KULEN MOUNTAIN, Cambodia — The Tadong temple sits tucked away at the base of this sacred mountain, its crumbling brick structure still upright after more than a thousand years and a bloody civil war. The holy site draws Buddhist monks who come to meditate and practice mindfulness alongside neon-green rice paddies and farmers wrangling cattle. Ornate carvings remain visible under the lush vegetation. A series of false floors gives the illusion of temples stacked on temples. But while the feet of an ancient statue of a lion remain nearby, its body is gone. This sight is replicated across the country at hundreds of temples: Buddhas with missing heads, shrines without inscriptions, Hindu gods with no arms. It's here, deep in the jungle, where eager looters spent decades robbing the country of its heritage, its spirit — and, the Cambodians say, the souls of their gods. And it's here, on the side of Kulen Mountain, where looters stole a sandstone sculpture depicting Prajnaparamita, the goddess of transcendent wisdom. The statue — 59 inches high, 15 inches wide — is missing one arm, the other chopped off at the elbow. For more than two decades, this stolen relic sat more than 8,000 miles… Read full this story
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