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Seokguram Grotto & Bulguksa Temple

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Seokguram Grotto

Address

873-243, Bulguk-ro, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do

Inquiries

Tel : +82-54-746-9933

Homepage

jikimi.cha.go.kr/english
(Korean, English)

Introduction

Seokguram Grotto, located on Tohamsan Mountain, is the representative stone temple of Korea. The official name of Seokguram Grotto, National Treasure No. 24, is Seokguram Seokgul. Designated as World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1995, it is an artificial stone temple made of granite. The construction was started by Kim Dae-seong (700-774) in 751 during the reign of King Gyeongdeok (742-765) of the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C.-A.D. 935) and it was finished twenty-four years later in 774, during the reign of King Hyegong (765-780).

Seokguram Grotto is known to have been built with Bulguksa Temple. According to the history book Samgukyusa of the Goryeo Dynasty (the country that unified the Korean peninsula at the end of the Silla Kingdom, 918~1392), Kim Dae-seong had built Bulguksa Temple for the parents who were alive, and Seokguram Grotto for the parents of his former life.

Seokguram Grotto is an artificial stone temple made of granite, and is located on the eastern peak of Tohamsan Mountain. Inside the round-shaped main hall, there are the Bonjon Statue, Bodhisattva and his disciples. Seokguram Grotto was built to preserve these statues. The Bonjon figure wearing a generous smile is seated on the stage engraved with lotus flower design. The rounded ceiling looks like a half-moon or a bow and has a lotus flower decorated cover on it. As the sunrise from this spot is so beautiful, many people climb the mountain at daybreak.

Directions

  • From Gyeongju Intercity / Express Bus Terminal or Gyeongju Station,
    Take Bus 10 or 11 and get off at Bulguksa Temple.
    From Bulguksa Temple, take Bus 12 to Seokguram Grotto(30min intervals).

Links

Imagine your Korea
photo about Bulguksa Temple
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Bulguksa Temple

Address

385, Bulguk-ro, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do

Inquiries

Tel : +82-54-746-9913

Homepage

www.jikimi.cha.go.kr/english
(Korean, English)

Introduction

Bulguksa Temple is the representative relic of Gyeongju and was designated as a World Cultural Asset by UNESCO in 1995. The beauty of the temple itself and the artistic touch of the stone relics are known throughout the world.

Bulguksa Temple was built in 528 during the Silla Kingdom, in the 15th year of King Beopheung's reign (514-540). The temple was originally called ‘Hwaeom Bulguksa Temple’ or ‘Beopryusa Temple’ and was rebuilt by Kim Dae-seong (700-774), who started building the temple in 751 during the reign of King Gyeongdeok (in power 742-765) and completed it in 774 during the reign of King Hyegong (in power 765-780). Upon completion, the temple’s name was changed to ‘Bulguksa Temple’.

Bulguksa Temple underwent numerous renovations from the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) to the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), but was burned down during the Imjinwaeran War (the war following the Japanese Invasion, 1592-1598).

Reconstruction started again in 1604 during the 37th year of King Seonjo’s reign (Joseon Dynasty) and was renovated about 40 times until 1805 (during the reign of King Sunjo, 1790-1834). After this time, the temple suffered serious damage and was often the target of robbers.

In 1969, the Bulguksa Temple Restoration Committee was formed and in 1973, Mulseoljeon, Gwaneumjeon, Birojeon, Gyeongru, and Hoerang (all of which had previously been demolished) were rebuilt. Other old or broken sites (such as Daeungjeon, Geungnakjeon, Beomyeongnu and Jahamun) were repaired.

Even today, Bulguksa Temple is home to many important cultural relics such as Dabo-tap (National Treasure No. 20), Seokga-tap (National Treasure No. 21) Yeonhwa-gyo, Chilbo-gyo (National Treasure No. 22), Cheongun-gyo, Baegun-gyo (National Treasure No. 23), the Golden Seated Vairocana Buddhist Figure (National Treasure No. 26), the Golden Seated Amita Figure (National Treasure No. 27), and Sari-tap (Treasure No. 61).

The Dabotap (Many Treasure Pagoda) and Seokgatap (Sakyamuni Pagoda) are two of the most valued pagodas in Korea. Designated as Korean National Treasures in 1962, Dabotap (10.4 meters tall) and Seokgatap (8.2 meters tall), stand on the east and west sides of the yard separating Daeungjeon (the hall housing the Sakyamuni Buddha) and Jahamun (Mauve Mist Gate).

The three-story Seokgatap, on the east, has two stereobates (stone foundation levels) and is crafted in traditional Korean style. Dabotap is an octagonal pagoda standing on a cruciform base with stone staircases on all four sides and a railing. Given its superb craftsmanship, it is difficult to believe that it was constructed of stone. Unlike Seokgatap, Dabotap has survived the passage of time with its original structure still intact. Both serve as outstanding examples of 8th-century Unified Silla architecture and skillfully balance square, octagonal, and circle forms in one design.

Moving between Daeungjeon and Geungnakjeon (both prayer halls), visitors cross the Cheongungyo Bridge(Blue Cloud Bridge) and Baegungyo Bridge(White Cloud Bridge) to the east, and Yeonhwagyo Bridge (Lotus Flower Bridge) and Chilbogyo Bridge (Seven Treasure Bridge) to the west. Cheongungyo Bridge and Baegungyo Bridge are actually stairways, not bridges. The lower staircase, Cheongungyo Bridge, has 17 steps and the upper staircase, Baegungyo Bridge, has 16. These steps lead to Jahamun Gate, which is the gate to Daeungjeon (Sakyamuni Buddha Hall). These bridge-like stairways symbolically connect the earthly world below and the world of Buddha above. Some say that they symbolize man’s journey from youth to old age.

An 18-step stone staircase to the west leads to Anyangmun Gate (Pure Land Gate). The lower 10 steps are called Yeonhwagyo Bridge, while the upper eight steps are called Chilbogyo Bridge. It is said that only those who reached enlightenment could use these stairs. Both structures are smaller than Cheongungyo Bridge and Baegungyo Bridge, but are similar in design and structure. Most of the lotus-blossom carvings that graced Yeonhwagyo Bridge have been lost over time and the passage is currently restricted to visitors.

Beomyeongnu (Pavilion of Meru Mountain) is on the left when you standing facing Cheongungyo Bridge and Baegungyo Bridge. Originally built in 751 CE, the pavilion was damaged in 1593 by the Japanese during the Imjin War and was restored through two separate projects during the Joseon Dynasty. The structure was restored again in 1973, which resulted in the current structure that is smaller than the original. The pavilion has a wide lower portion, a narrower middle section, and an upper portion that is the same x_width as the base. Particularly unique are the stacked pillars, using 8 differently shaped stones, and their placement, facing each of the four cardinal directions. Today, the pavilion houses a drum atop a turtle structure.

Directions

  • From Gyeongju Intercity / Express Bus Terminal or Gyeongju Station,
    Take Bus 10 or 11 and get off at Bulguksa Temple.

Links

Imagine your Korea