Dabotap Pagoda and Seokgatap Pagoda (the Three-story Stone Pagoda of Bulguksa Temple, National Treasure No. 21) are the two most renowned pagodas in Korea. They are similar in height (10.29m and 10.75m), and stand facing each other, Dabotap Pagoda in the east, Seokgatap Pagoda in the west, between Daeungjeon Hall and Jahamun Gate of Bulguksa Temple . Dabotap is a unique type of pagoda, while Seokgatap Pagoda (also known as “Sakyamuni Buddha Pagoda”) is representative of the more general type of stone pagoda. The two pagodas were built at the same site to reflect the content of the Saddharmapundarika Sutra (The Lotus Sutra), in which the Dabo Buddha (“Buddha of the past”) stands beside Sakyamuni (“Buddha of the present”) to prove that his Buddhist sermon is right. Bulguksa Temple was founded by Kim Dae-seong’s offer in 751 (the 10th year of the reign of King Gyeongdeok of Silla).
Samguk yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms) states that Kim Dae-seong built Seokguram Grotto for his parents in his former life, and Bulguksa Temple for his present parents. However, the temple was not completed at the time of his death, so it was finished afterwards by the kingdom, and in the end, the temple was run not for the private individual Kim Dae-seong but for the benefit of the kingdom as a whole.
Bulguksa Temple can be said to be the realization of the Buddhist paradise in which Buddhist monks of past, present, and future live together. It clearly reveals aspects of the spiritual world of the people of Silla. While it is perfectly clear that Seokgatap Pagoda is a three-story pagoda standing on a two-story platform, it is difficult to count the number of stories of Dabotap Pagoda. In fact, even experts have diverging opinions, with some saying it is has four stories and others that it has only three. However, the uniqueness of Dabotap Pagoda can be seen in the structure of each part. Stone staircases are attached to each side of the cross-shaped platform, with an octagonal pagoda body surrounded by square railings placed upon it. It is presumed that the pagoda was built in 751 during the construction of Bulguksa Temple.
This work is a masterpiece that beautifully expresses the complicated structure of wooden construction without any distraction by the use of through novel ideas. The work exhibits the artistic sensibility of Unified Silla through its well-organized structure consisting of squares, octagons, and circles, and in its length, width and thickness, which are standardized in every part. During the Japanese Colonial Period, the Japanese dismantled and repaired the pagoda around 1925, but they left behind no records of this work. In the process, Artifact, reliquaries, and other artifacts that must have been placed inside the pagoda all disappeared. In addition, of the four lions originally placed on the stone staircases of the pagoda, the Japanese took away three, all of which must have been in good condition. Though there have been continuous efforts to retrieve these precious cultural heritages, no trace has been found of them as yet.