Main chamber of Sokkuram


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Main chamber of Sokkuram

 

The domed main chamber holds, most obviously, the main Buddha statue, situated just off center towards the back of the chamber. Directly behind this statue is a wall carving of Kwanum (Kwanseum) Boddhisattva. To either side of the pillars there are two more boddhisattva figures, while the remainder of the circular rotunda wall holds carvings of the ten main disciples of Buddha, five on the northern wall and five on the southern. Finally, above all this, at eye level for the main statue, are ten small niches, eight of which contain carved figurines.

 

Main Buddha statue

Carved from a single piece of rock, the main Buddha statue of Sokkuram is seated cross-legged upon a lotus design pedestal, which in turn is perched atop a solid octagonal base with pillars at the angles. The height of the Buddha itself, exclusive of the base, is 3.4 meters. The face of the figure is smooth and round, with eyes closed, the clothing is depicted draping gently through shallowly incised lines, the left hand lies in the lap while the right hand rests on the leg, reaching down towards the ground. At the center of the forehead is a space for a jewel or crystal to be placed.

The identity of the main Buddha at Sokkuram has been the object of a good deal of academic debate. Japanese archaeologists called the figure a Sakyamuni Buddha, and for a while the label stuck, but it was eventually called into question after it became clear that they had not adequately appreciated the differences between the Korean and Japanese icongraphical traditions. In the 1960s, based on textual sources and the line of sight from the statue east towards the underwater tomb of King Munmu, a theory was advanced that the figure was acutally an Amit'a Buddha, the Buddha of the Western Paradise. Based upon the attendant boddhisattvas present in the chamber and the importance of Hwaom thought at Bulguksa generally, still other scholars have contended that the figure depicts Pirojana Buddha. Now, based on Chinese sources, the pendulum seems to be swinging back towards the Sakyamuni theory. In any case, the issue is far from decided.

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