National Museum of Korea: Quarterly Magazine, vol.55

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Gold Buckle from Seogam-ri, Pyeongyang Samhan Period L. 9.4 cm, W. 6.4 cm National Treasure No. 89 On display in the Prehistory and Ancient Section, Permanent Exhibitions

This gold buckle is an exquisite work of craftsmanship, especially for the hundreds of gold granules that were attached to the surface one by one. The basic form of the big dragon is clearly defined with two lines of gold wire forming the spine and one line of thick granules on top. The small dragons are expressed in the same way. The buckle is a standout piece made according to a well-planned design with certain rules that ensure uniformity. The intricacy of the piece, which leaves no room for mistakes, is astonishing.

new & noteworthy

02 travelling works Pottery Stand and Ceramic Work on Display at Different Museums 04 news card 08 museum scene Healing in a Beautiful Space Dedicated to Buncheong Ware and White Porcelain

special feature

10 theme essay Buddhist Paintings: Artworks Filled with Beauty and Hope 16 insight Experiencing the Past through Futuristic Technology 20 academic research Analysis of the Inscription on the Stone Standing Maitreya Bodhisattva and Amitabha Buddha of Gamsansa Temple through RTI

inside galleries

24 current

Icons and Identities

28 behind the scenes Going Behind the “Icons and Identities” Exhibition for the First Time 30 current Silla History Gallery at the Gyeongju National Museum Reopened after Major Renovation 34 visual guide Prehistory and Ancient History Section: History Exploration to the Far Past


arts of Korea

38 museum hashtags

A Quick Look at the Collection

40 miscellaneous

Design and Production aNSWER Photography Park Jung Hoon Photo Studio QUARTERLY MAGAZINE VOL.55 SPRING 2021 Publisher

National Museum of Korea

137 Seobinggo-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul 04383, Republic of Korea Editorial Direction Design Team, National Museum of Korea Tel: (82 2) 2077–9573 Fax: (82 2) 2077–9940 Email:

Translation Cho Yoonjung / Timothy Atkinson Revision Hwang Chiyoung Publication Date April 25, 2021 ISSN 2005 – 1123 Printed in Korea. Copyright © 2021 National Museum of Korea.

All photography was conducted while abiding by COVID-19 preventative measures, including temperature checks, use of hand sanitizer, wearing masks, and maintaining a safe distance between people. Note to Readers Throughout the magazine, East Asian names are listed in the order of family name followed by first name. The related information of image is given in the following order: title, period or produced date, artist, material, dimensions. Items from other institutions are classified by their collection names. archive/ebook/all (PDF, eBook, and HTML available)


Tall Perforated Stand Three Kingdoms Period, Gaya Confederacy H. 64.8 cm, D. 30.0 cm Excavated from the Tomb No. 34 at Haman Marisan Tumuli, Korea On loan from the National Museum of Korea On display in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York since 2016

France Porcelain Vase with Stylised Ornaments and Flowers in Gold France, 1800–1850 H. 24.5 cm, L. 11.8 cm, W. 9.2 cm Princessehof National Museum of Ceramics, Leeuwarden On loan from the OttemaKingma Foundation On display in the World Ceramics Gallery of the National Museum of Korea until November 13, 2022

Korea-China Special Exchange Exhibition Celebrating the Year of the Ox The National Museum of Korea hosts the exchange exhibition Celebrating the Year of the Ox with the Shanghai Museum in China to celebrate the Year of the Ox 2021. The two museums exchanged two ox-related items each, which were added to items from their own respective collections to create exhibitions that were held at the same time in each country. The exhibition was meaningful as the first show of foreign cultural heritage held at a time when movement between countries is restricted. The exhibition introduces the beliefs and customs related to the twelve zodiacal animals shared by the countries of East Asia and examines the universal faiths of humankind by looking at the significance of cattle in the agricultural culture and everyday life of Korea and China. It prompts us to think about the beauty of slowness, suggesting that at times like this as we wish for the return of normal life it is sometimes better to slow down and plod along like a cow. As the saying goes, “Thousand miles walking like a cow, ten miles walking like a horse.”

Square Brazier Joseon Dynasty, 19th century Metal H. 25.3 cm, L. 18.7 cm, W. 18.4 cm Collection of the National Museum of Korea

Create Exhibitions

Ox-shaped Bronze Mirror Stand Ming Dynasty H. 21.5 cm Collection of the Shanghai Museum, China

©Kim Seongjae

A Whale’s Journey: Bangudae Rock Paintings An experience-based exhibition where children can get an idea of ancient people’s lives by inspecting the rock-carved patterns of the Bangudae Petroglyphs in Ulju is held at the Children’s Museum of the National Museum of Korea. The Bangudae Petroglyphs feature more than 300 animals, including whales, deer, tigers, turtles, and seals. Among them, whales make a frequent appearance capturing the attention of the children. Planned for children in the first and second grade of school the exhibition brings to life in a digital interactive space the animals from the rock carvings that lived 7,000 years ago. Part 1 is presented as the “Rock Paintings Live Show,” followed by Part 2 featuring a media table and various activity-based exhibits that explore the historical value of the rock paintings and the various designs used in them as well as aspects of the way people lived at the time. Part 3 is composed of videos that show children what they can do to help animals, nature, and human beings exist in harmony. In the closing part of the exhibition, children can think about what messages they would like to leave for the future, like the Bangudae Petroglyphs, and write their thoughts down. This exhibition space was named a winner in the prestigious Asia Design Prize 2021. The annual competition is held in four categories—industrial design, space and architecture, communication, and social impact—and the winners decided by a jury of 40 distinguished designers from ten countries, which gives the prize a high level of public credibility.

Children’s Museum SPRING 2021


The Mysterious World of the Buddha Right Before Our Eyes The Buddhist Painting Gallery has a space 12.7-meters-high dedicated to the exhibition of gwaebul, giant Buddhist hanging scroll painting. For those times where there is no actual gwaebul on display, the National Museum of Korea has prepared a new viewing environment where three different types of gwaebul are presented as a large media art piece instead. Hung up outdoors for Buddhist ceremonies during the Joseon Dynasty, gwaebul have been handed down to this day along with various Buddhist ceremonies and make up part of the identity of Korean Buddhist culture. Visitors had the chance to see in the form of media art Buddhist Hanging Scroll at Buseoksa Temple, Buddhist Hanging Scroll at Hwaeomsa Temple (National Treasure No. 301), and Buddhist Hanging Scroll at Eunhaesa Temple (Treasure No. 1270), three works among more than 110 extant gwaebul paintings. The Buddhist world projected in 2D and 3D on a large screen showed the beauty of the original gwaebul paintings with even more power and intensity.

