Buddhist Art Silla

Roof end tile with human face Gyeongju Silla

The Introduction of Buddhism to the Korean Peninsula and the Beginnings of Buddhist Art

Buddhism was officially introduced for the first time into the Korean peninsula in the late 4th century during the Three Kingdoms period (i.e. Goguryeo, 37 BC-AD 668; Baekje, 18 BC-AD 660; Silla, 57 BC-AD 934). According to historical records, a monk named Sundo brought Buddha images and scriptures to Goguryeo while accompanying a royal envoy of Former Qin (350-394) of the Northern Dynasties, China, in 372 (the second year of the reign of King Sosurim) on a trip to the peninsula.

Buddhism appeared in Baekje with the arrival of the monk Maranata from Eastern Jin (317-419) of the Southern Dynasties, China, in 384 (the first year of the reign of King Chimnyu). The three kingdoms established their own versions of Buddhist art by adopting foreign Buddhist art based on the tradition by which targets of worship were created in the native religion and then passed on to Japan.

As for Silla, it officially recognized Buddhism with the dramatic martyrdom of Yi Cha-don in 527 (the fourteenth year of the reign of King Beopheung), some two hundred years after its two neighbouring kingdoms. Silla’s Buddhist culture started later than those of Baekje and Goguryeo, but its rulers began providing positive support for Buddhism in the late 6th century and, as a result, from the 7th century on its Buddhist art surpassed its neighbours. Following its unification of Goguryeo and Baekje in 676, Silla made great strides by absorbing the culture of the two fallen kingdoms abnd selectively adapting Buddhist art from India and China. One record portrays Gyeongju, the capital of the Unified Silla kingdom, as follows: “There are as many temples as there are stars in the sky, and the stupas there give you the impression that they are like wild geese flying in formation”. This tatement suggests that Buddhist art had reached its prime by that time. The extraordinary number of temple sites and stone Buddha images remaining around Namsan Mountain in Gyeongju gives visitors some idea of the extent to which Buddhist art prospered at that time.

The first Buddhist temple in Silla, Heungnyunsa, was built in 544 (the fifth year of the reign of King Jinheung). But the exact location of the site of the temple has not been confirmed. Only foundation stones remain at most of the temples built during the Silla period.

The convex roof-ended tile that is presumed to have been unearthened from the site of Yeongmyosa Temple, founded in 635 (the fourth year of the reign of Queen Seondeok), is an important material in that it attests to the existence of a major temple in Gyeongju. It is presumed that the convex roof-end tile was used at a hall in Yeongmyosa. Although the majority of roof-end tiles dating back to the Three

Head of pensive Bodhisattva Gyeongju Silla

Kingdoms period features lotus flower patterns, this one shows a face. One somehow feels the candid and humane attributes of the Silla people in the quiet smile and natural expression portrayed on the tile.

Hwangnyongsa Temple, which was built in 569 (the thirtieth year of the reign of king Jinheung), was among the representative temples of Silla. The stone platform on which about a five metre high gilt-bronze Buddha triad (547) used to stand still remains at the site of the main hall of the temple, giving one at least a hint of the appearance of the triad. The people of Silla carried out many religious activities, firm in the belief that Buddhism would protect them from neighbouring countries’ frequent invasions. One result of such activities was an eighty metre high nine-storey wooden stupa built in 645 (the fourteenth year of the reign of Queen Seondeok). Tens of thousands of valuable objects, including roof tiles and Buddha images, have been unearthed from the Hwangnyongsa Temple Site. It is presumed that the head of a gilt-bronze bodhisattva with a smiling face belonged to this temple. The traceof finferprints on the right-hand cheek of the bodhisattva’s face leads one to assume that it was part of a statue showing the deity sitting in the pensive pose with one leg crossed over the knee of the other, pendant, and leg with one hand resting on his cheek. During the Northern and Southern Dynasties of China, images of bodhisattvas in meditation were made illustrating either Prince Siddhartha thinking over the possibility of entering the priesthood and leading to salvation for all living things or Maitreya as the bodhisattva and savior of a future age. Making such images in this pose was also commonplace during the Three Kingdoms period on the Korean peninsula. Many such images remain, including National Treasure Nos 78 and 83, which are kept at the National Museum of Korea. It is thought that the production of images in Silla of the bodhisattva in meditation was closely associated with Maitreya belief. At that time, the leader of the Hwarang (“Flower Young Man” or Yonghwa Hyangdo) was regarded as the embodiment of Maitreya. The term Yonghwa stemmed from the Yonghwasu (dragon-flower tree). According to Buddhist doctrine, Maitreya Buddha will give a sermon three times under the Yonghwasu before salving people 5.67 billion years into the future. It is presumed that the stone bodhisattva in meditation unearthed from Songhwasan Mountain in Gyeongju (currently kept at the


Gyeongju National Museum) was enshrined at a temple during the Silla period, when many people held the Maitreya belief.

