Seokguram is a collection of the Silla Kingdom’s people cultures, technologies, and religions.
It is not a naturally formed cave but a man-made cave.
I think it is right to see it as a stone chamber rather than a stone cave.
About Seokguram Grotto
The construction of Seokguram Grotto was begun in 751 under the leadership of Prime Minister Kim Dae-seong during the reign of King Gyeongdeok of the Silla Dynasty, and was completed in 774 (the 10th year of King Hyegong’s reign), whereupon it was given its original name of Seokbulsa Temple.Refer : Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea
Buddhist art reached its peak during King Gyeongdeok’s reign, which spanned the middle period of the Silla Period, Besides Seokguram Grotto, many other cultural treasures were built during this period, including Bulguksa Temple, Dabotap Pagoda, the Three-story Stone Pagoda of Bulguksa Temple, and the Bell of Hwangnyongsa Temple.
The artificial stone grotto was built halfway down Tohamsan Mountain with pieces of white granite. The principal statue of Sakyamuni Buddha was placed at the center of the grotto, and forty statues of various bodhisattvas, Buddha’s disciples, and guardian kings were carved on the surrounding walls, though only thirty-eight of them remain. The rectangular front chamber of the grotto is connected to the round main chamber by a corridor. The exquisite ceiling of the main chamber was made with more than 360 flat stones. The architectural technique used to build this grotto is unprecedented in its excellence. There are statues of four guardian deities on both the left and right sides of the front chamber, which functions as the entrance to the main chamber. Carved on both sides of the entrance to the corridor is a statue of the Vajra Guardians, while the narrow corridor is decorated with the Four Guardian Kings carved in pairs. There is an octagonal stone column on both sides of the entrance to the round main chamber. The Principal Buddha is placed slightly off center toward the back of the main chamber. From the entrance, the walls of the chamber are filled with the images of two devas, two bodhisattvas, and ten arhats. Standing behind the Principal Buddha is a statue of the Eleven-faced Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, perhaps the most exquisitely carved statue found inside this grotto.
Every single sculpture contained in the grotto may be considered a masterpiece of East Asian Buddhist art. The list of masterpieces includes the principal image of Buddha, which was created with mature carving skills; the Eleven-faced Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva with its magnificently carved face and body; statues of valiant warriors and the majestic Four Guardian Kings; and the supple graceful statues of various bodhisattvas and arhats, each of which displays a distinctive individuality. In particular, the serene appearance of the Principal Buddha enshrined in the main chamber deepens the mystical atmosphere. The extremely natural appearance of the Principal Buddha seems to present to all living people the ideal model of a man harboring a profound and sublime mind deep within him and easily pass to them his everlasting mercy. Seokguram Grotto is a masterpiece of the golden age of Buddhist art in Silla. What makes it stand out all the more is its perfect combination of architecture, mathematics, geometry, religion, and art. Seokguram Grotto has long been preserved as National Treasure No. 24, and was jointly registered as a UNESCO World Heritage in December 1995 along with Bulguksa Temple.
There is no Korean who does not know Seokguram. However, few Koreans know about Seokguram in detail.
It is not easy to know how Seokguram was made and what the Buddha statues in Seokguram mean, so I quoted the explanation of the Cultural Heritage Administration.
Seokguram is located in the middle of Tohamsan Mountain.
Fortunately, it is now accessible by car, so you can easily visit Seokguram.
If you walk up, it takes about 40-50 minutes from Bulguksa Temple.
There are not a few tourists visiting Seokguram and the problem is that glass walls are installed to protect from damage due to moisture, so it is not possible to look around here and there and it is not easy to talk.
As shown in the picture above, there are cases where you enter the line and take a look, and sometimes it is difficult to quietly examine the inside of Seokguram.
The precautions are written at the entrance as above.
Photography inside Seokguram is prohibited.
Photos of Seokguram can be found on the official website of Seokguram.
Parking is 2,000 won, and admission is 6,000 won for adults.
It is 4,000 won for teenagers and 3,000 won for children.
It can be said that the admission fee is higher than other places.
Admission time varies slightly depending on the season but it can be considered from 9 to 17.
It is a Korean cultural property that you must not miss if you visit Gyeongju.
It is recommended to visit Bulguksa Temple and if you can afford it, it is recommended to walk from Seokguram to the top of Tohamsan Mountain.
It takes about 20 minutes and you can see the East Sea from the top.