| One of the acknowledged art forms of Cambodia is that of
silk textiles called ‘Sampot Samloy’. Made
of the finest, most sensuous silk threads, and dyed in rich,
often natural, colors these glorious textiles have only recently
been studied in depth. Even with recent scholarship, there remain
mysteries about their history, materials and production, some
of which are due to the culture’s tragic interruption
and decline in the 1970’s.
We do know that these cloths were produced for ceremonial
purposes with many intended to be worn by men as lower body
wraps called ‘chawng kbun’ at ordinations
and weddings. A small number of cloths, called ‘pidan’
(literally ‘ceiling’ in Khmer) with special figurative
designs were apparently not used this way, but rather as ceremonial
canopies in temples. A recent publication by Gillian Green,
bodian Textiles, concentrates on the ceremonial textiles
with imagery both figurative and stylized, and provides new
information about these unusual textiles.
Of the “pictorial” ceremonial textiles, there
are four categories: those with Buddhist themes, those with
end-of-rainy-season themes, funerary textiles, and textiles
for marriage and ordination.
According to Dr. Green, documentation for this art form is
minimal and only by studying evidence of other disciplines
and cultural contexts can we better understand these textiles.
Existing documentation dates them from the latter decades
of the 19th century through the first half of the 20th, with
many being produced in the early part of the 20th century.
Thanks to new commercial and artistic incentives at that time,
in the form of Palace-sponsored ‘tang tok’ celebrations
of indigenous arts and crafts, the founding of the School
of Cambodian Arts, and numerous international expositions
these cloths were woven in larger numbers and with more imaginative
imagery. The increased production did not diminish the quality,
but enhanced it as the competitions required only the finest
More also needs to be learned about the materials- the silk
and dyes used in the production of the works; while natural
dyes are in evidence, so are synthetic ones, and sometimes
in the same piece. Sadly, much of this information may have
been lost with the passing of generations. Today the cloths
of old are being studied and replicated by a new generation
of master weavers who may be able to unravel the mysteries
of the past and give us new insight.
The cloths we offer have been collected since the late 1980’s
and provide a rare cross-genre look at the variety and beauty
of these textiles. We include one ‘end-of-rainy-season’
piece, several ‘naak/naga’ pieces for
weddings and ordinations, and one ‘pidan’,
plus a rich variety of skirtcloths including some of the finest
we’ve ever seen.
These have not been easy to photograph due to their size,
and the lovely sheen of the silk is not apparent. If, after
viewing the photographs, you have any questions, please ask.
We welcome your interest.
Enjoy this visual feast of Cambodian treasures!