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Gyeongju's Bulguk-saTemple and Seokguram Grotto
경주의 불국사와 석굴암
Bulguk-sa, or BuddhalandTemple, is located west of Toham-sanMountain in Gyeongju. Bulguk-sa is the recreation on earth of the world of the Buddha as envisioned by the Silla people, that is, the ideal world of the "other shore." In other words, Silla artisans created the secular world of Sakyamuni Buddha based on the Lotus Sutra; the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha mentioned in the Sutra of Immeasurable Life; and the Lotus-Treasury World of Vairocana Buddha mentioned in the Flower Adornment Sutra. This excellent embodiment of the Buddhist tenets in temple architecture is unparalleled even in Asia. In addition, the design of Bulguk-sa and the structures within it such as Seokga-tap and Dabo-tap pagodas, as well as Cheongun-gyo, Baegun-gyo, Yeonhwa-gyo and Chilbo-gyo bridges, are all world-renowned monumental artworks. Even today, a number of monks study scriptures and practice Seon meditation in Bulguk-sa’s SanghaCollege and Seon Hall. Bulguk-sa truly represents the living traditions of Korean Buddhism.
Seokguram Grotto is situated on Toham-sanMountain, just below the summit, facing the EastSea. It has earned worldwide acclaim for its exquisite sculpture and creative architecture. Established in the mid-8th century during the golden era of the United Silla Dynasty, Seokguram was built using highly developed architectural skills and superb craftsmanship based on Buddhist thought and advanced mathematical principles. The magnificent and sublime beauty Seokguram emanates originates from these principles and the grotto's innate balance of harmony.
Unlike the natural grottos of India and China, Seokguram is a manmade grotto. White granite was used to create a grotto on the upper slope of Toham-sanMountain. Inside the grotto, Sakyamuni is enshrined as the main Buddha, and on the surrounding walls, there are 39 engravings of bodhisattvas, disciples, Vajrapanis and heavenly guardians. A view of the sunrise over the sea, which is visible from near the seated Sakyamuni Buddha's perch, is renowned for its magnificence.
As Gyeongju has preserved intact the culture of the Silla era which nurtured a glorious Buddhist civilization, the whole city is a living museum. As such, UNESCO designated certain parts of Gyeongju as Gyeongju Historic Areas and listed them in its World Cultural Heritage list. Prior to this, UNESCO also designated Bulguk-saTemple and Seokguram Grotto, masterpieces of Silla Buddhist art, as World Cultural Heritage sites in 1995.
- excerpt from Buddhist English (Elementary 2) published in 2014 by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism