Pulguksa, a reconstruction of the sixth century original temple complex, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site; it's easy to understand why. As the map indicates, the temple is huge, spread over hundreds of acres, and houses an enormous variety of gates, stone pagodas, roofed corridors, stone walls, bronze bells and religious images.
I was most struck by several differences between Pulguksa and Buddhist temples built at roughly the same time in Japan (the Horyuji and Todaiji in Nara, for example, which we also visited on this trip). The entire complex is built on a hillside with the natural terrain used to help elevate the structures, locating them above visiting worshippers as they approach. Stone and brick is much more in evidence than is true in Japan. The five hued color scheme common in Chinese art and architecture is widely used; few surfaces are left unpainted.
Some influences passing through Korea enroute to Japan are also in evidence, however: heavy tile roofs, large bronze bells struck from the outside, stark unlandscaped courtyards and buildings standing on raised earthern platforms. Later Japanese temples would include gardens in their site design and build structures atop airy wooden supports, but continental influences would still live on in many ways -- and it was interesting to see the Korean similarities at Pulguksa.
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