Buddha in the Landscape
Strikingly Beautiful Giant Golden Buddha in Suwon
It’s estimated that these days Buddhists account for about 23% of the population in Korea, way less than many years ago. For a brief history of Buddhism in Korea see here:
Although large statues of Buddha are no different in meaning from other smaller representations of the Enlightened One, there are certain distinctions. Buddha images in the open are usually striking simply for their size. But, the location is also an important factor. In addition to a prominent and usually elevated site, as respect for the Buddha demands, the natural beauty of a setting and the sense of calm and serenity coming from physical isolation are often part of the overall design and function of the statue.
Buddha images are made from all kinds of material—bronze, stone, wood, crystal, brick or stucco, or cast in gold, silver or other metal. But the most common for most large Buddha statues in the landscape these days is reinforced concrete.
Buddha images can be found in many countries, notably Thailand, Burma, China, Korea and Japan. But, they all need to be the same in certain ways and have certain characteristics, the three essential ones being kindness, tranquility and enlightenment. People should also note the hands: palms turned upright signify charity, and palms forward mean reasoning.
New outdoor Buddhas continue to be built, especially in Thailand. Many art historians believe that this is an ancient tradition and that many of the huge statues now in temples in these countries were originally in the open.
We didn’t see many huge outdoor Buddhas in Korea on our last visit, but we did note one very beautiful one in Suwon, on the mountainside next to Hwaseong Fortress, overlooking the city.
This giant golden Buddha stands about 2 storeys tall. Its right hand forms the Jnana Mudra (meaning teaching), and its left hand forms the Vitarka Mudra (meaning intellectual argument/discussion). You approach the statue from the bottom, through a small quiet shaded courtyard bedecked with prayer flags and pretty paper lanterns, and get to a small temple in the base of the statue.
Very impressive. Even if you’re not religious, you do get a sense of the special serenity here.