Buddha Statue - Antique Bayon Style Khmer Stone Seated Naga Meditation Buddha - 74cm/30"

The Bayon Period: Mystical Marvels of the Khmer Empire


The Bayon period in Khmer history stands as a captivating era renowned for the construction of the Bayon Temple, one of the most distinctive and enigmatic architectural marvels in the Khmer Empire. Located within the Angkor Thom complex in Cambodia, this period is celebrated for its unique and awe-inspiring stone structures that continue to leave visitors in awe. The Bayon Temple, with its intricate bas-reliefs and its iconic smiling faces, represents a fascinating chapter in the history of the Khmer civilization.

Historical Context

The Bayon period typically spans from the late 12th century to the early 13th century during the reign of King Jayavarman VII in the Khmer Empire. This period falls within the Angkor era, a time of significant cultural and architectural achievements.

The Bayon Temple

The Bayon Temple, situated at the center of Angkor Thom, is an architectural masterpiece that showcases the artistic and cultural richness of the Khmer Empire. This temple, dedicated to Mahayana Buddhism, is characterized by its unique design, featuring numerous stone towers with faces carved into the four sides of each tower. These faces are commonly known as "the smiling faces of the Bayon" and are believed to represent the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, embodying compassion and serenity.

Stone Bayon

Architectural Brilliance

The Bayon Temple's architecture is marked by a labyrinthine layout, with a series of ascending galleries, chambers, and towers, making it a spiritual and architectural maze. The central sanctuary contains a statue of Buddha, emphasizing the temple's religious significance.

The temple's bas-reliefs are another remarkable feature, illustrating intricate scenes from Khmer history, mythology, and daily life. The narrative carvings provide valuable insights into the culture and society of the time, with depictions of battles, courtly life, and religious ceremonies.

Religious and Cultural Significance

The Bayon period is synonymous with the widespread adoption of Mahayana Buddhism in the Khmer Empire. King Jayavarman VII was a fervent supporter of this branch of Buddhism, and the Bayon Temple became a significant center for religious devotion and spiritual practice. The smiling faces carved on the temple's towers are thought to symbolize compassion and benevolence, aligning with the principles of Mahayana Buddhism.

The temple's inscriptions further underline its religious importance, as they provide evidence of the rituals and offerings conducted at the Bayon during its heyday. The mix of Hindu and Buddhist elements at the temple reflects the religious syncretism of the time.

Legacy and Continuation

The Bayon period and the temple's legacy extended beyond the reign of King Jayavarman VII. While the Khmer Empire eventually declined, the Bayon Temple continued to be a place of worship for centuries, and it remains a significant cultural and historical landmark in Cambodia. Its influence can be seen in subsequent temple constructions, such as the Angkor Thom complex and Ta Prohm, which followed the Bayon style.


The Bayon period in Khmer history, with the Bayon Temple at its core, is a remarkable era that showcases the Khmer Empire's architectural and cultural prowess. The temple's intricate bas-reliefs and iconic smiling faces continue to captivate visitors and scholars, providing insights into the religious, cultural, and historical facets of this enigmatic civilization.

As a symbol of Khmer artistry and spirituality, the Bayon Temple stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of the Khmer Empire and its capacity to inspire wonder and admiration in the modern world.

Bronze Bayon