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Brief History of Korean Architecture


 

-Yoon, Chang Sup (Member,National Academy of Sciences)

-Introduction
-Ancient Architecture(Neolithic~7C.)
-United Silla Architecture(7C.~10C.)
-Koryo Architecture(10C.~14C.)
-Choson Architecture(14C.~19C.)


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 the arts.

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 architecture|