Zhou Daguan

Portrait of Zhou   Daguan

Zhou Daguan (also Tcheou Ta-Kouan, Zhu Daguan) 周达观 , kh ជីវ តាក្វាន់ (chiv takvan)(c. 1270, Yongjia (modern Wenzhou)–?), a Chinese traveler under the Temür Khan, authored the sole written and direct account of the customs of Cambodia and the Angkorean power from the 13th century that has been preserved to our days.

Arrived at Angkor in August 1296, he remained at the court of King Indravarman III until July 1297. We know only a third of his account, The Customs of Cambodia (真臘風土記, Zhēnlà Fēngtǔ Jì, literally The Land and Social Conditions of Chenla)), first translated into French by the sinologist Jean-Pierre Abel-Rémusat in 1819 (Description du royaume de Cambodge par un voyageur chinois qui a visité cette contrée à la fin du XIII siècle, précédée d'une notice chronologique sur ce même pays, extraite des Annales de la Chine, Imprimerie J. Smith, 1819), and later on by Paul Pelliot in 1902 (1). In 2007, the linguist Peter Harris completed the first direct translation from Chinese to modern English.

Angkor Database recommends the direct translation established from the ancient Chinese text into English and Khmer by native Chinese Ms. Beling Uk and native Cambodian Solang Uk in 2010 and 2011.

The Customs of Cambodia, excerpt.

(1) In Antoine Brébion's Dictionnaire Bibliographique, the entry Tcheou-Ta-Kouan states: 'Lettré chinois du XIIIe siècle de notre ère, qui avait pour appellation Ts'ao-T'ING; il était originaire de Yong-Kia au Tchô-Kiang, il suivit l'ambassade chinoise envoyée au Cambodge en 1295, il revint en Chine en 1297. Le très érudit sinologue qu'est M. P. PELLIOT, de l'Ecole française d'Extreme-Orient, lui a restitué la paternité d'une relation intitulée Description du Cambodge, qu'ABEL DE RÉMUSAT avait attribuée à MA-TOUAN-LIN.' [Chinese erudite from the 13th century CE, who was named Tsao-Ting, hailing from Yong-Kia in Tcho-Kiang. He followed the Chinese embassy sent to Cambodia in 1295, traveling back to China in 1297. The most learned sinologist Mr P. PELLIOT, from EFEO, has given back to him the autorship of a text titled 'Description of Cambodia', previously attributed to MA-TOUAN-LIN by ABEL DE RÉMUSAT.]

A wax statue of Zhou Daguan at Cambodian Cultural Village, Siem Reap (source: km.wikipedia.org)

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