Rich in relics from the Silla dynasty, Gyeongju used to be well known throughout Asia as Geumseong. It was recognized as being the home of powerful and sumptuous shaman kings during the Silla dynasty (which corresponds to the Chinese Tang dynasty). The Silla Kingdom united Korea and was celebrated as being the epitome of Korean art and culture. During the beginning of the Silla dynasty, shamanism, the belief that the physical world is ruled by spirits and demons in a magical world, was prevalent and the literature, art, and structures from this time reflect this conviction.
Eventually Buddhism spread throughout Korea and this new religious zeal resulted in a renaissance of art that remains unparalleled. Much of the art was religious-the granite Buddha statues, splendid temple grounds, and exquisite pagodas serve as evidence of their dedication to Buddha and also to their human talent.
The Japanese from the Hideyoshi invasion of 1592 looted much of Gyeongju’s historical treasures but the ones too heavy to take, as well as those hidden in the tombs and lakes, remain in Gyeongju and are proof of the gift and genius of Korea’s Golden Age.