Up to the present day, about 1360 Cambodian inscriptions have been inventoried. More than 95 percent of them was inscribed on stone (sandstone, schist..), the rest on metal (gold, bronze, silver, …). The stone inscriptions have been mostly discovered in contexts related to temples and consist of eulogies of gods and elites (praśasti type). They can be divided into two main categories: 1. inscriptions on the structure of the temple (doorframe, pillar, lintel, wall..) and 2. those on detached elements (stela, slab, pedestal, …).
The present paper proposes to investigate how inscribing texts on stone in ancient Cambodia became a ‘tradition (paraṃparā)’ throughout the period from 6th to 14th century CE. Considering that stone inscriptions, like metal inscriptions, were intended to be read, it questions firstly why stone was preferred to metal, by opposing them to manuscripts on perishable materials such as palm leaf. Secondly, it examines the physical features of the stone inscriptions with special reference to those on doorframes and stela which were the most common epigraphical supports. The selection of stone type, schist versus sandstone, will be discussed from an aesthetic point of view. Moving a step further, we will examine how the physical presentation of an inscription was influenced by its content. For this reason, a general inscriptional survey from pre-Angkorian (6th – 8th century) to Angkorian periods (9th – 14th century) will be provided. By so doing, we can understand better the development of the tradition of stone inscriptions of the Kambujadeśa over nine centuries.