Tradition: Korea Rock Stacking and Balancing

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Temple Maisan

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Prayer rocks

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While the practice of stacking rock and balancing stones for art or devotion may not be widespread in Korea, it certainly was the concentrated discipline of at least one reclusive Buddhist, Yi Gapyong.

Commencing in the late 19th century, his years of labor produced the stone "pagodas" of Tapsa Temple, now within the Maisan ("Horses' Ears") Provincial Park. Travelers' descriptions of the site include towers which sway in the wind but do not fall, stones brought from mountains all over the Korean peninsula, and "mysterious construction which cannot be explained by modern geometry". Of perhaps 130 original towers, over 80 still stand, some even 10 meters high.


The five detail selections immediately above, taken from images generously provided by Charles La Shure suggest the arduous effort involved in the construction of most of the Tapsa Temple towers.

Similar -- though usually less ambitious -- examples of "prayer rocks" can be found at other sites such as Haeinsa Temple (center image in top row), Bulguska Temple, and Seokguram Grotto.

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© Daliel Leite
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Rock on, Rock ON!

One of Bill's

Bill Dan,
Sausalito, CA
photo courtesy  •  Dr. Ken Goldberg