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Sŏkkuram and Iran

KIM Minku

The Domed Korean Buddhist Sanctuary with a Central Image for Circumambulation and Its Precedents in Kucha (Xinjiang)

Sŏkkuram 石窟庵 (literally, “Stone Grotto Chapel”) is a mid-eighth century lapidary Buddhist sanctuary constructed in Unified Silla 新羅 (668-935 CE) Korea. With its domed rear section buried to bring cave-like effect, this extraordinary work of ashlar masonry is composed of a rectangular antechamber, a narrow vaulted corridor, and a domed circular sanctum featuring a formidable granite statue of the Buddha, seated imposingly at the center of the rotunda for circumambulatory worship. In regard to this unique architectonic, this project attempts to situate its origin to the extent of Iranian tradition developed under the Parthians (ca. 250 BCE-ca. 224 CE) and the Sasanians (224-642). Similar rock-cut Buddhist monasteries in Kucha (Xinjiang) are discussed as cognate cases in point.
This project (AKS-2013-R84) is under the auspices of the Korean Studies Grant (US$ 13,000), Academy of Korean Studies, and its resulted work, titled “The Cult Statue under the Dome: Sŏkkuram and Its Cognate Cases in Central Asia,” is expected to be submitted soon to The Art Bulletin (or its equivalent) for publication.

  • Conferences

    1.  “Architectonics of Sŏkkuram by Origin: Domed Elite Buildings of the Partho-Sassanid World and Central and East Asia,” at the Stories Told in Asia: Caves, Tombs and Tiles panel for the annual meeting of the Association for Asian Studies, Chicago, March 29, 2015.
    2. “The Iranian Regimen for Sacred Architecture: Domed Buddhist Cave Temples of Kucha and Korea,” at the Archaeologies of Interaction: The Iranian Plateau and Central and East Asia panel for the 114th annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research, San Diego, CA, November 20, 2014.
    3.  “Sŏkkuram and Iran: The Domed Korean Buddhist Sanctuary with A Main Image for Circumambulation and Its Precedents in Kucha (Xinjiang),” for the 2nd Korean Art History Workshop titled Infinite Interfusion: Buddhist Art in Korea, organized by the Harvard Korea Institute and co-sponsored by the East Asian Art History Program and Harvard-Yenching Institute, Harvard University, December 13, 2013.
  • Talks

    “Sŏkkuram in Eurasian Context,” Asian Studies Program & Department of History of Art, Vanderbilt University, April 2; Department of Fine Arts, Chinese University of Hong Kong, April 23, 2015.