6. Buddhist Culture of the Three Kingdoms
Most of the gold-plated, bronze Buddha statues which existed up to this
time were from Koguryo and Paekje; the technique and beauty of these
statues is wonderful. Paekje King Song, in 545 made a huge Buddha statue,
wishing that all living beings in the world attain enlightenment. He also
sent a Buddha statue to Japan when he introduced Buddhism there, following
it later on with more, including Maitreyas. Even today, great Paekje Buddha
statues such as Ma-aebul are occasionally discovered in the ground.
We have already seen that King Chinhung, in 574, made a Buddha triad for
Hwangnyong-sa. This triad, together with the nine-storey pagoda and a jade
belt received by King Chinp'yong from heaven are three national jewels of
the Shilla period.
Master Yangji, during the reign of Queen Sondok, made: a Buddha triad; the
four temple guardian statues for Yongjo-sa; the arahant statues on eight
sides under the pagoda of Ch'onwang-sa; and a Buddha triad and temple
guardians for Popnim-sa. He also made roof tiles for the pagoda building of
Yongjo-sa, as well as writing the Chinese characters on the boards of
Yongjo-sa and Popnim-sa. He built a brick pagoda and kept 3,000 Buddha
statues at Sokjjang-sa where he lived. In this way Master Yangji did a lot
for Buddhism as he was a master of making statues and pagodas, carving and
painting. Legend says that he had supernatural powers.
Japan was helped by this flourishing culture of the Three Kingdoms Period.
Paekje, in particular, sent many Buddha statues, including a stone Maitreya
Buddha statue, and other Buddhist instruments. Moreover, all kinds of
techni-cians and artists talented in such fields as the making Buddha
statues, building temples, Buddhist paintings, and making roof tiles were
sent to Japan. There they trained apprentices in their special talents so
that the techniques could be handed down. Apart from Paekje, Koguryo also
sent many artists to Japan. In particular, Master Tamjing excelled in
painting so he taught the Japanese how to paint for the first time. And he
also imparted techniques in making colors, paper and inkstones.
In the Three Kingdoms Period, there are many legends about pago-das and
Buddha statues. Some tell that they were not made by human hands but that
they appeared out of the earth or beneath some body of water, or that they
came down from heaven. Some of the more famous legends include: a Koguryo
pagoda at Yongt'ap-sa; a stone Maitreya Buddha statue at Saeng-ui-sa which
was discovered in Samhwaryong pass by Master Saeng-ui in the reign of Queen
Sondok; Sabul-san, a big stone, of Taesung-sa which was "dropped" from
heaven in 597 and had Tathagathas on four sides of it; and three Maitreya
Buddha statues which rose up from a big spring on Yonghwa-san in the reign
of King Mu.
Not only did the arts flourish, but there were many famous monks living at
this time. One of the most celebrated in the entire history of Korea was
Master Wonhyo. Here is one of the most celebrated stories about him. It is
important because it led to his main, original contribution to Korean
Buddhist philosophy and this development is still central to Korean