Gyeongsang-do Area

Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple: UNESCO World Heritage

There are Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Rock at the foot of Mt. Tohamsan in eastern Gyeongju. Bulguksa Temple, which represents the ideal kingdom of Buddha, represents the Buddhist culture of Unified Silla.

Seokguram Grotto & Bulguksa Temple: UNESCO World Heritage
Seokguram Grotto & Bulguksa Temple: UNESCO World Heritage

Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple are ancient Buddhist temples of Korea, which were established in the mid-8th century during the United Silla Dynasty.

Seokguram Grotto & Bulguksa Temple

Seokguram Grotto & Bulguksa Temple: UNESCO World Heritage
Seokguram Grotto & Bulguksa Temple: UNESCO World Heritage

There are Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Rock at the foot of Mt. Tohamsan in eastern Gyeongju. Bulguksa Temple, which represents the ideal kingdom of Buddha, represents the Buddhist culture of Unified Silla.

Dabotap, Seokgatap (the three-story stone pagoda of Bulguksa Temple), Cheongungyo and Baegungyo Bridge are filled with exquisite Buddhist heritage. Bulguksa Temple is also famous for its temple, which has the most national treasures in Korea.

Near the top of Mt. Tohamsan, on the top of Bulguksa Temple, there is Seokguram Grotto, a grotto temple rare in Korea. Seokguram Grotto is not just a cave dedicated to Buddha. It is not big, but it is the best masterpiece of Silla’s heyday. It is a very important historical site that shows the religion, art, and science of Unified Silla in one place.

Today, the wooden architecture of Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto are slightly different from the original. However, it is still a precious cultural heritage that preserves the culture of the unified Silla kingdom of Buddhism.

Bulguksa Temple, the kingdom of Buddha built in the world

Bulguksa Temple
Bulguksa Temple

Kim Dae-sung, who started building Bulguksa in 751, went to Buddha’s country because he couldn’t see it completed. The Silla royal family took over the construction and completed the construction of Bulguksa Temple.

Bulguksa Temple, which appeared after a long construction, was grander than it is now. By the time it was completed, there were over 80 buildings. You can imagine that it was much larger than the current Bulguksa Temple.

Bulguksa means ‘the kingdom of Buddha’. Bulguksa Temple represents the ideal world of Buddhism. When it was first built, Bulguksa was named Hwaeom Bulguksa.

 Bulguksa Temple
Bulguksa Temple

The Chinese character of Hwaeom Bulguksa means “a temple that represents a Buddhist state based on Hwaeom’s thought.” In other words, Bulguksa represents the ideal world of Buddha in the Buddhist scriptures.

The architecture built in Bulguksa and the various Buddhist statues in it show various Buddhist worlds. Even the stone pagodas built in front of the building and the relics found in it and even a small structure that connects each space represent the Buddhist world well.

Three-story Stone Pagoda National Treasure No. 21
Three-story Stone Pagoda National Treasure No. 21
Dabotap Pagoda National Treasure No. 20
Dabotap Pagoda National Treasure No. 20

World’s only man-made stone cave, Seokguram Grotto

Seokguram Grotto
Seokguram Grotto

When you take world-class architects to Seokguram, they forget what to say. Why? Because Seokguram is the only artificial stone cave in the world. 

The Silla people tried to make a cave, but the Korean stone was a very hard granite, making it almost impossible to dig it. 

So they tried to make a cave with artificial stone, and the result is Seokguram grotto. 

Seokguram Grotto

Silla had the best technology and cultural power when Seokguram was made. The best species in the world, like the Emile Bell, were also made during this time. So, Seokguram was born with the highest cultural and technical skills and religion.

Nevertheless, making Seokguram seems to have been difficult. It’s been about 40 years to complete it. 

Especially it wouldn’t have been easy to build a dome. This dome is a circle of stones, and the most important thing is to put a capstone on it at the end, but it’s broken.

Seokguram
Seokguram

So even now, this broken stone is still there. And the top of this dome is a lot of natural stones, and it’s covered with soil. This is done under the intention of facilitating ventilation to remove moisture from the cave. 

But the problem is that it weighs too much. And to support this weight, it got a wedge stone all over it. That’s how the stones get a lot of power to sustain it.

Recommended Visit to Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Rock

Bulguksa Temple
Bulguksa Temple

When looking at cultural assets, each one’s favorite cultural assets and approaches are different, so it is meaningless to decide a method or course. However, as a result of my frequent visits to Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram grotto, I recommend the following method.

Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram grotto have many things to see, so it’s a good idea to decide where to look first and then start the tour. Personally, I recommend you take a leisurely look around Bulguksa Temple and enjoy Seokguram grotto. There are two reasons.

First, Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram both represent the world of the Buddha and the world of the Buddha, but it is easy to understand the Buddha’s world by looking around Bulguksa Temple, where various cultural assets are preserved.

Second, Seokguram blocks the front of the chamber with a glass door, so you can’t go inside and see it. That’s because one or two hours is enough to see. Therefore, it is effective to take a leisurely look around Bulguksa Temple, where various cultural assets are located, and then take a slow look at Seokguram.

Bulguksa Temple has so many things to see that you sometimes miss one or two places even if you look closely. So, you should write down the places you want to see in your notebook before you go back to see what you want.

Bulguksa Temple
Bulguksa Temple

Bulguksa Temple

Closed 
N/A (Open all year round)

Operating Hours 
March-September 07:00-18:00 / October 07:00-17:30 
November-January 07:30-17:00 / February 07:30-17:30

Parking Facilities 
Available

Admission Fees 
Adults (ages over 19): 5,000 won 
Teenagers (ages 13-18): 3,500 won / Group: 3,000 won 
Children (ages 7-12): 2,500 won / Group: 2,000 won 
Children (ages under 7): Free (Less than 10 children) / Group (over 10 children): 1,500 won 
Individuals – Adults 5,000 won / Teenagers 3,500 won / Children 2,500 won
Groups – Teenagers 3,000 won / Children 2,000 won / Preschoolers 1,500 won

Restrooms 
Available

Parking Fees 
Compact vehicles: 500 won
Small vehicles: 1,000 won 
Large vehicles: 2,000 won

Pets 
Not permitted

Seokguram Grotto

Closed 
N/A (Open all year round)

Operating Hours 
[February-Mid March / October] 07:00-17:30
[Mid March-September] 06:30-18:00
[November-January] 07:00-17:00

* Last admission 1 hour before closing.
* Operating hours are subject to change.

Parking Facilities 
Available

Admission Fees 
Adults (ages 19-64): 5,000 won / Group: 5,000 won
Teenagers (ages 13-18): 3,500 won / Group: 3,000 won
Children (ages 7-12): 2,500 won / Group: 2,000 won
Children (ages under 7): Free when under 10 children 

Restrooms 
Available

Parking Fees 
compact car 1,000 won / Small-sized car 2,000 won / Large-sized car 4,000 won

Pets 
Not permitted


List of UNESCO World Heritage in Korea

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