9 October 2014

Cambodian Ox Cart on Stamps

 1985 S/S for the National Day of PR Kampuchea (Sc#551 / Mi#631)

The squeaky Khmer ox cart is as old as it sounds, it has such a long history that dates back to the Angkorian times.  The cart used to be a popular transport means for both military and civilian, and now the wooden wheels still proudly leave tracks on the rural muddy roads.

Legend says that the cart was invented by Preah Bath Mhou Sot.  One day his wife Preah Neang Ommara brought him food while he was working in the rice field. The lady decorated an egg with thorns and put a tamarind above it, this decoration made Preah Bath Mhou Sot think that his wife hinted for needing a wheel transport, and so he made a cart with features looking like that food arrangement.

Issued in 1985 (Sc#548 / Mi#548) to celebrate the 6th National Day,
this 0.5r stamp depicts a boy driving a Khmer ox cart loaded with rice.

There is a variety of Khmer ox carts for different use.  Traditionally the cart is from head to toe made by the best Cambodian timber such as Chakrom and Thnong, each set upon two 16-spoked wheels 1.24 meters high.

A 2010 maxicard shows an ox cart in the
picturesque Cambodian countryside.

Just as many traditional tools, currently Khmer ox cart is gradually giving way to modern counterparts like box van and tractor since ox cart is comparatively less efficient.  Nevertheless in rural areas ox cart is still commonly seen as some farmers cannot afford modern conveniences.

Photo of an ox cart on the roadside.  (Photo: Doug Landrum)

To combat the graduate loss of ox cart tradition due to modernization, local authorities have started to revitalize ox cart racing.  Ox car racing had been an ancient Khmer sport for centuries but almost died out because of the Khmer Rouge.  Now once again communes and villages hold ox cart races after the rice harvest season to pay respects to the earth and water spirits, the events are getting to become such a popular tourist attraction and drawing crowds from the cities to attend. 

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