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National Treasure

Stele of King Muyeol, Gyeongju

경주 태종무열왕릉비 ( 慶州 太宗武烈王陵碑 )

Heritage Search Detail
Classification National Treasure
Name of Cultural Properties Stele of King Muyeol, Gyeongju
Quantity 1 stele
Designated Date 1962.12.20
Age Early Unified Silla
Address 844-1, Seoak-dong, Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do

This stele was erected in front of the Tomb of King Taejong Muyeol, the 29th ruler of Silla, in 661 (the 1st year of King Munmu’s reign). The inscription was calligraphed by Kim In-mun, who was the second son of the deceased king and a well-known master calligrapher. Steles built during the Unified Silla Period were influenced by the Tang Dynasty of China, and usually consisted of a tortoise-shaped pedestal and an ornamental capstone in the form of a dragon. The Stele for King Taejong Muyeol was the first monument to display such a style. At present, the whereabouts of the stele’s body is unknown, and only the tortoise-shaped pedestal and the capstone are housed in a pavilion. The tortoise of the pedestal extends its head high upward and its legs forward. There are large honeycomb-shaped hexagonal carvings on its back, and lotus designs are carved around the stele’s seat. The ornamental capstone is carved with three dragons on the left and three on the right, which coiled around each other to form a support for a “magic pearl.” The Chinese characters inscribed at the center of the front side clearly state for whom the stele was established. The tortoise-shaped pedestal and the capstone display realistic and vital expressions, suggesting the energetic spirit of the Silla people, who succeeded in unifying the three kingdoms. This stele is regarded as one of the finest masterpieces not only of Korea but also of Asia, thanks to the outstanding stone carving skills of that time.