The World's Oldest Plan of Angkor

by Yoshiaki Ishizawa

Who drew the very first known plan of Angkor Wat, the "Jetavana"?


Publication: Udaya Journal of Khmer Studies

Published: 2015

Author: Yoshiaki Ishizawa

Pages: 61

Languages : English, Japanese

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Mentioned in B.P. Groslier’s essay on the historiographical sources about Angkor from the 17th century, studied by EFEO researcher Noël Pieri in 1923, this colored plan with Japanese annotations has been attributed to a Japanese interpreter visiting the court of King Satha during the brief revival” period of Angkor circa 1632, Shimano Kenryo.

Vividly profiling the numerous travelers from Japan who sailed to Cambodia on the Shui-sen” (vermillion seal ships) at this period, leaving inscriptions and even establishing villages around Angkor, the author reconstructs the life of Morimoto Ukondayu Kazufusa (森本右近太夫一房) (d. May 3, 1674 Kyōto), ending with his sepulture in Kyoto. Ukondayu was not a merchant but an attendant of the Fujiwara clan” who took such a long journey for a pious purpose: offering four Buddha images in a ritual to cleanse and purify the soul of those living and those deceased”.

ADB Input:

  • Prof. Ishiwara’s thesis is that Shimano Kenryo was probably an alias, and Ukondaya most possibly the author of the map. Jetavana (‘Jeta’s Grove’) was one of the most famous of the Buddhist monasteries or viharas in India (present-day Uttar Pradesh), the second vihara donated to Gautama Buddha after the Venuvana in Rajgir. According to one tradition, the donor was Prince Jetri (Jeta in pali), a son of Prasenajit, ruler of the Kosala kingdom in ancient India. Another version is that the donor was Anathapindika, the richest merchant in the old town of Savatthi. After his death, he became a deva and spoke these words to the Buddha:
O blessed is this Jeta Grove, frequented by the holy Order,
Where the Dhamma King resides, the fount of all my happiness.
By deeds, by knowledge, by righteousness,
By virtue, by the sublimest life,
By these are mortals purified, and not by lineage nor by wealth.
A wise man, therefore, seeing his own good,
Wisely will he choose the Dhamma, that he may thus be purified.
Like Sariputta in his wisdom, in his virtue, and in highest peace,
At best a bhikkhu who has gone across, can only equal him.”

(translation by Hellmut Hecker in Anathapindika, The Great Benefactor’)

  • This article elaborates from a previous study: Ishizawa, Yoshiaki: Les inscriptions calligraphiques japonaises du XVIIe siècle à Angkor Vat et le plan du Jetavana-vihāra, in: Manuel d’épigraphie du Cambodge. Eds.: Yoshiaki Ishizawa, Claude Jacques, Khin Sok. With Uraisi Varasarin, Michael Vickery, Tatsuro Yamamoto. Vol. I, Paris 2007, pp. 169 – 179.
  • According to Masako and Stan Fukawa, at least fourteen Japanese inscriptions have been found in the Angkor area. One of the most renowned Japanese inscriptions belonged to Ukondayu Kazufusa who had visited Angkor and celebrated Khmer’s New Year there in the year 1632.

The Jenavata is kept at the Shokokan Museum in Mito, Japan.

Photo: Yoshiaki Ishiwara in Angkor in 2017 (Photo Japan Times/​Sophia University)

Tags: Japan, maps & plans, Jetavana, 17th century, Buddhist pilgrims

About the Author


Yoshiaki Ishizawa

Former president of Sophia University in Tokyo, Yoshiaki Ishizawa (Hokkaido,1938) has spent many years on the field, actively involved in the restoration and preservation of Angkor Wat, where he was the head of the International Mission on Angkor.

His essays in history reflect a constant attention to cultural and economical background. He is the author of several books, including Along the Royal Roads of Angkor (Weatherhill, 1999), an exploration of Khmer architectural remains across modern Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.