This is the head temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, built between 751 and 774 AD, and is considered a masterpiece of the golden age of Buddhist art and architecture in the Silla Kingdom (57 BC to 935 AD). It’s located south-east of Gyeongju, the capital of the Silla Kingdom in the 8th century, which encompassed most of the Korean peninsula.
During the Japanese invasion of Korea - The Imjin War, 1592-98 - Bulguksa was burned to the ground. After 1604, it was reconstructed and expanded. Restoration continued up to 1805. More restoration occurred during the Japanese occupation of Korea from 1905 to 1945. Again, additional restoration from 1969 to 1973 brought it to its current condition. The famed stone structures and foundations of the temple have survived from the original construction, attesting to the masonry/stone skills of Silla craftsmen. An example are the 33 steps leading up to the temple grounds, representing the 33 steps to enlightenment. Fortunately, the gilt bronze Buddha statues dating back to the 8th and 9th centuries also survived.
The restoration of the Seokgatap Pagoda in 1966 uncovered the oldest known woodblock print in the world - a Buddhist scroll 6.2 m long - dated between 704 and 751 AD.
In 1995, Bulguksa was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site
Sarira Pagoda (at Bulguksa):
This 2 metre tall piece, resembling a stone lantern, was taken to Japan in 1906, but returned in 1933. It’s been suggested that it contains the remains of 8 priests or possibly a queen.
Close by is the Seokguram Grotto, essentially a huge cavern containing a 3.45 metre statue of Sakyamuni Buddha, which dates back 751-74 AD. The Buddha, depicted at the moment he attained enlightenment, is surrounded in high and low relief by portrayals of Bodhisattvas, the Ten Disciples, Eight Divine Guardians, two Devas, two Vajrapanis. Everything has been carved from white granite. For preservation purposes, the grotto is blocked by wall to wall, floor to ceiling glass, and no photographs are allowed. However, there are a number of photographs on line.