Gilt-bronze Sarira Reliquary of Gameunsa Temple
Unified Silla Period
Metal - Gilt-bronze
religion - Buddhism - solemnity - sarira reliquary
H. 20.3cm, W. 14.7cm
- Accession Number
Metal Crafts Gallery
According to the records, Gameunsa Temple was established in 682 to honor King Munmu (r. 661-681), under whose reign the Silla unified the three kingdoms of ancient Korea (Silla, Goguryeo, and Baekje). The temple has now vanished, but the two stone pagodas—one in the east and one in the west of the temple site—still remain, and they are the oldest surviving pagodas from Silla. The third story of each of the 13-meter pagodas was found to contain a set of lavishly ornamented reliquaries, complete with inner and outer sarira containers. These sarira reliquaries were found inside the east pagoda when it was dismantled for restoration in 1996. The inner container is shaped like a palatial building, while the cubic outer container is elaborately embossed on all four sides with images of the Four Heavenly Kings. The reliquaries from both Gameunsa pagodas are highly regarded by art historians, not only for their extravagant and extensive ornamentation, but also because they are known to have been commissioned by the Silla royal family and their date of production is clearly known.