Korea Insights

Silla, the Golden Kingdom of Korea

Silla (57 BC[note 1] – 935 AD) (Hangul신라Hanja新羅RRSilla Korean pronunciation: [ɕil.la]) was a kingdom located in southern and central parts of the Korean Peninsula. Silla, along with Baekje and Goguryeo, formed the Three Kingdoms of Korea.

Founded by Hyeokgeose of Silla, of the Park family, the Korean[2] dynasty was ruled by the Gyeongju Gim (Kim) (김, 金) clan for 586 years, Miryang Park (Bak)(박, 朴) clan for 232 years, Seok clan for 172 years. It began as a chiefdom in the Samhan confederacies, once allied with Sui China and then Tang China, until it eventually conquered the other two kingdoms, Baekje in 660 and Goguryeo in 668. Thereafter, Later Silla occupied most of the Korean Peninsula, while the northern part re-emerged as Balhae, a successor-state of Goguryeo. After nearly 1,000 years of rule, Silla fragmented into the brief Later Three Kingdoms of Silla, Later Baekje, and Taebong, handing over power to Goryeo in 935.[3]

Silla began to establish itself as an ancient state in the mid-4th century through its rulers, which were titled Maripgan. Huge tombs that remain in downtown Gyeongju belong to the kings, queens and aristocrats of the Maripgan-ruled Silla. The Maripgan and his clans showed off their status by wearing a gold crown and various ornaments made of splendidly crafted gold, silver and gilt bronze. Gold was a symbol of supreme power.


List of Some Famous Silla Relics


Cheonmado Picture (Cheonmadojangni or Cheonmado in Korean)

Cheonmado or Cheonmadojangni, meaning Heavenly Horse Picture, is the only surviving picture of Silla kingdom of Korea. It was excavated from Cheonmacheong (meaning Heavenly Horse Tomb) in Gyeongju (the old capital of Silla), South Korea. Cheonmado is designated as the 207th National Treasures of South Korea and exhibited in National Museum of Korea in Seoul.

Bosanghwa Flower 

This Buddhist floral design symbolizes the sanctity of Buddhism and was widely popular during the Unified Silla period. It has six petals, each of which shows a heavy outline. The outer ring of the tile face displays bead patterns, which are commonly found in roof-end tiles with a lion design. It is an imaginary flower originating from the lotus flower and has two palmette designed together.

The Gold Diadem Ornament from Cheonmachong Tomb (Cheonmajong Geumjegwanshik in Korean)

A crown ornament from Cheonmachong (Heavenly Horse Tomb), the Cheonmajong Geumjegwanshik is shaped like the wings of a bird and looks very much like the relic excavated from Geumgwanchong (Gold Crown Tomb). On the front plate is an engraved dragon design, showing both sides of the wings. In fact, the design is somewhat distorted and asymmetrical, taking on a form resembling vines, and is much more abstract than the relic from the Geumgwanchong (Gold Crown Tomb). Round metal flakes were hung only in the front, and iron nails were found in the area where the ornament would be attached to the cone.

The Gold Crown from Cheonmachong Tomb (Cheongmachong Geumgwan in Korean)

This is a typical gold crown of Silla, which bears a strong resemblance to the crown from Geumgwanchong (Gold Crown Tomb). The main difference is that the opposing branch-shaped ornaments at the front of this crown have four tiers of arms instead of three, and the branches are relatively shorter. The materials were used very effectively to make the opposing branch-shaped ornaments of this gold crown. The crown is also decorated with numerous gold spangles and curved pieces of jade. The elaborate and splendid design of this gold crown matches the form common to the latter years of the Silla period.

The Bell of King Seongdeok (Seongdeok Daewang Shinjong in Korean)

The Bell of King Seongdeok is a massive bronze bell, the largest extant bell in Korea. The full Korean name means “Sacred Bell of King Seongdeok the Great.” It was also known as the Emile Bell, after a legend about its casting, and as the Bell of Bongdeoksa Temple, where it was first housed.


More Reading on Silla Artifacts

You can find out more about Silla artifacts here:

Google Arts & Culture
Gyeongju National Museum
News Articles

(Ref: Excerpts and images have been taken from Wikipedia, Google Arts & Culture and the National Museum of Korea.)

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