Dive into Korean History at Gyeongju
Known as ‘the museum without walls’, Gyeongju holds more tombs, temples, rock carvings, pagodas, Buddhist statuary and palace ruins than any other place in Korea being located in Gyeongsang Province, near the southeastern coast of mainland Korea with four hours’ drive from Seoul and one hour’s drive or bus ride north of Busan.
Gyeongju used to be an ancient capital of the Silla dynasty which ruled the Korean peninsula for almost 1,000 years, from 57 BC to 935 AD, and much of the cultural achievements of the time can still be seen in Gyeongju.
t the time, Silla was a prosperous country, and its capital Gyeongju was the fourth largest city in the world.
The city was home to the Silla court and most of the kingdom’s elite, and you can still see remnants of their lavish lifestyle and after-life.
Two of Gyeongju’s most not to be missed sites are Bulguksa and Seokguram.
Buddhism, which the Silla Kingdom adopted in the sixth century, helped strengthen the royal power and unite the citizens. It also left behind countless cultural heritages with the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site of Bulguksa Temple being the most awe-inspiring of them all.
Built in 751 AD, Bulguksa is an integration of the remarkable craftsmanship and art of the eighth century, and beautifully showcases the rich Buddhist culture of the Unified Silla period.
It is comprised of a multitude of national treasures, the most important being the Dabotap and Seokgatap pagodas near Daeungjeon, or the main hall.
The former is an unusually ornate, three-tier stone pagoda adorned with chilbo
(Korean enamel) and illustrates the brilliancy of Silla masonry.
The latter is simpler in design but displays perfect symmetry and balance, and once contained in its interior what is believed to be the world’s oldest woodblock print.
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.