Tombs and Temples

Gyeongju is separated into the old and new towns, each on one side of the river. The old town is full of traditional style buildings which must be kept under 5 stories tall, and people need permission from the government if they want to renovate their homes and such because when breaking ground, it is common to find ancient pottery or gold. The new town consists of more modern style buildings and does not have the same regulations as the old town.

These are modern stores in traditional buildings.

Driving through the old town, one would notice many strange looking mounds protruding from the earth which are actually man-made tombs for the royalty and nobility of the Silla kingdom. Within these tombs, a coffin is found along with many artifacts such as pottery, jewelry, and gold as well as the bodies of servants. If a super wealthy and powerful person were to die, they could chose to have their best servants sacrificed to be taken to the afterlife with them. The greatest number of servants’ bodies found in a single tomb was 36.

Husband (right mound) and wife (left mound) buried together.

Only one tomb is open to the public and that is the Flying Horse Tomb which gets its name from a horse painting found within the tomb. The man who was buried was found with a great amount of gold and treasures, but no other bodies. The coffin and riches are protected by piles of stone on top so that if anyone tried to get in, they would be crushed the stone falling in. A body from a later date was found in the stone mound and is presumed to be a robber. The stone is then compacted with clay.

Replica of flying horse painting

Unfortunately, the original Silla palace no longer stands because of the numerous invasions of Korea, but the foundations can be seen, and some structures have been rebuilt. The man-made pond still exists and was designed to be a Taoism paradise.

May 12th is the actual birthday of Buddha, who turned 2563 years old. Some temples are only open to the public one day of the year which is May 12th, so we were able to go into one of those temples. There were no pictures allowed, but a giant stone statue of Buddha was in a circular room (representing heaven) connected to a square room (earth). We visited many other temples, and my feet were especially tired after today.


Buddha’s hand gesture here means “teaching”

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