Media Art

Academic Journal

Journal of Korean Art & Archaeology Vol. 15 ISSN: 2577-9842 Language: English

The Journal of Korean Art & Archaeology Vol. 15 has been published with Gaya selected as the special topic for this volume. The National Museum of Korea publishes this academic journal every year in English to introduce various achievements in the fields of archaeology, history, and art history of Korea to scholars around the world. The fifteenth volume of the journal features four articles on the special theme: Gaya History and Culture, Gaya Armor: The Culmination of Gaya Iron Crafting, Developments in the Pottery Culture of Gaya, and The Ancient East Asian World and Gaya: Maritime Networks and Exchange. Informing readers of these fascinating research outcomes on the subject of Gaya, it is composed in a way that aids better understanding of the ancient Gaya Earthenware Horn Cup in the Shape of a Warrior on Horseback Gaya Confederacy, 5th century H. 23.2 cm Excavated presumably from Deoksan-ri, Gimhae National Treasure No. 275 Gyeongju National Museum

Confederacy, which had been overlooked in the past. In addition, the journal contains one article on the Nectar Ritual Painting of the Joseon Dynasty and the representation of hungry ghosts in them, as well as an article on the techniques used to make the two gilt-bronze pensive bodhisattvas that are major sculptures in the NMK collection to enhance the international community’s understanding and interest in Korean Buddhist art. SPRING 2021



Healing in a Beautiful Space Dedicated to Buncheong Ware and White Porcelain

The Buncheong Ware and White Porcelain Gallery has been transformed into a restful place where the beauty of Joseon ceramics can be enjoyed to the full. During renewal of the exhibition space the focus was placed on Korean-style natural beauty, the distinguishing characteristics of Joseon ceramics, resulting in a comfortable space where people can relax as they look at the objects on display. The precious natural creatures painted on white porcelain, the earthy texture of buncheong ware, and the varying glazes are brought to life all over the gallery; looking around the exhibition brings a sense of ease and peace of mind.

One point that must not be missed is the special display devoted to the Moon Jar, the most iconic vessel type of Joseon ceramics. The Moon Jar sits in a space of its own with two eloquent videos playing in the background, an impressive setting that leads visitors to lose themselves in the rare pleasure of gazing at the Moon Jar for a long time. In addition, the gallery shows the origins and development of buncheong ware and white porcelain, and features six national treasures, including White Porcelain Lidded Jar with Plum, Bird, and Bamboo Design in Underglaze Cobalt Blue (National Treasure No. 170), and five treasures. The National Museum of Korea hopes that its collection of Joseon ceramics will be a source of artistic inspiration and companion in rest for everyone living in these times. We look forward to visitors enjoying this celebration of buncheong ware and white porcelain and hope they will be prompted to reflect on the value of the exhibits in this most ideal and beautiful space.




by YOO SURAN Associate Curator of the Fine Arts Division, National Museum of Korea

BUDDHIST PAINTINGS: Artworks Filled with Beauty and Hope

Fig.1 Kshitigarbha and the Ten Kings of Hell Joseon Dynasty, 1725 By Seokmin and other monk painters Color on silk

Fig.2 Buddhist Guardian Deities Joseon Dynasty, 1750 Color on silk

Buddhist paintings, called bulhwa, are artworks that portray both Buddhist doctrine and the Buddha’s teachings. Like in Christian religious art, these paintings use a visual medium to convey profound and abstruse principles in a way that is easy for the layperson to understand. The appearance of the Buddha in these scenes as well as the sacred realms depicted draw in the viewers and stimulate their feelings of devotion. Generally, the Korean term bulhwa refers to the paintings that are hung in the Buddha Hall of a Buddhist temple. However, the small paintings that illustrate the Buddhist sutras in condensed form (byeonsangdo), the paintings on the inner and outer walls of the Buddha Hall, the multicolored adornments on the pillars and rafters (dancheong), as well as the artworks used in Buddhist ceremonies all fall into the bulhwa category. The bulhwa subject matter is diverse.

Of course, paintings that convey images of the Buddha (yeoraedo) while preaching are a devotional centerpiece, but this genre also covers paintings with bodhisattvas (bosaldo), arhats (nahando), or Buddha guardian deities (sinjungdo) as the main focus Figs.1 through 3. In addition, paintings that depict important events from stories about the Buddha’s previous incarnations have also been part of the bulhwa tradition from early on. How far back does the bulhwa tradition go? Buddhism was founded in India, and Jetavana Garden served as the first Buddhist monastery while Shakyamuni was still alive. Murals are said to have adorned the walls of the buildings there, with themes that matched the purpose of specific structures. By the third or second century BCE, bulhwa works were being painted as murals meant for religious glorification. However, several centuries more would pass before the Buddha’s image would appear directly in such artworks. Buddhist texts such as the Diamond Sutra state that forms or voices are illusory and an improper way to pursue the Buddhist faith. On the other hand, the Lotus Sutra, one of the most important of all Buddha’s teachings, tells that one can accumulate merit by “employing pigments to paint Buddha images.” Thus, the devotional act of painting the Buddha’s image stirred controversy for its emphasis on the image of the Buddha rather than focusing on the Buddha himself. Nevertheless, such paintings were perceived to help instill the teachings of the Buddha in the minds of the viewers, suggesting the paintings’ importance devotionally. SPRING 2021


This painting is a scene of Shakyamuni preaching at Vulture Peak. Various bodhisattvas and disciples have assembled to hear the Buddha, including Manjusri, the bodhisattva who symbolizes wisdom, and Samantabhadra, the bodhisattva who is associated with Buddhist practice and meditation.

A nimbus of enlightenment shines forth from the Buddha’s head, illuminating the four directions. Flames are shown rising from the halo’s edge, and the Buddha’s hand gesture depicts the first words attributed to Shakyamuni after his birth: “In the heavens above and beneath I alone am the honored one.”

Placed on the pedestal beneath the Buddha are offerings of pomegranates, eggplant, and peaches.

The four heavenly kings and the eight guardian deities tasked with protecting the Buddhist Dharma are shown about, some at the bottom of the scene and others floating above along with five-colored clouds.

This work was produced in 1742 by seven artist-monks, including Hyesik 慧式. In front of the list of painters’ names on the painting is the name Bisuhoe 毗首會, which is derived from Vishvakarman, a celestial being honored as the architect of the universe and patron of artisans.

On the Korean Peninsula, the production of bulhwa began during the Three Kingdoms Period. The religion made its way onto the peninsula in the fourth century and many temples were subsequently built. The construction was most likely accompanied by the production of bulhwa, but extant paintings from that early period are extremely rare. Murals on Goguryeo tombs and Avatamsaka Sutra Byeonsangdo from Silla offer a glimpse of what those paintings looked like. Buddhism was a state religion in Goryeo 918–1392 and many 12


Pink flowers are scattered on the ground in praise of the Buddha’s teaching.

