Ruins of Hwangryong Temple
It is immediately apparent that the remnants of Hwangryong Temple are from times long past. The ruins spread over a wide area with cornerstones scattered about, marking the boundaries of the ancient temple’s former glory. It is a scene of empty desolation and gives an overall impression of a civilization lost in the sands of time. It is a scene that symbolizes Gyeongju.
The ruins of Hwangryong Temple can be distinguished from other Korean temples by its impressive size. The ruins of Hwangryong Temple are 82644.6㎡. One remaining artifact from which the huge scale of the Hwangryong Temple can be imagined is the chimi (a decoration added to the end of a Dragon rafter on the pillars of the temple) which is 182cm tall. It is 10 times the size of any other chimis found in temples today.
The bell, tower and Buddha statue, which are said to have been in the inner areas of the Hwangryong Temple, still stand proudly as testaments to the temple’s scale and grandeur. A nine-level wooden tower was built during the reign of Queen Seondeok and thought to be 80m higher than modern towers of about 20 levels. Some traces of the tower still remain on site, including a total of 64 cornerstones that show roughly where the tower stood. The huge stone which was the central weight of the tower lies in the center of the stones. The footprint of the wooden tower was over 495.9 ㎡.
In 553, Shilla king Jinheung had planned to build a palace on the site that is now the location of Hwangryong Temple. But before construction began, the strange appearance of a yellow dragon in the area was viewed by the king as sign of good luck and caused him build a temple on the site instead of a palace. That temple was Hwangryong Temple.
The gold and bronze, 5 meter-high samzonejangryuk statue was completed after leveling the ground and making a fence, which took 17 years to complete. At the same time, Geumdang was extended. The nine-story wooden tower was later completed during the reign of Queen Seondeok in 643, meaning that Hwangryong Temple took 93 years to complete, over the reign of 3 kings.
In 1232 during the reign of King Gojong, 655 years after it was built, the Hwangryong Temple was destroyed by fire during an invasion by the Mongols. Other artifacts also disappeared during this time, including the . After the war, the Koryo Dynasty compiled a complete collection of Buddhist Sutras, known as the , a UNESCO world cultural heritage, which was used in Haein Temple.
Through excavation efforts that began in 1976, over 40,000 previously-lost artifacts have been excavated from the grounds of Hwangryong Temple. Nobody knows how many more remain buried underground.
The Bunhwangsa stone tower located in the ruins of Bunhwangsa Temple neighbors the fence of Hwangryong Temple. The 3-tier stone tower, which was once 7 or 9 tiers, is a proud example of the long history of the stone towers which exist in Korea.