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The Khmer Empire for Unit 1 of AP World History

Cate O'Donnell

3 min read

Dec 21, 2023

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map of Khmer Empire
1913243053/Shutterstock


Nestled within the heart of Cambodia, the Khmer Empire, with its enigmatic capital at Angkor, stands as a testament to the grandeur of ancient civilizations. From the divine rule of god-kings to the architectural marvels of Angkor Wat, the Khmer Empire has left an indelible mark on the historical tapestry of the region. Join us as we unravel the empire’s rise to prominence, explore the intricacies of its cultural and religious achievements, and navigate through the challenges that eventually led to its decline. Get ready to uncover the secrets of this extraordinary civilization, where myth and history intertwine in a narrative that captivates the imagination and enriches our understanding of the complexities of ancient Southeast Asia.




You can read and watch videos on the Khmer Empire using Google Slides, or you can scroll down to read on the website.



Phimai Castle of the Khmer Empire
Phimai Castle of the Khmer Empire 1819361267/Shutterstock

The Beginning of the Khmer Empire

King Jayavarman II’s ascent to power in the early 9th century marked a transformative period in the history of Southeast Asia, specifically in the region of modern-day Cambodia. Prior to his reign, the area was characterized by fragmented and decentralized kingdoms, each under the rule of local chieftains. Jayavarman II, recognizing the need for a more centralized and cohesive political entity, undertook a strategic move to unify the disparate realms. In 802 CE, atop Mount Kulen, he initiated a pivotal moment by declaring himself a devaraja, a “god-king,” establishing a divine connection between the ruler and the deities. This coronation symbolized a shift towards a more centralized monarchy and laid the foundation for the Khmer Empire. With this bold assertion of authority, Jayavarman II effectively consolidated power, unifying the disparate kingdoms under his rule and initiating the era of the Khmer Empire. This centralization allowed for greater stability and paved the way for the empire’s subsequent territorial expansion, grand temple constructions, and the flourishing of Khmer culture and arts.


The Khmer Empire

The Khmer Empire, with its capital at Angkor, holds immense historical and cultural significance in the tapestry of Southeast Asian civilizations. Flourishing from the 9th to the 15th century, the empire, under rulers like Suryavarman II and Jayavarman VII, reached unprecedented heights of power and influence. Its paramount importance lies in the architectural marvels, most notably Angkor Wat, a testament to the empire’s advanced engineering and artistic prowess. The Khmer civilization’s irrigation systems, including the vast network of reservoirs and canals, exemplified remarkable technological innovation and sustained agricultural productivity. The empire’s embrace of Hinduism and later Buddhism enriched its cultural fabric, contributing to the construction of elaborate temple complexes adorned with intricate bas-reliefs. Furthermore, the Khmer Empire’s intricate administrative and social structures reflect a sophisticated society. Despite its eventual decline, the legacy of the Khmer Empire endures through its contributions to art, architecture, and cultural heritage, making it a cornerstone in understanding the historical complexities of Southeast Asia.


Angkor Wat

A Khmer king built Angkor Wat in the 12th century as a Hindu temple for the god Vishnu. Later, Buddhist symbology was added. Today, wall carvings show stories from both Hindu and Buddhist mythology. The massive temple complex is over 402 acres, surrounded by a moat. Angkor Wat is an important example of how Hinduism and Buddhism were both accepted by the rulers and people of Southeast Asia.


The End of the Khmer Empire

The decline and eventual end of the Khmer Empire marked a significant chapter in Southeast Asian history. The empire faced a series of challenges, including environmental factors like droughts and deforestation that strained the intricate irrigation system critical for agricultural prosperity. External pressures, such as invasions by neighboring powers, further weakened the empire. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Ayutthaya Kingdom to the west and the Cham Empire to the east encroached upon Khmer territory, contributing to its territorial shrinkage. The capital, Angkor, was abandoned by the end of the 15th century, symbolizing the empire’s diminishing influence. The empire’s final decline is often attributed to a combination of internal strife, external threats, and environmental stressors. While the Khmer Empire ceased to be a dominant regional power, its cultural and architectural legacy endured, leaving an indelible mark on the identity of Cambodia and the broader Southeast Asian region. The temples of Angkor, such as Angkor Wat and Bayon, stand as silent witnesses to the empire’s former grandeur and continue to attract admiration and scholarly study to this day.



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Developments in South and Southeast Asia from 1200 to 1450


Unit 1:The Global Tapestry


AP World History




Khmer Empire for AP World History

#APWorldHistory #KhmerEmpire #SouthandSoutheastAsia

Cate O'Donnell

3 min read

Dec 21, 2023

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0

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