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Buddhist Urn, Relics Found at Mireuk Temple in Iksan

By Cathy Rose A. Garcia, The Korea Times, Jan 19, 2009

North Jeolla Province, South Korea -- Significant Buddhist relics were discovered at Mireuk Temple grounds in Iksan, North Jeolla Province, confirming that the temple was built during the reign of King Mu (600-641 A.D.) of the Baekje Kingdom by his queen.

<< An array of Buddhist relics discovered in the grounds of Mireuk Temple in Iksan, North Jeolla Province confirmed that the temple was built during the reign of King Mu (600-641 A.D.) of the Baekje Kingdom (18-660 A.D.).The vase in the foreground is the sari urn, while the golden plate behind it shows the ``bongangi,’’ which has detailed information about the construction of Mireuk Temple and the pagoda.

The National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage unveiled Monday some 500 relics from the site including a gold urn holding ``sari'' or the remains of a great monk after cremation and a ``bongangi,'' or a gold plate with inscriptions from the Baekje Kingdom (18-660 A.D.).

Yonhap News Agency reported the gold urn and plate had been unearthed while National Treasure no. 11 a stone pagoda was being taken apart at the temple.

The bongangi, which measures 15.5 centimeters by 10.5 centimeters, featured 193 words and 11 lines in ancient Chinese characters. The writing states that the stone pagoda, considered the oldest existing one in Korea, was built in 639 A.D.

The discovery gives a concrete historic date to the construction of both the temple and the pagoda, the grandest of its kind built during the Baekje Kingdom. It also clarifies the identity of King Mu's queen _ the bongangi states she was a high-level Baekje official's daughter, not Princess Seonhwa from Silla as written in the ``Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms.''

The bongangi is also expected to offer valuable information about the construction of the temple, insights into the history of the Baekje Kingdom as well as information on the calligraphy used at the time.

The gold sari urn is 13 centimeters high and 7.7 centimeters in circumference. The sari urn is placed at the cornerstones during the construction of a pagoda, which was considered by Buddhists as Buddha's tomb. They were usually placed alongside a written record of how the pagoda was constructed.

The administration said this was the first time the stone pagoda at Mireuk Temple was being dismantled. However, the pagoda was reconstructed during the Japanese occupation.

The new discovery is the second from the Baekje Kingdom. In 2007, a set of gold, silver and bronze urns holding sari was found in a wooden pagoda in Wangheung Temple grounds, now in Buyeo, South Chungcheong Province. It was built by Baekje King Wideok to honor the death of his son in 577.

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