Chapter Seven: Traditional Khmer Literature

This is an incredibly vast topic, one we can only hope to barely touch on in a format like a language textbook. So our goals for this chapter will be very modest. First of all, you�ll become familiar with the names and basic features of the major genres of Khmer literature, and also the formats and media in which it�s traditionally appeared. Then we�ll look at three important poetic meters in Khmer, along with examples of them in actual works. Virtually all Khmer literature prior to the 20th Century was in verse, and there are scores of complex meters used to write it.

You certainly can�t hope to become expert, even in one meter, in the short amount of time we have to spend on the topic, but you can learn the rudiments of a few meters, and even learn to compose some poetry yourself using those meters. Plus you can begin to appreciate some classic works of Khmer literature written in our example meters.

Note that the links to the PDFs and MP3 below will open in separate browser windows.

Explanation of a Traditional Poetic Meter in Khmer

Here's an example of how we try to make a complex topic digestible...not only will you read examples of poetic meters from Khmer verse epics, you'll also be given color-coded diagrams of them and be able to listen to samples of them being chanted.

  • Read the explanation of a poetic meter and see it diagrammed

  • Listen to a chanted version of the poetic meter described in the text

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