This stele, standing at the precincts of Ssanggyesa Temple in Hadong, was built to honor the life and achievement of Master Jingam (774-850), an eminent Unified Silla Monk who introduced and spread the Buddhist musical heritage called “Brahma Chants” to Korea. He left his country in 804 for Tang where he studied Buddhism and got ordained as a monk. Returning home in 830, he was widely respected by Silla kings for his distinguished spiritual and ethical leadership until he died at Ssanggyesa Temple at the age of 77.
Despite its damaged body, the stele is complete with the dragon capstone and tortoise pedestal in their original condition. The pedestal exhibits the style established during the late Unified Silla Period (676-935) marked by a dragon head, a tortoise back, and a large rectangular hole at the center holding the body of the stele as well as cloud designs on four sides. The capstone is carved with two dragons contending with each other over a magic pearl, with a finial consisting of a globe and a basin of upturned lotus petals holding it. On the front face of the body is an inscription of the stele’s name, “Stele for Master Jingam in the Eastern Country.”
The stele was set up in 887 after the name of the temple where he was based was changed from Okcheonsa to Ssanggyesa. The lengthy epitaph engraved on the body was composed and calligraphed by Choe Chi-won (857-?), one of the greatest men of letters in Unified Silla, and is widely admired by today’s art historians for the vitality and natural beauty of the brush strokes.