Art history professor advises on Kingdoms of Asia exhibition at Fresno Chaffee Zoo

Dr. W. Saam Noonsuk (left), an art history professor at Fresno State at the new Kingdoms of Asia exhibition at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo.

Elements reposted from the Fresno State Magazine article “Eyeing a New Partnership” by Eddie Hughes with photos by Cary Edmondson.


Gazing up at the intricate rockwork beneath the remnants of an ancient Cambodian temple, a group of students follows its professor through the entryway as if it’s a portal into another time and place. The dense jungle landscape has reclaimed the temple, with trees sprouting high atop the structure and roots as thick as boa constrictors seemingly squeezing the stone façade into submission. As birds chirp and siamang apes sing nearby, the group scans the horizon, wary of predators. Just a few feet away is a gently flowing stream, known as a popular watering hole for Malayan tigers, and home to the Sunda gharial, a large crocodilian species. What an adventure this is going to be.

  • Dr. W. Saam Noonsuk and students walk through the intricate remnants of an ancient Cambodian temple recreated at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo.
  • Dr. W. Saam Noonsuk point up as students look at the temple design elements.
  • Dr. W. Saam Noonsuk points as students look an at the construction site.
  • Intricate rock work depicting a serpent in stone contrasts against the blue sky.

This Southeast Asian jungle habitat is only miles away from the Fresno State campus. It’s part of the new Kingdoms of Asia exhibition at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo.

“It’s beyond words, it’s so impressive,” says Dr. W. Saam Noonsuk, an art history professor at Fresno State who served as a cultural adviser for the new exhibition and now looks forward to sharing the experience with his students. “It looks real. It’s quite authentic. This project will be transformative for my students because they don’t have these types of temples around Fresno.”

To read the full story about this and other partnerships between Fresno State and the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, visit magazine.fresnostate.edu.

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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

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