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Latest discovery shows stone columns at Baekje temple

By Choi Si-young

Published : June 11, 2024 - 15:09

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A view of Geumdang, the central hall at the Mireuksa temple complex in Iksan, North Jeolla Province (Buyeo National Cultural Heritage Research Institute) A view of Geumdang, the central hall at the Mireuksa temple complex in Iksan, North Jeolla Province (Buyeo National Cultural Heritage Research Institute)

The signature Buddhist temple from the Baekje Kingdom (18 BC to 660 AD) used split stones for column bases, the Buyeo National Cultural Heritage Research Institute said Tuesday, citing its latest find.

This contradicts previous findings on Baekje Kingdom temple construction, which had thought that only soil bases were used for columns.

The state-run think tank said its monthslong excavations at Geumdang, the central hall at the Mireuksa temple complex in Iksan, North Jeolla Province, revealed that the hall’s column bases were made of split stones, in addition to soil. The stones are 2.2 to 2.4 meters in diameter and 1.2 meters in depth.

A view of column bases at Geumdang, the central hall at the Mireuksa temple complex in Iksan, North Jeolla Province (Buyeo National Cultural Heritage Research Institute) A view of column bases at Geumdang, the central hall at the Mireuksa temple complex in Iksan, North Jeolla Province (Buyeo National Cultural Heritage Research Institute)

“The single biggest finding is that stone was used for temple pillars. Previous projects had never picked up on that,” said the institution’s official. The institution carried out excavations in 1981 and 1993.

The latest eight-month project that ended in May took an expansive approach compared to the previous surveys, by looking inside the temple columns and grounds.

The latest survey also found that the 7th-century hall’s column base on its western side had gone through a remodeling, though the reason behind it remains unknown. The institute said it requires further study to figure out why.

“This year’s excavations identified the natural terrain before the creation of the temple complex and the sequential civil engineering process from the foundation of the temple to the construction of the interior platforms,” the official added, noting excavation results shed light on how Baekje civil engineering had evolved.

The institute will hold a public briefing on the latest findings on Wednesday. Anyone interested can participate. Officials involved in excavations will present their findings at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

“We’re running surveys at seven locations in total currently -- all related to the Baekje era,” an official said. “We will make more announcements on findings in the second half of the year.”