Master Uisang was studying in China when secret information was revealed
to him. T’ang warlords were planning to attack Shilla, Uisang’s beloved
homeland. The information came to the young monk through the lovelorn daughter
of a high-ranking T’ang official at whose home Uisang was staying. He immediately
set out to warn his countrymen. The daughter rushed after him, but was
too late, for the ship was disappearing over the horizon. In desperation,
the girl flung herself into the sea and drowned. This supreme act of sacrifice
transformed her into a dragon which guarded the ship all the way back to
The attack averted, Uisang set himself to the task of searching for
the ideal temple site. He found it on Mt. Ponghwangsan, but the villagers
refused to vacate the chosen spot. Once again, the dragon appeared, threatening
to hurl a massive rock on the village. The people fled and
the dragon came crashing to the earth and exhaled its last breath. This
is the site of the Main Hall of Pusoksa today. To the west you can see
a rock, a small portion of the one hurled by the dragon. Therefore, Pusoksa
is called Temple of the Floating Stone.
Pusoksa, constructed in 676 CE at the orders of Shilla King Munmu,
is a temple which shows the transition period between those originally
built in the plains during the period of the Three Kingdoms and those built
in the mountains during the later Koryo and Choson periods.
The Main Hall enshrines Amitabha. Originally built in 676, the present
structure dates from 1358, one of the oldest wooden buildings in Korea.
The foundation is of granite. The columns supporting the roof are fitted
with brackets which seem complicated at first but which are actually amazingly
simple. The hipped-and-gabled roof is in perfect proportion to the body
of the building, giving the hall a unique feeling. Inside, the statue sits
west facing east because it is an Amitabha, Buddha of the Western Paradise.
It is the oldest clay statue in Korea.
To the left of the Main Hall, at the bottom of a steep bluff, lies
the legendary floating stone. To the right of the stone is a three-story
pagoda behind which is a pavilion dedicated to the Chinese girl who, in
the form of a dragon, helped Master Uisang.
Chosadang, a hall for portraits of great masters, lies 100 meters to
the northeast of the Main Hall. The building’s original frescoes of guardians
and gods are the best exisiting examples of Koryo Dynasty wall paintings
and are currently being kept in a separate place for safe-keeping. Just
under the eaves of Chosadang, there is a tree which sprang from a stick
that Uisang put there on his way to India. He is reputed to have foretold
that if a tree grew it would never die. And so it is, ever green and blooming
after 1,300 years!
Pusoksa has many treasures: the flagpole supports; the Koryo wood-blocks;
the pudo, conical stone objects in which the remains of famous monks are
kept; the two stone pagodas; and the monument to Master Wonyung, are only
some of the wonderful objects which have survived Korea’s turbulent history.
The stone lantern, which dates from the Unified Shilla Period, is a masterpiece
of proportion anddesign.