Colonial Korea: Bulguksa Temple – 불국사 (Gyeongju)

Bulguksa35

The front facade to Bulguksa Temple in 1916.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Before there ever was a Bulguksa Temple on the Bulguksa Temple grounds, there was a much smaller temple occupying the grounds. However, in 751 A.D., and under the guidance of Prime Minister Kim Daeseong, Bulguksa Temple was built to replace the earlier, and smaller, temple. Bulguksa Temple was first built to help pacify the spirits of Kim Daeseong’s parents. Twenty-three years later, Bulguksa Temple was completed in 774 A.D. after the death of Kim. It was completed by the Silla royal court. It was at this point, in 774, that the temple was renamed Bulguksa Temple, which means “The Buddhist Country Temple,” in English.

Throughout its long history, Bulguksa Temple has undergone numerous renovations and rebuilds. One of the earliest renovations took place during the late Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) and the early Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Tragically, all the wooden buildings were completely destroyed during the Imjin War (1592-98). In a decade, in 1604, Bulguksa Temple was reconstructed and further expanded. And over the next two hundred years, Bulguksa Temple would undergo a further forty renovations.

In the late Joseon Dynasty, and after 1805, Bulguksa Temple fell into disrepair. In fact, the temple was often the target of looting. It was during Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945 that the Japanese started the restoration of Bulguksa Temple. It was only after the defeat of the Japanese in World War Two that the restoration process was completed by Korea. Under the orders and watchful eye of President Park Chung Hee, from 1969-73, extensive investigation, restoration, and repair were completed at Bulguksa Temple.

Bulguksa Temple is nearly unmatched as a temple on the Korean peninsula. In total, because of its architectural and artistic beauty, Bulguksa Temple houses some six national treasures and three additional treasures.

Bulguksa36

Another look at the famed front facade of Bulguksa Temple in 1916.

Bulguksa8

And yet another of Bulguksa Temple in 1916.

Bulguksa7

The left side of the front facade has Yeonhwa-gyo (Lotus Bridge) and Chilbo-gyo (Seven Treasures Bridge) from 1916.

Bulguksa38

To the right of the front facade is Baekun-gyo (White Cloude Bridge) and Cheongun-gyo (Blue Cloud Bridge) in 1916.

Bulguksa4

A closer look at Baekun-gyo and  Cheogun-gyo in 1916.

Bulguksa5

A look at Cheongun-gyo with Seokga-tap pagoda in the background from 1916.

Bulguksa6

A closer look at Cheongun-gyo in 1916.

Bulguksa10

The near collapse of the Hamyeong-ru Pavilion on the front facade in 1916.

Bulguksa9

The elevated Seokga-tap pagoda in the main courtyard in 1916.

Bulguksa37

The blueprints to the front facade from 1916.

Bulguksa200

The Daeung-jeon main hall at Bulguksa Temple in 1932.

Bulguksa201

A look around the inside of the Daeung-jeon from 1932.

Bulguksa

The intricate Dabo-tap in 1916.

Bulguksa2

A closer look at the finial of Dabo-tap in 1916.

Bulguksa1

And a look at the body of Dabo-tap in 1916.

Bulguksa3

A neglected Seokga-tap in 1916 with the main hall in the background.

Bulguksa31

The stone lantern in front of the main hall in 1916.

Bulguksa15

One of the stupas at Bulguksa Temple in 1916.

Bulguksa16

And another stupa near the rear of the temple grounds in 1916.

Bulguksa100

Birojana-bul from 1917. It’s National Treasure #26.

Bulguksa101

Amita-bul from 1917. It’s also National Treasure #27.

2006

Baekun-gyo (White Cloude Bridge) and Cheongun-gyo (Blue Cloud Bridge) in 2006

2011

And Baekun-gyo (White Cloude Bridge) and Cheongun-gyo (Blue Cloud Bridge) in 2011.

2011c

A look across the famed front facade at Bulguksa Temple in 2011. In the foreground stands Yeonhwa-gyo (Lotus Bridge) and Chilbo-gyo (Seven Treasures Bridge).

2012a

Dabo-tap Pagoda from 2012.

2011a

Seokga-tap Pagoda circa 2011.

2011b

One of the ornate stupdas next to the Gwaneum-jeon Hall from 2011.

2012

Birojana-bul from 2012. It’s National Treasure #26.

2014

One more picture of the front facade but from 2014.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *