Following the cultural tradition of United Silla, the art and architecture
of Koryo was developed under fruitfull ties with the contemporary culture
of the Sung and the Liao in China. As the capital city of Songdo (Kaesong)
was established in the mountainous area of central Korea, natural landscape
requirements led to the nonaxial arrangement of the built-up area in
the entire city. The palace and temples in Songdo clustered along the
flanks of Mt. Songak and the city were enclosed by a meandering irregular
Geomancy was the leading principle in selecting the location of
towns and building sites during Koryo era. According to this method,
terrain and landscape were interpreted to secure prosperous we11-being
for the present and future. The architects did not attempt to overcome
natural landscape but rather, respect the existing physical environment
in their architectural design and town planning.
The palace at Manwol (Full moon) Terrace was laid out according
to the north-south axis, and because of the terrain series of courts
were connected from one level to the next by flights of stone steps.
The Palace attracted considerable attention for its size, elegance and
beauty during the period, but was later burnt down by foreign invasions.
The platforms, flights of steps and foundations can still be seen on
the empty site.
B uddhism was further encouraged and promoted in this dynasty, and
Buddist art and architecture emerged in the central area of Korea, thus
enhancing the status of the religion. In the early period, the palace
and temples were built with a columnar bracket set system which was
put on columns to support the massive eaves overhang. The Kuknak hall
of Pongjong Temple in Andong, built in the end of 12th century, is the
oldest existing wooden structure in the country and expresses the typical
architectural characteristics of the earfy period of Koryo.
Stone pagodas varied in style in comparison to those of the preceding
dynasty. In the early period of Koryo, the pagoda style of United Silla
was maintained while a special trend emerged to reflect regional styles
originating from the ancient Three Kingdoms. The stone pagoda at the
remain site of Kaesim Temple in Yechon is a typical example of the early
period, and the octagonal stone pagoda at Woljong Temple on Mt. Odae
implies the influence of Koguryo.
The middle period of Koryo started after a peace treaty was made
between Koryo and Kin of North China in ll26. In this period Koryo became
culturally advanced in its art and architecture. She also developed
an aristocratic taste in art as proved by the famous Koryo celadon with
its highest refinement. In this period, the wooden building style seemed
to be affected by the cultural influence of the Fukien province in the
southern coast of China. The columnar bracket sets were made up of transverse
members only with a unique single spreader at the top of the columns.
The transverse horizontal beam was constructed on the top of columnar
bracket sets and the beam ends projected out to the eave. The projecting
beam and bracket ends were shaped into an ox-tongue. The ends of columnar
bracket arm and the ends of single spreader bracket arm were carved
out in the shape of a brace. Muryangsu Hall of Pusok Temple in Yungju,
built in the middle of l3th century, and the Main Hall of Sudok Temple
in Yesan, built in 1308, sti11 exist to manifest the ski11ful adaptations
of the architectural style with their dignified and graceful appearance.
Stone pagodas evolved into something distinctively unique in style
with eclectic qualities in appearance and details. The pagoda of Namge-won
site is one typical example in expressing the unique sense of design
of the period with its elegant features and superb proportions.
The later period of Koryo was under Mongol control, and artistic
activities were greatly hampered. In this period the intercolumnar brachet
set system was adopted in building construction. To support intercolumnar
bracket sets between the columns, the upper plate member was placed
over the lintels and the columns, so as to compose a T-shaped section.
Pokwang Hall of Simwon Temple, built in 1374 and located in Yontan county
of North Korea, is the oldest building of this style.
A tall marble pagoda of ten stories, located originally
at the site of Kyongchon Temple, displays features of the intercolumar
bracket set system. Upon three tiers of pedestals, the lower three stories
of the pagoda have the plan of the Greek cross shape, while the upper
seven stories of the pagoda have a square plan. The cornice of each
story was exquisitely carved so as to represent the intercolumnar bracket
set sysem with rafters and roof tiles which were also carved elaborately.
| A Brief History
of Korean Architecture. |Palace Architecture
of Ch'angdok-kung |Korea contemporary architecture|