Fig.3 Shakyamuni Preaching at Vulture Peak Joseon Dynasty, 1742 By Hyesik and other monk painters Color on silk Gift of Hwang Gyudong

of the temples constructed in the capital of Gaegyeong (now Gaeseong) were for members of the royal family and nobility to frequent. Numerous Buddhist paintings were also made, centering on those temples. Goryeo bulhwa works became internationally noted for their exquisite gold paint, detailed portrayals, and elaborate patterns. The National Museum of Korea boasts a collection of extant bulhwa pieces from Goryeo, including the Water-moon Avalokiteshvara donated in 2016, that provides a look at the cultural achievements of Goryeo society at its

peak, based on the Buddhist tradition Fig.4. The Joseon Dynasty 1392–1897 generally suppressed Buddhism and promoted Neo-Confucianism, but members of the royal family would commission the production of Buddhist paintings as a form of supplication for salvation in the afterlife. At the same time, the common people grew closer to the religion, giving rise to the development of diverse bulhwa forms Fig.5. Larger temple halls were built to accommodate the influx of believers, and the functions and uses of these structures diversified, resulting in a

greater variety of bulhwa enshrined in these halls. In addition, large-scale Buddhist rites, offerings to bodhisattvas to ferry souls to the Pure Land, were held for the victims of the Imjin War 1592–1598 with Japan, the Manchu invasions, and the widespread famines that accompanied such social upheavals. Thus, from the seventeenth century on, Buddhist hanging scrolls called gwaebul 掛佛 were painted for use at massive outdoor events. The extra-large paintings normally measure 8 or 9 meters tall, some even exceeding 14 meters in height. They are hung from poles in the temple courtyard and inspire feelings among the faithful that the Buddha has descended into their midst. The gwaebul works are characteristically Joseon; large-scale Buddhist paintings are rarely found in China or Japan, where East Asian Buddhist traditions are shared. Joseon’s outdoor Buddhist ceremonies and gwaebul have been handed down from Joseon to the present day Fig.6. When not in use, the gwaebul paintings are rolled up and kept in a special box inside the Buddha Hall, so ordinary people have little opportunity to see them. Therefore the Buddhist Painting Gallery at the National Museum of Korea has been introducing selected examples of these giant paintings, the essence of Joseon Buddhist art, to the public since 2006. Around 110 Joseon gwaebul are known to survive, and the museum’s sixteenth annual gwaebul exhibition, which opens in April 2021, will feature National Treasure No. 299, Buddhist Hanging Scroll from Sinwonsa Temple Fig.7. Sinwonsa Temple is situated at the foot of Gyeryongsan Mountain, one of Korea’s most famous mountains, near Gongju in Chungcheongnam-do. The monk painters there completed an 10-meterhigh gwaebul in 1664, over 350 years ago. Large crowds would have assembled to view this colossal hanging scroll, a scene reminiscent of bodhisattvas and celestial beings gathered on Vulture Peak to hear the Buddha preaching. The crowds would have encountered the image of the Buddha

basking fully in the radiance of variegated colors as well as hordes of people who have congregated within the Buddha’s glow. The Buddhist Hanging Scroll from Sinwonsa Temple depicts a full length image of the standing Buddha with a crown gracing his head, beaded necklaces adorning his body, and bodily halo illuminating the entire scene. A green nimbus is cast by the bejeweled crown, which is decked out in bright gems. The honorific name “Perfect Reward Body (Sambhogakaya) of the Rochana Buddha 圓滿報身盧舍那佛” is written in gold around the

Fig.4 Water-moon Avalokiteshvara Goryeo Dynasty, 14th century Color on silk Gift of Yoon Dong Han



Fig.5 Bhaishajyaguru Triad Joseon Dynasty, 1565 Gold on silk Treasure No. 2012

Fig.6 Buddhist Hanging Scroll at Mihwangsa Temple ©Yoo Suran



outer edge of the nimbus. Rochana refers to the being obtained through karma after eons of Buddhist practice. Bodhisattvas, who are on the way to Buddhahood are often portrayed wearing beaded necklaces. The Buddha in the Buddhist Hanging Scroll from Sinwonsa Temple is most likely wearing these necklaces to underscore the immeasurable length of time one must spend cultivating his or her heart in order to become a Buddha. Surrounding the Buddha in this painting are the four heavenly kings, who are guardians of the Dharma in the four directions; Ksitigarbha, the bodhisattva who saves all beings from hell; Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva who embodies compassion for all sentient beings; and various disciples who follow the Buddha’s teachings. The true beauty emanating from the Josoenera gwaebul is all the more remarkable when one considers that those paintings were produced to bring together the hearts of the Buddhist faithful at a time when they were faced with economic hardships and government suppression of the religion. The monks who painted Buddhist artworks in Joseon were both clergy members and artisans, and they worked within a collective production system. These monk painters were well versed in the rituals for making relics and votive objects out of paper and placing them either behind the paintings or inside a special pouch hung over the paintings as well as the eye-dotting rites that consecrated new statues or paintings, thereby imbuing them with spiritual or miraculous power. They turned the

spaces where the Buddhist paintings were enshrined into sacred places where the Buddha was incarnated. The beautiful feast of colors and lines arrayed on the massive canvas were made possible by the religious devotion of the faithful who offered prayers and the artists who produced the works. So, what is the best way to look at these Buddhist paintings, which are both sacred articles and artworks filled with beauty through the selective application of colors? Such works function as objects of worship and serve as cultural products that reflect the characteristics of their respective time periods. Thus, they are important cultural heritage for both religious and cultural reasons, but their artistic value has remained constant to the present day. Rather than viewing these works from how people saw them long time ago or from how the religious faithful felt back then, why not, from the modern perspective, appreciating the beauty they express and trying to understand the intentions of those who worked so hard to bring them about? Contemporary artistry and the desire of the faithful to be with the Buddha are evident in the Buddhist paintings from Goryeo, with their exquisite and detailed expressions of beauty, and from Joseon, which strove to simulate the Buddha’s descent into the human realm. You are cordially invited to visit the Buddhist Painting Gallery at the National Museum of Korea, where you can witness for yourself the beauty and vividness of diverse examples of religious painting possess. The schedule (April 28–September 26, 2021) for the exhibition of The Buddha Illuminates the World: Buddhist Hanging Scroll from Sinwonsa Temple could change, depending on the COVID-19 situation.

Fig.7 Buddhist Hanging Scroll from Sinwonsa Temple Joseon Dynasty, 1664 By Eung-yeol and other monk painters Color on hemp National Treasure No. 299 Sinwonsa Temple, Gongju ©Research Institute of Sungbo Cultural Heritage




by PAUL CARVER A member of the Editorial Board of National Museum of Korea, quarterly magazine

Experiencing the past through futuristic technology

At the National Museum of Korea it has become more common to run into foreign visitors who want close contact with Korean culture and learn about it, from tourists here for a short visit to foreign residents of Korea. Here we introduce the varied stories of people who are learning about Korea’s history and culture and share their interest in and perception of the National Museum of Korea.



My relationship with archaeology and museums has, I suspect, much in common with many others of my generation from the UK. As children we were excited by the idea of archaeology while watching the derring-do of Indiana Jones eating monkey brains; as callow youths we were herded round various local and landmark museums on school trips, languidly filling in worksheets with answers copied from dusty exhibits; as university students we recovered from the excess of Saturday night in the student union; combating our hangovers with the soothing tones of Tony Robinson as he introduced another archaeological dig on Time Team and enjoying a bacon sandwich for Sunday tea; and as adults we finally learned to appreciate museums as a way to get an extraordinarily deep cultural introduction to a new place or subject at an often very reasonable cost. Now I have children of my own and can see them going through the same cycle themselves. As children, there was a brief period after watching the movie Night at the Museum when they were keen to visit museums but currently they are at the bored teenager stage. Nevertheless I appreciate the fact that museums are much more accessible to children and young adults today than they were 30 years ago when I was young. The advent of digital technology has certainly been helpful with that. However, it still requires a certain level of foresight and creativity from museum administrators to use technology effectively to bring exhibits out from behind the one-inch thick glass that

although protects precious artifacts from our grubby mitts also acts as a barrier to our ability to interact with and relate to history. That is why I was so impressed with the mobile exhibits in the Children’s Museum at the National Museum of Korea. What looks like a simple box unfolds into a dynamic hands-on display with lots of bells and whistles that enables the children to almost become a part of the history that they are studying. The exhibit contains costumes, dioramas, puzzles, and explanations about the historical context from a digital docent. Moreover, since it can be packed up into a box on wheels it can be easily transported to schools as part of a history roadshow so that even school children living far from the museum can learn about the key eras of Korean history. Another recent exhibit, The Science of Light, Revealing the Secrets of Cultural Properties, that I particularly enjoyed was one demonstrating how the museum uses technology to view artifacts to a degree beyond what is visible to the naked eye. Of course many exhibits are visually stunning in their own right but when bombarded with different frequencies on the electromagnetic spectrum many artifacts give up secrets that were previously hidden from view. X-rays revealed what was beneath the gilded patina of a gold Buddha as well as hidden chambers in an intricate inkwell and the technology ensuring that a unique rice wine cup would never overflow. Additionally, the use of ultra-violet light and infrared rays on parchments and



