Friday, November 1, 2013

Seokguram Grotto / Toham Mountain

The Seokguram Grotto is a hermitage and part of the Bulguksa temple complex. It lies four kilometers east of the temple on Mt. Tohamsan, in Gyeongju, South Korea. It is classified as National Treasure No. 24 by the South Korean government and is located at 994, Jinhyeon-dong, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsanbuk-do. The grotto overlooks the East Sea (Sea of Japan) and rests 750 meters above sea level. In 1962, it was designated the 24th national treasure of Korea. In 1995, Seokguram was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List together with the Bulguksa Temple. It exemplifies some of the best Buddhist sculptures in the world. It is said to have been built by Gim Daeseong and originally called Seokbulsa (석불사, Stone Buddha Temple). Construction began in 742 when Gim Daeseong resigned his position in the king's court or in 751, the 10th year of the reign of King Gyeongdeok of Silla. This time period was the cultural peak of Unified Silla. The grotto was completed by the Silla court in 774, shortly after Gim's death. An old legend stated that Gim was reincarnated for his filial acts in his previous life. The legend relates that the Bulguksa Temple was dedicated to Gim’s parents in his present life while the Seokguram Grotto was dedicated to Gim's parents from a previous life.
It is now one of the best known cultural destinations in South Korea. A viewing of the sunrise over the sea, which is visible from near the seated Buddha's perch, is especially popular. Toham Mountain, or Toham-san, is a mountain with a height of 745m in Gyeongju City in southeastern South Korea. It is part of the minor Dongdae Mountains range. The mountain lies within Gyeongju National Park and is the site of a large number of historic relics. The Silla-era Buddhist shrines of Bulguksa and Seokguram are located on its slopes. The mountain stands at the intersection of three subdivisions of Gyeongju: Bulguk-dong, Bodeok-dong, and Yangbuk-myeon. The Sea of Japan (East Sea) can be seen from the peak, as can Gyeongju Basin which includes the city center.
During the Silla period, Toham mountain was referred to as Dongak literally meaning "East Big Mountain" and considered a guardian mountain of the country, so that major rituals were held.

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