Living in Phnom Penh: Khmer Spirit Houses
When I first visited Phnom Penh, one of the things that caught my eye are the concrete miniature ‘temples’ resembling bird houses usually found in a lot of Khmer homes. Along the streets too, you can see a lot of places selling them. Some simple, others are really ornate and big.
photo taken along the way to Kirirom National Park
Initially I thought this is something to do with pets, then I noticed no birds or anything alive living in this little houses. So I then asked Hi-ace what is that for. They are, apparently ‘Spirit Houses’. It has religious significance and can be seen in some predominantly Buddhist countries.This is a place for the spirits to dwell.
Khmers are ardent believers of spirits and they usually place regular offerings outside the spirit house. Why is there a need for a spirit house? My Khmer relatives tells me, this is to provide living space for the spirits and offering too so they would remain peaceful and not invade our / human space.
a typical Khmer spirit house
So, that got me thinking, I really should start making offerings too unless I want to live side by side with a ghost. Anyway, since Hi-ace family is Chinese, we don’t have a Khmer spirit house we have a wooden one inside the house, its really ornate, with miniature persons. The pot for incense is also replaced once a year only.
our version of the spirit house with offerings
I also noticed a bit of difference with the way Khmers and Chinese-Khmers offer. Khmers usually has flowers, wine, water and incense. While we usually offer cakes, fruits and sometimes meat with incense and tea.
Some may find it weird, but for some reason the presence of this spirit houses comforts me. Lol! You know Hi-ace keeps kidding me, Cambodia has lot of ghosts floating around (from Khmer Rouge time..) and might visit me someday. I would much rather they go inside their spirit houses.