Seokkuram Grotto has definitely made one of the biggest impressions on me during my life.
During my first trip to Korea I didn’t have the oppurtunity to see more of the country beside a small part of Seoul. For my next trip I decided to prepare better and visit some interesting places.
While visiting the Koreana Airlines info at a Travel Fair in Brussels, I got a nice poster of the Buddha in the Seokkuram Grotto. It is said that this Buddha is one of most best sculptured in the world so I promised myself to visit it on my next tour after I found more information about it.
I did some research in travel books, (Internet was not so well developed as it is these days) and I finally visited Seokkuram grotto during my second trip to Korea in 2000. My Korean Hapkido master took me there early April.
Seokkuram grotto is a hermitage of Bulguk-sa, located about 4 kilometers from the temple.
After we visited the temple we drove up Toham mountain by car. The ride between the pretty blooming magnolia trees was already impressive.
At the top we admired the beautiful colored bell pavilion. From here we had a great view over Kyongju and on the Japanese Sea (Koreans call this the East Sea) in the back side. We bought an entrance ticket and walked like 15 minutes on the curved path to the cave.
Once we entered the cave we were overwhelmed by the amazing beauty of the 3.5 meters high Buddha sitting on a 1.3 meters high lotus pedestal. Just watching this Buddha statue makes your mind so quiet, peaceful and relaxed …
To me it seemed that there is no Buddha statue more perfect than this one ! It’s just amazing that people were able to build and create this wonderful cave sculpture.
The whole cave is made of granite and the Buddha is accompanied of bodhisattvas, disciples, gods and saints and four Heavenly Kings who protect the cave. It is said that the construction of the cave was started in 751 and was completed in 774, during the peak of the Shilla dynasty. The cave was renovated and repaired a couple of times. Last renovation took place in 2014.
Seokkuram grotto is listed on UNESCO’s World Cultural heritage list and is designated as the 24th National Treasure of Korea. It is definitely one of the top attractions in Korea. These days visitors can see the Buddha behind a thick layer of glass. Making pictures and recording video of Buddha statues is not allowed, also here in the grotto, … eventhough I did it one time.
So far I visited Seokkuram grotto 4 times. Every visit will stay in my mind forever. The most remarkable visit was on 1 January 2010. Buddhists celebrate the 1st day of the New year and they often visit a temple on that day. So when we visited Seokkuram grotto, more than 500 Korean Buddhists were moving in front of us to see the Buddha. It gave a very special feeling to be here on the first day of the New year.
If you don’t have time to travel to Kyongju to visit Seokkuram grotto, than you can always go to Lotte Folk Museum in Seoul where you can admire a smaller but very nice replica of the granite Buddha.