A display for the special exhibition The Science of Light: Revealing the Secrets of Cultural Properties

Videos on a giant panoramic screen 60 meters wide and 5 meters high, covering three sides in the second room of Immersive Digital Gallery 1



“ The National Museum of Korea is like a living being with a public persona that is visible to everyone but also with many processes happening in the background to keep its figurative heart beating and lungs breathing and it is always fun to find out more about what is happening just out of sight.”

paintings revealed previously invisible details such as faded motifs and words as well as enabling researchers to determine the original colours that they were painted in. This exhibit not only used technology to deepen researchers’ understanding of history but also used it to present it to us laymen by using digital overlays of items in their original resplendent glory and visualizations of how things worked with the outer casing stripped away. Making things relatable to the average museum-goer is one of the things that the National Museum of Korea does particularly well. I can recall a temporary exhibition, The story of History through Hangeul, to celebrate the invention of the Korean Hangeul alphabet almost 600 years ago where exhibits and explanations were presented in the style of modern online reviews showing the juxtaposition of modernity and history and the development of language over the course of history as well as presenting information in a way that is familiar and easily digestible by those who are used to today’s fast-paced modern world of information being disseminated in short soundbites. Reacting to and adapting to trends in society is important for maintaining relevance in a world where museums risk being sidelined as consumers have a plethora of entertainment choices and I can see that the National Museum of Korea is trying hard to move past the stuffy, staid image of most museums and encourage people to swipe right. That is why the museum is rightly proud of its newly developed immersive digital galleries where visitors can see digital projections of famous Korean paintings, visualizations of scenes from Joseon life, and interpretations of the inside of a Goguryeo tomb located in North Korea. The museum has also introduced multilingual robot docents named QI who give information in four different languages about the museum itself, ongoing exhibitions as well as explanations of key exhibits and to whom

you can even ask questions. Finally, there are also various virtual reality experiences available including two that go behind the scenes at the museum to visit the conservation centre and the storage, respectively. These particular videos were a highlight for me because I am aware that museums, like airports, have numerous operations, projects, and workers behind the scenes. The exhibits and displays that we see are just a fraction of the whole of what is going on. In this respect, the museum is like a living being with a public persona that is visible to everyone but also with many processes happening in the background to keep its figurative heart beating and lungs breathing and it is always fun to find out more about what is happening just out of sight. With this in mind I hope the museum will at some point have an exhibition showing the nitty-gritty of archaeological digs in Korea including any accidental finds of unique cultural relics. There are semi-frequent reports in UK newspapers of farmers discovering roman artifacts while plowing fields and hobbyists finding hoards of gold coins with their metal detectors. I know detectoring is not a common hobby in Korea but I would assume that occasionally similar events do occur in Korea and it would be interesting to see exhibits about such occurrences and information about ongoing official archaeological digs as well as the process an artifact goes through from when it is discovered in the ground to taking pride of place as the key display of a new exhibition. The writer first visited Korea in 1992 on a family holiday and developed a bond with it while occasionally visiting Korea during his undergraduate studies in the UK. He took a Master’s Degree at the Graduate School of International Studies at Yonsei University and then was qualified as a chartered accountant in the UK. He has lived and worked in Korea since 2007.




by SHIN SOYEON Associate Curator of the Future Strategy Division, and KIM YOUNGMIN Curator of the Collection Management Division, National Museum of Korea

Analysis of the Inscription on the Stone Standing Maitreya Bodhisattva and Amitabha Buddha of Gamsansa Temple through RTI

Fig.1 RTI image of the central lower part of the aureole of the statue of Maitreya Bodhisattva



The Stone Standing Maitreya Bodhisattva and Amitabha Buddha at Gamsansa Temple Figs.2 and 3 have inscriptions remaining on the back of their aureoles and are therefore major examples of ancient Korean Buddhist sculpture whose date and reasons for production as well as their patrons can be identified. Thanks to excerpts from the inscriptions that were published in the Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms (Samgungnyusa), compiled by Monk Iryeon in the Goryeo Dynasty, it is known that Gamsansa Temple was built in 719, commissioned by a Silla official named Kim Jiseong, and that the statues of Maitreya and Amitabha were erected there in honor of his deceased parents. The two statues were discovered in 1915, and the full contents of their inscriptions were first published in 1919 in the book Comprehensive Survey of Joseon Epigraphs (Joseon geumseok chongnam) during the Japanese colonial period. However, as the two inscriptions had been worn down over the centuries some of the characters proved difficult to read. This has led to subtle differences in interpretations of the inscriptions and varied opinions as to when the two statues were made. With the renovation of the Buddhist Sculpture Gallery in 2012, the partition behind the two statues was removed and in order to study and decipher the original inscriptions Fig.1 while ensuring the integrity of the statues, the National Museum of Korea conducted reflectance transformation imaging (RTI) rather than relying on existing rubbings of the inscriptions. The principle of RTI is that the ratio of surface reflectance

differs according to the angle of the light, causing changes in clarity. Using special software and virtual 3D light, it is possible to decipher inscriptions that are difficult to see with the naked eye. A photography specialist and curator from the NMK received training at the University of Southern California West Semitic Research, and RTI photography of the inscriptions was conducted in 2012 by the research center and in 2013 by the NMK. The NMK published the results of the 2013 project, including explanation of the RTI method and how the inscriptions were deciphered in the 2013 volume of the Misuljaryo (the museum’s Koreanlanguage journal) and the 2019 volume of the Journal of Korean Art & Archaeology (English-language journal). As one of the most important outcomes of the RTI study, the total number of characters in the inscriptions was confirmed, some of which were newly deciphered. According to existing studies it was understood that the inscription on the Maitreya statue had 381 characters and that on the Amitabha statue 392 characters. RTI images showed that the Maitreya inscription has 381 characters inside gridded lines while the Amitabha inscription is not contained in a grid and has 389 characters, three less than previously believed. Those three characters previously presumed to exist at the end of the 17th line are not actually present. The RTI images also enabled proper identification of the characters that had been controversial in academia. For example, in the case of the Amitabha statue, opinion was divided regarding the

Fig.2 Stone Standing Maitreya Bodhisattva and Amitabha Buddha of Gamsansa Temple Unified Silla Kingdom, 719 H. 254.0 cm (left) H. 271.0 cm (right) National Treasure No. 81 or 82



