Cambodians are mostly from the Khmer ethnic group, who comprise about 90 percent of the population of the country of Cambodia. The designation “Cambodia” refers to a Westernized transliterations of Kambuja, a Sanskrit name used by an ancient Khmer civilization that reached a peak during the Angkor period (802-1432) when Khmer kings built Angkor Wat and ruled an irrigation-based empire extending beyond the boundaries of the present-day nation of Cambodia. Most Khmer are small landholders, with rice as their main crop, supplemented by gardens, fishing, and earning money in a variety of side pursuits.
Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.
Asia --Southeast Asia
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Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number. In addition to this culture summary, the AP40 Cambodians Collection consists of documents, all of them in English, covering a variety of historical, geographical and cultural information from 802-2011.
The basic sources to consult are six documents by anthropologist May Ebihara who lived in a Cambodian village she named Svay in 1959-1960 and revisited the same community in 1990-1991. Together, these works provide detailed description of the village both in pre-1975 times and following the devastating war of 1975-1979. Two of her works describe aspects of village life and Khmer culture (Ebihara 1971, no. 192; 1964, no. 176), while the remaining four focus on specific themes. The latter include residence pattern (1977, no. 177), Buddhism and community organization (1966, no. 182), status of women (1974, no. 183), and household and community level effects of Cambodia’s civil war and communist policies of the Khmer Rouge regime (1993, no. 193).
A good number of the documents in the collection revisit some of the themes and arguments in Ebihara’s earlier works based on fieldwork undertaken in the post-civil war period. These include kinship and social organization (Ledgerwood 1995, no. 175), marriage stability and gender issues (Heuveline and Poch, 2006, no. 178; Ledgerwood 1994, no. 180; Derks 2006, no. 187; Frieson 2011, no. 189), land holding systems, education and monastic life (Kalab 1968, 184 and 1076, no. 181; Ledgerwood 2011, no. 188) and local institutions for reciprocity and mutual help (Kim 1971, no. 192).
The oldest historical document in the collection is the work of a Chinese diplomat who wrote about the customs of Cambodia during the peak of the Angkor period (Cho Ta-Kuan 1297, no. 179). Coverage of other historical sources include general history of the country (Briggs 1947, no. 184; Aymonier 1900, no. 1900), Cambodian Buddhism and religious practitioners (Leclere 1899, no. 148; Martini 1941, no. 141), traditional Khmer legends, ceremonies and art forms (Poree and Maspero 1938, no. 83), physical and human geography of Pursant province (Morizon 1936, no. 174), cosmology and mythology (Monod 1931, 84), and historical monuments (Brodrick 1948, no. 25).
For more detailed information on the context of the individual works in the file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.
Achar –astrologist– Use REVELATION AND DIVINATION ( 787)
Bong pon –circle of relatives– Use KIN RELATIONSHIPS ( 602)
Bonze –Theravada Buddhist monk– Use PROPHETS AND ASCETICS ( 792)
Ceta –feeling– Use DRIVES AND EMOTIONS ( 152)
Civapol –village guards– Use POLICE ( 625) with MILITARY ORGANIZATION ( 701)
Khayt –province– Use PROVINCES ( 635)
Kmauit –ghosts– Use CULT OF THE DEAD ( 769)
Kru –magicians– Use MAGICIANS AND DIVINERS ( 791) with SHAMANS AND PSYCHOTHERAPISTS ( 756)
Look Song –brotherhood of monks– Use PRIESTHOOD ( 793) with CONGREGATIONS ( 794)
Mandarin –local official– Use COMMUNITY HEADS ( 622) or LOCAL OFFICIALS ( 624)
Meba –ancestral spirits– Use CULT OF THE DEAD ( 769)
Neak Taa –guardian spirits– Use SPIRITS AND GODS ( 776)
Phum –village– Use COMMUNITY STRUCTURE ( 621)
Rup arak –spirit mediums– Use REVELATION AND DIVINATION ( 787)
Snayt –water scoop– Use MECHANICS ( 401) with WATER SUPPLY ( 312)
Spok –district– Use DISTRICTS ( 634)
Sray –paddy rice– Use CEREAL AGRICULTURE ( 243)
Tbal box –Rice winnowing machine– Use CEREAL AGRICULTURE ( 243) with MECHANICS ( 401)
Tmop –sorcerers– Use SORCERY ( 754)
Towaa –fictive kinship– Use ARTIFICIAL KIN RELATIONSHIPS ( 608)
Twee bomrea –bride wealth– Use MODE OF MARRIAGE ( 583)
Wat –temple– Use RELIGIOUS AND EDUCATIONAL STRUCTURES ( 346) with SACRED OBJECTS AND PLACES ( 778) and/or CONGREGATIONS ( 794)