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Wooden Seated Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva and Excavated Relics of Songgwangsa Temple, Suncheon
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Classification Treasure
Name of Cultural Properties Wooden Seated Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva and Excavated Relics of Songgwangsa Temple, Suncheon
Quantity 1 statue and 35 relics
Designated Date 2010.08.25
Age Joseon Period
Address Jeollanam-do Suncheon-si

This Wooden Seated Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva in Gwaneumjeon Hall of Songgwangsa Temple, according to a prayer text found inside it, written on a piece of white silk cloth, along with a silk jacket, was sculpted in 1662, by Hyehui and Geummun, two renowned monk sculptors of the mid-17th century. This statue, according to the same text, was created as a prayer by a court lady by the name of No Ye-seong for the health and longevity of Prince Gyeongan and his wife. The names of the donors who funded the project are also listed there, including No Ye-seong, Prince Gyeongan and his wife, and Chwimisucho, a preeminent monk of his time. The Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva statue is of particular historical significance for the fact that it was created as a personal prayer by a court lady who had direct or indirect ties with Prince Gyeongan, for his health and longevity. Meanwhile, the indigo jacket, likely to have belonged to Prince Gyeongan, also found inside the statue, has another letter of invocation written on the inside lining which appears to contain a covert message, informative of the political landscape in Joseon during this period; adding further interest to this set of historical relics. As for the statue itself, aside from the fact that the date of creation, as well as the names of people involved in its creation, in various capacities, are clearly known, it is a sculpture noteworthy for the sober and non-elitist aesthetic characterizing late Joseon Buddhist sculptures, of which it is an excellent example. This statue is, at the same time, among the more accomplished works of sculpture surviving from this period. The statue, conveying the impression of fortitude, creates a powerfully spiritual portrayal of the Bodhisattva. This is a signature trait of sculptures by Hyehui and his followers, along with the way the Bodhisattva is dressed, in a manner to emphasize the solemn mood and the body lines stressing vigor and strength. Therefore, the Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva of Songgwangsa Temple is invaluable also for the study of the various schools of Buddhist sculpture in Joseon – they appeared in particularly great numbers, starting in the 17th century. This, coupled with the high historical value of votive objects found inside it, amply justifies the designation of the Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva statue of Songgwangsa as a cultural heritage object. The silk jacket and cloth inside the statue are a rarity in Korea where the climactic conditions make it difficult for textiles to survive over a long period of time, and can shed light on the history of clothing and textiles, as well as textile dyeing, while being also important folklore relics.