Left: standing at the 4-Lions Pagoda looking east
over the monastery, to the peaks east of Nogo-dan,
with a building of Geumjeong-am Hermitage visible.
Above: standing on the road below Geumjeong-am,
looking northwest over the monastery through the
trees, with Seongsam-bong Peak in the distance.
The Jiri Mountains are encircled by nine great ancient Buddhist temples and more than 50 smaller
temples and hermitages are found around the slopes. Hwa-eom-sa is the greatest one of them all.
It is named after the Flower-Garland [S: Avatamsaka, Ch: Huayen] Sutra, 화엄경 in Hangeul, one of
the most important scriptures of doctrinal Buddhism.
It was founded in 544 by a missionary-monk named Yeon-gi-josa, who may have come from India.
Great Master Uisang, who brought the Hwaeom-Sect teachings back to Korea after extensive
study in of them in China, reconstructed and greatly expanded it with royal support from Queen
Seondeok in the mid-600s. On this site he published one of the key documents of all Korean
Buddhism, the Hwaeom-ilseung-beopgye-do 화엄일승법계도 [Diagram of the Dharmadhatu of the One
Vehicle of the Flower-Garland], that he had created as his graduate thesis in China.
Hwaeom-sa was refurbished in the late 800s, with magnificent new granite artworks in the courtyard,
by Master of Geomancy and Meditation Doseon Guksa. Since then its buildings have been burnt
and rebuilt several times, with the stone monuments remaining in excellent condition, and it has
always remained one of Korea's most prestigious temples.
|Statue of the King of the West in the Sacheon-
wang [Kings of the Four Directions] Gate
|History-recording biseok monument
with great dragon-turtle base and
dragons-clouds cap at the entranceway
Lower Courtyard with West Pagoda and other
stoneworks, the Gakhwang-jeon Main Hall
(National Treasure #67) dedicated to the Hwaeom
Sutra and Biro-bul [Buddha of Infinite Cosmic Light]
with peak behind, and the Nahan-jeon to the
right (where the San-shin painting is enshrined).
Guardian-thugs and mounted-Bodhisattvas-shown-
as-boys in the Geumgang-mun [Diamond Gate] ---
that's Munsu-bosal [Wisdom] on the left, and
Bohyeon-bosal [Benevolent Action] on the right.
The original Shilla-dynasty stonework includes this incredible
gigantic Stone Lantern (National Treasure #12), both artistically
excellent and the largest of its kind carved before 1960. These
granite lanterns were not used for lighting, but stand in front of Buddha-Halls to symbolize the
spiritual-light of Buddhist enlightenment spreading infinitely in the Four Directions. The East
Five-story Pagoda (Treasure #132) and the West Five-story Pagoda (Treasure #133) are seen;
they were designed by Doseon Guksa for Pungsu-jiri purposes in the late 9th Century.
Myself (in grey hat), being a tour-guide at
Hwaeom-sa for the R.A.S. in May 2001.
|modern twin-dragon-heads spring-water fountain/trough, with friendly turtles
|The West Pagoda and close-up of its base, which features relief-carved guardians on its upper
block and the Shipi-ji [12 Auspicious Animals of the Oriental Zodiac] around its lower section
(hard to see due to erosion). Shipi-ji carvings are a very rare motif on Shilla stoneworks, found
only on a few tombs and pagodas in the ancient capital Gyeongju -- and in two treasures here
at Jiri-san! Doseon-guksa may have designed these himself -- compare with the other case,
on what may be his reliquary at Yeongok-sa.
|over-all view of Hwaeom-sa from the hill on its east side, with cherry-blossoms of early April