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 Home >> Art & Craft >> Tower

A place where relics of Buddha were preserved - Pagodas

In ancient times, pagodas were established to commemorate the death of Buddha. People prayed here for things they wanted to accomplish in the next world, something that they were unable to accomplish during their present lifetime.   The pagoda is therefore a symbol of people's faith.

The term ¡®pagoda¡¯ was derived from the word ¡®Stupa¡¯, and was transformed into Joldopa, Sudupa, and Tapa. It has also been called 'Tap'.

The pagoda is a tower built to house and worship relics of Buddha. In Chinese, it¡¯s written as: ¡®ËþÆÅ¡¯. Originally made of stone and clay, memorial services for holy people were held here.

The Chinese are more skillful at building pagodas in brick, while Koreans are more skillful at building in stone. The technique of building wooden pagodas was developed in Japan.

Buddha and Pagodas

After the death of Buddha under the ¡®Sa Ra¡¯ trees, the Sari of Buddha were preserved, divided into 8, and placed inside 8 pagodas in 8 areas of India. It is widely believed that when the King of Ashoka reunified India 100 years later, he built 84000 pagodas of ¡®Sari¡¯ throughout India, by dividing the ¡®Sari¡¯ of 8 pagodas into 84,000 pieces. The ¡®Sari¡¯ is made up of several different pale colors.

When Buddhism was introduced to China and Korea, Buddhist scriptures and images of Buddha were placed into pagodas instead of the real ¡®Sari¡¯.

¡®Tap¡¯ is an abbreviation of ¡®Tapa¡¯, meaning pagoda. The term ¡®Tap¡¯ was derived from the word ¡®stupa¡¯ in Sanskrit and ¡®thypa¡¯ in Pari, languages used by the Gurkha people who constructed the kingdom of Nepal. It was also   described as ¡®Sol Do Pa¡¯, meaning an old rectangular tomb.

Types of pagoda

The wooden pagoda
As Buddhism was introduced to Korea by China, Korean pagodas are similar to Chinese ones, which are wooden, tall and rectangular.

Wooden pagodas can be found in wall paintings and sculptures from the Chinese ¡®Wi¡¯ period. A 9 storey wooden pagoda in the temple of ¡®Whang Ryong¡¯ was made in the period of ¡®Sil Ra¡¯. Wooden pagodas are no longer in existence ¨C unfortunately many have been burnt down. The remains of ¡®Baek Jae¡¯, can be in the temple of Kun Su Ri, and more remains are in the Kum Kang temple in Bu Yeo. The remains of the wooden Ko Ku Ryeo are in Pyeong Yang as well as Sang O Ri in ¡®Ko Ku Ryeo¡¯.

The main Buddhist sanctum in a temple is called ¡®Dae Wung¡¯, meaning ¡®great hero¡¯. Originating from India and translated from the term ¡®MaHabira¡¯, the great hero signifies Buddha.
As many scholars have noted, Koreans also constructed pagodas from stone. The first pagoda made of stone was constructed in the latter period of the three kingdoms, in 600ad.   When Buddhism was introduced to Korea in 372ad, wooden pagodas were used until the introduction of stone. Stone was the preferred material as it is more hardy, and can resist storms, gales and fire.   Today, there are about one thousand pagodas remaining in Korea.

Pagodas made from stones
Pagodas still exist from the Baek Jae period, notably in temple of Mi Reuk, and a 5-storey pagoda made from stone is situated on the ground of the Jeong Rim temple in Bu Yeo. Pagodas made in the Baek Jae era are narrow and have rectangular pillars on the base. They were usually constructed from small stones.

Pagodas made in the period of Baek Jae were made of granite, but were built in the style of the wooden pagoda. In contrast, pagodas constructed in the Shil Ra era were made from a stone called ¡®An San¡¯, mixed with granite. These were built in the style of brick pagodas.
¡®Jeon Tap¡¯ means a pagoda built of brick. There are many of these in China, but very few in Korea. However, according to a historical book called Sam Kuk Yu Sa, in the period of the Queen of Seon Deok, a small pagoda made of brick was built in the temple of Seok Jang.

As the bricks had to be made before the pagoda could start to be built, brick pagodas were very time consuming to construct, and were therefore not popular throughout the whole of the country. There are a few famous brick pagodas still remaining, a 7-story pagoda is situated in Sin Se Dong, and a 5 -story pagoda can be found in Dong Bu Dong.
Pagodas made from Mo Jeon stone are similar to the pagodas made of brick, in that the construction process is quite complex.
There are two kinds of pagoda made from Mo Jeon stone - one is constructed by cutting the stone into bricks, and the other is made by imitating the style of pagoda made in Shil Ra.

There is a pagoda made from stone in the temple of Bunhwang, in Gyeongju city.   Other 5-story stone pagodas are situated in Tap Ri Dong, Keum Seong Myeon and Ui Seong Kun in the province of Kyeong Buk. The common feature of these types of pagoda is that the base consists of a single story, similar to   brick pagodas.

Pagodas made from Mo Jeon stone were built in the Sil Ra period, after the unification of the 3 kingdoms. During this period, many pagodas were built   by cutting the stone into bricks, instead of baking them Only one pagoda of this type was constructed in the era of Ko Ryeo.

Towers made with gold, steel or bronze plating were often placed inside temples. More recently, statues of Buddha cast in bronze have been placed in temples, such as Choe Jeong. Pagodas made from bronze are usually 1.55m in height, and are expertly plated. All pagodas offer an insight into ancient Korean sculpture, and are therefore an important part of Korea¡¯s heritage.

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