Measurements in Khmer Society

Opening reception, December 28, 2009



Before the introduction of modern tools of measurements such meter, liter, or gram, in traditional Cambodian culture there were many ways in which time and space is measured and objects counted. Most commonly parts of human body were used as a reference to measurements, for instance the wrist, thigh, the stretch of an arm designated a specific distance or length. These measure were called with specific names as well, for example one hat stands for a stretch of forearm, from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger). Objects are also very widely used as references to measure volume, quantity, distance and weight. For example, to express the idea of something high, one would refer to the height of a coconut tree: “…it is as high as a coconut tree…”

This exhibition and book propose a survey of some of those traditional measurements found in the Cambodian society. Although most oftenly modern measurements have come to substitute the traditional ones, in some part of Cambodia it is still common to meet people who use traditional ways of measuring. Both the exhibition and publication is part of our project A Cambodian Memory Bank project which interviews and document elderly people about Culture and history of Cambodia.

We would like to take this occasion to express our deepest gratitude to the all the people who contributed to the archiving of history by providing their knowledge and memories to the future generations. We also would like to thank the researchers for their dedication to the project.

We also would like to thank the Rockefeller Foundation for their financially supports the project.