Phnom Penh - Etymology

Etymology

Phnom Penh (literally, "Penh's Hill") takes its name from the present Wat Phnom (“Hill Temple”). Legend has it that in 1372, an old nun named Lady Penh went to fetch water in the Mekong and found a dead Koki tree floating down the stream. Inside a hole of the Koki tree were four bronze and one stone Buddha statues.

Daun (Grandma) Penh brought the statues ashore and ordered people to pile up earth northeast of her house; she then used the Koki trunks to build a temple on the hill to house the five Buddha statues, and then named the temple after herself as Wat Phnom Daun Penh, which is now known as Wat Phnom, a small hill of 27 metres (89 ft) in height.

Phnom Penh was also previously known as Krong Chaktomok (Khmer: ក្រុងចតុម្មុខ) meaning "City of Four Faces". This name refers to the junction where the Mekong, Bassac, and Tonle Sap rivers cross to form an “X” where the capital is situated. Krong Chaktomuk is an abbreviation of its ceremonial name which was given by King Ponhea Yat, which in full is Krong Chaktomuk Mongkol Sakal Kampuchea Thipadei Sereythor Inthabot Borei Roth Reach Seima Maha Nokor.

This ceremonial name is composed from Pali, and loosely translates as "The place of four rivers that gives the happiness and success of Khmer Kingdom, the highest leader as well as impregnable city of the God Indra of the great kingdom".

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