Buddha, his life and teachings, have been an inspiration to
artists in many countries all through the ages. Korea is no
exception. An appreciation of Korean culture is incomplete without
an understanding of Buddhism's role in the development of the
Buddhist art is everywhere evident throughout the long history
of the peninsula. Over half of the nation's 230 National Treasures
are Buddhist: At least 37 statues, stone Buddhas and rock reliefs,
25 pagodas, 14 buildings, 15 stupas and lanterns, bells, several
paintings and several copies of Sutras, including the huge set
of the Tripitaka wood-blocks at Haein-sa Temple.
of Korea's 848 officially designated treasures are Buddhist
too. And the lists continue on through national, regional and
local cultural properties; new discoveries are frequently being
made. There would have been much more if it were not for the
ravages of invasion and the greed of foreign collectors. Numerous
works of Korean Buddhist art can be found in Japanese and in
principles influencing the arts are sometimes obvious and sometimes
not so obvious. Some fundamental Buddhist principles found in
Korean Art are:
ability of Buddhism to absorb different influences. This
can be seen in the variety of cultures and philosophies
absorbed into Korean Buddhist Art: Theravada, Mahayana,
Tantric, Shamanism and Confucianism.
combining of several arts to portray its true beauty; the
Monk's Dance "Sung-mu" demonstrates a performing
art which is a combination of music, dance, embroidery and
relationship of the parts to the whole and of the whole
to the parts.
are built without nails so that they can be dismantled and moved
to new locations, a true example of interdependence.
principles, Buddhist values are also prominent in Korean Art.
From the art of making paper lotus lanterns for the Buddha's
Birthday to building a temple complex, most Buddhist arts combine
such values as patience, perseverance and perfection, all absorbed
during the lengthy training period.
student is encouraged to use natural products and to do everything
by hand. For, he is not only learning the art or craft but he
is also practicing Buddhism as he studies.
these traditional values are declining, however, monks and laity
are reviving many ancient Buddhist arts and craft, such as paper-making,
bookbinding and the traditional tea ceremonies.
Art also delivers a philosophical message. The Buddhas, usually
depicted in teaching or meditating pose, represent the potential
human perfection within all of us.
represent, depending on the level of the follower's development,
either a spiritual being to turn to in times of crisis or the
latent ability in all of us to aid others in times of distress.
temple in general, represents a place of peace, tranquillity
and perfection, a source of inspiration on our spiritual path.