Timeline of Angkor Wat

The rise and fall of the Khmer Empire

Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia
Ashit Desai​/Getty Images

At its height, the Khmer Empire that built Angkor Wat and the other marvelous temples near Siem Reap, Cambodia controlled much of Southeast Asia. From what is now Myanmar in the west to all but a thin strip of land along the Vietnamese coast of the Pacific Ocean in the east, the Khmers ruled it all. Their reign continued for more than six hundred years, from 802 to 1431 CE.

The Temples

During that time, the Khmers built hundreds of gorgeous, intricately carved temples. Most began as Hindu temples, but many were later converted to Buddhist sites. In some cases, they switched back and forth between the two faiths numerous times, as attested by the different carvings and statues made at different time periods.

Angkor Wat is the most wonderful of all these temples. Its name means "City of Temples" or "Capital City Temple." When it was first constructed before 1150 CE, it was dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. By the end of the 12th century, however, it was gradually being transitioned into a Buddhist temple instead. Angkor Wat remains a center of Buddhist worship to this day.

The Khmer Empire's reign marks a high point in the cultural, religious, and artistic development of Southeast Asia. Eventually, however, all empires fall. In the end, the Khmer Empire succumbed to drought and to incursions from neighboring peoples, particularly from Siam (Thailand). It's ironic that the name "Siem Reap," for the city nearest Angkor Wat, means "Siam is defeated." As it turned out, the people of Siam would bring down the Khmer Empire. The lovely monuments remain today, though, testaments to the artistry, engineering and martial prowess of the Khmers.

Timeline of Angkor Wat

• 802 C.E. - Jayavarman II is crowned, rules until 850, founds kingdom of Angkor.

• 877 - Indravarman I becomes king, orders construction of Preah Ko and Bakhong temples.

• 889 - Yashovarman I is crowned, rules until 900, completes Lolei, Indratataka, and Eastern Baray (reservoir), and builds Phnom Bakheng temple.

• 899 - Yasovarman I becomes king, rules until 917, establishes capital Yasodharapura on Angkor Wat site.

• 928 - Jayavarman IV takes throne, establishes capital at Lingapura (Koh Ker).

• 944 - Rajendravarman crowned, builds Eastern Mebon and Pre Rup.

• 967 - Delicate Banteay Srei temple built.

• 968-1000 - Reign of Jayavarman V, starts work on Ta Keo temple but never finishes it.

• 1002 - Khmer civil war between Jayaviravarman and Suryavarman I, construction begins on Western Baray.

• 1002 - Suryavarman I wins civil war, rules until 1050.

• 1050 - Udayadityavarman II takes throne, builds Baphuon.

• 1060 - Western Baray reservoir finished.

• 1080 - Mahidharapura Dynasty founded by Jayavarman VI, who builds Phimai temple.

• 1113 - Suryavarman II crowned king, rules until 1150, designs Angkor Wat.

• 1140 - Construction begins on Angkor Wat.

• 1177 - Angkor sacked by the Chams people from southern Vietnam, partially burned, Khmer king killed.

• 1181 - Jayavarman VII, famous for defeating Chams, becomes king, sacks Chams' capital in reprisal in 1191.

• 1186 - Jayavarman VII builds Ta Prohm in honor of his mother.

• 1191 - Jayavarman VII dedicates Preah Khan to his father.

• End of 12th century - Angkor Thom ("Great City") built as new capital, including state temple at the Bayon.

• 1220 - Jayavarman VII dies.

• 1296-97 - Chinese chronicler Zhou Daguan visits Angkor, records daily life in Khmer capital.

• 1327 - End of classical Khmer era, last stone engravings.

• 1352-57 - Angkor sacked by Ayutthaya Thais.

• 1393 - Angkor sacked again.

• 1431 - Angkor abandoned after invasion by Siam (Thais), although some monks continue to use the site.

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Szczepanski, Kallie. "Timeline of Angkor Wat." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, thoughtco.com/angkor-wat-timeline-195181. Szczepanski, Kallie. (2020, August 28). Timeline of Angkor Wat. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/angkor-wat-timeline-195181 Szczepanski, Kallie. "Timeline of Angkor Wat." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/angkor-wat-timeline-195181 (accessed June 5, 2023).