16th letter in the 20th row, some seeing it as the character “六” (six) and others as “在” (to exist). RTI images confirmed that the character was indeed “六” and that the complete phrase was not “歲在十九” (19th year of the reign of King Seongdeok) but “歲六十九” (69 years old), indicating the age at which Kim Jiseong died. The 9th character in the 19th row of the inscription on the Maitreya statue was Fig.3 Back of the statues of Maitreya Bodhisattva and Amitabha Buddha.



previously believed to be “誠” (truly) but was confirmed to be “城” (fortress). Analysis of the inscriptions using RTI helped to answer some of researchers’ questions through comparison of the calligraphy. The name Kim Jiseong is written with different characters in the two inscriptions. On the Maitreya statue it is written with the characters “金志誠” (Kim Jiseong), but on the Amitabha statue with

the characters “金志全” (Kim Jijeon). This difference in the names means that on the Maitreya statue the patron is addressed in polite language but on the Amitabha statue in language expressing the highest respect, indicating that two inscriptions were written by different people. In the middle of the Amitabha inscription it is recorded that under the king’s command the inscription was authored by an official of the nama rank with the family name Chong and the calligraphy executed by the monk Gyeongyung and an official of the daesa rank named Kim Chwiwon. In the last line it is also recorded that Kim Jiseong passed away on the twenty-second day of the fourth month of 720. From this, it can be presumed that the Maitreya statue was completed during Kim Jiseong’s lifetime and hence the inscription reflects his own narrative, while the inscription on the Amitabha statue was written by the official named Chong under royal command after Kim Jiseong’s death. The RTI results also confirm differences between the two styles of the inscriptions. On the Maitreya statue the inscription is written in cursive script and semi-cursive script in a gentle, flowing style of calligraphy, a characteristic that may come from the use of many simplified characters. In contrast, the inscription on the Amitabha statue has fewer simplified characters and many characters in regular script Figs.4 and 5. Another point of great interest for scholars is the possibility that part of the Amitabha statue inscription was written at a later date. RTI images showed differences between lines 1–15 and lines 16–21 in calligraphy style as well as the arrangement of the lines and space between characters Figs.6 and 7. In addition, in the expression of age, the character “年” meaning “year,” was used in the inscriptions of both the Maitreya statue “年六十六” (66 years) and the Amitabha statue “年卌七” (47 years). However, the final part of the inscription on the Amitabha statue which says Kim Jiseong died at the age of 69 “歲六十九,” the character “歲” is used to express age. This feature strongly suggests that the final part

of the inscription was carved at a later date. Using RTI analysis also meant that it was possible to ascertain the degree of abrasion on the inscriptions, which is expected to shed light on the original location of the two statues at Gamsansa Temple. At the time Iryeon wrote the Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms, it is almost certain that the Maitreya statue was enshrined in the main hall of the temple but no available records confirm whether both statues were located in different places or were enshrined together. RTI images show that on both statues the top part of the inscription on the back of the aureole is heavily worn away while the bottom part is relatively intact. The height at which abrasion becomes severe is similar on both statues. Based on these points, it can be presumed that the two statues stood side by side when they were discovered or for a long period of time before their discovery and that the bottom part of both statues was buried below ground surface at a similar depth. RTI is a useful new method of collecting data for analysis and enabling epigraphic materials to be deciphered without making a rubbing of the actual artifact. RTI analysis conducted on two Buddhist statues of Gamsansa Temple resulted in confirmation of the number and form of the characters making up the inscriptions, revised interpretation of part of the inscriptions, and increased interest in the calligraphy style used. Moreover, images of two characters that could not be deciphered at the time the paper was first written in 2013 were revealed and the two characters have been recently deciphered. Thanks to RTI photography and the analysis results the inscriptions in their entirety were deciphered for the first time in one hundred years following their publication in 1919 in the Comprehensive Survey of Joseon Epigraphs (Joseon geumseok chongnam). This article is an abridged version of the original paper, which can be read in Korean in the 2013 volume of the Misuljaryo and in English in the 2019 volume of the Journal of Korean Art & Archaeology.

Fig.4 “山水” in line 7 of the inscription on the statue of Maitreya Bodhisattva (image on the left) Fig.5 “山水” in line 5 of the inscription on the statue of Amitabha Buddha (image on the right)

Fig.6 “Kim Jijeon” in line 5 of the inscription on the statue of Amitabha Buddha (image on the left) Fig.7 “Kim Jijeon” in line 20 of the inscription on the statue of Amitabha Buddha (image on the right)




by YANG SUMI Associate Curator of the Exhibition Division, National Museum of Korea

ICONS AND IDENTITIES Masterpieces from the National Portrait Gallery, London April 29–August 15, 2021 National Museum of Korea

William Shakespeare 1564–1616

John Taylor, c. 1600–1610 ©National Portrait Gallery, London

There is no doubt we are living in the age of “image wars.” In many cases a single photo, or you could call it a single wellpresented image, shows others “who I am” or “what kind of person I am” better than any words. Moreover, all the official systems and institutions in our everyday lives require that we prove on paper that “this person is me” with the use of a photo for identification. That is, an individual’s identity is regulated and proven by means of images. This practice, however, did not suddenly appear out of the blue or emerge with the start of modern civilization. The subject of “expressing an individual’s identity and images” has a very long history and the genre of art that best attests to this is portraiture. The special exhibition Icons and Identities jointly organized by the National Museum of Korea and the National Portrait Gallery, London tells some remarkable stories about images and identity. Comprised of 78 works from the National Portrait Gallery in London, shown in Korea for the first time, the exhibition features the portraits of major historical figures such as Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I as well as those of important people in world history from the sixteenth century to modern times. Also included are a number of works that are being internationally exhibited for the first time. Most importantly, this is the first international exchange exhibition organized by the NMK since the world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Queen Elizabeth I 1533–1603 Associated with Nicholas Hilliard, c. 1575 ©National Portrait Gallery, London

Sir Joshua Reynolds 1723–1792

Sir Joshua Reynolds, c. 1747–1749 ©National Portrait Gallery, London



Arthur Capel, 1st Baron Capel 1604–1649 and Elizabeth, Lady Capel d. 1661 with their children Cornelius Johnson, c. 1640 ©National Portrait Gallery, London

Malala Yousafzai b. 1997 Shirin Neshat, 2018 ©National Portrait Gallery, London

Historically, portraits have been one of the most powerful and attractive ways of revealing oneself. Under the five themes—Fame, Power, Love and Loss, Innovation, and Identity: Self Portrait— the exhibition explores the diverse aspects of portraiture. By theme, it deals with portraiture in terms of history, individuals, artists, and development as a genre of art, and looks at the various media such as oil painting, photography, holograms, and sculpture that have been used to produce portraits. Visitors will be particularly impressed by the paintings of famous figures by the most celebrated artists over the ages, including Rubens, Van Dyck, Auguste Rodin, and David Hockney. This exhibition is also focused on telling stories about passionate lives, stories that reach out to us across space and over five hundred years in time. Featured in the exhibition are the faces of 76 illustrious individuals, ranging from the absolute monarch Elizabeth I and the playwright William Shakespeare from England to the poet Dylan Thomas as well as others from various fields, including human rights activists, scientists, soldiers, singers, fashion models, and painters. Though all they made out different lives in different times, the stories that they left behind draw us into the center of world history and the lives of historical figures. It seems we have almost forgotten the days when we could travel to unknown places and learn about the history and culture of other countries. At this time

