Friday, August 13, 2010


Daereungwon Royal Tombs
This verdant complex of 23 royal tombs, including the resting place of King Michu, is located in downtown Gyeongju—believe it or not, there are office towers on the other side of the street in the pictures below. In accordance with Korean tradition, the tombs are covered by large, grassy mounds that, at least from the outside, resemble small hills (kind of like environmentally friendly Pyramids). During excavations, archaeologists discovered tens of thousands of ornate relics and gold accessories buried with Silla monarchs. Hwangnamdaechong Tomb, for instance, contained over 30,000 pieces, including crowns, paintings and other cultural treasures.

Cheomseongdae Observatory
Constructed during the reign of Queen Seondeok, Cheomseongdae is the oldest observatory in East Asia and one of the earliest existing scientific installations in the world.

Bulguksa Temple, constructed during Korea's golden age of Buddhism, was commissioned by Prime Minister Gim Daeseong in 751 and took 23 years to complete. In addition to the main structures and Buddha statues, the stone pagodas Dabotap and Seokgatap are particularly important. Bulguksa Temple was inscribed onto the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995 for being "a complex of exceptional significance" and "an outstanding example of the religious architecture of the region."


Seokguram Grotto
Seokguram Grotto is considered an architectural and scientific masterpiece representing the peak of Silla-era art and was added to the World Heritage List in 1995 together with Bulguksa Temple. The inscription reads, "Established in the 8th century on the slopes of Mount Toham, Seokguram Grotto contains a monumental statue of the Buddha looking at the sea in the bhumisparsha mudra position. With the surrounding portrayals of gods, Bodhisattvas and disciples, all realistically and delicately sculpted in high and low relief, it is considered a masterpiece of Buddhist art in the Far East." I've also included below pictures of the adjacent belfry (they let you ring the bell!) and traditional Buddhist prayer lanterns—colorful ones for the living, white for those who have passed away.