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Koryo Dynasty


The culture of the Koryo Dynasty inherited Shilla culture, including Buddhism. Influenced by the architectural trends of Song China, Koryo in its early years developed a unique architectural style featuring curved bracket arms on top of columns called column head bracketing. With brackets placed only on the column heads, the framework was rather simple, and the ceiling was left bare with no covering panels or canopies; the roofs were mostly gabled. Some examples of this column-head styling include: Kungnakchon, the Nirvana Hall of Pongjongsa temple; Muryangsujon, the Amita Hall of Pusoksa temple, both in Andong, Kyongsangbuk-do province; Taeungjon, the Sakyamuni Hall of Sudoksa temple in Yesan; Ch'ungch'ongnam-do province and the entrance gate of the Kaeksa (Guest House) in Kangnung, Kangwon-do province. The Nirvana Hall of Pongjongsa is the oldest wooden structure extant in Korea. Dismantled for renovation in 1971, it was determined at that time that Pongjongsa had been reconstructed in 1363.

Another style involving multi-cluster brackets influenced by Yuan China emerged after the mid-Koryo period and continued into the Choson period. With clusters of brackets placed not only on the column heads but also on the horizontal beams between columns, this style was much heavier in feel. A building thus constructed was sturdier and had a more imposing appearance. The roof was usually hipped and gabled and, unlike the column-head style, the ceiling was covered with panels, creating a checkered appearance.

During this period, Buddhism became tinged with Taoism, shamanism and other belief systems. The traditional styles of "one Pagoda" or "two Pagodas" for a certain number of halls disappeared from use as such shrines, as Ch'ilsonggak for the spirits of the Seven Stars, and Sanshin-gak for the Sanshin, or "Mountain Spirit," were added to temple facilities. The placement of structures became more complicated with the introduction of geomancy into temple planning. This was largely due to a highly esteemed monk named Toson.

Some of the best temples of the period are Hungwangsa, Purilsa and Manboksa. Though none have survived, the way in which they were arranged has become known through extensive excavations of the temple sites.


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