During the Three Kingdoms period, the Silla people also adhered to the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara belief, which led to the production of Avalokitesvara images with a precious gem or a kundika (bottle) held in one hand. The gilt-bronze standing Avalokitesvara unearthed in Seonsan, North Gyaeongsang province, which used to be part of Silla’s territory, is a good example of the refined skills used in the production of such Buddha images. The form of the said image was influenced by those made towards the end of the Sui (581-618) and early Tang (618-907) dynasties in China. However, its unexaggerated body and calm facial expression show that it was made during the period when the uniquely Silla style was being established.

In the Three Kingdoms period, readily available solid granite was mainly used to make Buddhist images. It is an important characteristic that distinguishes those made in Korea from their counterparts in China or Japan, which made free standing sculptures primarily of clay or wood. The people of Baekje started carving Buddhist images into granite cliffs in the mid or late 6th century, while their neighbours in Silla started making granite Buddhist statues around the 7th century. The stone seated Buddha unearthed in Inwang-dong, Gyeongju is one such example. The right hand (held up and turned outward) of the said image shows the abhaya mudra (representing the alleviation of people’s fear, worries and hardships) gesture, while the left hand (extended downward with the palm opened outward) forms the varada mudra (by which people’s wishes are made to come true) gesture. This type of image was popular towards the end of the Three Kingdoms period. The representations of these Buddhist images – the robe with U-shaped creases covering the two legs like an apron, with the lower end of the robe spread vertically down towards the seat – were preserved in the seated Buddha images made in the Unified Silla period. In particular, the expression of calm meditation and bold unarticulated shapes were characgteristic of the Buddhist images made in Silla.

Buddha Inwang Dong Gyeongju silla

Images of the Buddha Seated in a chair were also made in Silla. The seated Buddha and the two standing attendant bodhisattvas, all made in stone, discovered at Jangchanggol, Namsan Mountain, Gyeongju, are known as the Samhwaryeong Maitreya triad based on the assumption that they are the stone Maitreya made in 644 and kept at Saengeuisa Temple, as referred to in Samguk yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms). Such features as the robe with whirling-patterned creases on the lap of the main seated Buddha image and the child-like body with a large head are also typical of the Buddhist statues from Northern Qi (550-577) and Northern Zhou (577-581) of the Northern and Southern Dynasties period of China during the late 6th century, although the thick upper eyelids and the naïve face are unique to Buddhist images made in Silla during the 7th century.

In terms of style, the Buddhist sculpture made in Silla during the Three Kingdoms period shows the influence of those made between the end of the Northern and Southern Dynasties period and the early Tang dynasty of China. Some of the Silla-made Buddhist images display less refined skills of techniques than their Chinese-made cousins, but many of them convey on overall impression of harmony and liveliness. It is thought that the gentle and friendly facial expression and the natural posture reflect the ideal image of Buddha, which the people of Silla had in mind, as well as their own humaneness.

Silla’s Unification of Goguryeo and Baekje and the Emergence of New Buddhist Art

In 660, Silla destroyed the two neighbouring dynasties on the Korean peninsula (Baekje in 660 and Goguryeo in 668) in alliance with the forces of Tang, an emerging dynasty in China. In 676, Silla even drove the Tang forces, which were intent on occupying part of the Korean peninsula, back into China.

Silla’s unification of the three kingdoms on the Korean peninsula was an important turning point in the history of Korea. Silla started developing an independent culture as a unified country by adopting a policy of assimilation of the people of Goguryeo and Baekje, and mended fences with the Tang empire with a view to adoptiong its more advanced culture and civilization. Buddhist art stood at the centre of these efforts.

Regarding Buddhist stupas, they were made of granite during the Three Kingdoms period. The people of Baekje made large granite stone stupas based on the existing made large granite stone stupas based on the existing wooden stupas of the early 7th century. Unified Silla also made more simplified forms of stone stupas based on the skills and traditions of Baekje. One leading example is the three-storey stone stupa that was built in Goseonsa in Gyeongju in the early Unified Silla period. Goseonsa is the temple where the eminent monk Wonhyo (617-686) stayed. He is known for the activities he carried out in the late 7th century. This ten metre high stone stupa is presumed to have been built before Wonhyo’s death in 686. It was assembled with flat-surfaced granite stones piled one atop the other. Stupas characterized by a geometric composition like this became the prototype for stone stupas built in Korea in the ensuing period.

