Left: standing at the 4-Lions Pagoda looking east
over the monastery, to the peaks east of Nogo-dan,
with a building of Geumjeong-am Hermitage visible.
Above: standing on the road below Geumjeong-am,
looking northwest over the monastery through the
trees, with Seongsam-bong Peak in the distance.
The Jiri Mountains are encircled by nine great ancient Buddhist temples and more than 50 smaller
temples and hermitages are found around the slopes. Hwa-eom-sa is the greatest one of them
all. It is named after the Flower-Garland [S: Avatamsaka, Ch: Huayen] Sutra 화엄경, one of the most
important scriptures of doctrinal Buddhism.
It was founded in 544 by a missionary-monk named Yeon-gi-josa, who may have come from India.
Great Master Uisang, who brought the Hwaeom-Sect teachings back to Korea after extensive
study in of them in China, reconstructed and greatly expanded it with royal support from Queen
Seondeok in the mid-600s. On this site he authored one of the key documents of Korean
Buddhism, the Hwaeom-ilseung-beopgye-do 화엄일승법계도 [Diagram of the Dharmadhatu of the
One Vehicle of the Flower-Garland]. Hwaeom-sa was refurbished in the late 800s, with magnificent
new granite artworks in the courtyard, by Master of Geomancy and Meditation Doseon-daesa.
Since then its buildings have been burnt and rebuilt several times, with the stone monuments
remaining in excellent condition, and it has remained one of Korea's most prestigious temples.
|Statue of the King of the West in the
Sacheon-wang [Kings of the Four Directions] Gate
|History-recording biseok monument
with great dragon-turtle base and
dragons-clouds cap at the entranceway
|Lower Courtyard with West Pagoda and other
stoneworks, the Gakhwang-jeon Main Hall
(National Treasure #67) dedicated to the Hwaeom
Sutra and Biro-bul [Buddha of Infinite Cosmic Light]
with peak behind, and the Nahan-jeon to the
right (where the San-shin painting is enshrined).
Guardian-thugs and mounted-Bodhisattvas-shown-
as-boys in the Geumgang-mun [Diamond Gate] ---
that's Munsu-bosal [Wisdom] on the left, and
Bohyeon-bosal [Benevolent Action] on the right.
The original Shilla-dynasty stonework includes this incredible
gigantic Stone Lantern (National Treasure #12), both artistically
excellent and the largest of its kind carved before 1960. These
granite lanterns were not used for lighting, but stand in front of Buddha-Halls to symbolize the
spiritual-light of Buddhist enlightenment spreading infinitely in the Four Directions. The East
Five-story Pagoda (Treasure #132) and the West Five-story Pagoda (Treasure #133) are seen;
they were designed by Doseon-daesa for Pungsu-jiri purposes in the late 9th Century.
Myself (in grey hat), being a tour-guide
at Hwaeom-sa for the R.A.S. in May 2001.
|modern twin-dragon-heads spring-water fountain/trough, with friendly turtles
|The West Pagoda and close-up of its base, which features relief-carved guardians on its
upper bock and the Shipi-ji [12 Auspicious Animals of the Oriental Zodiac] around its
lower section (hard to see due to erosion). Shipi-ji carvings are a very rare motif on
Shilla stoneworks, found only on a few tombs and pagodas in the ancient capital
Gyeongju -- and in two treasures here at Jiri-san! Doseon-guksa may have designed
these himself -- compare with the other case, on what may be his reliquary at Yeongok-sa.
|over-all view of Hwaeom-sa from the hill on its east side, with cherry-blossoms of early April