Understanding Cambodian Culture
The Cambodian history is well known for its strong religion which has been its pillar for the cultural inspiration. The country is predominantly made up of Buddhists who have an aggregate of 97% in the total population. Less than 1% is made of Christians and the rest of the citizens are Muslims, atheists or animists. Below are some of the elements that characterize the Cambodian culture.
This is one of the most important aspects in the culture. The Cambodian fashion differs depending on the ethnic group and the social class. Khmer people wear a traditional scarf known as Krama which separates the Cambodians from their neighbors (the Vietnamese, Thai and the Laotians.) the Khmer also wear a long traditional garment called the Sampot. Sampot are put on the lower body parts and sometimes nothing from the waist upwards apart from jewelry and collars like the Sarong.
Khmers started wearing blouse, shirts and trousers when Buddhism replaced Hinduism. A few Cambodians still wear the religious style of clothing with both men and women wearing a Buddha pendant on the necklace. The pendant can be used for different purposes such as protection from the evil spirits or bringing good luck and prosperity.
The Khmer cuisine is almost the same as that of its Southeast neighbors. Cambodian cuisine uses fish sauces and soy sauces in the soups and stir-fried cuisines as dipping. The cuisine is commonly noted for its wide use of Prahok (Fermented fish paste) as a flavoring distinctive in many dishes. Coconut milk is the most preferred ingredient for the curries and desserts. Almost every meal is taken together with a bowl of Jasmine rice. Basically, the Cambodians take their meals with at least four separate dishes. The dishes will either be sour, salty, sweet or bitter and chilly is left up as an option for people to add for themselves.
Regional Cambodian cuisine has special dishes made depending on the traditions of the ethnic groups. In Kampot and Kep, the dish is prepared using local crabs fried up with local pepper. Curry which consists of fried spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, garlic, lemongrass and the Cambodian flavor is made available in almost all the dishes.
Housing and Architecture
Cambodia has most of the best sites in Asia although most of the traditional houses are just simple buildings made of wood and constructed on stilts making them to be above the ground. The Cambodian family resides in a rectangular house that varies in size and is constructed in wooden frames. The roofs are steep thatched to protect the interior from the annual floods and the walls are made of woven bamboo. The house is typically divided into three parts with the front room serving as a living room, the second room for parents and the third room for the unmarried daughters. Sons can sleep anywhere they find the space. Urban and commercial buildings may be made of masonry, wood or brick.
In the urban areas, French influence is evident and the development rate is very high. Towns like Kratie, Kampong Cham, Battambang and Kampong Chhnang are marked by elegant villas and ocher walls, which create an impressive site.
Arts and literature
Traditional Cambodian arts and craft include stone carving, textile and non textile weaving, ceramics and kite making. The country has had an artistic revival due to the rampant support from the NGOs, the government and foreign tourists.
Thon and Rammana is a commonly used tool in the Khmer musical dances, which has undergone a wide westernization. The Cambodian Pinpeat is used during fest days and is also used in classical dances for ritual occasions and theatrics events. The Pinpeat is made up of lead xylophone, Sampho (Drum with two sides), Skor Thom (Two big drums) and Sralai (Quadruple reed equipment)
Cambodian dance is divided in three main categories: folk dances, classical dance and vernacular dance. Folk dances are performed mainly for audiences while vernacular dances are performed at social gatherings.
Cambodia has a rich varied traditional literature with several legends, songs and tale of the ancient origin that was not put in writing until the Europeans arrived. Film cinema among the Khmers began in 1950 where King Norodom Sihanouk was a film enthusiast. The industry has grown since then and is active up to date.
Ways of life
Child birth is a happy event for the entire family. According to the Khmer traditional beliefs, a woman who dies while giving birth becomes an evil spirit. A pregnant woman has to obey a certain food taboos and completely avoid certain situations. A Cambodian kid is nursed until two to four years. Most of the children are taken to school at the age of seven or eight. A girl child is expected to help the mother in the basic household activities while the boy is expected to take care of the livestock. Adolescent children are supposed to play with the members of the same sex as premarital sex is highly deplored. A man is considered ready for marriage at the age of 19-25 years old while a girl can get married at the age of 16-22 years old.
Death is not seen as a great grief outpouring but it’s viewed as the beginning of a new life that is better than the worlds. Khmer Buddhists undergo cremation and their ashes deposited in a stupa situated in the pagoda compound.
Cambodians are well known for cotton and silk weaving, silver work, basketry and pottery. They make straw mats which are either sold at the local markets or used at home. Looms, winnowing trays and fish traps are also made for sold for their day to day activities but most of their handwork items like the traditional marbles are used for tourist attraction purposes
Basically, Cambodia has the history of having friendly citizens. As the country protects and constructs beautiful tourist attractions, the Cambodians have developed the cultural monuments with plenty of pagoda, traditional customs as well as festivals that not only make their culture beautiful.