Friday, April 22, 2011

Royal Tomb of Queen Seondeok of Silla Kingdom of Korea

This is the tomb of Queen Seondeok ( 632-647, kim deok-man), the 27th ruler of the Silla Kingdom.

It is located on the mid- slope of the ridge of Mt. Namsan.The circumference of the tomb's mound is 74m , its height is 6.8m and its diameter is 24m .

There is a pile of soil covering the tomb : its shape is round. The base of the mound was built with natural stones to protect the tomb.

Queen Seondeok, the first queen of the Silla Kingdom, is credited with the construction of many monumental buildings, such as great monuments of Bunhwang temple. the huge nine-story wooden pagoda of Hwangnyong Temple. and the astronomical observatory Cheomseongdae. And it was during her reign of 16 years that the groundwork was laid for the unification of the Tree Kingdoms of Korea.

In this endeavor, of course, the queen was greatly helped by General Kim, Choon-choo ( who became the 29th ruler of Silla) and General Kim,yu-shin.

According to the Samgukyusa,the queen said, "I will die someday soon, so Iask you,my subjects, to bury me at Doricheon.

But those who didn't know the place asked her , "Where is Doricheon?"
She said " The place is on the southern part of Mt.Namsan." She passed away the day she had predicted,and her subjected her at the sunny side of Mt.Namsan as requested 30 years later.

 Sacheonwang Temple was built below the tomb in 679 A.D., the 19th year of Silla King Munmu the Great(661-681), who united the Three Kingdoms under his rule. In Buddhist cosmology. Sacheonwangcheon( sunskrisrt;caturmaaharajakayikas heaven) is under Doricheon also known as Trayastrimsa heaven which is located on the peak of Sumeru, the central mountain of the world.

After that, people realized her numinous and secred presence.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cheongungyo and Baegungyo bridges of Bulguksa Temple, kyengju

On the way to Geuk Rak Jeon and Dae Ung Jeon, the places of worship in Bulguksa Temple, are the Cheongun and Baegun bridges on the east and the Yeonhwa and Chilbo bridges on the west. The Cheongun bridge and the Baegun bridge are connected to Jahamun, turning towards Dae Ung Jeon.


They have a symbolic meaning of connecting the mundane world under the bridges with the Buddha’s world on top of the bridges. Of the two stairs, the lower one is the Cheongun bridge, with 17 steps, a height of 3.82m, and a width of 5.14m. The upper stairs is the Baegun bridge, with 16 steps, a height of 3.15m, and a width of 5.09m. There are 33 stairs in all, which stand for the 33 steps before reaching the Buddha’s state.

The Cheongun bridge symbolizes a youth’s life, whereas the Baegun bridge represents the life of an old man with white hair. There is a small passage under the Baegun bridge, and the Cheongun bridge lengthily extends on the side with similarly fabricated thin and wide cover stones located on both sides of the passage. The stairs were made in the bridge style and have a unique structure, and their ascending inclines are at 45°, which shows that they were made with special care. Furthermore, the trimming techniques are exquisite. They seem to have been built in the 10th year of King Gyeongdeok’s reign in the unified Silla era (750). They are very precious since they are the only Silla bridges that remain in perfect shape. Besides, the bridges’ lower parts, which have a rainbow shape, show the early form of a Hongyegyo bridge with an arch shape, which can be seen in stone bridges or castle gates in Korea. Thus, these are very important historical properties.

                      Address : 15 Jinhyeon-dong,Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
                     · Contact address Gyeongju City Depart
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Yangdong Folk Village of World Cultural Heritage selection criteria

Yangdong Village is a Korean folk village designated as Important Folk Material No. 189, located along the Hyeongsan River 20 km northeast of Gyeongju, the city which served as the capital during the millennium-long Silla dynasty.

