Buddhist sculpture in Korea

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Buddhism is believed to have been introduced into the Korean kingdoms of Koguryo and Paekche in the 4th century, via the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534), a dynasty of the Tuoba people, a Turkic people descended from the Xianbei.[1] Though Korea initially copied Chinese styles of Buddhist sculpture, distinctive styles later emerged in each of the Three Kingdoms. These styles then merged into a single set of typical styles following the unification of Korea under the kingdom of Silla in the 7th century.

Tang Dynasty sculptural styles had a notable influence in the 7th-8th centuries, and Korean Buddhist sculpture developed into a "mature classical style" in the 8th century, a period sometimes described as a "golden age" for Korean Buddhist art.

Chinese influences faded beginning in the 9th century, and the 10th to 12th centuries saw considerable growth and development in native Korean styles, including the production of a number of colossal Buddhist images. Buddhism and Buddhist sculpture flourished in the Goryeo Kingdom (918-1392), and came to be influenced by Tibeto-Mongolian styles in the 13th-14th centuries as the Mongol Yuan Dynasty rose to dominance in China.

The adoption of neo-Confucianism as the official political philosophy of state under the Joseon dynasty (1392-1897) brought some considerable suppression of Buddhism; however, images continued to be constructed and worshipped throughout that period, down to today.


  • Gallery labels, National Museum of Korea.[1]

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