Shilla Culture

The capital of the Shilla kingdom was Gyeongju. A great number of Shilla tombs can still be found in the centre of Gyeongju. Shilla tombs took the form of a stone chamber which was surrounded by a soil mound. A great number of remains from the Shilla period can be found all over Gyeongju. The historic area around Gyeongju was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2000.[3] Much of it is also protected as part of Gyeongju National Park. Additionally, two villages near Gyeongju area names of which are Hahoe and Yangdong would be submitted for UNESCO heritages in 2008 or later by related cities and South Korean government.

Cheomseongdae, Gyeongju

The Bronze Bell of King Seongdeok the Great attracts a large number of tourists. The bell produces a distinctive sound, about which there is a legend. Cheomseongdae near Gyeongju is the oldest extant astronomical observatory in East Asia, while some disagree on its exact functions. It was built during the reign of Queen Seondeok (623-647).

The name "Shilla"

Muslim traders brought the name "Shilla" to the world outside the traditional East Asian sphere through the Silk Road. Geographers of the Arab and Persian world, including ibn Khurdadhbih, al-Masudi, Dimashiki, al-Nuwairi, and al-Maqrizi, left records about Shilla.


Buddhism was formally adopted by Shilla in 527 under King Beopheung, though it had been exposed to the religion for over a century during which the faith had certainly made inroads into the native populace. It was the Buddhist monk Ado who first exposed Shilla to Buddhism when he arrived to proselytize from Goguryeo in the mid 5th century.[5] However, according to legend, the Shilla monarchy was convinced to adopt the faith by the martyrdom of the Shilla court noble Ichadon, who was executed for his Buddhist faith by the Shilla king in 527 only to have his blood flow the color of milk.

Buddhism in Shilla society

The importance of Buddhism in Shilla society of the late early period is difficult to exaggerate. From King Beopheung and for the following six reigns Shilla kings adopted Buddhist names and came to portray themselves as Buddha–kings.[6] Buddhism in Shilla was, more so than in the case of Baekje and Goguryeo, an officially sponsored faith. Its state–protection aspects were emphasized. The Hwarang corps, an elite corps of youthful warriors that would play a central role in Shilla unification of the peninsula, had strong connections to Buddhism, particularly the worship of the Maitreya Buddha. The late early period of Shilla saw Buddhism‘s apogee there. A great number of temples were built, often financed and sponsored by high ranking nobility, the most notable being Hwangyongsa, Bulguksa and Seokguram. Hwangyongsa (Imperial Dragon) temple in particular emphasized the power of the monarchy and Buddhism‘s role in state protection and aggrandizement. The nine stories of its wooden pagoda, perhaps the tallest manmade structure in East Asia of the period, were said to symbolize the nine nations destined to submit to Shilla rule. Shilla attached great importance to the pagoda, building them of stone as well as wood. With Shilla unification Buddhism came to play a less perceptible role in politics as the monarchy attempted to adopt Chinese Confucian institutions of statecraft to govern an enlarged state and to curb the power of the aristocratic families. Nevertheless, Buddhism still enjoyed a central place in larger Shilla society. Hundreds of Shilla monks traveled to Tang China in search of education and for the procurement of much needed Buddhism sutras. Shilla‘s strong Buddhist nature is also reflected by the thousands of remnant Buddhist stone figures and carvings, mostly importantly on Namsan.