Preah Thong Neang Neak (Prince Thong and the Naga Princess)

My friend asked me why I post too many videos of the Royal Cambodian Ballet on my facebook.
I said, " What's wrong with that? I love our dance!"
Then they said, "Oi! Don't tell anyone that you're my friend."

Well, I guess it is weird because most young people don't like this stuff. We're kind of separated by something called generation gap. Most of our kids don't even learn Khmer nursery rhymes. I wish we had the bond between the past and the present, besides the past is also the mirror to our future.

Alright, I'm not gonna go into length about it.

Here is the real deal.
This is the story of our marriage origin. The story goes like this:

Preah Thong, the Prince of Faraway Land (somewhere from India) came to a newland, Jroy Sovannapumi,  (the cape of Golden Land, Kampuchea or Cambodia) which was originally called, "Norkor Kok Tlok". Norkor means kingdom, Kok means dry and Tlok is a name of a tree. 

It's said that Prince Thong saw the huge tree first before he landed on the shore of the kingdom, thus gave birth to the name. But the kingdom was ruled by the Naga princess, namely Neang Neak, (in our history, the first ruler of the kingdom was a female monarch, so this story is relevant to the history).

Today, every time Cambodians get married, the groom and the bride will get to be Preah Thong and Neang Neak in their wedding. They dress like prince and princess. But the groom has to hold on to the hem of his bride's garment (because in the story, the real Prince Thong also had to do that in order to get into the Naga realm).

It's also a metaphor, because in Cambodian society, it is still more or less matriarchal. The husbands are not the man of the house, but their wives are. The wives are called, "Mé Pteas." The word Mé means both female and boss, (anything or anyone that is large and important, we all call, Mé), and Pteas means house. 

Now back to the dance. Even if you don't understand Khmer, you're still able to understand the meaning of it. Because these classical dancers use a universal language to communicate, which is body language, of  course. They don't talk during the performance, but they let the background singers demonstrate the story through songs, really really beautiful songs (If you don't believe it, watch the video).

Each movement of their bodies, the postures, the facial expressions, represent the feeling of the characters. The anger, hate, love, and even the seduction, all of which takes years of practice to perfect, and they have to make it as graceful as possible, because most of the performances are all about gods and kings.

These dancers have to be trained from their early age, traditionally around six years old. (Sometime they even select the children with the right bone structure, the kind who born to dance).  During  theAngkor era, this classical ballet was the vital entertainment for the emperors. They were first recorded almost a thousand year ago on the temple walls- as the Apsaras (goddesses of dancing). Now, they tour around the world.

The Naga Princess was having a blast in the forest.
Just in time Prince Thong happened to be there and was struck by her divine beauty.

This is the part when Preah Thong couldn't contain his heart's desire and head-over-heel-y grabbed Neang Neak from behind.
(Wow, what an enormous love he had!)

This part shows how Neang Neak is so furious with Preah Thong's daring gut, and she is scolding the young Prince from head to toes.
(Gee! Look at the body language of her anger. I think she could melt every man's heart with that!)

But Preah Thong is a wit-crack. 
He said something like this:
"No one dares cometh near thee, except your loving pair who is me!" 

Preah Thong could win over her iron heart at last!

 Neang Neak has to go back and tell her parents about their love.

(Aw, parting is such a sweet sorrow!)

Isn't this love story of Preah Thong and Neang Neak an older version of Romeo and Juliet? Well, only this due had a happy ending. (Boo! Shakespeare.)

Preah Thong Neang Neak (Prince Thong and the Naga Princess) Preah Thong Neang Neak (Prince Thong and the Naga Princess) Reviewed by Sovathary Bon on Wednesday, December 07, 2011 Rating: 5


  1. Very good one... I've heard the story before... quite refreshing to read this again... I love the dance too... in fact I wanted to learn the dance when I was younger... :) very gentle, very elegant...

  2. I do agree. They have amazing grace!
    I wish I could learn this dance too. But it's too late. Hey, you're still around? Nice to here from you again :D

  3. Hi, yeah I'm still here :D didn't have time to read or write much lately... Nice to be here too :)

  4. from 6 years?
    glad to know that the story has a happy ending :)

  5. @Yulia: yes, 6 years. They have to be trained while their bones are still soft. I guess, our dance is one of the most difficult arts to master.

  6. I bet we both have something in common. When I was young I did not understand the value of our culture. Now I'm admire what we have.

    Anyway, I don't know if you still remember me. Hope you do.

  7. Oh tata...I wouldn't have recognized you if it wasn't for your pic. Yes, nice to hear from you again! I know I sound nerdy sometimes, but aren't we having the same value? Thank for sharing you thought. I just know I'm not the only one.


    PS: What makes you show up out of the blue? :D

  8. hey lady! great you still remember me. I was thinking of you such a long time but I did not know how to contact you since I forgot my yahoo password.

    Between I still don't know where you are living exactly. But I remember you told me last time that you are living in Cambodia. I don't know if you want to see me but I would love to see you. I will volunteer in Cambodia for 2 weeks if you don't mind to see me.
    Take care!

  9. Aw, that's adorable. I don't know you would come. Yes, I live in Cambodia. You can contact on facebook. Just find my name. Well, I'm so glad you want to meet me. I would be please to see you, but you might be disappointed, cos I'm just a plain person. But if you don't mind, we'll meet alright. :D

  10. Can't believe you like this thing. Believe it or not if I tell you that I was to apply to traditional dancing class at Dancing and art school when I was small?

  11. OH REALLY?????

    Why you never told me that before? I wouldn't have known that. What happened then?

    What's wrong? You didn't believe that I love stuff like that? Come one!

  12. This is Gorgeous. I love the costumes, sets, and choreography and the Cosmic Sacredness of this story. What is story behind the headdresses?

  13. This is Gorgeous. I love the costumes, sets, and choreography and the Cosmic Sacredness of this story. What is story behind the headdresses?


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