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Seokguram is an 8th century Buddhist cave temple grotto which stands atop Mt. Toham, just outside the city of Gyeongju, the former capital of the Korean kingdom of Silla. A National Treasure of Korea, the temple is considered one of the most significant early Buddhist monuments in East Asia.[1]

Commissioned and funded by Kim Daesong (700-774) in honor of his parents from a previous life, the temple was built over the period from 751 to 774. It consists of two sections - a short entrance corridor, and a domed main chamber - both constructed of stone slabs which form the floors, walls, and domed ceiling. A large stone Buddha, seated at the center of the domed chamber, is the central object of worship. It is surrounded by reliefs (on the stone walls and ceiling panels) of bodhisattvas and other Buddhist figures, arranged in a particular fashion. Gwaneum (J: Kannon) is located directly the behind the Buddha, below slabs depicting the Buddha's mandorla. Manjusri (J: Monju) and Samantabrdra (J: Fugen) stand to either side in front of the Buddha, along with Brahma and Indra, the Guardians of the Four Directions, and depictions of the eight classes of beings.

The stone chamber, upon completion, was covered over with earth to form a mound, resulting in a natural-looking but manmade cave. In the 1960s, a brightly painted wooden temple structure was added onto the cave entrance.


  • Gallery labels, "Silla: Korea's Golden Kingdom," Metropolitan Museum, Dec 2013.
  1. Gallery labels, "Silla: Korea's Golden Kingdom," Metropolitan Museum, Dec 2013.