The Goryeo dynasty (918–1392) was a period of intense religious fervor. Its people—from the rulers to their lowest subjects—were ardent believers in Buddhism.
This dynasty had a unique beginning. Its founder, Wang Geon (reigned 918–943), embraced his former rivals and brought them into the fold of his new dynasty. Wang Geon became the first great Korean patron of Buddhist art, mandating the building of ten Buddhist monasteries in his new capital city, Gaegyeong (present-day Gaeseong). A century later, there were more than seventy Buddhist monasteries in Songdo alone. This religious fervor culminated in the carving—not just once, but twice—of more than eighty thousand woodblocks representing a complete edition of the standard Buddhist texts.
Under the patronage of the royal court, the aristocracy, and the Buddhist elite—whose taste for luxury and refinement was unprecedented in Korean history—spectacular achievements were made in the arts. To meet the standards demanded by their patrons, Goryeo artisans created exquisite celadons, elegant Buddhist paintings, and superb inlaid metal crafts as well as inlaid lacquer ware. The Goryeo contribution to printing, the invention of the world's first movable type, exemplifies a commitment to learning that was a hallmark of this dynasty.