Shining Shrine: Ssangbong Trip Brings a Visitor To Choson One

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Shining Shrine: Ssangbong Trip Brings a Visitor To Choson One

If you take an 85-minute bus ride from Kwangju, South Cholla province, to Ssangbong in Hwasun district, you will find a mountain path leading to Boseong county. There, you will find a Buddhist temple of the mid-Choson dynasty (1392-1910), with a three-story wooden tower in the style of a pagoda, which is rare in Korea.

As the main shrine of Ssangbong temple, this wooden tower was constructed after the Japanese invasion of Korea (1592-1598) along with "Palsang," another wooden shrine, all as part of a five-story Buddhist temple from the Choson dynasty. Unfortunately, the original tower burned to the ground in 1984 and although it was reconstructed in 1986, many admirers regret the loss of the original.

The original gable roof of the third level of the original tower was thought to be an example of a traditional Korean-style house from the Choson period, but after the roof was dismantled and restored in 1962, it became known that the original form of the roof was a pyramid. Thus, the new tower now has a pyramid-shaped roof on top.

Moreover, whereas the size of the original roof tends to get progressively smaller as it goes up, this new tower shows little difference between the size of the first and second roofs, more resembling the Korean wooden towers remaining in Japan.

Ssangbong temple, which is one of the "Gusansunmoo," that is, a temple of worship from the Silla dynasty (57 B.C - A.D. 936), was founded by the priest Chulgam during the reign of King Gyeongmun (861-876) of the Silla dynasty. Later, the temple deteriorated to such an extent that some 478 Buddhist sculptures, including the "Nahan" and the "Inwan," had to be sent to Baegyang temple in Changsang.

However, there still remains plenty of high-quality sculptures in Ssangbong, such as the guardian deity of children and two other guardian deities of Buddhism, "Siwang" and "Inwang."

On the hill behind the Ssangbong temple, you can find another famous Buddhist tower "Chulgamsunsabudo," which happens to be Korea's national treasure No. 57, and a Buddhist monument, national treasure No. 107.

For more information, call 061-372-3765.

by Kim Young-taek

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