The East and West three-storey stone stupa found at the site of Gameunsa Temple in Gyeongju is quite similar to the one at the Goseonsa Temple Site in terms of its size and appearance. King Munmu (reigned 661-681), who accomplished the unification of the three kingdoms on the orean peninsula, left a will to the effect that he would become a dragon and protect the country after his death. His son, King Sinmun (reigned 681-692), built Gameunsa Temple in honour of his deceased father in 682. The temple, along with Sacheonwangsa Temple (built in 679), is regarded as a sacred site imbued with patriotism based on Buddhism. A sarira reliquary was found in a space on the third-tier in the body of each of the twin stupas. The casket found in the stupa located to the west is composed of a rectangular outer case containing a palace-shaped inner case, which in turn contained a glass bottle containing sariras. The image of the Four Heavenly Kings carved on the outer case was most likely meant to protect the sariras and the country. Fantastic images of the Four Heavenly Kings trampling on a beast or a devil first began to appear in the early Unified Silla period (middle period of the Silla kingdom). Looking at them, one perceives the influence of the 7th century Buddhist sculptures of the Tang dynasty, such as the images of the Great Kings at Fengxian Temple inside the Longmen Grotto, Luoyang, although the images at the Gameunsa Temple site are far superior in terms of their realistic portrayal of facial features, exquisite rendering of the armour worn by the Great Kings, and the overall impression made.

Maitreya Buddha Triad Gyeongju Silla
Three Storey Stone Stupa
Reliquary West Stone Stupa of Gameunsa Temple Site
Four Heavenly Kings
Amitabha Buddha Stone Stupa and Buddha Triad

The gilt-bronze seated Buddha triad unearthed at Wolji (Anapji) Pond in the Crown Prince's quarters of the palace reveals a later trend n Buddhist sculpture distinct from that of the Three Kingdoms period (9). Wolji Pond was built in 674, so it is presumed that the Buddha triad was made around 680 at the order of the royal court and kept somewhere within the palace. Their elastic bodies and the creases of the flowing robes attest to a balanced sense of harmony and liveliness.

The standing and seated golden Buddhist images unearthed from the three-storey stone stupa in Guhwandgdong, Gyeongju were also made at the order of the royal court, and are regarded as masterpieces of that period.

Amitabha Buddha and Maitreya Buddha

According to the records inscribed on the outer case of the sarira reliquary in which these Buddha images were containded, when King Sinmun passed away in 692, his son King Hyoso (reigned 692-702) built the stupa to pray for the happiness of his deceased father's spirit and enshrined these Buddha images there. In 706, King Seongdeok (reigned 702-737), King Hyoso's younger brother, repaired the stupa and enshrined an additional Amitabha Buddha image there: it is presumed to be the seated one of the two aforementioned images, and displays the more advanced shape in style of the two. Despite its small size, it is an imposing and dignified figure and thus one is tempted to associate it with those made during the "Prosperous period" of the Tang dynasty from the mid-7th to the mid-8th century. However, the expression of the robe spreading vertically downward to cover the lap of the seated Buddha with U-shaped creases shows that it continued the tradition of seated Buddha images made in Silla during the Three Kingdoms period. Buddha sculptures commissioned by members of the nobility in the early 8th century include the standing stone Amitabha According to the inscription on the back of the halo, they were made in 719 at the order of Prime Minister Kim Ji-seong, who had travelled to visit the Tang as a royal emissary in 705. He was also well versed in the more impenetrable aspects of Buddhist doctrine. He built Gamsansa with his own money and commissioned these images to pray for the happiness of the spirits of his parents. The imposing and sensual bodies of these images are characteristic of the sculptural pattern of the "Prosperous period" of the Tang dynasty, i.e. the international characteristics of sculpture made in Unified Silla. Still, the thick upper eyelids, the protruding cheekbones on the flat face, and the subdued expression of the body with its voluptuous charm are signs of an aesthetic entirely unique to Silla. The Amitabha Budhha and the Maitreya bodhisattva of Gamsansa represent the quintessential Buddhist style of the Unified Silla period.

