Stone Pagoda at Mireuksa Temple Site, Iksan

If you visit Iksan City in Korea, there is a place you must visit. You must visit the Stone Pagoda at Mireuksa Temple Site, Iksan. Even if you visit Iksan, there is no point in visiting if you have not seen this.


Stone Pagoda at Mireuksa Temple Site, Iksan

This large pagoda stands on what was once occupied by Mireuksa Temple, the largest Buddhist temple of the Baekje period in Korea. Currently, only the first six stories of the tower are intact, leaving some uncertainty about its original height and number of floors. The prevailing view is that the tower was probably built during the reign of King Mu (reigning 600-641) of the late Baekje period.

The square-shaped tower consists of a low-rise stylobate, such as a wooden tower. The first stone pillar of the pagoda body is divided into three spaces, with openings in the center to allow the tower to enter from all directions, and a huge square pillar in the center. The corner pillars are on each side of the first stone pillar, which is wide in the center and narrow at the bottom, with timber laid horizontally in the arches and a wooden structure on the pillar. The roof stones are thin and wide, rising a little from four corners. From the second floor, the pagoda body is lowered, making each part simple in representation, and the width of the roof stones narrow. 

It is regrettable that the collapsed upper layer was cemented, but it is nevertheless the oldest and largest stone pagoda in Korea. It is also a valuable cultural heritage site that faithfully demonstrates the transition from a wooden tower to a stone pagoda.


Overview of Iksan Mireuksaji Stone Pagoda

The Mireuksaji Stone Pagoda, located in Iksan, South Korea, is the oldest and largest stone pagoda in Korea. It stands within the Mireuksaji Temple site, which was once one of the largest and most important Buddhist temples during the Baekje Kingdom. The pagoda is a significant cultural and historical artifact, reflecting the architectural and artistic accomplishments of the period.

Historical Background

Baekje Kingdom

The Baekje Kingdom (18 BCE–660 CE) was one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, alongside Goguryeo and Silla. Baekje played a crucial role in the spread of Buddhism in Korea, and Mireuksaji Temple was a center for Buddhist practice and learning.

Mireuksaji Temple Site

Mireuksaji Temple was established in 602 CE by King Mu of Baekje. According to historical records, the temple was constructed following a vision of Maitreya Buddha (the Buddha of the Future). The temple complex originally included several wooden buildings, stone pagodas, and other structures, many of which have not survived.

Architectural Features

The Mireuksaji Stone Pagoda is notable for its grand scale and unique construction techniques. Originally, it was a 9-story pagoda, but due to damage over the centuries, only six stories remain today. The pagoda stands about 14 meters (46 feet) tall.

The pagoda’s base is a large square platform made of granite. The base includes intricate carvings and reliefs, which reflect the artistic styles of the Baekje period.

The body of the pagoda is composed of stacked stone slabs, with each story decreasing in size as it ascends. The corners of each story have ornamental columns, and the edges of the roofs are slightly upturned, a characteristic feature of Baekje architecture.

The roof of each story is constructed with stone slabs that mimic traditional wooden eaves. The eaves are decorated with stone carvings, and the corners are adorned with small finials.

The pagoda underwent significant restoration efforts starting in the 1990s. The restoration aimed to stabilize the structure and preserve its historical integrity. Advanced techniques were used to carefully dismantle and reassemble parts of the pagoda, ensuring that the original stones were preserved as much as possible.


Cultural Significance

The Mireuksaji Stone Pagoda symbolizes the spiritual aspirations of the Baekje people and their dedication to Buddhism. The pagoda’s design reflects the belief in the Maitreya Buddha, who was expected to bring salvation to the world.

As the largest and oldest stone pagoda in Korea, Mireuksaji holds immense historical value. It provides insights into the architectural advancements and cultural exchanges of the Baekje Kingdom, particularly with neighboring China and Japan.

The Mireuksaji Stone Pagoda and the surrounding temple site were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015, as part of the “Baekje Historic Areas.” This designation underscores the site’s importance in understanding the history and culture of the Baekje Kingdom and its contributions to Korean heritage.

Archaeological excavations at the Mireuksaji Temple site have uncovered numerous artifacts, including Buddhist relics, pottery, and remnants of the temple’s original wooden structures. These findings have provided valuable information about the religious practices and daily life in the Baekje period.

Inscriptions found on some of the stones used in the pagoda’s construction have offered clues about the pagoda’s history and the people who built it. These inscriptions are an important source of historical data, shedding light on the temple’s founding and the cultural context of the time.


Why important The Iksan Mireuksaji Stone Pagoda 

The Iksan Mireuksaji Stone Pagoda stands as a testament to the architectural and spiritual achievements of the Baekje Kingdom. Its grandeur and historical significance make it a vital part of Korea’s cultural heritage. The ongoing preservation efforts ensure that future generations can continue to learn from and appreciate this remarkable monument.

How to go there, Iksan Mireuksaji Stone Pagoda 

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