The Mount Namsan Belt


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The Mount Namsan Belt

 


Mount Namsan, which lies to the north of Gyeongju City, covers 2650ha. There is a large number of prehistoric and historic remains within the designated area. The Buddhist monuments that have been excavated up to the present include the ruins of 122 temples, 53 stone statues, 64 pagodas, and sixteen stone lanterns. Excavations have also revealed the remains of the pre-Buddhist natural and animistic cults of the region. The nomination dossier contains descriptions of 36 individual monuments within this zone eleven rock-cut reliefs or engravings, nine stone images and heads, three pagodas, seven royal tombs or tomb groups, two wells, one group of stone banner poles, the Namsan Mountain Fortress, the Poseokjeong Pavilion site, and the Seochulji Pond. The rock-cut reliefs and engravings and the stone images are fine examples of Silla Kingdom Buddhist art. They are artistic masterpieces which trace the evolution of this especially refined school of Buddhist art throughout its most prolific and innovatory period, in particular from the 7th to the 10th century. They depict for the most part Buddha, and also the saints and bodhisattvas associated with him. Skilful use is made of the landscape in siting many of the sculptural groups. The most impressive is probably the Buddha Rock, a massive natural formation in the Tapgol Valley. It is located close to a three-storey pagoda, and its three walls are decorated with vivid depictions in bas-relief of Buddha in different incarnations, surrounded by his acolytes and disciples. The royal tombs, in the form of simple earthen mounds or tumuli, reinforced by layers of stone slabs, are those of Silla kings from the 2nd to 10th century. There can be little doubt that many others remain to be found on the mountain, which was the preferred burial area for the Silla rulers. The Poseokjeong (Abalone) Pavilion takes its name from a shell-shaped stone watercourse within the enceinte. This is, in fact, the only element of the detached palace group that survives. It was the favoured site of the Silla Kings for recreation and relaxation; one of the last members of the dynasty, Gyeongae, was murdered here by the founder of the succeeding Baekje Kingdom, Gyeonhwin, during a party here in 927. Mount Namsan was first fortified in 591 and greatly enlarged in the later 7th century. This is the structure, the remains of which survive today as the Namsan Mountain fortress. Much of the parapet of the massive ramparts has been demolished, but enough survives to indicate that it stood originally to a height of no more than 2m. A broken stone inscription records the fact that the construction workers undertook to rebuilt the fortress if it collapsed within three years of building.

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