Dame Zaha Hadid 1950–2016 Sir Michael Craig-Martin, 2008 ©National Portrait Gallery, London

when interaction and communication between people and cultures is so desperately needed, this exhibition will surely bring a little bit of happiness to our lives and the pleasure of seeing some great works of art. SPRING 2021



by PARK JINIL Curator of the Exhibition Division, National Museum of Korea

Going Behind the Icons and Identities Exhibition for the First Time Have you ever attended the opening ceremony of an exhibition at a museum or art gallery? In your imagination you can hear the congratulatory speeches and see the beautifully arranged exhibition space. Behind the bright lights of such glittering exhibitions are the unseen efforts of the 28


curators who work so hard to make these events to happen. Icons and Identities is a special exhibition opening at the National Museum of Korea in 2021 that brings together the major works from the National Portrait Gallery, London

for display in Korea for the first time. Generally, when the decision has been made to hold an exhibition of foreign cultural items or artworks parties from both countries meet to discuss the works to be selected. Also, they sign a formal agreement and discuss matters such as

the composition of the exhibition and the publication of a catalog. When the items belonging to the overseas museum have been packed they are sent to the NMK under escort. When they arrive, they are installed in the display cases after being inspected by representatives from both sides. The curator in charge must look after all aspects of this preparation process, down to the fine details that are hard for anyone else to imagine. If variables occur and work does not proceed as scheduled the curator inevitably grows

anxious and agitated. Because of COVID-19, the works for Icons and Identities were transported without a custodian and inspected through online meetings. It was a completely new way of doing things. As such, 2021 has become a year when we actually miss the tension of preparing for an exhibition. Unfortunately, meetings and inspections had to be held without seeing first-hand the works to be exhibited and we were not able to sit down and talk face to face, making for a preparation

process that almost brought tears to my eyes. Hopefully, we can return to everyday life and people can come together and look around the exhibition filled with people and life. This special exhibition Icons and Identities prepared by overcoming the difficulties of this unprecedented situation is now ready for visitors. If you have the chance, come to see the wonderful works on display and get a feel of the curator’s hidden thoughts and feelings as well.




by LEE DONGGWAN Associate Curator, Gyeongju National Museum

Silla History Gallery at the Gyeongju National Museum Reopened after Major Renovation From December 8, 2020 Gyeongju National Museum

“On the sixteenth day of the sixth month in the year of Imsin (552 or 612) two men jointly record this oath. We swear before Heaven that henceforth for three years we shall maintain the way of loyalty and that no negligence shall occur. Should this oath be violated, we vow we shall be subjected to Heaven’s great punishment. Should the country be unsettled and a great chaotic age ensue, we vow to perform by all means from Monument with Inscription of Hwarang’s Oath made in the year of Imsin the way of loyalty.”

Exhibition Hall 3 of the Silla History Gallery



The three-year renovation of the Gyeongju National Museum began in 2018 with Exhibition Hall 2, which sheds light on “Silla, the Land of Gold.” The next year, Exhibition Hall 1, which deals with the early period of the Silla Kingdom, was revamped, followed in 2020 by Exhibition Hall 3, which covers the unification of the Korean Peninsula and the blossoming of the Unified Silla Kingdom. The massive overhaul entailed the installation of earthquake-resistant systems and improvement of the display viewing environment. The Silla History Gallery was reopened on December 8 of last year. The renewed Silla History Gallery is now a refined and elegant cultural space where visitors can come for respite from their tedious daily routines and relaxation in a comfortable setting. The mazelike exhibition space was replaced by 4-metertall glass display cases to maximize the feeling of unrestricted openness and establish an ambience that is sensationally stimulating. The central corridor connecting the exhibition halls inside the Silla History Gallery now boasts a simple and modern interior decoration inspired by the look of Korean traditional houses, called hanok, and Silla earthenware. Notably, multiple glass panes have been installed in place of an entranceway that look out on the museum’s central courtyard and offer a fine view of Gyeongju Namsan Mountain in the distance. The outside scene is drawn indoors to heighten the sense of the calmness in which to observe the important cultural artifacts from Silla Kingdom that are strategically arrayed about the space. As a result, the museum’s unique qualities stand out, and it has been transformed into a symbolic space for relaxation. Originally, two separate spaces, Exhibition Halls 3 and 4, were dedicated to the processes of Silla’s power centralization and the Three Kingdoms’ SPRING 2021


unification as well as to the Unified Silla culture. The renovation merged these areas into a single area named Exhibition Hall 3, making the information easier to understand and its delivery more consistent. The latest research results and data on recent excavations were carefully selected to augment the exhibition, making it more meaningful and attractive. The first half of the overall exhibition now covers how Silla’s royal authority was strengthened, neighboring states were subjugated, and the Korean Peninsula was ultimately unified. Importantly, the Silla Monument in Jungseong-ri, Pohang (National Treasure No. 318), has been put on permanent display for the first time, providing a look at how the Silla bureaucracy was structured and how the central and local governments were connected. Various earthenware pieces and epigraphs on display help to round out the story of how Silla continued to expand its territory, annexing Geumgwangaya,

Daegaya, and the Hangang River basin. The second half of the exhibition introduces Unified Silla culture, which reached new heights after the political situation stabilized and royal authority was consolidated. Visitors can see and easily grasp the overall cultural landscape from displays of the Silla royal palace and royal capital organizational process as well as clothes and accessories introduced from the Tang Dynasty, China. A sub-theme exhibit tells the story of how Buddhism gained official religion status after the martyrdom of the monk Ichadon d. 528 and how funerary practices were simplified. In addition, the contents of the Silla Art Gallery, which had been in the Kukeun Collection, were relocated inside Exhibition Hall 3 of the Silla History Gallery, where some 1200 cultural heritage including two national treasures and four treasures are now on display. The late Dr. Lee Yang-sun 1916–1999, pen name Kukeun, wished to share the beauty of Korea’s

A display of the Silla Monument in Jungseong-ri, Pohang designated as National Treasure No. 318



Roof-end Tile with Human Face Design Silla Kingdom, 7th century Clay D. 11.5 cm Treasure No. 2010

Monument with Inscription of Hwarang’s Oath Silla Kingdom, 552 or 612 Stone H. 32.0 cm, W. 12.3 cm, T. 4.6 cm Treasure No. 1411

Kukeun Collection including two national treasures and four treasures relocated inside Exhibition Hall 3

Burial Urns with Green Glaze Unified Silla Kingdom, 8th century Ceramics Left work: H. 39.0 cm, D. 19.0 cm (mouth), D. 20.7 cm (bottom) Right work: H. 13.4 cm, D. 9.2 cm (mouth), D. 8.7 cm (bottom) Treasure No. 2028

cultural heritage with the public, and this facility is designed to bring his lofty ambition back into the spotlight. The exhibits have been encased in anti-reflection glass (visible light penetration ratio of 99%) on all sides to enhance the viewing experience. This material virtually eliminates light glimmer or mirror-like reflection, unlike general-purpose glass (88% visible light penetration for 1cm thickness) or lowiron glass (91% visible light penetration for 1cm thickness). In addition, the interior lighting has been entirely replaced with the latest LED equipment, optimized for museum displays to deliver higher visitor engagement. At the same time, certain artifacts such as stele are presented in the open air, removing the glass barrier and bringing the visitors closer to the artifacts. An earthquake struck the Gyeongju area in 2016, and since then the Gyeongju National Museum has been involved in various seismic retrofitting projects in line with a policy that puts the safety of

both the visitors and the artifacts first. This installation work for the Silla History Gallery was completed at the end of 2020, and these anti-earthquake systems have been continuously inspected and tested. The latest technologies are involved and they are able to provide full protection in the event of an earthquake measuring at least 8.0 on the Richter scale. The Silla History Gallery has been reopened and is now better than ever. The renovation project that took three years to complete has resulted in an outstanding exhibition space, optimal environment for viewing exhibits, and comfortable and pleasant convenience facilities, while state-of-the-art earthquake resistant systems were adopted to protect precious cultural artifacts. The Gyeongju National Museum remains dedicated to maintain the intrinsic value of the museum while continually widening the scope of interaction with visitors.





