Stone Pagoda of Hwaeomsa – Gurye-gun, South Korea - Atlas Obscura

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Stone Pagoda of Hwaeomsa

Gurye-gun, South Korea

An unusual pagoda design in in the northwestern part of Hwaeomsa Temple. 


Hwaeomsa, or the “Flower Garland Temple” is a head temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. It is home to Korean National Treasure No. 35: the Four-Lion Three-Story Stone Pagoda. It is thought that this pagoda dates from the golden age of the Unified Silla Period but this is not known for sure.

It is thought of as a non-standard pagoda because of its atypical shape and design. Among non-standard pagodas, it is considered to have a higher degree of completeness, making it quite a unique structure.

The pagoda consists of a three-story body on a two-story platform, and it stands opposite a stone lantern which completes the structure. It is carved from granite, with four lions at the base which make up the foundation supporting the whole pagoda.  The lions’ mouths are open to show their teeth while they look outward from their positions.

A statue of a monk stands with hands clasped together in the center of the platform, surrounded by the four lions.  Suggestions are that this monk represents the mother of the Buddhist monk Yeongi, while the other statue of the monk on the stone lantern in front of the pagoda represents Yeongi himself, kneeling as a dutiful son offering her tea out of filial piety.

Each side of the lower platform of the pagoda features carvings of Apsaras, playing musical instruments, dancing, and singing praises.

Know Before You Go

Hwaeomsa is home to four National Treasures, as well as a few Natural Treasures and many Treasures, so is well worth making the trip out to visit it.  The pretty location in Jirisan National Park is another added bonus!

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May 26, 2021

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