For this edition of SEAtizens, we feature Til Channlin, a Cambodian who is making the headlines for putting his country’s ancient weapons back to the spotlight.
Southeast Asia has a rich history of war, and while a significant number of countries—particularly in Europe—used firearms and advanced artillery to win their battles, countries in Southeast Asia have also achieved victories through the use of ancient weapons.
From spears and arrows to swords, these weapons are what set Southeast Asia apart from the rest of the world. Among these Southeast Asian countries, the weapons of the Khmer people of Cambodia are making a comeback.
Located in the Chrey village of Siem Reap, a man named Til Channlin is attracting visitors from around the world to view his authentic replicas of the famed weapons.
Til Channlin crafts the weapons by hand and his work has earned the praise of San Kim Sean, a grand master of Lbokator, a military fighting style practiced by the ancient Khmer, which is recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Although the replicas are new, the materials used to create them are authentic to what the ancient Khmer used in the past. According to Til Channlin, as he learned more about the weapons and understood their origins, he made sure to use only the truests materials such as rattan bamboo and talipot palms. He even sources these directly from the provinces of Oddar Meanchey, Kampong Cham, Banteay Meanchey, Stung Treng, Kratie, and Preah Vihear.
Til Channlin’s dedication to bringing back these historical weapons is admirable. Despite knowing that he won’t make much profit from selling these weapons, he still shells out his own money to cover the costs of traveling to remote places and purchasing materials. His dedication is unwavering and he is grateful for the people that appreciate his work.
Fortunately, more and more people are beginning to notice and are giving their support. In the recent Angkor Sangkran, Cambodia’s big three-day festival celebrating Khmer New Year, Til Channlin’s works were displayed and demonstrated in a special exhibit. Thanks to this event, significant figures such as the Education Ministry Secretary of State, Sar Sokha, and the Directorate General of Technical Cultural Affairs of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, Siyonn Sophearith, were able to discover Til Channlin’s craft.
“He has done more than just make replicas that match the shape of the weapons that can be seen on the temples. He is commemorating a major part of our cultural heritage,” Siyonn said.
The recognition that Til Channlin is receiving is definitely a dream come true, especially for his younger self who was always fascinated by the inscriptions on the walls of Cambodia’s ancient temples that describe their weapons.
“I intend to uncover what has been lost, as I just want the next generation of Cambodians to learn about the martial powers of their ancestors. It is important that they understand their history so they can play a part in preserving it,” Til said.
SEA Wave magazine’s SEAtizens initiative is a series of inspiring stories of people in Southeast Asia who champion the human spirit by demonstrating courage, ingenuity, generosity, and selflessness.