneration.
Artisan D’Angkor contributes to the building of the countryside in the state of Siem Reap through the artisans’ professional, economic, and social advancement, and involves a new social rule in Cambodia. The craftsmen have formed an association which is called Artisanat Khmer is supported by 20 percent in the organization, providing employees a stand in the decision-making procedure.
What You Can Experience!
Visitors can discover the custom Khmer methods used for lacquering and gilding, stone and wood carving, as described by the experienced guides, at the main boutique and workshops in Siem Reap. Complete workshop tours take visitors to unique craft-ware from the raw ingredients. Guided tours are available daily in English, Khmer, German, French, Chinese, Japanese, and Thai from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. for the workshop tour, and at 6:30 p.m. for the boutique display.
Opposite of Angkor Wat, Angkor Café showcases items selected by local artisans from its unique collection and tableware goods, Khmer scents and flavors. It opens from 8.30 am until 5.30 pm daily.
Angkor Silk Farm in Puok District, nearly 16 km from Siem Reap, has been a center for silk processing and making exhibitions. Set on an eight-hectare site, the Centre’s highlights are silkworm breeding, silk weaving, and mulberry fields using custom Khmer perception. Moreover, Artisans Angkor has 3 boutiques based at Phnom Penh International Airport, Hong Kong International Airport, and Siem Reap International Airport.
In conclusion, the Artisans are upholding the creative textile sectors of Cambodia in front of the whole world that is also generating revenues as well as improving the skillsets of local creative workers.