The Seokguram cave temple and the Bulguksa temple are masterpieces of Buddhist architecture and of great religious importance. The Bulguksa Temple was built in the 8th century at the foot of Mount Tohamsan. It is especially famous for its two pagodas. The Seokguram Temple is located in an artificial grotto on the top of the mountain.
Seokguram and Bulguksa Temples: Facts
|Official title:||Seokguram Cave Temple and Bulguksa Temple|
|Cultural monument:||Bulguksa, temple and monastery complex, among others. with the Sokka and Tapo Pagodas, the “Bridge of the White Cloud” and the “Bridge of the Blue Cloud”, the Paradise Hall and the Bell Pavilion; Seokguram, an artificial grotto with a seated Buddha, including the base, 3.5 m. is surrounded by 3 bodhisattvas, 4 kings of heaven and 10 “enlightened” disciples|
|Location:||on or on Mount Toham, southeast of Gyeongju|
|Meaning:||East Asian masterpieces of Buddhist architecture of outstanding religious importance|
Seokguram and Bulguksa Temples: History
|528 or 535||first construction of a temple|
|751-74||Construction of the Bulguksa and Seokguram|
|1593||Almost complete destruction of the Bulguksa after the Japanese invasion|
|1913-15||improper repair during the Japanese occupation|
|1959||Reconstruction of the main hall of the Bulguksa|
|1962-64||Proper restoration of Seokguram to restore the impression of the room and to close the access through a glass wall|
|1973||last renovation of the Bulguksa|
The prime minister who had two fathers and two mothers
At the foot of the 745 meter high Toham mountain in the southeast of Gyeongju lies the Bulguksa, the “monastery of Buddha-land”, and a little below the summit the “Seokguram grotto”, the “stone grotto”. A legend has grown up about the origin of both sanctuaries about the person who actively built the two complexes around the middle of the 8th century. It was the first minister of the then monarch, Kim Taesong. He saw the light of day in a poor hut. This would never have enabled him to take the position intended for him. So he was born again and this time in a befitting family, so that all options were open to him. Such an idea of transmigration of souls, of leaving one body to slip into a new one and the like.
The young man made the hoped-for career and rose to become the all-powerful first minister. Now another religion comes into play, the basis of all ethical thinking in the Far East, so to speak: ancestor worship. Kim Taesong had the Seokguram grotto built for his first parents and the Bulguksa for his second parents. This adds a third religion: both plants are Buddhist.
Seokguram are characterized by peculiarities that are unique in this concentration on a world scale: It is in an unusual location. In this cultural area, mountain and cave form a classic pair of religious ideas: macrocosm and microcosm, abundance and emptiness, phallus and vagina; but usually the cave is at the foot of the mountain, but here at the summit. Was this meant to indicate the Buddhist emptiness, that is, the freedom of the enlightened from the illusory self?
The interior of the cave is made entirely of hard-to-work granite, which is abundant in Korea listed on mathgeneral. It encompasses the entire pantheon of Buddhism in a compressed form, depicted on the cave walls in reliefs of the highest perfection: in the rectangular anteroom beings who are still subject to the cycle of decay and becoming, in the rotunda, on the other hand, beings who have achieved the Buddhist “goal of salvation”. In the fully plastic Buddha, an inward and outward movement can be seen at the same time. It is so monumental that it seems to fill the space, and yet all of its lines point into it. He looks in the direction of the rising sun at the sea grave of a king who hoped to protect his kingdom against pirates even after his death.
After all, this cave has an element that is rare in Far Eastern architecture: a domed vault, not held by a keystone, but by stone lever arms extending outwards, which, if seen from the outside, give the dome a hedgehog-like appearance.
The Bulguksa is of outstanding cultural and historical importance due to three elements: It has a facade from the time it was built on a high, archaic stone plinth – exceptional within the predominant wooden architecture of the Far East.
The two pagodas towering in front of the main hall also date from the 8th century. In the left, a classic Shilla pagoda, which cannot deny its stylistic borrowings from pagodas from Tang China at the same time, the world’s oldest wood block print, a Buddhist text (Dharani Sutra), was found in 1966, probably printed between 704 and 751.
A remarkable structure, found on every 10 won coin, rises to the right of it. It is the most unusual pagoda in the entire Far East and literally “unique”. The condensed representation of the Buddhist salvation figures in the Seokguram grotto finds a correspondence here: condensed abstractly, it translates basic Buddhist statements such as the “Four Noble Truths”, paired with Far Eastern views such as the “Yin-Yang polarity”, into stone.