A fallen 88-ton Buddha statue on a South Korean mountain will be set back in place by 2025, in an effort that some officials in the country are calling unprecedented.
The statue is located on the Namsan peak in Gyeongju and is believed to be around 1,300 years old. Known as a Maaebul, the statue was discovered in 2007 by a research group in the area.
An earthquake in 1430 may have caused the Maaebul’s tumble, meaning that it could have spent centuries in its current position. But that all will soon change, the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism said this week when it announced the project.
Ven. Jinwoo, president of the Order, said in a statement, “The Buddha [statue] spent a thousand years lying face down, to bear the sufferings of the people. Erecting the Buddha means raising up ourselves, and this will become a holy Buddhist service that restores the nature in all of us.”
Initially, Gyeongju officials believed that they may not able to right the Maaebul, citing the fact that it weight even more than tanks used by the South Korean military. To lift it, a crane or a helicopter would have to be enlisted, they said more than a decade ago, and even if they did succeed in raising it, there were worries that the Buddha’s face would not survive the process.
How the Maaebul will be erected once more was not made clear in the Order’s announcement, only that it would be done after a simulation was staged first.
An unnamed member of Gyeongju’s Cultural Heritage Administration told the Korea Herald, “Minor cracks have been found in the Buddha statue, and there is no precedent of moving a relic that weighs over 80 metric tons.”