Built in XII century under Jayavarman VII’s administration, a big pond surrounded with stairs and a sanctuary in the centre on a small island.
The pilgrims came to the time there to make it their sacred ablutions. 4 overflows symbolize 4 rivers which took their source on the same lake meadows of the Mountain Kailash in the Tibet. The King ordered the construction of a vast baray (reservoir) east of Preah Khan temple to provide water to its hundred-thousand support workers. Stretching a half kilometer by 900 meters, the artificial lake stored millions of cubic meters of water to irrigate the rice fields during the dry season. Neak Pean sits at the center of the reservoir. It once consisted of a square pond, measuring 70 meters to a side, surrounded by four smaller ponds, which were in turn surrounded by eight other ponds. At the very center of the complex was a tiny island, shown in the photo above, with a single tower made of sandstone.
The significance of Neak Pean is not known, but the Khmer kings commonly placed islands at the center of barays. Some historians believe that Neak Pean represents Anavatapta, a mythical lake in the Himalayas whose waters are thought to cure all illness. Descriptions of Anavatapta include references to four springs spewing from the mouths of a lion, an elephant, a horse, and an ox. This closely corresponds to Neak Pean—its central pond drains into the four surrounding ponds through gargoyles shaped like a lion, an elephant, a horse, and a man respectively. If the theory is correct, it is uncertain one gargoyle is a man and not an ox.