Songdok Bell
Sokkuram Grotto
Ch'omsongdae Observatory
Kyongju City

National Kyongju Museum

Sokkuram Grotto was situated upon a ridge atop Mt. T'oham, which was an object of awe to the Shilla people. This was because of its close proximity to the capital relative to the other great mountains of Shilla (Kyeryongsan, Chirisan, T'aebaeksan, P'algongsan). Sokkuram was constructed in the tenth year of the reign of King Kyongdok (751). It was constructed under the name, Sogbulsa, by the prime minister Kim Dae-Song as a part of the building of Pulkuksa.

According to Samgukyusa by Ilyon (a monk of the Koryo dynasty), Kim Dae-Song was born to a poor family and because he had made an offering of his farm to the temple he was reincarnated as a son of a highbrow Kim Mun-ryang. While growing up, and hunting bears on the Mt. T'oham, he became possessed by some unknown invisible force. As a result, he raised Pulkuksa for his parents of this world and Sogbulsa for his parents of the other world. It is impossible to know what the original form of Sokkuram was, because there no precise record exists.

Judging from the diary Udam Chong Shiham wrote during his stay at Sokkuram in 1688, "Sokkuram is an artificial architecture." Several statues of Buddha are engraved in the rocks on both sides of the stone gate, whose ingenuity is beyond description. The stone gates are carved into the shape of a rainbow and within the gate lies a great stone statue.

The stone prop is the essence of uniformity and ingenuity itself. The lid stone and other stones on the cave are round and standing well-balanced. The statues of Buddha standing alone look alive and their grotesque images don't allow their name, to be guessed. Such a spectacle is very rare, Sokkuram has been well preserved.

It is in the colonial rule period that the beautiful marble pagoda which is said to have been located behind the principal statue of Buddha and the two Buddhist images in that space were lost. The Japanese repaired Sokkuram three times. Though the Japanese lavished much money for the care of Sokkuram for its beauty, they looked the background behind the principles under which Sokkuram had been constructed. As a result there was much damage to Sokkuram.

All content Copyright 1998 Soyon Park
Questions and comments go to sopark@evl.uic.edu