The Baphuon is a temple at Angkor, Cambodia. It is located in Angkor Thom, northwest of the Bayon. Built in the mid-11th century, it is a three-tiered temple mountain built as the state temple of Udayadityavarman II dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. It is the archetype of the Baphuon style. The temple adjoins the southern enclosure of the royal palace and measures 120 metres east-west by 100 metres north-south at its base and stands 34 meters tall without its tower, which would have made it roughly 50 meters tall. Its appearance apparently impressed Emperor Chengzong of Yuan China's late 13th century envoy Chou Ta-Kuan during his visit from 1296 to 1297, who said it was 'the Tower of Bronze...a truly astonishing spectacle, with more than ten chambers at its base.' In the late 15th century, the Baphuon was converted to a Buddhist temple. A 9 meter tall by 70 meter long statue of a reclining Buddha was built on the west side's second level, which probably required the demolition of the 8 meter tower above, thus explaining its current absence. The temple was built on land filled with sand, and due to its immense size the site was unstable throughout its history. Large portions had probably already collapsed by the time the Buddha was added.
Pen and watercolor reconstruction of what the temple may have looked in the 11th century by Lucien Fournereau in 1889
The unfinished reclining Buddha on the west side of the temple
By the 20th century, much of the temple had largely collapsed, and restoration efforts have since proven problematic: a first effort begun in 1960 was interrupted by the coming to power of the Khmer Rouge, and records of the positions of the stones were lost. A second attempt started in 1995 by a team of French-led archeologists as of 2005 was still ongoing, restricting visitor access. As of November 2010, partial visitor access was once again allowed, though not to the central structure.
In April 2011, after 51 years, the archaeologists finished the restoration of the temple. King Norodom Sihamoni of Cambodia and Prime Minister Francois Fillon of France were among those who first toured the renovated temple during the inauguration ceremony on July 3, 2011.
Restoration works prevent access to the temple. This restoration started in 1908 by entangling the structure from the vegetation. In 1972, the process was still ongoing. Workers had dismantled the whole building, numbering each stone to enable them to reconstruct the temple, when the war forced them to leave. After the defeat of the Khmer Rouges, the documents related to the reconstruction had disappeared. Since 1995 it is being puzzled back together without a blueprint but with the help of French expertise and the Cambodians from the original restoration team.
The Baphuon was the largest temple of its time and only Angkor Wat would surpass it in the following century. It went through a major remake project by the end of the 15th century. Where it was originally built as a place of Hindu worship, dedicated to Shiva, it was transformed into a Buddha temple in a most impressive way.