8 January 2012

The Royal Palace Now and Then

The Royal Palace is the heart of Phnom Penh, Cambodians see it as a symbol of the entire nation while tourists see it as a showcase of the old Cambodian sophisticated style and taste.

It started in 1866 when the King's residence was built in Chatdomuk by the riverside, several buildings and houses were then added over the decade. Significant constructions include in 1870 the Throne Hall, Hor Samran Phirun for the King to mount elephants, Hor Samrith Phimean, and Chanchhaya Pavilion the dance hall, all these buildings were inspired by those of the Grand Palace in Bangkok.  In 1873 the palace wall was added, three years later a French style building - the Napoleon III Pavilion, a gift from Napoleon III of France stood next to the King's residential building.

The Victory Gate in 1900s, it is the main entrance to the Palace.

The Victory Gate in 1930s, it has not changed since then.

The Napoleon III Pavilion is seen in the middle and King's residence on the right in this 1890s photograph.

This 1905 postcard shows the expanded King's residence. The building was torn down in early 1950s to make room for Damnak Chan, the High Council of the Throne.

Napoleon III Pavilion today with Damnak Chan in the back.

The old wooden Chanchhaya Pavilion shown on a 1903 postcard.

The old Throne Hall.

Elephants walked pass the wall surrounding the old Throne Hall, Hor Samran Phirun and
Hor Samrith Phimean in late 1900s.

HM King Sisowath coming out of the Throne Hall during his coronation, 1904.

In 1892 Wat Preah Keo which is now commonly called the Silver Pagoda or the Jade Buddha Temple was built next to the palace. Unlike that at the Grand Palace of Thailand, the wat is not part of the Cambodian palace.

The palace compound in the front and Wat Preah Keo in the rear in 1890s. Except the Napoleon III Pavilion, all buildings in the palace compound shown in the photograph are now history.

The Palace underwent great changes in late 1910s and 1920s during the reign of HM King Sisowath, new buildings were added and many old structures were replaced. The Phochani Hall for dance practice was inaugurated in 1912, six years later the old Throne Hall, Hor Samran Phirun, Hor Samrith Phimean and the Chanchhaya Pavilion were rebuilt. Some old buildings were demolished to create a spacious and neat environment.

A birdeye view of the Palace and Wat Preah Keo in 1930s. The new Throne Hall and
other rebuilt buildings are seen, some other structures are now demolished.

The Throne Hall and Hor Samrith Phimean as they are today.

The rebuilt Chanchhaya Pavilion shown on a 1997 stamp commemorating the 30th anniversary of ASEAN.

The Khemarin Palace was completed in 1931 to serve as the King's office. In 1950s two residences were built, one is the Sahametrei Pavilion where HM the late Queen Kossomak Nearireath lived, the other is Villa Kantha Bopha which now resides their Majesties King Father Sihanouk and Queen Mother Monineath.

The Khmerarin Palace serves as the King's office.

Less than half of all the palace ground is open to public, closed areas include Chanchhaya Pavilion, Damak Chan, Khmerarin Palace and all royal residences, Serei Mongkul Pavilion, Vihear Suor the royal chapel, King Jayavarman VII Audience Hall, the gardens and other minor buildings.

Villa Kantha Bopha.

Their Majesties in a palace garden.

The Serei Mongkul Pavilion for banquets and meetings.