Buddha Unified Silla

As noted above, realistic and imposing Buddhist art works were produced immediately after Silla's unification, i.e. between the end of the 7th century and the early 8th century, and were clearly differentiated from the earlier simplistic and archaic images. The factors behind such a change include the influence of new Buddhist scriptures and statues brought by monks who studied in, or made pilgrimages to, china or India, as well as a deeper understanding of Buddhism by, and the enhanced artistic skills of, the Silla populace.

The Perfections of Classic Beauty-Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto

During the mid-8th century, Silla's Buddhist art reached a state of classical perfection and beauty via the harmonization of artistic quality, religious belief and production skills. Such a process may have been accelerated by Silla's positive accommodation of foreign cultures and the stable domestic political situation throughout the reign of King Seongdeok and the early period of the reign of King Gyeongdeok (reigned 742-765). Other factors conductive to such accomplishments were the Silla populace's sense of pride, creativity, and deep belief in Buddhism, their rulers' positive support, and the diverse capabilities acquired by local artisans following the unification of the peninsula. Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto, which were built during this time, may be said to represent the pinnacle of Buddhist art not only in Silla, but in all of East Asia.

According to historical records, work on Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto in Tohamsan Mountain, Gyeongju, gegan in 751 (the tenth year of King Gyeondeok's reign) at the order of Prime Minister Kim Dae-Seong. It is said that Kim Dae-Seong started building Bulguksa Temple for his actual parents and Seokguram Grotto for his parents in a former life. The government completed the work on Bulguksa Temple on his behalf after his death in 774.

The word "Bulguk" means "Land of Buddha". The people of Unified Silla intended to realize the Land of Buddha by building the temple. Bulguksa Temple embodies Sakya-muni's "world of suffering", Amitabha Budhha's "western world of paradise (Sukhavati)" and Vairocana Buddha's "world of the universal lotus flower", thus symbolizing the Land of Buddha composed of different worlds gathered together in one place.

Bulguksa Temple

The Central part of Bulguksa is the Daeungjeon Hall for Sakyamuni. Ascending the Cheongungyo (Blue Cloud Bridge) and the Baegungyo (White Cloud Bridge), which link this world with the Land of Buddha (13), one passes through the Jahamun (Golden Puple Gate) to reach Daeungjeon Hall. Dabotap Stupa and Seokgatap Stupa stand side by side in front of Daeungjeon Hall (14). The twin stupa (built in 682) in Gameunsa also stands in this formation. Dabotap, with its exquisite and complicated structure, constrasts with Seokgatap, which has a simpler form. According to the Vision of the Jwelled Stupa of Saddharma-Pundarika (The Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law), when Sakyamuni Buddha gave a sermon on Buddhist scriptures, Prabhutaratna Buddha of the Past in the Jewelled Stupa appeared to praise Sakyamuni Buddha.

Three Storey Stone Stupa

These two stupas at Bulguksa Temple portray this dramatic sutra scene. (However, this theory needs to be reviewed in light of the discovery in Seokgatap of an 11th century Goryeo journal concerning the repair of the stone stupas.) It is noteworthy that Seokgatap inherited features of the three-storey stone stupa fo Goseonsa temple and Gameunsa Temple built in the 7th Century and perfected the style of Silla-made stone stupas consisting of a refined form and well-proportioned body.

The Perfection of Classic Beauty-Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto

During the mid-8th century, Silla's Buddhist art reached a state of classical perfection and beauty via the harmonization of artistic quality, religious belief and production skills. Such a process may have been accelerated by Silla's positive accommodation of foreign cultures and the stable domestic political situation throughout the reign of King Seongdeok and the early period of the reign of King Gyeongdeok (reigned 742-765). Other factors conducive to such accomplishments were the Silla populace's sense of pride, creativity, and the diverse capabilities acquired by local artisans following the unification of the peninsula. Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto, which were built during this time, may be said to represent the pinnacle of Buddhist art not only in Silla, but in all of East Asia.

According to historical records, work on Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto in Tohamsan Mountain, Gyeongju, began in 751 (the tenth year of King Gyeongju, began in 751 (the tenth year of King Gyeongdeok's reign) at the order of Prime Minister Kim Dae-Seong. It is said that Kim Dae-Seong started building Bulguksa Temple for his actual parents and Seokguram Grotto for his parents in a former life. The government completed the work on Bulguksa Temple on his behalf after his death in 774.

Buddha Seckguram Grotto

At Bulguksa Temple, the stone foundation supporting the buildings is perhaps equally important to the buildings themselves. The solid stone foundation is composed of grid frameworks made of well-trimmed columns and bottom stones, with diverse natural stones laid in them. The stone foundation symbolizes the border between this world on earth where people live and the Land of Buddha above.

