Gyeongju's Nam-san's famous
Sambul-sa
The Legendary "Three Buddhas Temple"
with the oldest large stone triad-set in the nation
The Baedong or Baeri Buddha Triad was originally at the temple-ruins called Seonbang-saji further
back into the mountain here, the village-valley just north of
Samneung-gol [Three Tombs Valley]
and the Poseok-jeong Royal Garden.  In 1923 they were moved close to the Western Namsan Road
and this temple was built to care for them; it was prosaically named
Sambul-sa [Three Buddhas
Temple], even though two of the figures are Bodhisattvas.  It is filled and surrounded by the beautiful
Red Pine trees that Nam-san is famous for.

The Amita Triad is designated as Korean Treasure #63, and experts think they are the oldest full-size
stone Buddhist statues in the Gyeongju area, Shilla's ancient capital, carved in the early 600s / 7th
Century; they are among the earliest in the entire nation.  These photos are from two visits I made
here in late 2011, one in evening and one in early morning; I must have been here 20 times total.


Scholars still differ on the exact identity of two of these three, and some have concluded that they are
different enough that that they were not originally carved as a triad, but put-together as one from two
triads of two different local temples after some members were somehow lost.  Together with their ages,
these mysteries and academic controversies continue!
around 1923
Sambul-sa's Main Dharma Hall and Sanshin-gak
In the center, Amita-bul the Buddha of Western Paradise;  although some identified him as either
Sakyamuni the Original Buddha due to his su-in/ mudra/ hand-gestures, the "protection and giving"
motif extremely popular in SE Asian Theravada Buddha statues, but rarely seen in Korean statues.
Daesaeji-bosal / Mahāsthāmaprāpta / 大勢至菩薩 Dàshìzhì Púsa is the Bodhisattva of the Great
Power of Wisdom in service of Amita-bul (his name literally means "arrival of the great strength"); very
popular with the "Pure Land" sects of Mahayana.  This may be the best ancient stone statue of him in
Korea, and is certainly the oldest.  With his long garland of beads and lotus-petals, detailed clothing
and five Buddha-figures in his nimbus (head-halo), he is notably fancier than the other two!
Gwanse-eum-bosal / 觀世音菩薩 / Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion
Sambul-sa's courtyard pagoda, which some think was reconstructed from ancient Seonbang-saji ruins
on this square cement block
in 1923; however, another theory is that, according to a few characters
on a stone fragment excavated nearby, it was built in 880 CE for a lost temple that stood here.
The modern Sanshin-gak [Mountain-spirit Shrine]
Three very Daoist paintings on the outside walls of that Sanshin-gak;  this one is the
North Star of Longevity, with 3 dongja-boys holding his staff, gourd and Immortality Peach.
A figure much like a Sanshin, with grumpy tiger, fly-wisk and long eyebrows like
Pindola / Dokseong; but it isn't a Sanshin icon because there's no red pine tree.
Nice forest behind, instead of the usual mountain-scapes.
This temple is indeed surrounded by thick groves of classic Red Pines as-said.
The unique-Korean folklore-famed "Smoking Tiger" motif.
The unusual Shinjung Taenghwa [Assembly of Guardian Spirits Icon-Painting] in the Main Dharma Hall
The Hindu creator-god Brahma surrounded by 3 nice Korean dongja attendants, Yongwang the
Dragon-King, and a few skeevy characters, in the center of that Shinjung Taenghwa.  
The Korean/Chinese Buddhist term for Brahmā is
大梵天王 Daebeom-cheonwang =
Great Brahman Heavenly King, or just
梵天 Beomcheon -- this powerful deity was
adopted from Hinduism into Buddhism as a protector of the Dharma Teachings,
and he is never depicted in Buddhist texts or artworks as a creator-god.
Sanshin the mountain-spirit, with... what, who, The Wolfman...? -- in that painting.
Note the
bullocho tied on Sanshin's crooked, dragon-head master's staff.