The Various Styles of Traditional House in Cambodia
Cambodia is a country with long last and history and prosperous with various culture in which there are always rituals related to ancient beliefs in almost activities of daily life. There are numerous things people would like to find out about Cambodia and its people. The house styles of Khmer is one of interesting subject to know about Cambodia. Though the houses of Khmer have many different styles, the thing in general for all of them is they are all raised from the ground and supported by the stilts. The particular thing that make the houses of Khmer become special is their roofs structures and decorations, which we can identify and give them different names. The present traditional Khmer house included Khmer House, The Rong or Kantaing House, The Rong Dol House, The Rong Doeung House, and The Peth House.
According to the resources of the house owners, the materials to build the house also different. For nobles and very rich families, they use stone, brick, and tiles. Wooden, tile buildings are for traders and wealthy. For poor families with little resources, they use wooden, bamboo, and leave as construction materials. The poorest live in a hut called Khtom with small wood and leaves.
Depend on geographical location that the form of the house is differ from each other. Most of Cambodia are lowland area which easily getting flood during the raining season. Therefore the Khmer people prefer to build their house raise from the ground support by the stilts.
The short stilt house with 0.4m to 1.5m height from the ground. The ground floor beneath the house people use as storage of firewood or cattle places at night time.
The medium stilts house with the height of 1.6m to 4.0m. This is the most popular style chosen. The ground floor beneath the house is used as living room for relaxing all day long and placing proper furniture for welcoming guess as well. Because it’s in an opening space, no wall, it’s always cooler with breezing wind from the trees around the house. Typically, there is a wooden or bamboo bed too and almost daily activities are done underneath the house. So we would find various objects relate to the business of the house owners such as thread roller, palm leaf mattress weaving, basket making, and cow rope weaving, etc. The ground floor is also used as the storage of agricultural tools such as oxcarts, ploughs, rakes. If the house is selling grocery in the village, it’s the ground floor is their grocery shop.
The high stilt house is higher than 4.0m and always built in where there is server flooding every rainy season and in the river bank areas.
Use of the Upstairs Surface
Despite of its style and size, the upstairs area of the Khmer traditional houses is used with a similar pattern. Generally, the upstairs area is divided into three sections.
The first or front section is used as living room for greeting important guess to the house. There is a wooden divan and furniture. On the walls there are family photos or honorary awards which is can show the living level of that family.
The second or central section is used as the sleeping place for parents and children as well. Sometimes there is a wooden bed for parents and children sleep on the mattress on the wooden floor. At day time the mattress is folded, keeping the space for other use. The Khmer people believe that East is the happiness direction, thus they arrange to sleep with heads toward East.
The third or back section is a room for eldest daughter separated by a wall. Sometimes, kitchen is also arranged in a corner of this back section.
The location of the kitchen of the Khmer house is differ from one to one, depend on the house owners, as long as it’s doesn’t locate at the South and the East of the house as ancient ritual warned. The kitchen can be at the back section of the house, at the ground floor under the house, at the extended section of the house, or it’s built completely separated from the house.
The Courtyard of Traditional Khmer House
The Khmer house in countryside and city outskirt are built with a plot of land which is always have the spaces around the house. There are flowers in the front fence and other vegetables at other side of the fences. Within the house compound there are at least two mango trees and many other fruit trees, creating shades around the house. Some houses has a water well or pond. If they raise chickens and pigs, the cages is at the back of the house. There is also haystack for the cattle. Sanitary facilities are set up at behind a bit far from the house, nearby the back fence.
Ancient rules also suggested about the design of the land plot such as:
- The house has to face East.
- Main door or stairway must not face South or West.
- Water pond or well must not locate in the West of the house.
Nowadays, especially in the urban areas, land are divided into small plots with many across roads. So the house just then faces the accessing roads.
The Rong or Kantaing House (ផ្ទះរោង ឬ ផ្ទះកន្តាំង)
The Rong or Kantaing House is scattered all over Cambodia, especially the area along the Mekong River banks where most Chinese settlers were established. ‘Kantaing’ is a Chinese term means ‘Guangdong’, a province of China. Khmer people used to call Chinese from Guangdong as ‘Chen Kantaing’, ‘Chen’ means Chinese. So this house style was brought to Cambodia by Chinese from Guangdong and made some changes to adapt the condition of local climate. Specifically, instead of building a house directly on the ground, they raised the house on with the stills support it.
The Kantaing House having a reverse V-shaped roof, a simple long hall with two gables (ho chieng), but without extended awning. Depend on the status of the owners, the Kantaing House has two, three, or four columns along its long axis. The Kantaing House of the wealthier may have more columns.
The Peth House (ផ្ទះប៉ិត)
The word ‘peth’ is from the Khmer word ‘banhchheth’ which means ‘oblique’ and refers to the hipped roof. The Peth House is the most popular style choosen by Khmer people since 1950s. The Peth House is identified by the form of the roof which has no gable (ho chieng). It’s built without crossbeams supporting the roof. All the beams (ធ្នឹម) are supported by the main column of the house. Typically, the Peth House has higher walls compare to other style, the ventilation is from the upper part of the walls around the house.
The Khmer House (ផ្ទះខ្មែរ)
The Khmer House was reserved for the high ranking officers, the wealthy, or for the monks in the Buddhist monasteries.
The Khmer House is characterized by its special roof structure which has two levels and completely separated from each other. The lover level has four slopes similar to the Peth House. The upper level is the reverse V-shaped of Kantaing House with two slopes and two gables on both ends. Through the two gables, the Khmer House having very good ventilation.
The Rong Dol House (ផ្ទះរោងដោល)
The Rong Dol House has an extended awning, hob, at the front of the house, leaving the upper part of the roof plain save for a small gable which enough giving the house good ventilation. At the back of the house usually has a vacant allowing for extensions.
The front hob of the Rong Dol House protects the entrance to the house from rain and provides a shed for the front veranda which is used as living room. In the ancient time, at night all family members gather together at this front hob of the house for discussing and chatting. On the full moon day, they can sit there to see the moon. The elderly in the house telling folk tails to children.
The Rong Doeung House (ផ្ទះរោងឌឿង)
The Rong Doeung House is similar to Rong Dol House. But the Rong Dol House has only one awning serving as the main facade, the Rong Doeung House has two awnings, one at the front and another at the back. It has two gables to provide good ventilation too.
One disadvantage of the Rong Doeung House is the possibility of extension is not allowed.