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Bulguksa Temple's Samcheungseoktap pagoda (three-story stone pagoda) and Bulguksa Temple's Dabotap pagoda (National Treasure No. 20) are respectively situated in the east and west of the front yard of the temple's Hall of Sakyamuni. The reason of building the two pagodas at the same site is to follow the content of Beophwagyeong (the Lotus Sutra) that the 'past Buddha' Dabo Buddha is standing beside the 'present Buddha' Sakyamuni to prove that his Buddhist sermon is right.
Bulguksa Temple was founded by Kim Daeseong's offer in the 10th year (751) of King Gyeongdeok in Silla Period. Samgukyusa (History of the Three Kingdoms) says that Kim Daeseong built Seokguram Temple for his parents in his former life and Bulguksa Temple for his present parents. However, the construction of this temple was not finished till he died in December of the 10th year (774) of King Hyegong, and so finished afterwards by the Kingdom. After all, the temple was built not for the individual Kim Daeseong but for the Kingdom. Bulguksa Temple can be said to be the materialized Buddhist Elysium, or paradise where the past, present, and future Buddhist monks live. It shows the spirit world of the people in Silla Period very well.
This pagoda is a stone pagoda in which the 3-story pagoda body stands on the 2-story platform. Gameunsajidongseo 3-story stone pagoda and Goseonsaji 3-story stone pagoda were the beginning and model of the United Silla Kingdom's stone pagoda style that got to its peak in the middle of 8th century. The 2-story platform was made strong enough to sustain the whole weight of the pagoda. Imitating wooden construction style, the pagoda was made to have stone pillar-shaped carvings at each corner of the upper and lower platform. It is because that this pagoda was remade in 1973, imitating the head decoration of Silsangsa 3-story stone pagoda (treasure No. 37) in Namwon that was made 100 years later than Seokgatap Pagoda (Sakyamuni pagoda). The pagoda is marked out, being surrounded by stones that have lotus flower designs in every direction. It is separated to stand for the divine place for Buddha's sarira. The mark makes the pagoda look grander, being a characteristic of the pagoda that cannot be easily found elsewhere.
Since its building, the original figure had been preserved properly, but it is very sorry that the pagoda was damaged by robbers in September of 1966. Afterwards in December of the same year, the pagoda was perfectly reconstructed, and at that time, they found out a square space where Buddha's sarira had been seated, from the front side of the core of the 2-story pagoda body. Seokgatap Pagoda (Sakyamuni pagoda) is also called 'Muyeongtap pagoda' meaning the pagoda doesn't have a shadow.