In Gimhae, artifacts and a centuries-old mystery

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In Gimhae, artifacts and a centuries-old mystery


A gold and copper pungtak, or bell

We still cannot answer the mystery of what happened 1,200 years ago in a small southern village, when hundreds of artifacts from a Buddhist temple were buried in a massive kettle, not to be seen for centuries. But a new exhibition will put these artifacts on display for the first time, perhaps providing clues to help solve the mystery.

The kettle was unearthed in 2003 on Mount Hwawang, located in Malheul Village in Changnyeong, South Gyeongsang. Both the kettle and the 500 artifacts found therein will go on display tomorrow in an exhibition called “The Desire Buried Underground” that runs through Oct. 30 at the Gimhae National Museum in South Gyeongsang.

Among the pieces to be shown are decorative ornaments, incense burners and bells. The overarching question that the exhibition tries to answer is what happened all those years ago.

The exhibition is divided into three parts with three major themes.

The first part, “Retreat and Hide,” examines why so many artifacts were buried all at once at the Buddhist temple on the mountainside.

Although artifacts were often buried as part of a religious ritual or to protect them during wartime, never have so many metal works from the Silla period been excavated at once.


A gilt bronze decoration believed to have been used to adorn a Buddhist altar

Part two, “Decorated Majestically with Clean and Beautiful Things,” takes a look at the character and uses of the Malheul Village artifacts, which researchers believe once adorned Buddhist temples. Looking at the size, number and scale of the artifacts, it has been suggested that many of them were decorations used in rooms housing statues of Buddha. One of these rooms is recreated in this part of the exhibition.

The third part, “Desire,” speculates about the circumstances that led people to bury the artifacts and leave. It is believed that the artifacts are a representation of the desire to create a beautiful, austere and peaceful country through the spread of Buddhism.

The kettle itself is engraved with various patterns. Attached to the interior are two flat decorations, one round and another in the shape of a pentagram.

The kettle contained 100 gold and copper pieces, including incense burners, locks, door handles and other metal works used in Buddhism.

Many of these pieces are engraved with flower patterns and different shapes: pentagons, rectangles, triangles and circles. Some are decorated with expensive silk cloths, which could indicate they were used to embellish poles or canopies in Buddhist temples.

Among the gold and copper pieces discovered inside the kettle are 19 pungtak, the small bells that are often hung from the eaves or roof of a temple. The bells have a V- or U-shaped body and the clapper varies in size and shape. The interior of the bells is engraved with triangular, rectangular or round prints.


This incense burner is one of 500 artifacts that are currently display at the “Desire Buried Underground” exhibition. Provided by Gimhae National Museum

The kettle also contained incense burners with handles, which could be held by the monks during rituals, as well as incense burners that could be displayed on a table.

Of note are two Sugak incense burners, a rare find. Each burner has a flat bottom engraved with the face of a lion and three legs like a lion’s.

Similar burners with three lion-shaped legs have only been found in one other region - near Mireuk Temple in Iksan, North Jeolla.

The exhibition also features a video about the burial of the relics as well as various educational programs about the relics in the exhibition.

*“The Desire Buried Underground” exhibition starts tomorrow and runs through Oct. 30 at Gimhae National Museum in South Gyeongsang. Current hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. The exhibition is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. from April through October everyday except Monday. Admission is free. For more information about the exhibit or to obtain traveling directions, call (055) 325-9334, or visit

By Lee Sun-min, Park Min-jae []

한글 관련 기사 [뉴시스]

1200년전 창녕말흘리 사찰사건 유물공개

1200년 전 이름마저 잊혀진 창녕 말흘리의 어느 사찰에선 무슨 일이 일어났던 것일까?

국립김해박물관(관장 송의정)은 그에 대한 해답을 얻을 수 있는 특별기획전을 30일부터 10월30일까지 연다.

경남 김해시 구산동 박물관 기획전시실(가야누리 3층)에서 `땅속에 묻힌 염원`을 주제로 무려 500여 점의 유물이 공개된다.

지난 2003년 경남 창녕군 화왕산 끝 자락에 자리잡은 말흘리 370-1에서 상상을 초월한 유물이 쏟아졌다.

당시 지름 70cm의 구덩이 안 쇠솥에서 500여 점에 달하는 금빛 찬란한 불교관련 공예품들이 출토됐다.

하지만 이 화려한 금속공예품들은 많은 사람들에게 소개될 기회가 그동안 없었다.

이번 전시는 출토상황의 특수성과 출토유물의 성격, 당시의 시대적 상황 등을 감안해 1~3부로 나눴다.

제1부 `퇴장(물러나 감추다)`에서는 사찰에서 사용되던 도구들이 어떠한 이유인지는 모르나 한꺼번에 땅 속에 묻힌 출토상황의 특수성을 살펴볼 수 있다.

우리나라에서 퇴장(유물을 의도적으로 묻는 것으로 제사나 의례처럼 종교 신앙과 관련된 경우도 있으나, 전란이나 그에 버금가는 사건으로 약탈에 대비해 몰래 묻어두고 떠난 경우) 관련 유물들이 발견되는 경우는 종종 있었으나, 엄청난 양의 통일신라시대 금속공예품들이 쏟아져 나온 예는 없었다. 시기는 다르나 청주 사뇌사, 경주 굴불사터, 전주 화엄사터 등의 비교 유물들을 통해 `퇴장`의 의미와 특징 등을 이해할 수 있다.

제2부 `장식엄정(깨끗하고 아름다운 것들로 위엄있게 꾸미다)`에서는 대부분 불전을 장식했을 장엄구(莊嚴具)로 추정되는 창녕 말흘리 유적 출토유물의 성격과 쓰임새 등을 모았다.

100여 점에 달하는 금동장식판들의 형태와 그 속에 새겨진 문양 등은 사리기의 천개(天蓋) 장식을 연상시킨다. 창녕 말흘리 유적에서 출토된 장엄구들은 크기나 수량 등 규모면에서 사리기 장식은 아니지만, 그와 같은 성스러운 숭배의 자리인 불상을 모신 불감(佛龕)의 천개 장식일 가능성이 제기되고 있다.

제3부 `염원(간절히 바라다)`에서는 아름답고 엄숙한 불국정토(佛國淨土)를 구현하고자 하는 간절한 염원이 담긴 장엄구들을 땅 속에 몰래 묻어두고 떠날 수밖에 없었던 1200년 전의 시대적 상황 등을 추적할 수 있다.

김해박물관 관계자는 "1200년 전 이름마저 잊혀진 창녕 말흘리의 어느 사찰에서 일어난 사건에 대해 해답을 얻을 수 있는 귀중한 전시회"라며 "사건속에 담긴 많은 이야깃거리들이 세상 밖으로 나와 잃어버린 우리 역사의 한 페이지로 당당히 기록될 날이 기대된다"고 설명했다.

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