was not to portray objects just as they appear in real life but rather to seek to give expression to a concept of idealized beauty. Moreover, in the works produced at this time, an effort to create a world of unflawed harmony is evident. The special characteristic of the art of the Unified Shilla period, then, is its attempt to create a beauty of idealized harmony through the application of refined artistic craftsmanship. The art of the Unified Shilla period may be said to be represented at its finest by the Pulguksa temple in Kyongju and the nearby Sokkuram grotto. Pulguksa Temple and Sokkuram Grotto, the cradle of Buddhist culture during the Shilla Kingdom, were first constructed in 535 A.D., the 22nd year of King Pophung’s reign. The king followed his mother’s wish for the kingdom’s stability and peace by constructing the temple.
Two hundred years later, during the reign of King Kyongdok (742-764), the temple was redesigned and rebuilt by the chief minister (Chungsi) Kim Tae-song. A large temple with original floor space exceeding 2,000 kan(unit for the space enclosed by four pillars) in the combined area of its buildings, its wooden structures dating from Shilla were destroyed by fire during the late sixteenth century Japanese invasions and what we see today is a modern restoration. The beautiful “cloud bridge stairway” leading up to the entrance gate (called the Mauve Mist Gate), consisting of a lower flight known as the Bridge of White Clouds and an upper flight named the Bridge of Azure Clouds; the novel shape of the stone supports for the two front pillars of the Floating Shadow Pavilion to the right, or west, of the Mauve Mist Gate; the balanced proportions of the two pagodas, the Pagoda of Many Treasures and the Pagoda That Casts No Shadow, which form a complementary pair to the left and right of the Taeungjon (Hall of Sakyamuni, the temple proper)–all these display this same mature beauty of harmony. The stone pagoda, in particular, is widely admired as a unique expression of Shilla artistry –in contrast, the emphasis in China was on brick pagodas and in Japan on those of wooden construction. Of all the many remaining stone pagodas, the Pagoda That Casts No Shadow and the Pagoda of Many Treasures, together with the Lion Pagoda at the Hwaomsa temple, are regarded as the crowning glories among such monuments built in the Unified Shilla period.Sokkuram Grotto is readily accessible by paved road (9 km) or hiking paths (3 km).
Within the domed rotunda is a large sculptured stone Buddha image of magnificent artistry. Representing the culmination of East Asian Buddhist art, the seated Buddha gazes toward the East Sea. Pulguksa Temple is one of UNESCO’s World Heritages. Sokkuram Grotto is 3 km away from Pulguksa Temple by a short cut along the mountain ridge and 9 km away by a paved road.Based on a balance between squares and circles, straight lines and curves, and planes and globular shapes, the grotto is structured in a perfect harmony.
The 38 figures carved on the wall of the chamber are all masterpieces. The Sokkuram was modeled after the stone cave temples of china, but in china these were cut into the face of natural rock cliffs, whereas the Sokkuram is a man-made stone grotto designed as a setting for the worship of a principal statue of Buddha. The Sokkuram has a rectangular ante chamber and a circular interior chamber with a domed ceiling formed from carefully cut blocks of stone. this domed ceiling shows not only great technical skill but also a solidity reflecting sophisticated knowledge of the mechanics of stress.Yet it is its sculpture that makes the Sukkuram unique.
Most prominently the large stone statue of the Sakyamuni Buddha in the center of the interior chamber, the eleven-headed Goddess of Mercy and the various Bodhisattvas and Arhat (disciple of Buddha) carved in relief in a semicircle on the surrounding wall, the two Inwang (“benevolent kings”) on the walls of the antechamber, and the Four Deva Kings standing guard along the passageway-each of these adds its own distinctive note to the symphony of beauty presented by the Sokkuram as an integral whole. to be sure, in their roundness of face and ampleness of body there is evidence of influence from T’ang Buddhist sculpture, but the Sukkuram examples suggest a deeper sense of spiritual beauty. Sokkuram Grotto is one of UNESCO’s World Heritages. Prime Minister Kim Tae-song is said to have built this cave temple in the 10th year of the reign of Kyongdok-wang of Unified Shilla (751). The numerous stone Buddhist figures in the grotto represent the best sculpture of the Unified Shilla dynasty and of all Korea.The main hall beyond the small antechamber is round and the ceiling is domed. Within the rotunda sits a majestic Buddha, 3.
48m high. carved in granite and facing east. Surrounding the Buddha are many figures in relief. First, two Devas, one on each side, stand guard.Next are two Bodhisattvas (the saint next in importance to Buddha), also one on each side. Further guarding the Buddha are his ten disciples. The eleven-headed Avalokitesvara a Bodhisattva (the Bodhisattva of Boundless mercy) is sculptured on the wall behind the main figure. There are ten niches around the dome.
They contain seven seated Bodhisattvas and one Vimalakirti (the name of a famous lay disciple of the Buddha). Two are empty.The Eight Guardian Demons, the Two Vajradharas (the guardian gods of the temple), and the Four Guardian Kings are sculptured in relief on granite salbs lining the wall of the antechamber and the passageway to protect the Buddha and the Buddhist world. To only list this grotto as National Treasure No. 24 does not give due emphasis to its importance in Oriental culture.
It is without exaggeration the most remarkable and unequaled art treasure accomplished by Far Eastern civilization. Besides, it is commonly referred to as one of the three Buddhist mysteries in the Far East Asia.The Sokkuram was constructed during the mid-eighth century by the famed Minister Kim Daesung who is also credited with building Pulguksa in 751. Report of the 19th Session of the Committee Following is part of the “Report of the 19th Session of the Committee” regarding Sokkuram Grotto and Pulguksa Templ. Established on the slopes of Mount T’oham in the 8th century, the Sokkuram cave contains a monumental statue of Buddha looking at the sea in the bhumisparsha mudra position. With the surrounding portrayals of gods, Bodhisattvas and disciples, realistically and delicately sculpted in haut relief and bas relief, it makes up a masterpiece of Buddhist art in the Far East.
The Temple of Pulguksa, built in 752, and the cave form a body of religious architecture of exceptional significance. Established on the slopes of Mount T’oham in the 8th century, the Sokkuram cave contains a monumental statue of Buddha looking at the sea in the bhumisparsha mudra position.With the surrounding portrayals of gods, Bodhisattvas and disciples, realistically and delicately sculpted in haut relief and bas relief, it makes up a masterpiece of Buddhist art in the Far East. The Temple of Pulguksa, built in 752, and the cave form a body of religious architecture of exceptional significance.