Folk Art PA

Chamroeun Yin

Cambodian Ritual Clothing
(Practicing Spirituality)

Chamroeun Yin was born in the province of Battambang, Cambodia, where he received his initial training in Khmer folk arts from his father.  He came to America in 1981 as an artistic refugee touring with the Khmer Classical Dance Troupe.  He continues to teach traditional dance and to make ritual clothing in Philadelphia.

An estimated 80-90% of all Cambodian artists died under the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s.  “I told them I went to seventh grade, because otherwise they would kill or hurt us because they would think we were educated. I had to lie to survive. And many dancers died. There are not so many people who know all the stories the dances tell, or how they teach Khmer values.”

As a teang ka, or "ritual tailor," Chamroeun Yin creates clothes for weddings as well as costumes and masks for classical Cambodian dancers.  Most of the dances combine theater, ritual, and storytelling to depict the characters from the Reamker, a 16th century epic poem reflecting Khmer belief.  Based on India’s Ramayana, the Reamker adapts Hindu ideas to Buddhist themes and shows the balance of good and evil in the Khmer world.  In the story of Moni Mekhala, this kind Water Goddess uses her wits to win a battle with the cruel Storm Spirit Ream Eyso over the magic crystal ball she was given by their teacher.