Art: Land of the Eternal Smile

In the year 1297, a Chinese official named Chou Ta-kuan was sent by his emperor on a reporting mission to the kingdom of Khmer, in the land that is now Cambodia. The Cambodians, he quickly decided, "are not what we would call civilized people." The women were depraved and old before their time; the marketplaces were filled with homosexuals; and bathing in the nude was something of a national obsession—an obsession, Chou Ta-kuan was sure, that accounted for the high rate of dysentery and leprosy. Chou Ta-kuan could find almost nothing good to...

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