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        Cultural Exchange in the Age of Goryeo

        During the Goryeo period in Korea, the level of cultural and political transmission between China, Japan, and Korea reached new heights. The images in the Media Gallery are testaments to this period of great cultural exchange. Use the associated worksheet to learn more about cultural exchange during this period, and take notes in a graphic organizer.

         

        The Great Unification Buddha

        Koreans had been introduced to Buddhism from China at least as far back as the fifth century. But it was during the height of Silla rule in Korea in the sixth century, that Buddhism gained real ground Korea as a popular religion. With the rise of the Goryeo kingdom, Buddhism became the official state religion of the united peninsula. It was during this time that Chinese Chan Buddhism (called Seon in Korea and Zen in Japan) reached Korea and became the dominant form of Buddhism on the peninsula. This statue of the Buddha, called the Great Unification Buddha, sits at the foot of Seoraksan (one of Korea’s tallest mountains). It is a testament to the lasting influence of Buddhism in Korea.

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        Architecture in the Goryeo Dynasty

        The multi-tiered temples called pagodas had been common throughout Asia long before the Goryeo Dynasty. Each Buddhist country developed its own style of pagoda. This image is of the Wongaksa Pagoda in Seoul Korea. It was ordered to be built by King Sejo in 1467 on the site of a Buddhist temple built during the previous Goryeo Dynasty. The pagoda measures 39 feet high, and it is built entirely out of marble. At one time, Koreans believed the pagoda was sent from China to Korea as a gift. But modern investigations have determined that the pagoda was actually built in Korea and by Korean workmen. It is considered today one of the finest examples of stone pagodas in Korea. This photograph was taken around 1904. At the time, the top portion had been on the ground for some time. In 1947 it was refitted to the top by modern engineers. Today the pagoda is encased in a large glass box to protect it from the elements.

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        Korean Pottery

        The Chinese and Japanese were both great pottery cultures, and their knowledge and skills in this medium were transmitted to Korea. The art of porcelain with a transparent greenish-brown glaze known as celadon originated in China, but the potters of the Goryeo Dynasty perfected it. This celadon vase is of Chinese origin and dates to the Yuan Dynasty, a contemporary dynasty of Goryeo in Korea.

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        Printing in Korea

        The art of woodblock printing was also developed by the Chinese, and was advanced by the need to reproduce Buddhist texts. The Goryeo rulers made Korea a printing center by establishing a printing office in the early 12th century. The greatest work of Korean printing was the Tripitaka Koreana, the world’s oldest and most comprehensive printed copy of the three main texts of the Buddhist canon. This vast library of 81,250 wooden blocks carved during the Goryeo period is still located in South Gyeongsang province of modern South Korea.

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