Seokguram, located on Tohamsan Mountain, is the representative stone temple of Korea. The official name of Seokguram, National Treasure No. 24, is Seokguram Seokgul. Designated as a 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 Gyeong-Deok (742-765) of the Silla Kingdom (57 BC - AD 935) and it was finished twenty-four years later in 774, during the reign of King Hye-Gong (765-780).
Seokguram is known to have been built at the same time as 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 Bulguksa Temple built for his parents in his current life, and Seokguram Grotto for the parents of his former life.
Inside the round-shaped main hall are the Bonjon Statue, Bodhi-sattva and his disciples. The Bonjon figure wearing a generous smile is seated on the stage engraved with a lotus flower design. The rounded ceiling looks like a half-moon or a bow and has a lotus flower decorated cover on it. The view of the sunrise is quite beautiful and many people hike the mountain at daybreak.
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 Beop-Heung'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 rebuilding the temple in 751 during the reign of King Gyeong-Deok (r. 742-765) and completed it in 774 during the reign of King Hye-Gong (r. 765-780). Upon completion, the temple’s name was changed to Bulguksa.
Bulguksa Temple underwent numerous renovations from the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) to the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), but was burned down during the Imjin War (Japanese Invasions, 1592-1598).
Reconstruction started again in 1604 during the 37th year of King Seon-jo’s reign (Joseon Dynasty) and was renovated about 40 times until 1805 (during the reign of King Sun-Jo, 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 Dabotap Pagoda (National Treasure No. 20), Seokgatap Pagoda (National Treasure No. 21), Yeonhwa-gyo & Chilbo-gyo Bridges (National Treasure No. 22), Cheongun-gyo & Baegun-gyo Bridges (National Treasure No. 23), Seokguram Grotto (National Treasure No. 24), the Golden Seated Vairocana Buddhist Figure (National Treasure No. 26), the Golden Seated Amita Figure (National Treasure No. 27), and Saritap Pagoda (Treasure No. 61).