Colonial Korea: Bulguksa Temple – 불국사 (Gyeongju)
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.
Another look at the famed front facade of Bulguksa Temple in 1916.
And yet another of Bulguksa Temple in 1916.
The left side of the front facade has Yeonhwa-gyo (Lotus Bridge) and Chilbo-gyo (Seven Treasures Bridge) from 1916.
To the right of the front facade is Baekun-gyo (White Cloude Bridge) and Cheongun-gyo (Blue Cloud Bridge) in 1916.
A closer look at Baekun-gyo and Cheogun-gyo in 1916.
A look at Cheongun-gyo with Seokga-tap pagoda in the background from 1916.
A closer look at Cheongun-gyo in 1916.
The near collapse of the Hamyeong-ru Pavilion on the front facade in 1916.
The elevated Seokga-tap pagoda in the main courtyard in 1916.
The blueprints to the front facade from 1916.
The Daeung-jeon main hall at Bulguksa Temple in 1932.
A look around the inside of the Daeung-jeon from 1932.
The intricate Dabo-tap in 1916.
A closer look at the finial of Dabo-tap in 1916.
And a look at the body of Dabo-tap in 1916.
A neglected Seokga-tap in 1916 with the main hall in the background.
The stone lantern in front of the main hall in 1916.
One of the stupas at Bulguksa Temple in 1916.
And another stupa near the rear of the temple grounds in 1916.
Birojana-bul from 1917. It’s National Treasure #26.
Amita-bul from 1917. It’s also National Treasure #27.
Baekun-gyo (White Cloude Bridge) and Cheongun-gyo (Blue Cloud Bridge) in 2006
And Baekun-gyo (White Cloude Bridge) and Cheongun-gyo (Blue Cloud Bridge) in 2011.
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).
Dabo-tap Pagoda from 2012.
Seokga-tap Pagoda circa 2011.
One of the ornate stupdas next to the Gwaneum-jeon Hall from 2011.
Birojana-bul from 2012. It’s National Treasure #26.
One more picture of the front facade but from 2014.