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National Treasure

Reliquaries from the Three-story Stone Pagoda of Bulguksa Temple

불국사 삼층석탑 사리장엄구 ( 佛國寺 三層石塔 舍利莊嚴具 )

Heritage Search Detail
Classification National Treasure
Name of Cultural Properties Reliquaries from the Three-story Stone Pagoda of Bulguksa Temple
Quantity 1 Set
Designated Date 1967.09.16
Age The 8th century (Unified Silla)
Address Central Buddhist Museum, 55, Ujeongguk-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul

These objects, along with their outer casket, were found from the inside of a stone pagoda in Bulguksa Temple, Gyeongju in the course of the repair work on the pagoda in October 1966. The objects contained in the sarira reliquary include a set of egg-shaped, silver-plated sarira inner/outer bowls, a gilt-bronze sarira bowl, the Pure Light Dharani Sutra, and several beads. Also found were those put outside the sarira reliquary, including a bronze image of flying apsaras, a bronze mirror, a miniature wood pagoda, and some curved jade objects, beads, wood incense pieces, etc. A bunch of paper wrapped with satin silk was also found. The paper sheets were stuck to each other, so their contents could not be read. The outer sarira casket has a perforated surface adorned with scrolling vine patterns. The platform supporting the body of the sarira casket also has a perforated surface. The roof of the casket is adorned with scrolling vine patterns, whereas the roof corners are decorated with lotus flowers. Tree leaf-shaped ornaments are hung at the edge of the roof. This one displays a well-proportioned body as the most refined piece among the sarira reliquaries from the Silla Dynasty found so far. The set of egg-shaped, silver-plated sarira inner/outer bowls is adorned with gorgeous lotus flower patterns of the mid-8th Century and fish-roe patterns made of small circles. The gilt-bronze, rectangular sarira bowel is inscribed with images of pagodas flanked by Buddhist saints and guardian deities. Its lid has a small, three-tiered, pagoda-shaped knob and contains a small sarira bottle made of juniper wood. Known as the world’s oldest woodblock-printed scripture, the Pure Light Dharani Sutra was published in the mid-8th Century. It is a paper scroll measuring 8cm wide and 620cm long and containing 8-9 characters per line. The state of erosion of the paper had worsened in 20 years’ time since its discovery in 1966, but it went through improvement work in 1988 and 1989. The scripture is believed to have been published around 751 when Seokgatap Pagoda, where it was found, was established during the renovation work of Bulguksa Temple. Such conjecture is further bolstered by the characters contained in the scripture, which were used only during the reign of Empress Zetian of the Tang Dynasty of China.