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Gyeongju, Capital of the Silla Kingdom for a Thousand Years

Gyeongju, Capital of the Silla Kingdom for a Thousand Years
Gyeongju  map

Treasure Trove of World Cultural Heritage

Gyeongju (경주), located in southeast Korea, was the capital of the Silla Kingdom for 992 years (BC 57-935), the longest surviving kingdom in the history of Korea. Not only is it astounding that it was ruled by 56 kings spanning a period of almost a thousand years, it is equally remarkable that the kingdom of Silla originally started as a small tribal state and later expanded to occupy more than half of the Korean peninsula. The area was initially known as ‘Seorabeol' (서라벌) or 'Gyerim' (계림), and it wasn’t until the end of the era in 935 that it was first referred to as 'Gyeongju.'
Living up to its former glory as the capital of the longest-surviving kingdom in Korea, Gyeongju still shines today, more than a millennium after the kingdom’s demise. Buddhism was introduced in Silla in the 6th century and played a significant role in strengthening royal authority and unifying the people, becoming the foundation of the area's art, tradition, and culture. Consequently, Gyeongju is the home of the greatest Buddhist art treasures in Korea, and is the nation's most popular fieldtrip destination.
Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto are Gyeonju's most celebrated relics and are said to capture the essence of the Korean Buddhist culture. These two sites were the first sites to be registered as UNESCO World Cultural Heritages in 1995. In 2000, five districts were added to the list of World Cultural Heritages under the title 'Gyeongju Historic Areas.' Gyeongju is a virtual cornucopia of history, meriting praise and preservation worldwide.

A Journey to the ‘Museum without Walls’

The journey from Seoul to Gyeongju may only be a 4 to 5-hour train or bus ride, but be prepared for this area’s beautiful heritage to transport you back more than a thousand years. Even though the area has a relatively small size and population, it takes more than just a few days to truly appreciate the history of this ancient capital. In fact, the more you see of Gyeongju, the more there remains to be seen.
As you walk around downtown Gyeongju, you will come across huge grave mounds (tumuli) and relics, which are uniquely different from the royal tombs in and around Seoul. There are so many historic treasures scattered throughout the city that it is almost impossible to pinpoint them all. For this reason, the entire area of Gyeongju is registered as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage under the title 'Gyeongju Historic Areas.' The city is also commonly known as a ‘Museum without Walls.'

In Gyeongju, the past and present comingle in a beautiful reminder of Korea’s proud past and bright future. To truly appreciate all the area has to offer, you must be able to appreciate both the face-value of each relic as well as its under-lying significance. Read on to learn more about the city as an ancient epicenter of Buddhism, science, and artistic excellence.

UNESCO World Cultural Heritage in Gyeongju

Considered the pinnacle of Buddhist art in Korea, Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto were registered as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage in 1995. In 2000, five districts in downtown Gyeongju were registered as a World Cultural Heritage under the title 'Gyeongju Historical Areas.' As such, it is not an exaggeration to say that the city in itself is a world cultural heritage.

More info:
Bulguksa Temple
Seokguram Grotto
Gyeongju Historic Area

Related sites:
Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto
Gyeongju Historic Areas

Gyeongju City Tour

It’s impossible to visit all the major Silla relics in just a few days, especially if it’s your first time visiting the area. If your time is limited and you want to see as much as possible, try the Gyeongju City Tour. You can choose from three different tour courses, each of which includes visits to some of the area’s major historical sites, including Bulguksa Temple, Seokguram Grotto, and Daereungwon Tumuli (Cheonmachong).

Click here for details of Gyeongju City Tour

Related columns:

Gyeongju Travel - Journey into Silla at Korea’s Living Museum!
Visiting Gyeongju: Luxury vs. Budget Trips
Best Gyeongju 3Night/4Days Course

Getting to Gyeongju Food and Specialties of Gyeongju Recommended Travel ItineraryMajor Tourist Sites by Type
Date 04/13/2010

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