North Korea lends relics for Goguryeo show

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North Korea lends relics for Goguryeo show

The most powerful dynasty ever to rule over the Korean peninsula was the Goguryeo Dynasty, which existed from 37 B.C. to 668 A.D. It ruled northern and southern Manchuria ― now the northeastern part of China ― as well as the northern part of the Korean peninsula. The dynasty was in its prime in the 5th century, but later fell to the Silla Dynasty of Korea and Tang Dynasty of China.
In commemorating its 100th anniversary, Korea University is holding an exhibition, “Global Pride in Korean Ancient History, Koguryo,” displaying more than 200 artifacts from this era preserved in South Korea, North Korea and Japan. The relics include pottery, tiles, Buddhist sculptures, weapons, wall paintings and agricultural tools.
North Korea agreed to loan 60 artifacts, including 15 that are considered national treasures, from the collection of the Korea Central History Museum. This is the first time that North Korea has allowed historical objects it holds to be displayed in the South, and negotiations to borrow the relics took more than seven months.
“This is an exceptional opportunity in art history and archaeology to see these artifacts from North Korea,” said Jung Ho-sub, a curator at the Korea University Museum.
While a large portion of Goguryeo’s history was centered in the northeastern part of China, that country refused to lend any artifacts. The exhibit is also an academic response to China’s “Northeast Project,” an effort to incorporate all events that occurred within its current borders as part of its history.
“Some artifacts are dated with the name of an era engraved on them, and using the name of an era indicates the sovereignty of the kingdom,” Mr. Jung said.
A fine example from the period is a gold-plated Buddhist sculpture titled “Gilt Bronze Nimbus with the Inscription of Yongang Seventh Year.” Yongang is the name of an era of the Goguryeo Dynasty. This treasure from North Korea has a lotus flower engraved on the front and inscriptions on the back.
A gold-plated crown called a “Gilt Bronze Open Work,” and another piece titled “Gilt Bronze Open Work with an Ornament in the Shape of the Sun,” which was used to decorate the side of a pillow, are extraordinary examples of Goguryeo art.
A ceramic titled “Brown-Glazed Jar with Four Legs” has the typical shape of Goguryeo pottery, with four handles and a flat bottom.
There are assorted brass rubbings of the tombstone dedicated to King Gwanggaeto by his son, King Jangsu. The inscription on the 6.4-meter (21-foot) tall tombstone explaining events that occurred in the year “Sinmyo” is at the center of a historical controversy between Korea and Japan. Japanese historians argued that the part of the inscription that is now illegible indicates that ancient Japan ruled the southern part of the Korean peninsula. Korean historians, however, believe that part is fabricated.
Among other noteworthy artifacts, a brick called the “Brick of Cheonchuchong” was found in the Cheonchu Tomb in Jilin province in China, with the Chinese characters on it indicating a wish for the longevity of the tomb.

by Limb Jae-un

The exhibition continues until July 10. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Mondays. It can be reached from the Korea University station on line No. 6. Admission is 3,000 won ($3). For information, call (02) 3290 -1510/2.
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