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Korean J Art Hist > Volume 302; 2019 > Article
Korean Journal of Art History 2019;302:5-35.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.31065/ahak.302.302.201906.001    Published online June 30, 2019.
한국 고대 신중상의 의미와 효용
한 재 원
문화재청 문화재감정위원
The Cultural Significance and Functions of Guardian Deity Assemblies of Ancient Korea
Jae-won Han
Connoisseur of the Cultural Heritage Administration
Received: 27 February 2019   • Revised: 6 April 2019   • Accepted: 19 April 2019
The aim of this article is not to identify the Vajrapanis, the Four Heavenly Kings, and the Eight Classes of Divine Beings, but to understand why they stand where they are. The armed Guardian Deities with their large muscles and menacing expressions act primarily as protectors of the Buddhist religion and sarira from evils but their another role is to intimidate the faithful to adhere to religious precepts. The Vajrapanis on the Stone Pagoda from Bunhwangsa Temple may be interpreted as the guardians of the pagoda who monitor the keeping of Buddhist teachings. The Four Heavenly Kings on the Stone Pagoda from Wonwonsa Temple site are also symbolic guards who oversee how the laymen observe the rules of the Buddhist religion. On the lower storey of the pagoda, the twelve zodiacal animal deities adorn the sides starting from the east side, to finish on the north side, all look to the right, except the ox on the north who look to the left. These deities were carved to serve as reminders to directions and an end point for tapdori(circling the pagoda) rituals. The Eight Classes of stone pagodas or Seokguram Grotto were arranged to recreate imaginary scenes in the religious texts, and the Four Heavenly Kings on stone lanterns symbolize the narrative that they radiated light when hearing Buddha’s sermons. Many pagodas, Seokguram, and stone lanterns were decorated with guardian deities to complete the narratives of texts and scenes in real life as visual and tangible. The original function of guardian deities in Korean Buddhist Art were to function as indexes for religious venue where rites were held and Buddhist teachings were learned, and to lead the faithful to religious sensitivity, repentance, and spiritual awakening.
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