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Pulguksa Temple is among the largest of the many Buddhist temples in Korea... Please note that when I use Korea, I mean South Korea.

  • The temple is located approximately 16 kilometers southeast of downtown Kyongju on the western slope of Mount T'ohamsan (in the southeastern region of Korea). Kyongju was once the capital of the ancient Shilla Kingdom (57 B.C. - A.D. 935).

  • In addition to being noted for its size, Pulguksa Temple is also one of the most beautiful Buddhist temples in Korea. This is because ancient principles of geomancy and architecture were employed in its construction. Rather than being an obtrusive structure, the temple rests in harmony with the surrounding terrain (rocky and wooded foothills), built into the mountain on a series of stone terraces.

  • The actual dates of construction and completion for the temple are debatable, however, the time period is roughly 514 A.D. - 540 A.D. (under the reign of King Pop'ung, the 23rd Monarch of Shilla) -- during this initial phase of construction, the fundamental basis for the temple was laid out. This basis remained unaltered until 751 A.D., when Kim Tae-song undertook a dramatic expansion project that would be completed circa 777 A.D. (a few years after Tae-song's death in 774 A.D.).

  • At the time of its completion, the Pulguksa Temple consisted of over 80 buildings, and was the cultural center of Shilla Buddhism. Only a small fraction of these buildings remain today, however, many of the original staircases, platforms and pagodas are still fully intact. The wooden edifices that exist throughout the temple were last restored in 1973.

  • Also of interest are the several staircases in the temple which are actually referred to as bridges. This is because they are seen as gateways from the secular world to the Land of the Buddha. Some of these "bridges" include: Bridge of White Clouds, Bridge of Azure Clouds, Seven Treasures Bridge and Lotus Bridge. Finally, the two pagodas found in one of the temple's courtyards are beautiful examples of traditional Korean architecture. Though both are contructed completely of stone, their style mimics that of wooden pagodas.

Though I am not Korean, I am a student of Buddhism and Buddhist philosophy. I see this temple as an external manifestation of of the internal harmony that one seeks through the practice of Buddhism. It is a work of art, a masterpiece of eastern architecture and a monument to the rich cultural heritage of Korea.

Source: A Guide to Korean Cultural Heritage published the Korean Overseas Culture and Information Service.

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