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Paekche Period Sculpture (18 B.C.~A.D. 660)

Buddhism was introduced to Paekche via Eastern Jin by an Indian monk named Maranant'a in 384, 12 years after it was introduced to Koguryo. The production of Buddhist images in Paekche is believed to have begun no later than the fifth century, because the aforementioned diminutive gilt-bronze Buddha excavated in Seoul implies that local imitations of the Chinese and Indian Buddhas could have been made by that time, and because ancient records show that a temple was built in 385 in Hansong, today's Seoul. However, Paekche images inscribed with fifth century dates have not yet been found. The earliest examples date from the sixth century and include a stone triad and some clay images from Chongnimsa temple, a giltbronze standing Buddha from the site of Powonsa temple, some Buddhas carved around a boulder in Yesan, and a gilt-bronze Buddha with the name Chong Chi-won inscribed on it. Though retaining the traditions of Wei and the Koguryo style exemplified by the Wono-ri Buddha in their refined faces, thick robes and graceful forms, these Buddhas show signs of Paekche modifications.

Characteristics unique to Paekche sculpture are clearly evident in all the Buddhist images of the late sixth century, including an agalmatolite seated Buddha and a gilt-bronze bodhisattva from Kunsu-ri, and stone reliefs of Buddhist triads in Sosan and T'aean. It is recorded that artisans and painters were invited to Paekche from Liang China in 541. The arts of the southern dynasties of China, therefore, must have influenced Paekche sculpture from the mid-sixth century onward. Whatever their influences were, Paekche Buddhas of the time are characterized by warm, human attributes. The small usnisa, the stately but relaxed body, the voluminous curvature under the thick robe, the diminished side-flare of the hems of the robe, the folds of the robe of the bodhisattva that cross each other in the shape of an "X," and the simple but refined rendering of the lotus petals of the pedestals, are all definitely local traits Paekche artisans developed from the Chinese styles of the late Northern Wei, Qi and Zhou. What makes the Paekche Buddha truly unique is the unfathomable benevolent smile that graces its round pleasant face. That expression, often labeled the "Paekche smile," is one of a kind.

Influenced by the Sui and Tang dynasties of China, Buddhist images became elongated and slender around 600. The modeling of the bodies became much fuller and some bodhisattvas were depicted slightly twisted with S-shaped postures rather than in upright, static positions. These traits are best illustrated by a gilt-bronze standing bodhisattva in the Cha Myong-ho collection, a gilt bronze standing Buddha from Kyuam-myon in Puyo, and a seated stone Sakyamuni in Yondong-ri, Iksan, Chollabuk-do province. Paekche sculpture can be described as being more refined and subtle, the result, perhaps, of its more temperate climate and fertile lands.

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