Mireuksa

Mireuksa
Temple Miruksa.jpg
A reconstruction of the eastern stone pagoda, known as Dongtap.
It is 30 meters in height.
Korean name
Hangul 미륵사
Hanja 彌勒寺
Revised Romanization Mireuksa
McCune-Reischauer Mirǔksa





Mireuksa, recognized for the splendor and beauty conveyed by the South Korean government, provides an insight into the formation of Korean civilization. Built by Baekje craftsmen, Mireuksa displays a form of Buddhism that influenced Japan as well as the Unified Silla dynasty.

Mireuksa survives as the largest Buddhist temple in the ancient Korean kingdom of Baekje, which fell in the seventh century. Excavated in 1980 in Iksan City, North Jeolla Province, the site revealed many hitherto unknown facts about Baekje architecture. The stone pagoda at Mireuksa, one of two extant Baekje pagodas, is the largest and one of the oldest of Korean pagodas.

Samguk Yusa tells the legend of the creation of Miruke-sa. Legend relates that King Mu and his queen saw a vision of the Maitreya Buddha in the a pond on Mount Yonghwasan. The King promptly had the pond drained to establish the Mireuksa temple complex. Baekje master craftsman Abiji is widely believed the builder of the nine-story wooden pagoda that once stood in the center of the complex.

Contents

Designated South Korean Historic Site No. 150, Mireuksa has been partially restored and now includes a museum.

Layout

The complex included a central wooden pagoda flanked by two stone pagodas. A causeway seems to have led to the outer entrance of the walled complex. Miruksa temple had a unique arrangement of three pagodas erected in a straight line going from east to west, each with a hall to its north. Each pagoda and hall appear to have been surrounded by covered corridors, giving the appearance of three separate temples of a style known as "one Hall-one Pagoda."

The pagoda at the center has been made of wood, while the other two were made of stone. The sites of a large main hall and a middle gate were unearthed to the north and south of the wooden pagoda.

National Treasure No. 11

The stone pagoda at Mireuksa (Mireuksa jiseoktap) earned the designation of National Treasure No. 11 on December 20, 1962. The oldest and largest stone pagoda that has survived till modern times, Mireuksa stood as the western pagoda.

Believed built during the reign of King Mu who ruled from 600 to 640 C.E., the pagoda architecturally significance lay demonstrating how the Baekje craftsmen adopted their knowledge of wood working to stone.

The low, one story, base of the pagoda, like a wood pagoda, provides an example of wood pagoda building techniques adapted to stone. Mireuksa offers scholars a view of wood working techniques as well, since most Korean wood pagodas failed to survive the ravages of war and time.

The pagoda has six floors, although scholars believe Mireuksa had more stories originally. Each side of the first story is divided into three sections, and the middle section contains a door which lead into the pagoda. Walking into the center of pagoda, the visitor can observe a massive pillar. The corner pillars and stone supports had been modeled after wood supports of a wood pagoda. The corners of the roof of the pagoda slightly raise up while each progressive story is smaller than the one that preceded it.

Treasure No. 236

Flagpole supports of the temple site (Mireuksa Jidang Ganjiju, Treasure No. 236) also survive at Mireuksa. Those two massive stones stand 90 centimeters apart. During special celebrations, the monks would stand a flagpole supported by the two stone pillars. Three holes for flags had been drilled in each pillar, with the first pair of holes square and the other two pairs round. The base of the flagpoles have not survived. The undecorated nature of the pole, save for horizontal stripes carved on the exterior of the two poles, suggests that the poles were created during the Unified Silla period.

Preservation and Restoration

In 1910, only a part of the west pagoda (South Korean National Treasure No. 11) still stood. In 1914, the Japanese government supported the pagoda with a concrete backing. In the late twentieth century, Korean archaeologists conducted extensive excavations, laying the foundation for a partial reconstruction and the interpretive center. The west stone pagoda's concrete support has been removed beginning in 1999, and the entire structure was dismantled. The complex is undergoing restoration, expected to be completed in 2009.

Archaeological Importance

Among the many finds at the temple complex have been stone lanterns and the foundation stones for the columns and terraces on which the temple structure stood. Private houses consisted of simple structures with wooden floors. One record indicates that people reached these houses by ladders. Archaeologists excavating the Mireuksa and Imgangsa temple sites have exhumed tall foundation stones on which wooden floors would have rested. It would appear that this feature was adapted from private houses. The raised floor and heating system later became a characteristic structure of the Korean house.

See also

References

  • Lee, Jae-Geun. 1990. The history, stone pagoda, and site of traditional Korea Buddhist temple. Thesis (M. Arch.)—University of Idaho, 1990. OCLC: 41776047
  • Yi, Yong-bŏm, and Chong-min Yi. 1995. Hanʼguk ŭi sŏktʻap = Kankoku no sekitō = Pagodas of Korea. 3D Ipchʻe yŏngsang sirijŭ, 1. Sŏul: Samdi Midiŏ. OCLC: 53134258
  • Wŏnʼgwang Taehakkyo. 1974. Iksan Mirŭk-sa Tongtʻap chi mit Sŏtʻap chosa pogosŏ. [Iri-si]: Wŏnʼgwang Taehakkyo Mahan, Paekche Munhwa Yŏnʼguso. OCLC: 30062321


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