The National Museum of Korea has a collection of 420,000 pieces, around 12,000 of which are on permanent display. This permanent exhibition is so vast that if you were to devote one minute to looking at each item for eight hours a day it would take at least 25 days to see them all. This is one of the reasons why a growing number of people are taking their time when visiting the museum, coming back whenever they have the chance to look around slowly rather than rushing around impatiently. When you have a short visit in mind, the best idea is to choose one of the six permanent exhibitions on the first three floors. In an hour or two you can properly enjoy one complete exhibition on a comprehensive theme and based on what you’ve seen plan your next visit. The Prehistory and Ancient History Section located on the first floor is a place that anyone seeking a broad understanding of Korean history should not miss. Awaiting visitors is the amazing experience of travelling several centuries in time as you move on from one exhibit to the next.

A display of a Gojoseon Period


the first floor

Balhae Kingdom 112

The Stele for Buddhist Preceptor Wollang

Great Hall

Ten-story Stone Pagoda

Unified Silla Kingdom 111

Overview Introduction Galleries showing the flow of Korean history in chronological order from the Paleolithic age, when human beings began to live on the Korean Peninsula, to the Northern and Southern States period. Content

Paleolithic Period 101 Bronze Age/ 103 Gojoseon Period Neolithic Period 102


Buyeo Kingdom/ Samhan Period 104


Goguryeo Kingdom 105

Baekje Kingdom 106 Gaya Confederacy 107

Silla Kingdom 108 109 110

Ten separate galleries

Location As you enter the museum on the first floor, the gallery covers the whole right side of the central Path to History and part of the left side.

Handaxe at Room No. 101, Paleolithic Period

Stone tools dating to the early Paleolithic Period excavated from all over the Korean Peninsula are on display, organized according to type and form. During the 1940s it was claimed that stone handaxes did not exist in East Asia, but the discovery of a handaxe in Jeongok-ri, Yeoncheon, Gyeonggi-do changed the direction of the international archaeological community’s research of the Paleolithic Period. Comb-pattern Pottery at Room No. 102, Neolithic Period

Pottery is regarded as the key to major changes in human life in terms of the use of natural resources, cooking of food, and settled life. Comb-pattern pottery is the most important type of relic when it comes to understanding life in Neolithic times and hence is also a symbol of the Neolithic Period.

A visitor using the Museum App to receive explanations on the exhibits

Ritual Bronze Object with Farming Scenes at Room No. 103, Gojoseon Period

Scenes of a man farming and another of a man putting something into a jar are very realistically expressed, giving us a glimpse of aspects of Gojoseon’s agricultural society.

Diverse potteries from the Neolithic Period

Gold Buckle from Seogam-ri, Pyeongyang Samhan Period L. 9.4 cm, W. 6.4 cm National Treasure No. 89

Korean Type Bronze Daggers, Mirror with Fine Linear Design, and Ritual Bells at Room No. 103, Gojoseon Period

In form the Korean-type bronze dagger combines the Liaoning-type dagger and artifacts from the bronze culture of the northern regions. Bronze daggers excavated from tombs were mostly found along with bronze mirrors decorated with fine linear design, ritual bells, jade, and pottery, suggesting that strong rulers had emerged in Gojoseon society at the time. Slender Bronze Dagger and Sheath at Room No. 104, Samhan Period

One of the items excavated from Daho-ri Tomb No. 1 in Changwon, the slender bronze dagger and sheath are representative of the early Iron Age. The tomb yielded a large quantity of precious items that only a small privileged class could possess, which is indicative of the power and authority of a village ruler who lived two thousand years ago. SPRING 2021


Bronze with the Inscription of “Hou” at Room No. 105, Goguryeo Kingdom

Discovered inside the ancient Silla tomb named Houchong in Gyeongju, the bronze bowl allows us to presume the transmission of Goguryeo culture to Silla. The 16 Chinese characters inscribed at the bottom of the bowl inform us that after the three-year mourning period for King Gwanggaeto the Great of Goguryeo a memorial event was held the following year. It seems that this bowl was received by the Silla envoys who took part in the event.

Course tips Download the National Museum of Korea app from Google Play Store and App Store on your phone and use it to receive explanations on the exhibits, which will change according to your location. Service is provided in four languages—Korean, English, Chinese, and Japanese—and audio service as well. Experience tips For a fascinating virtual experience turn on the National Museum of Korea app and when standing in front of the exhibit titled “Fragment of a Mural Featuring a Horse Rider” download the AR contents. Photo spot The spot in front of the Stele for Buddhist Preceptor Wollang in the middle of the Path to History is where the BTS virtual commencement speech “Dear class of 2020” was shot for YouTube.

Replica of the Mural of Gangseodaemyo Tomb at Room No. 105, Goguryeo Kingdom

Featured in the Goguryeo Gallery is a replica of a mural discovered in Great Tomb of Gangseo (Gangseodaemyo) during an on-site survey in 1921. Whole walls of the exhibition space have been transformed into the inside of the tomb and this allows you to focus on the mural of the four guardian deities that were painted over the stone wall. Crown Ornaments at Room No. 106, Baekje Kingdom

The Tomb of King Muryeong, where the Baekje king and his queen were buried, is a repository of the culture and art of the Baekje Kingdom during the Ungjin period when the capital was located in what is present-day Gongju. Among the numerous items discovered inside the tomb, the ornaments that decorated the crowns of the king and queen combine uniquely Baekje characteristics with foreign elements, attesting to the originality of the Baekje culture.

Potteries of the Samhan Period

Gaya Armor at Room No. 107, Gaya Confederacy

This item exemplifies the traditions and technology of Gaya-style plate armor production, which began around the fourth century in the center of Geumgwangaya (present-day Gimhae area in Gyeongsangnamdo), the ruling city-state of the Gaya Confederacy. Gold Crown and Girdle at Room No. 108, Independent space

Gold Crown from the North Mound of Hwangnamdaechong Tomb Silla Kingdom, 5th century H. 27.3 cm, D. 17.0 cm National Treasure No. 191



The queen’s gold crown and gold girdle discovered in the northern mound of Great Tomb of Hwangnam (Hwangnamdaechong) are iconic items of the gold culture of Silla. The branch-shaped diadem ornaments on the crown are considered to be symbols of sanctity and a medium connecting heaven and earth.

