Stone lanterns generally represent the light of Buddha, and are usually placed in front of important structures such as a main prayer hall or a pagoda. Stone lanterns consist of a niche in which a candle is placed, a post, stone supports, and a roofstone with a head decoration on the top.
The stone lantern of Gakhwangjeon Hall of Hwaeomsa Temple is 6.4m high, making it the largest stone lantern in Korea. On the octagonal platform stands a unique lantern post shaped like an hourglass. This unique form was popular during the late Unified Silla Period. The upside-down shape of a large lotus flower is carved on the octagonal platform, and an hourglass-shaped post stands on the carving. In addition, a full-bloomed lotus flower is carved on the support stone on which the octagonal lantern niche with four openings rests. The large corner flower standing straight on the octagonal roofstone is outstanding. Since the head decoration remains as it was on the roofstone, the beauty becomes closer to perfection.
This stone lantern is presumed to have been built sometime between 860 (the 4th year of King Heonan’s reign) and 873 (the 13th year of King Gyeongmun’s reign). The chief characteristic of this stone lantern is the hourglass-shaped center flower stone. The lantern forms a pleasant contrast with the dignified appearance of Gakhwangjeon Hall at the rear. Though it feels a little heavy, it exhibits the simple beauty of lotus flowers in full bloom and the grand beauty of the niche and roofstone, and as such is considered a representative work of the Unified Silla Period.