These clay statues of the Four Guardian Kings of Songgwangsa Temple are placed in pairs on each side of Cheonwangmun Gate (the temple gate dedicated to the Four Guardian Kings).
The four guardians represent the four cardinal directions, and are arranged in the order of north, east, south and west in a clockwise direction.
On the right-hand side of the gate stand the Guardian King of the North and the Guardian King of the East, holding a lute and a sword, respectively, while on the left-hand side of the gate stand the Guardian King of the West, holding a flag, and the Guardian King of the South, holding a dragon and a yeouiju (jewel ball).
All four figures are seated on the edge of a chair.
They look like noble warriors, each clad in armor and wearing crowns decorated with dragon, phoenix, flower, and cloud designs.
Their right feet are depicted crushing evil spirits, while their left feet are supported by evil spirits.
They are imposing figures characterized by ferocious looks and large, voluminous bodies that convey a solid weighty presence, yet they appear comical at the same time.
Despite their huge size, their physical features are depicted proportionately and realistically.
In this respect, the statues reveal a degree of artistic excellence comparable to that of Wooden Four Guardian Kings of Borimsa Temple in Jangheung (c.
early 16th century) and Clay Four Guardian Kings of Songgwangsa Temple in Wanju (c.
1649), both of which are designated as treasures.
The statues are also of great academic value as they present new images of the guardian kings, most notably that of the Guardian King of the West, who is depicted holding a baby tiger rather than a pagoda.
The records and archives at Songgwangsa Temple indicate that these Four Guardian Kings were recast in 1628 (the 6th year of the reign of King Injo of the Joseon Dynasty), suggesting that they has been destroyed during the Jeongyujaeran (the second Japanese invasion of Korea in 1597).