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oldest known sculpture in Korea are some rock carvings at a riverside cliff
named Pangudae in Kyongsangbuk-do Province. Figurines were actively
created in bronze, earthenware, clay during the Bronze Age. Sculpture,
however, did not formally begin untill the introduction of Buddhism to the Three
Kingdoms. All Three Kingdoms were enthusiastic about Buddhism, and
Buddhist images and pagodas became a main theme of their artisans.
Koyuryo Buddhas have lean elongated faces, prominent marks of a Buddha (usnisas)
on mostly shaven heads, spiritually blended with the rugged style of Koguryo.
The most notable of Koguryo sculpture is the "Tongga Seventh Year"
gilt-bronze Buddha. Characteristics unique to Paekche sculpture are
clearly evident in all the Buddhist images of the sixth century, characterized
by warm, human features, a stately but relaxed body, and voluminous curvature
under the robe. Early Shilla sculptures are marked by Sui and Tang
influences, such as round full faces, relaxed bodies, and realistic rendering of
garments, which affected such famous works such as the Buddha in the Sokkuram
carving continued to flourish during Koryo, which produced a great number of
Buddhist images and pagodas die to state patronage of Buddhism. The
Buddha figures become distinctively Korean in the eyes and cheekbones, but
figures were stiff and formal compared to the vitality of the previous
periods. Buddhist sculpture rapidly declined with the inception of the
Choson Dynasty, as the rulers suppressed Buddhism, and sculpture suffered as a
result. After Choson, creativity was stifled even further during the
Japanese colonial period, and most sculptors simply imitated Western
techniques. Modern sculpture became an art form in its own right in the
sixties, when the opposing schools of realism and abstractionism grew and
sculptors began to use a great variety of materials.
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