Historical Relics in Mt. Myohyang, North Korea

Mt. Myohyang is famous for not only its scenic beauty but many relics showing the time-honoured history and culture of the Korean people.

Many historical remains and relics showing the creative talents and artistic skills of the wise and industrious Korean people are preserved in the mountain. Among them are buildings, sculptures, pagodas, stone monuments, paintings, craftworks, printed materials and the like.

Typical of them are temples built from around the 7th century in the north of Piro Peak and deep valleys in inner Hyangsan. According to the old records on stone monuments, there were over 360 temples including Ansim and Pohyon temples, over 150 of which are recorded in history. It was also said that the temples kept many relics such as Buddhist images and paintings, wood blocks of the Buddhist scriptures and utensils used for Buddhist rituals and life during the periods of Koryo (918-1392) and the feudal Joson dynasty (1392-1910).

Many of the cultural relics, however, were washed away by the flood in 1915 or destroyed by the Japanese policy of the destruction of Korean culture pursued during their military occupation of Korea.

Worse still, more than 20 buildings and thousands of items of relics found in Mt. Myohyang were burnt or destroyed by barbarous bombings of the US imperialists during the Fatherland Liberation War (June 1950 – July 1953).

However, thanks to the policies of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the state on preserving cultural relics, the old buildings including the main building of Pohyon Temple have been restored to the original state and many artefacts are in good preservation.

At present there are many wooden buildings, including shrines, halls, hermitages and others in the Pohyon Temple district in Mt. Myohyang.

Pohyon Temple, which was built in 1042, is typical of the Korean architecture in the early 11th century and of great artistic value.

It was the largest temple in North and South Phyongan provinces, and played a central role in Buddhism in the areas north of the Chongchon River.

There are historical materials and relics, including Dharani pagoda from Puljong Temple in Songdong-ri, Phihyon County, North Phyongan Province, and a bell from Yujom Temple in Mt. Kumgang.

The architectural group of buildings in the temple has become a tourist destination.

Pagodas and stone monuments can also be found in the mountain.

Most of the stone monuments are inscribed with the history of the temples and monks. Typical of them is that in the Pohyon Temple.

The octagonal 13-storeyed and square 9-storeyed pagodas are famous ones: they show the developed Korea’s stone architecture in the Middle Ages. The former built with delicately dressed granite slabs has windbells at the ends of angle rafters of each roof: the 104 bells ring even in a light wind, evoking a peculiar emotion and giving a glimpse into the high architectural skills.

The latter gives a solemn feeling.

Mt. Myohyang preserves remains showing the development of printing in Korea. Typical of them are the 80 000 Blocks of the Complete Collection of Buddhist Scriptures and wood blocks of Buddhist scriptures in the days of Koryo and feudal Joson dynasty.

The historical relics in Mt. Myohyang add much to the landscape of the celebrated mountain, and are protected as precious cultural heritage showing the time-honoured history of the Korean nation.