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Stupa of State Preceptor Jigwang to return home in 108 years

Stupa of State Preceptor Jigwang to return home in 108 years

Posted June. 22, 2019 07:25,   

Updated June. 22, 2019 07:25


The Stupa of State Preceptor Jigwang from Beopcheonsa Temple Site in Wonju (National Treasure No. 101) will return home in more than 100 years.

The Cultural Heritage Administration said Friday that its Cultural Heritage Committee held a meeting Thursday and decided to move the stupa to its original location, the Beopcheonsa temple in Wonju, Gangwon Province.

The stupa contains the relics of Goryeo monk and State Preceptor Jigwang, whose penname is Haerin (984-1070), and is considered one of the finest stupas built during the Goryeo dynasty with its unique structure and elaborate, decorative carvings. However, the stupa had to wander around different places for 108 years from the Japanese colonial era.

The stupa was removed from the Beopcheonsa temple in 1911 by Japan, which was obsessed with exploiting cultural heritages. It was then moved to Murakami Hospital in Myeongdong, and to a garden in the Wada Residence in Namchang-dong, Jung-gu district in Seoul. It was even smuggled into Osaka in May that year. Though the monument was returned upon the request of the Japanese Government General of Korea in 1912, it was not its original site but Gyeongbokgung Palace that the stupa was moved to.

The struggle continued on even after Korea achieved independence. The stupa suffered great damages during the Korean War, and was hastily restored in 1957 without thorough historical research. In 1990, the monument was moved to the backyard of the National Palace Museum of Korea (then the National Museum of Korea) to spend 20 years there. Yet, a series of special investigations conducted from 2005 to 2015 found that the stupa had several cracks and gaps.

In September 2015, the Cultural Heritage Committee decided to dismantle the stupa and start restoration works. The National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage in Daejeon has been working on the conservation of the stupa since May 2016. The institute is expected to complete the conservation work by the end of the year. Meanwhile, a stone monument of State Preceptor Jigwang (National Treasure No. 59) is still holding its place in the Beopcheonsa temple as it was 108 years ago.

The cultural administration said that it is reviewing various options including building a structure for the stupa in the original location or displaying it within an exhibition hall, which is to be established on the site. They will be able to actually move the stupa to the site by around 2021, the administration said.

Won-Mo Yu onemore@donga.com