Since the early Joseon dynasty, when the village was first inhabited, its two principle clans have been the Wolseong Son clan and the Yeogang Yi family.
With historic old structures representative of the Joseon era, Yangdong Village is a well-preserved place exemplifying folk traditions that have been carried on since the Joseon dynasty. Some of the notable structures include houses of yangban aristocracy, such as Seobaekdang House and Mucheomdang House (the head family dwellings of the Wolseong Son clan and Yeogang Yi family, respectively), as well as Gwan-gajeong House and Hyangdan House. There are also chogajip, traditional homes with rice straw-thatched roofs where servants and tenant farmers used to live, pavilions like Yi Hyangjeong House and Simsujeong Pavilion, and examples of seodang, the private village schools of the Goryeo and Joseon eras, like Ganghakdang.

The topography of the village features mountain ranges and ravines resembling the hanja character ‘勿’. The dwellings of the yangban (aristocratic class), known as “banga,” are situated relatively high up on the mountains and ravines, while the houses of tenant farmers are located below these, physically demonstrating one characteristic aspect of the Joseon era class system.

Today, Yangdong Village preserves the appearance of the village as it looked when it was flourishing. Structures situated on geomantically auspicious sites (positions reflected in the character ‘穴’), according to the principles of feng shui, are all designated as either Treasures (three examples, including Mucheomdang House) or Important Folk Materials (91 examples, including Sujoldang House). Currently, since it has been designated an Important Folk Village, the village is carefully maintained and managed in accordance with rigorous historical research, enabling its original appearance to be upheld.

As a representative traditional Korean village built in the 14th-15th centuries, Yangdong Village readily preserves traditional architectural style within a setting and landscape that are in harmony with nature, reflecting the traditional Confucian philosophy of the Joseon era. In keeping with its status as a center of Joseon Confucian education, even today the village is an apt successor to the traditional Confucian culture and lifestyle.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Seokguram Grotto of the unified Silla Kingdom in Gyeongju , Southkorea

Seokguram Grotto, the greatest masterpiece of the golden age of Silla, is a heritage property in which architecture, mathematical principles, geometry, religion, and art are collectively realized through its design and construction. Bulguksa Temple is a prime exemplar depicting Buddhist beliefs through architecture, manifesting an unparalleled architectural beauty difficult to find even in Asia.

The construction of Seokguram Grotto was begun in 751 A.D. by Gim Daeseong, then prime minister under the reign of King Gyeongdeok of Silla. It was completed in 774 A.D. during the reign of King Hyegong. At the time it was completed, it was called Seokbulsa, meaning “Stone Buddha Temple.”

Seokguram Grotto, near the summit of Mt. Tohamsan, is a man-made cave that was assembled from white granite. Inside of Seokguram Grotto are 39 carved divinities, including Bodhisattvas, disciples, heavenly guards, and heavenly kings, all formed around a central principal figure of the Buddha. The rectangular antechamber of the Grotto is connected to the main rotunda by a corridor. The domed ceiling of the main chamber is exquisitely made from over 360 pieces of flat stone. The superb architectural technique employed here is unprecedented in the world in its excellence. Statues of a total of eight heavenly guards stand on either side of the antechamber that serves as the entrance to the Grotto. On each side of the entrance to the corridor are bas-relief carvings of Deva kings, while the narrow corridor is decorated with the Four Heavenly Kings carved in pairs.

Octagonal stone columns stand on either side of the entrance to the main rotunda. The principal Buddha is placed slightly off center and toward the back of the main rotunda. From the entrance, the walls of the chamber are filled with the images of two Devas, two Bodhisattvas, and ten Arahats. Behind the principal Buddha is a carving of the eleven-faced Avalokitesvara (the Goddess of Mercy, Gwan-eum). Every single sculpture found in this place can be considered a masterpiece of East Asian Buddhist art, including the near-perfect principal image of Buddha, with its masterful carving technique and realistic representation, as well as the ornately-carved face and body of the eleven-faced Avalokitesvara (Goddess of Mercy), the carvings of valiant warriors and the majestic Four Heavenly Kings, and the supple and graceful figures of various monks and various Arahats, each displaying a distinct individualism.

