Korean Architecture of Tower


The Korean-style tower architecture can be traced back to megaliths in primitive times. Primitive Koreans, in the Bronze Age, built up megaliths facing the sky with a desire to protect and strengthen their tribe by soliciting nature for power. And such stones developed into vertical towers.

The towers were made of wood in their early days. They were three-, five-, seven-, nine- or thirteen-storeyed, and many of them were quadrangular or octagonal in plane.

What is famous for its large scale is a nine-storeyed pagoda at Hwangryong Temple. It is the highest of old wooden pagodas in Korea. It is about 78.75 metres in height, and its platform about 22 metres in width.

The architecture of wooden towers developed into that of stone ones. Stone towers, in their early days, were made of plain stones, and they were large in scale and many-storeyed.

Later they were reduced in base area, scale and number of storeys, and made of whole stones, and necessary elements and decorations were carved on them.

Change in Korean-style stone tower architecture was accelerated in the latter half of the 7th century. And there began to appear those with two-storey platforms, and their platforms, towers and roofing stones were based on pedestals and stone props. The stone towers were exquisite in general expression.

Stone towers show a marked trend toward carving and are small in scale compared to the wooden ones.

Still, both kinds of Korean towers have things in common with each other: platform, tower body and head; and the decrease based on the same arithmetic progression in height and width for each storey. Such decrease makes the line linking the edges of the eaves form a straight line.

Such a style of tower architecture is still used at present, including the structure of platform, tower body and head and the decrease based on arithmetic progression.

A typical example is the Tower of the Juche Idea that rises in Pyongyang on the bank of the Taedong River. It is a granite tower 170 metres in total height.

It consists of a platform, tower body and head, and is based on the abovementioned decrease in order based on an arithmetic progression similar to that of a 13-storeyed octagonal pagoda of Pohyon Temple in Mt Myohyang, in such a way as to suit modern aesthetic taste.

The traditional Korean-style tower architecture was registered as No. 88 on the list of the national intangible cultural heritage.

13-storeyed octagonal pagoda of Pohyon Temple


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