Seokgatap and Dabotap Pagodas
The most eye-catching structures in the main court are perhaps a pair of white-granite pagodas – the 8.2 meters tall Seokgatap Pagoda and the 10.4 meters tall Dabotap Pagoda, dedicated respectively to the Buddha of Abundant Treasures and the Sakyamuni Buddha. Both of these stone pagodas are located in the temple of Bulguksa in Gyeongju, South Korea. If you enter the temple through the Cheongun and Baegun Bridge, you can see Dabotap located on the right side and Seokgatap on the left side.
Dabotap, also called as “pagoda of many treasures” (Dabo means “many treasures” and tap means stupa) is supposed to have been build in 751 and now it is designated as National Treasure no 20. Dabotap is dedicated to Dabo Yorae, a disciple of Sakyamuni who eventually achieved enlightenment.
This three-story pagoda stands 10.4 m tall and has staircase on each of the four sides. It is thought that formerly a Buddha statue and other image may have been enshrined in the first story’s main section. There is also one carved stone lion remains on one side of this section (there was one on each side originally).
The first roof of the pagoda is supported by four stone square pillars. On this roof, there is a square stone railing built with the body of the pagoda inside. One section of the second story is made up of eight posts carved to look like bamboo which support the octagonal-shaped lotus stone carved with sixteen petals. And finally, there is an octagonal roof and a pillar at the top.
What is significant about the design of the whole structure is the transition from square shapes (this part is said to represent the mundane world), through an octagonal intermediate stage, to the round section (the part which represents the perfection of enlightenment).
In the 1920s, this pagoda was dismantled and repaired by the Japanese but they did not leave any record about this fact. It is also believed that sarira, sarira casket and other important relics that must have been stored in the pagoda all disappeared.
Seokgatap (also known as Sakyamuni Pagoda or sometimes also referred to as the Shadowless Pagoda) was built around 751 and now it is designated as the 21st National Treasure. Seokgatap Pagoda is a three-story pagoda standing on a two tiered base. The design of the structure is very simple and the three stories have a 4:3:2 ratio which gives the pagoda a sense of stability, balance and symmetry.
In 1966, Seokgatap pagoda was damaged by thieves who dynamited it open, hoping to find treasure. Before they could steal any of the treasures, the monks chased them off and found some valuable old documents inside. The monks also discovered precious sariras, reliquaries as well as the oldest extant example of printed material from a wood block in the world. A bronze mirror, a bronze image of a Buddhist spirit, silk, a miniature wooden pagoda, prefume, gogok and beads were also found. Many old papers found in the foundation of the pagoda are illegible.
Today, the modern pagoda is actually an evolution of the Ancient Indian stupa. Sometimes you can also see Chinese Dragon dance and lion dance around the pagoda to celebrate its opening ceremony and other important events.