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Amitabha Buddha from the Hwangboksa Pagoda

UnknownUnified Silla, 706年

National Museum of Korea

National Museum of Korea

In 1942, the three-story stone pagoda at the Hwangboksa Temple site in Guhwang-dong, Gyeongju was dismantled for restoration. Inside the pagoda, archaeologists discovered a gilt-bronze sarira reliquary, inscribed with the year 706 CE; inside the reliquary, they found these two gold Buddha statuettes, along with a silver mounted dish. According to the inscription on the lid of the reliquary, the pagoda was erected by the widow of King Sinmun (31st king of Silla) and his son, King Hyoso (32nd king), in 692, to honor the deceased ruler. The inscription also says that in 706, after the two royals had died, King Seongdeok (33rd king) commemorated their death by enshrining the sarira, along with a gold Amitabha Buddha and a copy of “The Spotless Pure Light Dharani Sutra” inside the pagoda. The scripture was never found, but archaeologists found the Amitabha statue, as well as a statue of a standing Buddha of an older style, which is believed to have been enshrined in 692 when the pagoda was set up. Compared to the older statue, the Amitabha Buddha has a more vivid facial expression, conveying a more realistic overall appearance. The elaborate carving of the tiny hands and the three-dimensional folds of the veil robe reflect the influence of Tang sculpture of that period. While the body of each statue is made out of gold, the halo and pedestal are gilt-bronze.

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