Bulguksa Temple symbolizes the wide world where the Lands of Buddha extend across a flatland, while Scokguram Grotto is asingle entity that combines the order of the Universe into a Land of Buddha (15). This harmonization of two different structures perfected the ideal world of Buddha dreamed by the people of Unified Silla.

Eleven Headed Avalokitesvara

One of the notable features of Scokguram Grotto is that it is a man-made grotto temple assembled with granite stone. Most of the numerous grotto temples in India, Central Asia and China are carved into rock. Seokguram Grotto consists of a rectangular entrance, a corridor, and a circular main space with a vault. The main space houses a seated Buddha image surrounded by about forty images including Buddha's disciples, the Indic gods Brahma and Indra, the four Heavenly Kings, eight attendant deities, and so on, in order of importance. The Layout of the images reminds one of the order in which they are seated during the Budhha's sermons. The architectural structure and the well-arranged composition of these diverse images are unique features of Seokguram Grotto. Although small compared to its counterparts in other cultures, the Seokguram Grotto embodies the grand worldview and profound philosophy of Buddhism through the orderliness of its architecture and sculptures.

The seated Budhha at Seokguram makes the gesture of touching the eath and the subjugation of the Evil One, symbolizing the moment of Sakyamuni Buddha's enlightenment. The image displays the ideal shape of the Buddha, with a face radiating benevolence and dignity, a majestic body, and a simple but proper-looking robe. The details of the standing eleven-faced Avalokiteshvara image situated behind the Buddha, i.e. the soft body contours, complicated robe creases, and detailed portrayal of accessories, are exquisitely expressed, almost like a sculptural version of paintings.

Divine Bell of King Seongdeck

The sculptured images o fSeokguram became a prototype for the masterpieces made in the ensuring period. The Divine Bell of King Seongdeok, which was made during the same period as Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto, is another masterpiece of Buddhist art of the Unified Silla period. The 18.9 tonne bell was originally placed at Bongeoksa in Gyeongju, which was built in honor of King Seongdeok. According to the inscription on the bell, King Gyeongdeok tried to make a bronze bell that weighted 120,000 geun for his deceased father, but he died before completion. His son King Hyegong (reigned 765-780) succeeded in making the bell in 771. The inscription praises Silla's unification and prays for peace at the royal court and in the kingdom. The top of the bell has a sound tube and a dragon-shaped hook from which to hang it.

Three Storey Stone Stupa Jinjeonsa Temple Sites

inscription is flanked by a sculptured figure of a couple of attendant deities each holding a portable incense burner. The striking point on the bell contains a scrolling vine pattern, while exquisite patterns of peony vines. These beautiful patterns, along with the inscription stressing the sacredness of the bell, breathe life into the bell.

According to records, a bell weighing about 490,000 geun was made in 754 (the thirteenth year of the reign of king Gyeongdeok) and kept at Hwangnyongsa Temple in Gyeongju, and a Medicine (Bhaisajyaguru) Buddha image that weighted about 300,000 geun was made in 755 and housed at Bunhwangsa Temple in Gyeongju. All these works show that the reign of king Gyeongdeok was the heyday of Buddhist art during the Unified Silla period.

mergence of Diversity and Changes in Buddhist Art during the Transition Period

For about 150 years, between the end of the 18th century and its fall in 935, Unified Silla suffered from political instability due to frequent power struggles, reforms in the ruling system, and the emergence of powerful local factions.

Bhaisajyaguru Buddha

Yet, Buddhist art continued to spread nationwide with the artworks made in this period outnumbering those made in the preceding period. Furthermore, the artworks made during this time also achieved a uniqueness of form and style that differentiates them from those made in China.

The stone stupas made towards the end fo the 8th century and thereafter followed the basic styles of those made in the Classical period, when the three-storey stone stupa of Bulguksa Temple was made, but featured diverse variations such as decorative inscriptions and a lion-shaped platform. From the 9th century onward, diverse types of carvings were made on the surface of the small and medium-sized stone stupas erected nationwide. The three-storey stone stupa at Jinjeonsa Temple Site at Yangyang in Gangwon province contains the images of eight attendant deities on the platform and an image of the Buddha on the four sides of the first tier of the body, describing itself as a place of Buddha's sermon or the Land of Buddha. The trend of adding decorations, including carved images of attendant deities or diverse patterns, to the surface of stone structures can also be found in the stupas erected for monks who returned home after studying in China.

