Two of the famed Three Treasures of Silla, a large golden Buddha statue known as Jangnyukjonsang and the nine-story wooden pagoda, were said to be located at Hwangnyongsa Temple. It was also the great temple of Silla’s State Protection Buddhism where the lectures for the king given by one hundred famed monks were held. According to the Samguk sagi (History of the Three Kingdoms) and the Samguk yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms), Hwangnyongsa Temple was built in the fourteenth reign year of King Jinheung (553), the twenty-fourth ruler of Silla, after a yellow dragon appeared during the construction of a palace to the east of Wolseong.
The first phase of Hwangnyongsa Temple was completed in 569 (the thirtieth year of King Jinheung’s reign), seventeen years after the start of construction. Five years later in 574, the golden Buddha image Jangnyukjonsang was installed. Subsequently, in 645, the fourteenth year of Queen Seondeok’s reign, the nine-story wooden pagoda was built. Several more phases of construction took place afterward. After the completion of the wooden pagoda, Jongnu Pavilion was built to the southeast, and Gyeongnu Pavilion, to the west, finishing the temple layout. Though the original temple was maintained until the Goryeo Period, it was burned to the ground in the twenty-fifth of King Gojong’s reign (1238) during the Mongol Invasions.
The excavation that began in 1976 showed that Hwangnyongsa Temple layout consisted of a main gate, pagoda, central golden hall, and lecture hall situated from south to north in an axial arrangement. The pagoda was flanked by three golden halls arranged in the “one pagoda/three golden halls” style. Such a layout can also be seen in the Cheongam-ri site of a Goguryeo temple in Pyongyang and the Asuka-dera temple in Japan. The original Hwangnyongsa Temple complex measured 270 meters from east to west and 110 meters from north to south.