Located at the foot of Jirisan Mountain, Hwaeomsa Temple was founded by the Buddhist monk Yeongi in 554 (the 4th year of the reign of King Jinheung of the Silla Dynasty).
Regarded as the most important temple in the Jeolla-do region, it contains a number of important cultural heritages including the Stone Lantern at Gakhwangjeon Hall (National Treasure No. 12), East Five-story Stone Pagoda (Treasure No. 132), West Five-story Stone Pagoda (Treasure No. 133), and the Lion Pagoda at Wontongjeon Hall (Treasure No. 300).
Of these, the Four Lion Three-story Stone Pagoda, consisting of a three-story body on a two-story platform, stands opposite a stone lantern on high land surrounded by pine trees in the northwestern part of Hwaeomsa Temple.
Each side of the lower platform features prominent carvings of Apsaras, or Celestial Maidens, playing musical instruments, dancing, and singing praises.
Above all, the upper platform attracts the most attention.
Four lions are placed at the corners to support the pagoda body, and the lions are opening their mouths to show their teeth.
A statue of a monk stands with its hands clasped together in the center of the platform, surrounded by lions.
It is said that this monk represents the mother of the Buddhist monk Yeongi, while the other statue of a monk on the stone lantern in front of the pagoda represents Yeongi himself.
The statue of Yeongi sits on his knees as a dutiful son.
Part of the pagoda’s body is similar to common stone pagodas, but the first story of the main body features a carving of a door, and both its sides are carved with the statues of two Benevolent Kings, the Four Guardian Kings, and Bodhisattvas.
The roof supports consist of five layers on a gentle slant, but the four corners are slightly raised.
Only the base of the finial and a semi-spherical ornament remain of the top part of the pagoda.
This stone pagoda boasts excellent carvings on all its constituent parts, while the four corners of the eaves, which are slightly raised, give the pagoda a light and beautiful appearance.
Judging by these features, it is presumed that the pagoda was made in the golden age of the Unified Silla Period.
The lions of this pagoda form an actual part of the pagoda, unlike the lions of the Stone Brick Pagoda of Bunhwangsa Temple (National Rreasure No. 30), which were placed some way from the pagoda, as if to protect it.
This pagoda is one of the two best uniquely-shaped stone pagodas in Korea along with Dabotap Pagoda of Bulguksa Temple (National Treasure No. 20).