Silla Pottery at Room No. 110, Silla Kingdom

The greyish-blue hard pottery and reddishbrown soft pottery excavated from Silla tombs are together commonly called Silla pottery. The giant display cabinet covering one whole wall of the Silla Gallery is filled with a collection of diverse vessels, including jars, pots, footed dishes, cups, lidded bowls, and vessels made in the shape of humans or animals. Twelve Zodiacal Animals at Room No. 111, Unified Silla Kingdom

The royal tombs of the Unified Silla Kingdom are characterized by the 12 zodiacal animals carved on the stones surrounding the tomb and the stone sculptures and railings enclosing them. Under the influence of the Tang Dynasty of China, at first small stone figures with animal faces and human bodies were buried inside the tomb but gradually there emerged the unique tradition of carving the zodiacal figures on stones surrounding the outside of the tomb.

Zodiacal Figurine (Rabbit) Unified Silla Kingdom Stone H. 40.8 cm

Ornaments with Dragon Head from the Unified Silla Kingdom

Stirrups from the Unified Silla Kingdom




#injang #stamp #seal #RoyalSeal #OfficialSeal #StateSeal #madeofgold #bronze #stone #ceramic #Korean #art #collection #fromtheNMK A Quick Look at the Collection With the use of various hashtags, the National Museum of Korea introduces Korean traditional cultural heritage items. Find and follow relevant hashtags of the NMK’s social media accounts for light and easy access to information on Korean culture. In this issue we have put together a collection of 11 seals decorated with handles in various shapes, from the royal seal, which is a regular square, to small seals that exemplify the aesthetics of humor. We hope you will gain unexpected inspiration from these items that were made hundreds of years ago. To see more seals, search for “seal” in the Collection Database of the museum’s website ( where the images can also be downloaded. Celadon Monkeyshaped Seal Goryeo Dynasty Ceramics H. 3.6 cm, D. 3.2 cm

Imperial Royal Seal of the Korean Empire Korean Empire Gold L. 9.2 cm, W. 9.2 cm

White Porcelain Squirrel-shaped Seal Joseon Dynasty Ceramics 3.0 × 3.1 × 6.7 cm

Jade Seal of Emperor Gojong Korean Empire Stone 10.2 × 10.2 × 9.8 cm Bronze Seal Goryeo Dynasty Metal H. 4.2 cm, D. 3.6 cm



Seal of Sinwonsa Temple in Gyeryongsan Mountain Goryeo Dynasty Metal

White Porcelain Lion-shaped Seal 19th–early 20th century Ceramics H. 7.9 cm, L. 6.0 cm, W. 6.0 cm

Celadon Monkeyshaped Seal Goryeo Dynasty Ceramics H. 3.3 cm, D. 3.6 cm

Copper Seal Goryeo Dynasty Metal H. 3.3 cm, D. 2.8 cm Bronze Seal Goryeo Dynasty Metal H. 4.6 cm, D. 4.5 cm

Celadon Monkeyshaped Seal Goryeo Dynasty Ceramics H. 3.7 cm SPRING 2021



Online humanities lecture series

The first one of the History and Culture Lecture Series at the National Museum of Korea was given on March 3. This lecture program targeting lay people interested in the humanities invite experts to explore themes related to the NMK’s exhibitions or culture and history of Korea and the world. This year’s lectures are offered live online. By connecting to the NMK’s official

Exhibition of the oldest Taegeukgi in Korea

YouTube site (

To celebrate the 102nd anniversary of the

user/koreanmuseum) at 2:00 pm every

Independence Movement Day (March 1), the

Wednesday, any interested person can watch

NMK specially presented the oldest extant

lectures in real time and write comments.

national flag of Korea housed in Korea,

Second education box made for children

The program will run in 25 sessions until

known as Denny Taegeukgi for two weeks.

The National Museum of Korea created

November 24, and details of each lecture

This flag was granted by Emperor Gojong

an education box for children on the theme

can be found at the NMK’s official website.

to his American diplomatic advisor Owen

of “Highlights of an Illustrious Life.” This

N. Denny, and was donated to the Korean

is the second installment in the NMK’s

government in 1981 by William Ralston,

education box series, following the first box

a descendant of Owen. N. Denny. This

made in 2019 on the Gilt-bronze Incense

exhibition commemorating the meaningful

Burner from Baekje.

donation of the Denny Taegeukgi also

Highlights of an Illustrious Life refers

presented video materials on the history of

to an eight-panel folding screen featuring

Taegeukgi to deepen visitors’ understanding

joyous events that a yangban-class man

of the theme.

experienced in his lifetime during the Joseon period. The education box on Highlight of an Illustrious Life is designed to attract interest

Photo contest for a day at the NMK in

and curiosity of children and includes

the year of Sinchuk

various analog and digital elements for the

A photo contest will be held from March

user’s interactive experience.

1 to June 30, 2021 for every lover of the

The education box allows children to

NMK to present their photos to attract

understand the theme through observation,

people to the museum. Any photo that

exploration, and experience and associate

arouses people’s interest in the museum

what they learned with their own life, rather

is admissible, including people or relics

than offering unilateral education. The

seen at the museum, events held at the

education box on Highlights of an Illustrious

museum, or scenery of the museum. Those

Life was made in three sets to be used at the

Special exhibition held on an extended

who want to participate in the contest only

National Museum of Korea, Daegu National


need to present an image file of a photo

Museum, and Jeonju National Museum,

The NMK extended the duration of the

that they took during the contest period.


special exhibition After Every Winter Comes

The prize-winning works will be displayed

Spring when it reopened after a temporary

on the Nadeulgil of the NMK and will be

closure against the spread of COVID-19.

posted at the NMK’s official website and

Visitors who were yet to see the exhibition

SNS channels. For further information about

or those who wanted to get the touching

the contest, please visit the website for the

impression of the exhibition once again had

contest (

time to think about the joys and sorrows of life and hold hope for warm days. 40



Exhibition title

Goryeo: The Glory of Korea

To mark the 1100th anniversary of the foundation of the Goryeo Dynasty


Special Exhibition Gallery


December 4, 2018–March 3, 2019

the National Museum of Korea opened a special exhibition in late 2018.

No. of visitors 172,101 Contents 349 items (452 pieces) including Statue of Monk Huirang, Descent of Amitabha, and Water-Moon Avalokiteshvara

Though Goryeo is the origin of the name “Korea,” which first came known around the world at this time, Goryeo art and culture has been veiled in mystery. This exhibition was a chance to enjoy Goryeo art and a reminder of the spirit and values that we should aspire to. It made its mark in the history of special exhibitions and continues to be talked about even today.

Shining Across 2,000 Years in Time This gold belt buckle made of thin gold plate decorated with hundreds of small gold granules, gold wire, and blue jewels is considered to be the finest of the artifacts excavated from the site of the Nangnang Commandery. One large dragon and six small dragons with faces, legs, and claws are exquisitely expressed with gold wire and granules. It is estimated that there were 41 turquoise stones but only seven now remain. This finely made gold belt buckle, thought to be the only extant relic of a kind, came under much attention when a similar item was discovered in the ancient city in China, located on the Silk Road.

Gold Buckle from Seogam-ri, Pyeongyang Samhan Period L. 9.4 cm, W. 6.4 cm National Treasure No. 89 On display in the Prehistory and Ancient Section, Permanent Exhibitions