In the 8th century and thereafter, an increasing number of people adhered to the belief in the Medicine Buddha out of wish to overcome social unease. The standing gilt-bronze Medicine Buddha, which was erected at Baengnysula Temple in Gyeongju, was also associated with such a belief. This image exhibits exquisite sculpting skills and a well-proportioned body. However, it is presumed to have been made toward the end of the 8th century judging from the plain-looking, less robust body and the less-vivid looking creases in the robe compared with earlier ones.

Seated stone versions of Medicine Buddha images were also made during this period. Many Medicine Buddha images were erected on Namsan Mountain in Gyeongju, which was sacred site of Buddhism in the Silla kingdom. The seated stone Buddha in Yongjang Valley, Namsan Mountain, Gyeongju, holds a medicine bowl, a symbol of Medicine Buddha, in the left hand, while its right hand displays the gesture of touching the earth and the subjugation of the Evil One, just like the Buddha image in Seokguram Grotto. Similar statues of the seated Medicine Buddha with such a gesture have not been found in China or Japan. In fact, it is one of the iconographical characters identified with Unified Silla.

Vairacana Buddha

The Vairocana Buddha images made in Unified Silla are also distinctive. The term Vairocana is associated with sun or light. The Vairocana Buddha symbolises the truth of Buddhism contained in the Universe. Vairocana Buddha images made in China or Japan display the gesture in which the two hands ae clasped together in front of the chest, with one hand covering the fingers of the other hand, with a jwelled crown worn on the head. In contrast, their counterparts made in Unified Silla portray yukgye(a piece of flesh on top of Buddha's head signifying wisdom and known as ushinisha in Sanskrit) and the robe, while showing a gesture resembling that of similar images in China or Japan. In those countries, the main Buddha of Esoteric Buddhism. In Unified Silla, Vairocana Buddha was upheld as the main Buddha atAvatamsaka or Zen Sect temples.

vairocana buddha iron

The gilt-bronze standing Vairocana Buddha image currently housed at the Gyeongju National Museum (it is not known where it was found) is presumed to have been made sometime in the 9th century based on such factors as its chubby face and body, large head, small hands, lack of volume and the large casting hole at the rear (21). Buddha images made in the 8th century feature well-proportioned bodies and idealised faces, while their counterparts from the 9th century display such characteristics as conspicuous cheekbones, or an exaggerated or perfunctory portrayal of the bodies and robes. Halos and pedestals were portrayed intricately using diverse patterns.

In the 9th century, iron was used to make Buddhist sculpture, as it was cheaper and easier to obtain than bronze. Many of the iron Buddha images made in the late Unified Silla period can still be found nationwide. The iron Vairocana Buddha at Dopiansa Temple, Cheolwon in Gangwon province was made in 865 with the support of 1500 Buddhists, indicating that Buddhism was wide-spread by that time. This image wears a rigid facial expression compared to the dignified and idealised expressions of images made previously. As for the creases in the robe, they lack realism and volume, and are portrayed perfunctorily. The development of Buddhist statues unique to specific regions became more noticeable towards the end of the Unified Silla period. The trend pointed to a more disversified production of Buddhist art. The relocation of the capital from Gyeongju to Gaegyeong (now Gaeseong) in the early Goryeo period (918-1392) led to this more conspicuous trend.

The production of Buddhist sculpture in human form reflects the aesthetic sensibility of the local people in a specific era and the idealised shapes of the object of their worship. It is hard to say which works are superior among the many Buddha images made during the Three Kingdoms period, i.e. those made in the early period of Silla Buddhist art, those made during the 8th century in Unified Silla, when artworks were imbued with a strong sense of internationalism and a classical aesthetic sense, or those made during the 9th century when the Buddhist art of Silla gradually developed its own diverse style. The Buddhist art of Silla developed in multiple directions, with innovations based on hundreds of years of tradition. Each era of development has its own historical significance. From a wider perspective, the Silla kingdom can be viewed as the Classical period in the history of Korean art. The Buddhist artworks made in these periods became the prototypes for those developed in the ensuing period, and most particulalry fo those made in the following Goryeo and Joseon (1392-1910) dynasties.

Buddhist art, which originated in India, has universality based on common factors as well as a "specificity" associated with different regions and eras. The people of Silla contributed greatly to the development of Buddhist art in East Asia by exercising their originality based on their unique aesthetic sense, deep understanding of and belief in Buddhism, while maintaining an international expression of universality.

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