- an extraordinary Buddhist cave temple built by hand
This phenomenal cave temple houses a large, exquisitely carved Buddha statue looking out to sea. The artificial cave, built on top of a mountain, was constructed using complex mathematical theories 1200 years ago.
Established in the 8th century on the slopes of Mount Toham, the Seokguram Grotto contains a monumental statue of the Buddha in the Bhumisparsha Mudra position looking toward the sea. With the surrounding portrayals of gods, Bodhisattvas and disciples, all realistically and delicately sculpted in high and low relief, it is considered a masterpiece of Buddhist art in the Far East. Together the Seokguram Grotto and the nearby Temple of Bulguksa form a religious architectural complex of exceptional significance.
Overlooking the East Sea from the southeastern tip of the Korean Peninsula, Seokguram stands as a proud testimony to Korea's exceptional tradition of classical Buddhist sculpture. The centuries-old cave temple, enclosing an extraordinary collection of sculptured divinities symbolizing Buddhist philosophy and aestheticism, is a structure of exquisite beauty culminating religious belief, science and fine arts, which flowered in the golden age of Asian art.
Seokguram is located near the summit of Mt. Toham, east of the historic city of Gyeongju, which was the capital of the Silla Kingdom from 57B.C.- A.D.935. Quite remote, it is reached after an hour-long walk up a steep, winding mountain path over some four kilometers from the nearby Temple of Bulguksa.
One of Korea's most popular tourist destinations, Seokguram differs in construction from cave temples in India and China where Buddhism flourished before arriving in Korea. The cave pantheons in India and China were mostly built by digging into hillsides and carving on natural rocks. Instead, at Seokgurm, an incredible artificial cave was created using great granite stones high on the mountain some 750 meters above sea level. The unique architectural technique used to construct Seokguram is unprecedented the world over.
Highlighted by the majestic seated Buddha with a serene, all-knowing expression as the primary object of worship, Seokguram enshrines an impressive assembly of 40 different divinities embodying various aspects of Buddhist teaching. The grotto chapel has an exceptional feeling of peace and harmony resulting in an intense spiritual impression. Modern scientists studying the history of Seokguram have discovered that, aside from the incredible skill needed to handle solid granite, the Silla architects used complex mathematical equations including the geometric theories of the golden rectangle and symmetry to construct the cave temple. Seokguram is an ancient architectural marvel indeed.