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Neak Pean Temple at Angkor Wat

Neak Pean is perhaps the most unique temple in the Angkor complex. It was built in the second half of the 12th century as part of a complex that includes Preah Khan. In fact, it sat in the middle of a large baray (reservoir) immediately east of the Preah Khan temple, and could only be reached by boat.

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The central sanctuary of Neak Pean, when the pool was dry

The central sanctuary of Neak Pean, when the pool was dry
Eastern 'Human' chapel with central sanctuary behind
Close-up of one of the chapels
The central sanctuary, with the pond nearly full

The outer earthen berm held back the waters of the baray. The sanctuary sits on a round stepped base, which sits in the middle of a square man-made pond 70 meters (230 feet) on each side. Four smaller ponds surround the main lake. Small vaulted chapels back onto each side of the larger pond. Within these chapels the head of animal or human forms a water spout letting water from the large pond flow into the smaller ones.

Layout of Neak Pean
Neak Pean Plan
Plan used under Creative Commons (licensing information)

With all the water symbolism, it should be no surprise that Neak Pean was a place of pilgrimage, where people would come to "wash away their sins." Recent studies seem to suggest that the temple served a physical as well as symbolic purpose. It appears to have been a sort of hospital, with places for people to stay and receive treatment.


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