Prof. Sharon Wong Wai-yee (co-authoring with Ea Darith, Chhay Rachna, and Tan Boun Suy) has published a new article titled “Two Traditions: A Comparison of Roof Tile Manufacture and Usage in Angkor and China” in Asian Perspectives: The Journal of Archaeology for Asia and the Pacific.
The production of Khmer roof tiles underwent dramatic technical and stylistic changes during the pre-Angkorian (ca. C.E. 500–802) and Angkorian (C.E. 802–1431) periods. It has long been assumed that the regional expansion of Khmer political power and its intensive interregional trade and interactions with China during the Angkorian period were crucial factors in this transformation. This article presents the first integrated study on the production sequence and usage of Khmer roof tiles in Angkor (Cambodia) and its provincial centers in Northeast Thailand. Furthermore, it evaluates the extent to which the Khmer people made technological and social choices as they embraced new ceramic manufacturing technologies. Combining archaeological excavation findings with comparative analyses of two regions, this study argues that the contact the Khmer had with China motivated Khmer to begin roof tile production for elite residences and temples. The subsequent Khmer local architectural tradition is defined by distinctive production techniques of Khmer roof tiles and ancient ranking systems for roof tile usage in the greater Angkorian region. This article makes important observations about the specific choices that were made in the process of emulating the roof tile tradition. Roof tile manufacture and usage were ways for Khmer rulers to establish the legitimacy of their polities in mainland Southeast Asia.