Friday, October 29, 2010

Bulguk Temple

Seokgatap (Many Treasures Pagoda), National Treasure No. 21, stands at the Bulguk Temple, Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province. The three-story pagoda is one of the representative structures from the Silla Kingdom with the beauty of balance and simplicity.
/ Korea Times photos by Shim Hyun-chul

Trove of historical and natural beauty

By Shim Hyun-chul

Colorful leaves and fresh air blowing off Mt. Toham beckon travelers to Bulguk Temple in Gyeongju, the ancient capital of the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C. -935 A.D.), in North Gyeongsang Province.

Designated as Historical Site No. 502, the temple nestles in the middle of Mt. Toham, which literally means “swallowing fog and clouds and emitting them.”

The temple, which was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995, along with the Seokguram Grotto, belongs to the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.

The construction of Bulguk, which means the “land of Buddha,” was initiated by Kim Dae-seong, prime minister during the reign of King Gyeongdeok and completed in 774 during the reign of King Hyegong.

However, the wooden buildings of the temple were burned down during Japanese invasions between 1592 and 1598.

After that, the main hall Daewungjeon (Hall of Great Enlightenment) was rebuilt but the major restoration project was done between 1969 and 1973 through extensive archeological investigation.

The temple is marked by the giant stone structure spanning some 90 meters from east to west and the beautiful bridges such as Cheongungyo (Blue Cloud Bridge) and Baekungyo (White Cloud Bridge).

Cheongungyo and Baekungyo symbolize crossing water and clouds to enter into Buddha’s land in Buddhist belief.

There are Jahamun (Golden Purple Gate), Daewungjeon and Museoljeon (Hall of No Words). Among others, two landmark pagodas ― Seokgatap (Sakyamuni Pagoda) and Dabotap (Many Treasures Pagoda) ― hold unique pieces of ancient art.

Yeonhwagyo (Lotus Flower Bridge) and Chilbogyo (Seven Treasures Bridge) are a pair of bridges at the temple. The bridges lead to Anyangmun (Peace Enhancing Gate) and Geuknakjeon (Hall of the Pure Land).

Dabotap, National Treasure No. 20, and Seokgatap, National Treasure No. 21, show the essence of Unified Silla’s art, which affected other pagoda structures later on.

The temple, which shows different charms according to the season, is one of the best tourist spots for foreigners. Come to the temple and enjoy the picturesque landscape around Mt. Toham this fall.

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