The History and Design of the Brick Pagoda
The Five-Story Stone Brick Pagoda in Sanhae-ri is located in a small farming village known as Bonggam in Yeongyang, Gyeongsangbuk-do. The pagoda is beautifully placed next to a meandering stream, and it’s believed that the pagoda once stood at a temple from Unified Silla (668-935 A.D.) that has long since disappeared. In fact, very little is known about the pagoda and the temple, and even less is written about it. There are simply no historical records or stories about this former temple. It isn’t until the 1930’s, and through Kyouichi Ariyama’s work, that the Five-Story Stone Brick Pagoda in Sanhae-ri becomes known. However, researchers do know that a temple once existed alongside the brick pagoda on this land because of the roof tiles and ceramics found scattered around the grounds.
The Five-Story Stone Brick Pagoda in Sanhae-ri, which is also known as the Bonggam Five-Story Stone Pagoda because of the village where it’s located. The brick pagoda stands five stories in height. And the five-story structure stands atop a single-tier foundation. This foundation is made up of about 10 large rectangular stones. And the platform on which it stands is made simply of dirt and gravel. The body and the roof of the pagoda are made of stones cut to look like bricks. The first story has a niche that’s complete with a frame for a door. Previously, a statue of the Buddha must have once taken up residence inside this niche. The second to fifth story of the structure are similar in design as they taper upwards. Overall, the Five-Story Stone Brick Pagoda in Sanhae-ri has a beautiful symmetry to it.
The Five-Story Stone Brick Pagoda in Sanhae-ri was first repaired in 1981; and subsequently, it was repaired, once more, in 1988. During the 1988 dismantling of the pagoda, a few facts were discovered like a rectangular space of about 30 to 35 cm x 40 to 50 cm inside the body of the pagoda. It was found in the centre of the fifth story. This rectangular space becomes wider as it goes downward to the third story of the structure. From the third story, the rectangular void grows to be 50 to 55 cm x 70 to 75 cm. Also, traces of wooden supports were found inside the fourth story of the structure. This is important because it shows the construction techniques found in the creation of brick pagodas of this time period.
Later, and in 1999 and 2000, the pagoda was repaired; this time, with a focus on the stylobate. The Five-Story Stone Brick Pagoda in Sanhae-ri is National Treasure #187.
How To Get There
The easiest, and fastest way, to get to the Five-Story Stone Brick Pagoda in Sanhae-ri is by taxi from the Yeongyang bus station. The taxi ride will take 15 minutes over 12 km, and it’ll cost you 15,700 won (one way).
Overall Rating: 6/10
The Five-Story Stone Brick Pagoda in Sanhae-ri is a wonderful example of Unified Silla artistry. There are just so few historic brick pagodas left in Korea, and this one in Yeongyang, Gyeongsangbuk-do is among one of the finest. Additionally, this pagoda is surrounded with question marks and what-ifs of the temple that must have once stood in this beautiful location. While located in a rather remote part of Korea, this brick pagoda is a must-see for die hard temple adventurers.