Destination: Golden Splendors - The Royal Tomb of Silla (National Museum of Korea, Seoul)
Once buried under tons of rock and dirt, this exhibition of (mostly) authentic relics from Korea's Silla Dynasty is given new life - and exhibit space - decades after they were first discovered. Dating back to the 4th and 5th centuries, they tell the stories of kings and queens, burial rituals, and the handing of power from dead to living. Since the tomb's excavation in the 1970's, there hasn't been much seen by the public.
Located at the National Museum of Korea in central Seoul (which is celebrating their fifth anniversary this year), the free-to-enter museum already offers more than enough to see in their permanent exhibits to fill a day. This exhibit won't take you more than an hour, so it's worth stopping by some of the other exhibits or parts of the museum.
Some earthenware dishes on an earthenware plate.
Rewind over 1500 years to the 4th century A.D. People during the Silla dynasty believed this world and the otherworld / afterworld were connected, thus your authority as royalty did not die with the passing of your body. After being buried with objects that symbolized their affluence and power - golden crowns, belts, bowls, and much more - they were buried in large mounds, which were only created after one's passing. After starting with inner and outer wooden coffins, those coffins were surrounded by a heap of stone and covered with dirt. There's plenty of tombs to meander through in Gyeongju, although many of the Silla-dynasty tombs in Gyeongju have been left undisturbed.
This tomb, Hwangnamdaechong (황남대총) produced 1,268 pieces on display at this exhibit. Originally excavated from 1973 to 1975, the tomb is 120 by 80 meters wide, with dual peaks of 22.6 meters and 21.9 meters for the two people buried here. Scholars believe they were a married couple, with one person being a maripgan, or gold-loving Silla-dynasty king, but no positive identification has been made to date.
One of the showpieces - a gold crown ornament (남분 금제 관꾸미개) once worn by the mid-4th-century kings.
Not pictured is an incomplete fragment, laid out on a sketch of the original pattern.
A bronze bowl, circa 415 A.D. Note the ancient lettering.
Some more gold crown ornaments, along with some silver cap-style crowns in the background.
Yep, this is a belt you're looking at. Try to imagine wearing one of these during your formal duties as king.
Now add the crown - it may not look like much, but remember it was underground for 1,500 years. That's jade delicately hanging from the crown, if you were wondering.
Do you prefer your saddle ornaments in gold?...
...or silver? Either way, these saddle ornaments would indicate the prestige of the horse's rider.
Some glass beads - no word on how old they are, but like the majority of things here, they're original. It's fairly easy to tell the reproductions apart from the real thing, but it's also listed on the item description.
Some gold mounted dishes. Definitely authentic, considering how banged the one in the right corner is.
If you find yourself in the Seoul area in October, make this exhibit part of your stop. There's an ample selection of fancier 3D electronic gadgetry Korea is so fond of, but the genuine artifacts trump the newfangled technology soundly.
Ratings (out of 5 taeguks):
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Directions to the National Museum of Korea: Take line 4 of the Seoul subway system to Ichon station. Take exit #2 to street level and look for the main gate after about 200 meters. Free admission; open 9am every day, closes 6pm on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; 9pm on Wednesday and Saturday; 7pm on Sundays and holidays. Closed on Mondays For more information about this exhibit or the museum, check out the official English website.
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