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    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…

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    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…

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    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…

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    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?…

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    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…

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    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…

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    Bicheon – Flying Heavenly Deities: 비천

    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! Bicheon Introduction One of the more common figures you’ll see floating around Korean Buddhist temples and hermitages are Bicheon. These angelic figures can pretty much appear on any and all surfaces at a Korean Buddhist temple like a Brahma Bell, a pagoda, and in and around temple shrine halls. So what do these popular figures represent? And why do they appear at Korean Buddhist temples and hermitages? History of Bicheon…

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    Poroe – The Dragon that Adorns the Top of the Temple Bell: 포뢰

    Introduction One of the most common things that you’ll see at a Korean Buddhist temple outside a pagoda or temple shrine hall is the Brahma Bell, which is a large, decorative bronze bell. The Brahma Bell, which is known as a “Beomjong – 범종” in Korean, is well-crafted and is usually several hundred years old. Typically, the exterior walls of the bell are adorned with various Buddhist figures like Bicheon (Flying Heavenly Deities), Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas. Joining these bell reliefs is a decorative metal hook that holds the bell to the rafter’s of the bell pavilion. The decorative metal hook that crowns the top of the bell is designed like…

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    The Manja – The Swastika: 만자

    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 I’m sure you’ve seen the Manja – 만자 several times when you’ve visited a Korean Buddhist temple. In the West, this symbol is known as a swastika, and it has a more ominous meaning to it, unfortunately. It’s now come to be synonymous with Nazism, Hitler, and the Third Reich. However, while the Nazi use of the swastika stands for racism and hatred, the Buddhist idea of the swastika…

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    Yong – Dragons: 용

    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 One of the most common things you’ll find at a Korean Buddhist temple is a dragon. You can find them in paintings, statues, adornments, latticework around shrine halls and even under bridges. So why do you find so many dragons are a Korean Buddhist temple? History of the Korean Dragon As Buddhism started to migrate eastward from India, it started to take on local influences and forms. One great…