Traditional Games in Cambodia

Instructor: Brittney Clere

Brittney, a National Board Certified Teacher, has taught social studies at the middle school level for 15 years.

Much of the Cambodian population live by very basic means, so it only makes sense that their traditional games be played simply, as well. In this lesson, you will learn more about these simple, but entertaining, games.

Games in Cambodia

Think back to the games you played when you were small. Perhaps you have a memory or two of Duck, Duck, Goose or Hide-and-Seek, but can you recall any childhood games that allowed you to beat other players with a towel? Did any of the rules say the losers have to let the winners hit them in the kneecaps? Well if you had grown up in Cambodia, you would.

Chab Kon Kleng

Most of Cambodia's traditional games can be played anywhere and with just about anything. For example, Chab Kon Kleng is a game of chase, a type of tag game. One player is chosen to be the hen, and one player becomes the crow. The rest of the players are the chicks. The objective of the game is for the crow to catch as many chicks as possible while the hen tries to protect them.

Sey

Some of the games may sound familiar. For instance, have you ever owned a Hacky Sack? This game is similar to the traditional Cambodian game called Sey. Instead of the round bean bag used for Hacky Sack, they use a feather attached to a rubber disk, called a shuttlecock. The only objective is to keep the shuttlecock in the air without using your hands.

Klah Klok

Klah Klok is a traditional betting game. Three dice are used that have pictures on each side instead of numbers. The players bet on which pictures they believe will be rolled and place their wagers on a game board. Then the dice are rolled into a bowl. The players win if a picture they wagered on appears. If more than one of their pictures are rolled, then their winnings multiply.

A Klah Klok game board.
Klah Klok game board.

Bay Khom

In Bay Khom, the game pieces are small beads, but players can also use pebbles or seeds as long there is a total of 42 pieces. It is a type of mancala game. For this two-person game, the players dig ten holes in the ground, creating an oval shaped board. Five beads are placed in the two holes on one end, and the remaining eight holes will have just four.

The first player takes all the beads from any hole he chooses and drops them one at a time into the other holes. He must drop the last bead into a hole that is beside an empty one. Then, he gets to take all the beads in the hole next to it. The object of the game is to have the most pieces when the game ends, and the game ends when all the holes are empty.

Chol Chhoung

Chol Chhoung, or just Chhoung, is said to create passion and attraction, which makes it a favorite among teenagers and young adults. As with most of the Cambodian games, very few materials are needed to play. The chhoung is a rolled up scarf tied at one end to create a tail. The players are divided into two groups, and the one with the chhoung is the tossing team.

The tossing team will use the tail of the chhoung to toss it up in a high arch over to the other group. If caught, that player will throw it back, trying to hit a member of the tossing team. If a person gets hit, they must then sing and dance as they return the chhoung. In some versions of the game, a traditional song and dance are performed. In others, the players are free to create lyrics to tease each other, giving them a chance to be bit flirtatious.

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