In particular, the serene appearance of the Gupta-style principal Buddha figure is striking, seated in a cross-legged position, the face filled with wisdom, slightly open eyes mounted by gentle eyebrows, a mouth that seems poised to speak, delicate nose and elongated ears. Together, all of these aspects of the seated Buddha combine into a form that embodies a deep and noble spirit, and as such expresses the most ideal beauty in the world. In design and construction, Seokguram Grotto is a sublime integration of architecture, mathematics, geometry, religion, and art.

Since its designation as National Treasure No. 24, Seokguram Grotto has been well cared for, and along with Bulguksa Temple, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in December 1995. Tucked away on the secluded eastern slope of Mt. Tohamsan near the summit, Seokguram has received high accolades internationally for its flawless and exceptional sculpture and ingenious architecture. A total of 39 Buddhist deities centered around the principal Buddha can be found in the interior of the man-made grotto, consisting of an antechamber, a passageway, and the main rotunda.

The walls of the rectangular antechamber are adorned with carvings of two Deva kings, who serve as fierce temple guardians, and the Eight Guardian Deities. The narrow corridor leading to the domed main rotunda features the Four Heavenly Kings, guardians of the four cardinal directions. The principal Buddha statue is seated in the center of the main rotunda, surrounded by symmetrical carved images on the wall featuring Brahma, Indra, Manjusri, Samantabhadra, and the ten disciples.

According to Great Tang Records on the Western Regions  of Xuanzang (A.D. 602-664), a Chinese monk who journeyed on a 17-year pilgrimage to Central Asia and India, Mahabodhi Temple, the Temple of Enlightenment, was built on the very site where Sakyamuni (Gautama Buddha) had attained divine enlightenment. He reported seeing there a seated stone sculpture of the Buddha facing due east, mounted on a pedestal 123cm tall and 75cm wide. The seated statue was 345cm tall, measuring 264cm from knee to knee and 183cm from shoulder to shoulder. The size of the principal statue of Seokguram Grotto matches this record. Since the statue seen by Xuanzang at Mahabodhi Temple no longer exists, the historical importance of Seokguram is all the more significant.

In the rotunda area, below a domed ceiling representing the celestial heavens, the 350cm high statue depicting the noble and gentle Sakyamuni Buddha sits facing the East Sea. The lifelike gentle folds of his robe, exposing his face and shoulders, add an overall feeling of vitality to the statue. With narrow half-closed eyes, he seems deep in meditation, his lips showing a faint smile and his full, plump face carrying a grave yet compassionate expression. He assumes the bhumisparsha mudra in which the left hand rests palm upward in the lap, while the index finger of the right hand, hanging over the knee with palm inward, points to the earth.

Because it symbolizes the Buddha's moment of victory, attaining enlightenment after overcoming obstructions and the temptations of the demon Mara, another name for the statue is Seongdo-sang, , meaning statue of enlightenment. The position of the niches within the main rotunda, halfway between the ceiling and the floor, is significant, in that they occupy a place between the earthly and heavenly worlds. From the perspective of Buddhist doctrine, this is in keeping with the status of bodhisattvas as median figures, somewhere between enlightened Buddhas  and obscure sentient beings. The right triangle formed by the right shoulder, wrist, and right knee of the carving of the Maitreya Bodhisattva produces a sense of stability and tranquility, while on the other hand, the curve formed by his raised knee, slightly angled left arm resting on one leg, and gently forward-tilted head evoke dynamism and motion. The eight warrior-like heavenly guards on the wall of the antechamber are deities in various guises guarding Buddhist dharma. The pair of Deva kings, wearing skirts and looking valiant and powerful with their well-developed upper body muscles, are also guardians of Buddhist dharma. Another name for the Deva kings is ‘diamond kings,’ since they hold clubs made of diamond. Then, located in the deepest part of the main rotunda, hidden directly behind the principal statue of the Buddha, the eleven-faced Avalokitesvara (Goddess of Mercy) captivates us with her grace and beauty.

