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National Treasure

Sacred Bell of Great King Seongdeok

성덕대왕신종 ( 聖德大王神鍾 )

Heritage Search Detail
Classification National Treasure
Name of Cultural Properties Sacred Bell of Great King Seongdeok
Quantity 1 bell
Designated Date 1962.12.20
Age The 7th year of the reign of King Hyegong of Unified Silla (771)
Address Gyeongju National Museum, 186, Iljeong-ro, Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do

The Sacred Bell of Great King Seongdeok is the largest bell in Korea, measuring 3.75 m in height, 2.27 m in diameter (at the rim), and 11-25 cm in thickness (of the wall), and weighing about 18.9 tons. King Gyeongdeok of Silla commissioned the casting of the bell to honor the virtue of his father King Seongdeok, but he didn’t live to see its completion. It was eventually completed in 771, during the reign of King Hyegong, the son of King Gyeongdeok, and was named the Sacred Bell of King Seongdeok.
The bell is also known as the Bell of Bongdeoksa Temple, because it was hung at the temple at first; and as the Emille Bell, a name which derives from a legend that a baby was sacrificed to produce this bell. It has a hollow tube on top that is designed to control the tone - a unique feature of Korean bronze bells - and a hook carved in the shape of a dragon’s head next to the tube that was used for hanging the bell.
The bell is carved with a number of splendid patterns that represent the zenith of Silla art: There are two wide bands featuring flower patterns in relief around the bell’s mouth and shoulder, and below the shoulder bands there are four square blocks, each containing nine embossed designs in the shape of lotus flowers. Two pairs of Apsaras (Celestial Maiden) are cast in relief below the square blocks, and two striking points are raised in the shape of a lotus flower between the Apsaras. The bell’s mouth has several rhombic edges, showing a unique style. The bell also contains two inscriptions concerning its production. Consisting of about one thousand Chinese characters, they attest to the brilliant writing and carving style of the period, and have been well preserved for nearly 1300 years.