Hwangsang-dong Buddha Carving – Gumi, South Korea - Atlas Obscura

Hwangsang-dong Buddha Carving

Though it is hundreds of years old, the intricate details on this 23-foot rock carving of Buddha have been preserved.  


This massive Buddha is carved on the surface of a rock cliff where the outskirts of Hwangsang-dong, Gupo-dong, and Jinmi-dong three smaller towns near Gumi meet. The carving stands more than seven meters (23 feet) tall, and includes well-defined facial features and softly flowing clothes. Atop the Buddha’s head sits a large usnisa, a three-dimensional oval that symbolizes enlightenment.

This carving is considered an outstanding work of the Unified Silla period in Korean history, which lasted just under 300 years between the 7th and 10th centuries. 

Though this carving is hundreds of years old, many of its details have been preserved. You can see a solemn expression on the Buddha’s face, which is framed by long ears. The carved hands are raised to the figure’s chest, with the left palm facing inward and the right palm facing outward. Even the stone robes are detailed, with faint patterns on the upper portion and fan-like pleats around the legs.

Interestingly, the image has a stone panel seemingly balanced on its head. Buddha statues or carvings with a stone panel on his head are common in the outdoor Buddhist images sculptured in the Goryeo period, which followed the Unified Silla period.

According to one legend, a Chinese Tang general was chased by Baekje soldiers. The general saved his life by following a woman and hiding behind the rock. After the soldiers were gone, the general tried to find the woman to thank her but he searched in vain. Thinking of the woman as a Buddha, the general carved this image into the rock.

Know Before You Go

Please be aware if visiting that this carving is the location of active worship, so please be respectful while visiting.

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