Our attention is arrested by ten brilliantly carved faces in stunning detail that appear around the head. The figure faces directly ahead, her facial expression showing a delicate smile and her flowing silken robes adorned with dazzling jewelry (yeongnak, ornaments made from beads or precious metals strung together). The fingers and toes evoke subtle movement, with the left hand holding a vase containing a slender lotus flower and the right hand lightly holding a long necklace. The cumulative effect is one of masterful splendor. Constructed in the mid-eighth century during the golden age of the Unified Silla, Seokguram was created through a high level of architectural technology and superb aesthetic sensibilities based on Buddhist thought and highly sophisticated mathematical principles. The grandeur and sublime beauty inherent in Seokguram derives from the harmonious combination of these foundational sources.

Seokguram is an architectural and sculptural reproduction of the moment when the Sakyamuni (Gautama Buddha) attained enlightenment, the Great Awakening. In a sculptural sense, it is full of vitality, its technique devoid of artifice or unnaturalness, demonstrating masterful workmanship and outstanding artistry. Through the Great Awakening, the ultimate state, the human Sakyamuni becomes the Buddha, a metaphysical figure, and the mundane world becomes a paradise known as beopkye, or dharmadhatu, the realm of truth.

Cheomseongdae Observatory in Gyeongju of south korea

Opposite Daereungwon along a footpath you can see Cheomseongdae in the shape of a traditional liquor jar.
Not quite 10 meters tall, it used to be the observatory of Silla and its shape is a harmony of straight and curved lines, looking somewhat like a bottle, with stones laid on the top in the shape of a hash symbol. Even though it is quite small, it is amazing that it has been standing for over 1,000 years in the palace grounds.

The background of Cheomseongdae is one of agriculture where the movements of the moon, sun and stars dictated the cycle of sowing and reaping.
Also, in ancient societies, astrology was deeply connected to the governing of people and the rise and fall of kingdoms.

In fact the south face of Cheomseongdae looks toward the Great Bear constellation, which was used, in conjunction with the relative positions of other constellations, to govern affairs of state. The name of the street around the south face is Bidugil (First Street).

It was built during the reign of Queen Seondeok and is the oldest observatory in Asia, showing the advanced level of science for that time.

It has titled toward the northeast slightly now, but is amazingly well preserved.
In Samgukyousa (a historical record of the history of Baekjae, Goguryeo and Silla) it was recorded that Cheomseongdae was built during the reign of Queen Seondeok,
and in Shinjeungdongukyeojiseunglam (a geographical treatise written in the Choseon Dynasty) it says that people go up and down this building of 19 cheok (1 cheok is the length of a man's arm (about 30.3 cm)) in height to observe the stars.

However, today Cheomseongdae seems very small and being on a plain and with a small entrance, there is doubt as to Cheomseongdae's function.
It might have been a ceremonial platform or architecture related to Buddhism.
The canola blossoms and lotus fields across the street from Cheomseongdae make a spectacular backdrop.
It is great to just walk or cycle around town to see the elegance and majesty of Silla. Cheomseongdae is a great starting point for a bicycle tour of Gyeongju.

Address 839-1 Inwang-dong,Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do ,southkorea
· Contact address 054-772-5134
zip code 780-935 Gyeongju City Hall, #800, Dongcheon-dong, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do,

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Jeongyongyeong guards ceremony of the Joseon Dynasty

The royal guard of King jeongjo, 22nd king of the Joseon Dynasty, was establisted to strengthen his kingship.

The royal guards was upgraded in 1785 C.E. to the Hunryeon Dogam (training guard), the central military camp composed of 12,000 soldiers who were selected elite soldiers, becoming the largest military camp of the time. King Jeongjo trafferred his farther , Sadoseja's tomb to Hwasan ,Suwon in 1789 and named it "Hyeon-ryungwon " deployed soliers of Jangyongyeong in Suwon to saffeguard the tomb.
     He changed the name to Suwonbu in 1793 , and movd the attached camp to    Jangyongyeong in Hwaseong , cultivating it as a military city.