If you were someone who knows South Korea by heart, then you would know that there are hundreds of Buddhist temples that are scattered all around the country. But despite their huge number, only a few only manage to stand out, one of which is the Bulguksa.
The Bulguksa Temple is special because it houses seven of South Korea’s national treasures, one of which is the 24th treasure called the Sokkuram (sometimes spelled as Seokguram). UNESCO recognized both structures in 1962 by adding them to the List of World Heritage Sites.
Here are more interesting information that you may want to discover about Sokkuram.
• It has been said that the original Sokkuram was commissioned by King Gyeongdeok of the Unified Silla (the conglomeration three main Kingdoms of Korea) in 742. Rumors say that the design was greatly influenced by several religious structures in India.
• This grotto depicts the image of Buddha that is constructed to symbolize the spiritual journey towards the Buddhist heaven called Nirvana.
• The structure is situated at the foot of Mt. Tohamsan, which is a sacred mountain to the Silla. Back then, pilgrims and other monks from all sides of the world frequented it.
• The inside of the grotto is composed of an antechamber and a rotunda that represented earth and heaven respectively. In the middle of the structure is a Buddha sculpture whose identity is still debated.
• Several depictions of Indian gods and goddesses and a few more symbolical figurines surround the Buddha. These figurines were said to represent Buddhist principles and teachings.
• After several failed restorations, political and religious battles, President Park Chung Hee finally ordered the restoration of the historical site during the 1960’s. Today, the structure is again open to be admired and studied by the public. One of the more important additions during the recent restoration is the glass panel that protects the antechamber from the harsh elements of weather.
Given those facts and its significance in Korea’s culture, perhaps it is safe to say that the Sokkuram is indeed one of the most important religious destinations of South Korea.