Cambodia’s Literary Gift to the World:
Poet and Author Makhali-Phāl
More than a millennium ago, one of the world’s most fascinating civilizations blossomed in what is now modern Cambodia. At its peak, the Khmer Empire stretched across most of Southeast Asia, revolutionizing the region’s art, architecture, language, religion, economy and society in myriad ways that are clearly evident even today.
For reasons that scholars still debate, the Khmer Empire weakened and collapsed after a series of conflicts with their former subjects to the north and east. Centuries passed and dense jungles reclaimed the magnificent but remote monuments that the Khmers had raised to their gods.
In the mid-19th century, stunned French explorers rediscovered Angkor Wat and other massive temples left by the Khmer legacy. Fantastic reports of a lost civilization soon inspired countless books and studies.
France embraced Cambodia, figuratively as a cultural treasure of humanity, and literally as a Protectorate of the French Republic in 1863. The dichotomy of East and West combined divergent philosophies and religious beliefs; Hinduism, Buddhism and Animism met Christianity; an agrarian monarchy found itself ruled by a scientific republic; a trusting, spiritual people were exposed to the capitalistic motivations of European entrepreneurs.
On September 21, 1898, a child was born who combined these opposing worlds of Europe and Asia; she devoted her life to seeing, feeling and expressing the conflict, harmony, pain and hope inherent in the union of these powerful forces. Through her visionary words, ancient Khmer souls lived again, sharing their wisdom, genius and beauty in ways that still resonate in our modern era.
Her name was Makhali-Phāl.