Angkor Wat is an important symbol for Cambodia. It was built during the beginning of 12th century under the Khmer King Suryavarman II on a massive land measuring up to 163 hectares. Originally constructed as a Hindu temple of God Vishnu, it gradually turned into a Buddhist religious site towards end of the century and continues as such to this present day. The temple however was somewhat neglected after 16th century, but never completely abandoned. Its preservation from complete ruin was partly because its moat provided some protection from encroachment by the jungle.
This monument is made up of more than five million sandstone blocks with a maximum weight of 1.5 tons each. It is a combination of temple-mountain and a galleried temple within a 3.6 km moat and outer wall. It is believed that the magnificent artistic legacy of Angkor Wat and other Khmer monuments in the region led to France in making this country as a protectorate in 1863. Cambodia gained its independence from France in 1953. In 1992, Angkor Wat was classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Angkor Wat needed extensive restoration in 20th century due to the removal of accumulated earth and vegetation. However, this was delayed because of the civil war and Khmer Rouge’s control of the country between 1970s and 1980s. The Cambodian government together with several international agencies continue to oversee the preservation of this magnificent temple up to this day.