Week 9 – Gatbawi Statue on Palgongsan


At the peak of Palgong-san stands the statue of the Healing Buddha. He stands at the center of the mountain. This Buddha statue is particularly special due to the time period and history. It is one of the best representations of Silla Buddhism. This temple was once neglected during the Joseon dynasty when there were Buddhism oppression policies. The 14th Baegam Buddhist master priest rediscovered the statue and vowed to build a temple to make the location a resting place for mankind. The priest founded the Gwanam Temple in March 1962 and named the road Gatbawi and the statue as Healing Buddha. This temple quickly became designated a national cultural asset in September 1963. The current main temple has since grown under different Buddhist chiefs and continues to serve as a religious spot that treasures the spirit of Palgong Mountain.

The seated buddha that sits on Palgong mountain near the top of Gwan Peak was made during the United Silla period. The statue is officially called the Stone Seated Medicine Buddha at Seonbonsa Temple, but it has become more popularly known as the Gatbawi Statue. This is because of the slab of rock topping the Buddha’s head which is shaped like a “Gat” which is a traditional wide brimmed hat made of horsehair. The statue is surrounded perfectly by the rock cliff which creates a natural halo of light. The Buddha’s figure and pedestal are carved from one single piece of stone. The statue illustrates Buddha’s round face, long earlobes, and signature pose. He is posed with his hands on his lap called the mudra hand gesture and a small pillbox is placed on the center of his hand which is the reason for the name of the Medicine Buddha. The design of this Buddha is reminiscent of 9th century designs of Buddha sculptures.

It is a fun climb to the top and you will pass by many others following the same path to reach Gatbawi Statue. At the top, you’ll see a beautiful array of paper lanterns that provide shade and many people praying to the statue. This site is located in Daegu, South Korea which is easy to access from Seoul. Daegu has a motto “ Colorful Daegu” and it is indeed a colorful city. Take one of the many trains at Seoul Station to reach this beautiful city and statue!