• Artwork

    Frogs and Toads – 개구리와 두꺼비

    Introduction Rather interestingly, you’ll find several stories related to frogs, toads and Korean Buddhist temples. Some great examples of this can be found inside the Yeongsan-jeon Hall at Tongdosa Temple, which has a frog relief sitting in front of a lotus flower on the ceiling of this temple shrine hall. You can also find a similar image inside the Daeung-jeon Hall at Tongdosa Temple, as well. You can also find Nahan (The Historical Disciples of the Buddha) and dongja (attendants) holding a frog or toad, as well. They almost appear to be like a toy in their hands that they’re playing with. These frogs and toads can be found as…

  • Artwork

    Yunjangdae – Revolving Scriptures Library Pillar: 윤장대

    Introduction Perhaps the most obscure piece of artwork that you’ll find at a Korean Buddhist temple is the Yunjangdae, or “Revolving Scriptures Library Pillar.” In all of my travels, which now exceeds five hundred temples and hermitages, I’ve only encountered these beautiful libraries at three Korean Buddhist temples. So where can you find them? What do they look like? And why are they there? Yunjangdae Design The Yunjangdae, which is also known as a Jeonryunjang, is a colourfully painted library that houses Buddhist texts inside a wooden pillar. The Yunjangdae is rooted to the ground, but it has the ability to rotate caused by a spinning base. It can also…

  • Artwork

    Gwangbae and Geosingwang – The Nimbus and Mandorla: 광배 & 거신광

    Introduction It’s common to see either the body or head (or both) of a Buddha or Bodhisattva at a Korean Buddhist temple have a circular nimbus or boat-like shaped mandorla surrounding it. Both shapes are loaded with symbolic meaning. So why do they appear in Buddhist artwork like in statues or paintings? And what do they mean? Gwangbae and Geosingwang Design In Korean, the round nimbus around the head of a Buddha or Bodhisattva is known as a “Gwangbae – 광배.” And the boat-like shaped mandorla around the head and body of a Buddha or Bodhisattva is called a “Geosingwang – 거신광” in Korean. In India, the nimbus is traditionally…

  • Artwork

    Narayeon Geumgang and Miljeok Geumgang – The Twin Guardians of Korean Temples: 나라연 금강 & 밀적 금강

    Introduction When you first enter a temple, you’re typically greeted by the paintings or the statues of the “Sacheonwang” in Korean, or the “Four Heavenly Kings” in English, inside the Cheonwangmun Gate. However, there are two other guardians that you can find at the entry of a Korean Buddhist temple. They can either be painted on the front entry doors to the temple, or they can take up residence inside the Geumgangmun Gate. As I’ve already written a post about the Sacheonwang, I thought I would now write about the other two guardians that you might encounter at the entry of a Korean temple. So who are these two guardians?…

  • Artwork

    Gwaebul – Large Buddhist Banner Painting: 괘불

    Introduction In yet another post about Korean Buddhist temple artwork, I thought I would discuss the Gwaebul, which is a “Large Buddhist Banner Painting” in English. So where can you find this rarely seen piece of temple artwork? What does it look like? And why do you find it at a Korean Buddhist temple? The Gwaebul A “Gwaebul – 괘불” is a large hanging mural that can be over fifteen metres in height and ten metres in width. Gwaebul are rarely seen, as they are typically only put on display once a year during Buddha’s Birthday festivities. At some temples, a Gwaebul is only put on display once every ten…

  • Artwork

    Datjib – The Canopy: 닺집

    Introduction Inside almost all Korean Buddhist temple shrine halls, and standing above the main altar, is a canopy. While this canopy is brilliantly adorned and beautiful, the meaning behind it is less clear. So why are there canopies above the main altar? And why do they have somewhat differing designs? The Canopy The Korean Buddhist canopy that stands above the main altar inside a temple shrine hall is known as a “datjib – 닺집” in Korean. “Dat” means “separate” in English, while “jib” means “house” in English. So the canopy literally means “Separate House.” Another name for this canopy is “Celestial Canopy” in English, which is in reference to the…

  • Artwork

    Ggotbi – Rain of Flowers: 꽃비

    Introduction Whenever you enter a Korean Buddhist temple shrine hall, one of the very first things you’ll notice are the floral paintings adorning the ceiling of the structure. These floral patterns are known as “Ggotbi – 꽃비” in Korean, or “Rain of Flowers” in English. You might also see paper lanterns designed as pink or purple lotus flowers suspended from the ceiling, as well. So why exactly are these flowers painted or hanging from the ceiling? And what do they symbolize? History of Flower Ceilings The Introduction of the Lotus Sutra describes the sermon given by Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha) on Vulture Peak. As Seokgamoni-bul completed his sermon entitled “Immeasurable…

  • Artwork,  Korean Temple Artwork

    Agwi – Hungry Ghosts: 아귀

    This post contains affiliate links. I receive a percentage of sales, if you purchase the item after clicking on an advertising link at no expense to you. This will help keep the website running. Thanks, as always, for your support! Introduction If you’ve ever looked close enough, especially around the Myeongbu-jeon Hall, perhaps you were lucky enough to see the image of an “Agwi – 아귀,” or “Hungry Ghost/Spirit” in English. Or more likely, you’ve probably seen this demon-like creature, but you weren’t sure what it was. So what exactly is an Agwi? Where can you find them? And what are they supposed to represent? Physical Description of an Agwi…

  • Artwork

    Punggyeong – Fish-Shaped Wind Chimes: 풍경

    This post contains affiliate links. I receive a percentage of sales, if you purchase the item after clicking on an advertising link at no expense to you. This will help keep the website running. Thanks, as always, for your support! Introduction One of the most beautiful decorative items that you’ll find adorning a Korean Buddhist temple or hermitage are the melodious wind chimes that hang from the eaves of a shrine hall. And while these Fish-Shaped Wind Chimes, or “Punggyeong – 풍경” in Korean, are absolutely beautiful, but like everything else at a Korean Buddhist temple, they have a symbolic meaning. So what do they look like? Why are they…

  • Artwork

    Gareungbinga and Gongmyeongjo – Kalavinka and Jivamjivaka: 가릉빈가 & 공명조

    This posts contains affiliate links. I receive a percentage of sales, if you purchase the item after clicking on an advertising link at no expense to you. This will help keep the website running. Thanks, as always, for your support!  Introduction Two of the more obscure figures you’ll find at a Korean Buddhist temple or hermitage is Gareungbinga or “Kalavinka” in Sanskrit, and Gongmyeongjo or “Jivamjivaka” in Sanskrit. While these human-bird-like creatures were once far more prominent at temples, they are now much harder to find. So what do they look like? Where can you find them? And what do they symbolize? Gareungbinga – Kalavinka The first of these two…