3.United Silla Architecture
After the unification of the Korean peninsula into the kingdom of
United Silla, Korean institutions were radically transformed. United
Silla absorbed the fully matured culture of the T'ang dynasty in China,
and at the same time developed a unique cultural identity. New Buddhist
sects were introduced from the T'ang and Buddhist art flourished. It
was a great period of peace and cultural advancement in all helds of
Architecture flourished in the royal capital of Kyongju, though
almost all traces of the former glory have vanished at the present time.
The city with nealy a million inhabitants at her peak was strategically
located at the junction of two rivers and three mountains encircling
a fertile basin of about five by seven miles in area. The urban area
of the city was developed and expanded in three stages. In the second
stage, when Hwangyong Temple was located in the center, the region was
developed into the grid network of road patterns with wide streets.
One of the Palace sites is marked by the artificial lake of Annap
with stone works of retaining walls delineating the former building
location. The residential district of the nobles in the city was composed
of great houses which were constructed conforming to the the building
code that granted privileges to the nobles, but forbidden to the commoners.
Tiles from many ruins of the buildings were found everywhere. Of those
that are still intact, show elegant and graceful design.
The plans of Buddhist temples were characterized by two pagodas
in front of the central main hall in a symrnetrical layout on the north-south
axis with other buildings. Pulguk Temple, built on a stone platform
at the foothill of Mt. Toham near Kyongju, is the oldest existing temple
in Korea. The temple was first founded early in the sixth century and
was entirely rebuilt and enlarged in 752. The original platform and
foundations have remained intact to the present, but the existing wooden
buildings were reconstructed during the Choson dynasty.
The stone work of the two story platform exhibits a superb sense
of architectural organization and advanced building methods. Two stone
pagodas stand in front of the main hall of the temple. The simpler Sokka-top
located to the left of the court represents Buddha's manifestation in
a transcendent calm. It has three stories with two pedestal layers and
a total height reaching about twenty-five feet. The pagoda consists
of simple undecorated pedestal slabs and three story stupa each of which
has five stepped eaves and truncated roofs. These characteristics constitute
a typical form of the Korean stone pagodas.
To the right of the court, the complex Tabo-tap represents Buddha's
manifestation in a diversified universe, and is unique in Korea, further
so in Asia. With a height of thirty-five feet, this pagoda has one pedestal
with a staircase on each side, four main stories with balustrade and
is characterized by the final crown-ball-and-plate sequence. The design
motif of the lotus flower is apparent in mouldings and other details
of the pagoda.
The rock cave shrine of Sokkuram is located on the crest of Mt.
Toham. It was built by the same master architect of Pulguk Temple, and
built around the same era. This cave shrine was artificially and skillfully
constructed with granite blocks and covered with an earth mound on top
to give the appearance of a natural landscape. The shrine boasts a rectangular
anteroom lined with large stone slabs carved with the figures of the
protectors of Buddhism on each side of the walls and at the entrance
passageway to the main chamber. The circular main chamber covered by
an elegant dome ceiling and surrounded by carved stone wall panels depicting
bodhisattvas and the ten disciples. The graceful statue of Buddha on
a lotus pedestal in the center is the dominant feature of the chamber.
Rock cave shrines are not rare in Asia,
but few of these shrines and sculptures reveal such high level of artistry.
None are as religiously and artistically complete in overall design
as those at Sokkuram.
| A Brief
History of Korean Architecture. |Palace Architecture
of Ch'angdok-kung |Korea contemporary