Architecture and History
Hwangnyongsa or Hwangnyong Temple was a Buddhist temple in the city of Gyeongju, South Korea. Its name means Yellow/Golden Dragon Temple or Imperial/Emperor Dragon Temple. Hwangnyongsa no longer exists, but once stood about 150 yards to the west of Bunhwangsa temple. It was built during the Silla period, in the 6th century, under the patronage of the Silla royal family. Being the nation’s largest temple, Hwangnyongsa also housed the bulk of the country’s major Buddhist treasures.
Construction began in 553 (under the reign of King Jinheung) on a field near the royal compound of Banwolseung and was not fully completed until 644. The king originally planned to build a palace, but after receiving some reports that a yellow or golden dragon had been seen on that spot he decided to build a temple instead. Situated in a beautiful plain surrounded by mountains, the temple was the center of state-sanctioned Buddhism during the Silla era.
When monk Jajang was studying in Tang, he saw a god as he was passing by the Thaihe Pond. The god told him that if he build a nine-story pagoda upon his return to Silla, then the neighboring states will surrender and the royal cause will be stronger. Prepare a memorial service for the local gods once the construction is complete and pardon any of the country’s criminal. He was also told that if he follows all the God has told him, no other state will dare to invade Silla.
After returned to Silla, Jajang convinced the queen to build the nine-story pagoda. The project was built by Yongchun with his 200 men using stone and wood. The pagoda was designed by master architect Abiji and this fact indicates that the Baekje had better knowledge of wooden architecture. The night before the columns were to be erected, Abiji dreamed of the fall of Baekje and because of that he refused to complete the project. With a loud peal of thunder, a man and an old monk of great strength appeared suddenly from the main hall of the temple, they erected the columns and then magically disappeared. Abiji was shocked at the sight that he finally accepted his country’s future demise as the fate of gods. He then continued his project on the temple.
The pagoda stood until it was burned in 1238 by Mongolian invasions. No wooden architecture from the Silla people survives today. Towering 224 feet, Hwangnyongsa was entirely made of wood except for the foundation, which covered about 6084 square feet – 78 feet to a side – with eight pillars of stone per side. The whole building was supported by 60 foundation stones.
The most important as well as the earliest of the Silla Priests to serve at Hwangnyongsa was Priest Wongwang. He was born during the Chin Hong’s reign and became a Buddhist theologian at age 13.
Today, the modern pagoda is actually an evolution of the Ancient Indian stupa. Sometimes you can also see Chinese lion dance and traditional dragon dance around the pagoda to celebrate its opening ceremony and other important events.