Bell of King Seongdeok

(Redirected from Emille Bell)

35°49′46.47″N 129°13′40.54″E / 35.8295750°N 129.2279278°E / 35.8295750; 129.2279278

Bell of King Seongdeok
National Treasure of Korea No.29: The Bell of King Seongdeok.
Korean name
Revised RomanizationSeongdeok Daewang Sinjong
McCune–ReischauerSŏngdŏk Taewang Sinjong
Other name
Revised RomanizationEmille Jong
McCune–ReischauerEmille Chong

The Bell of King Seongdeok (Korean성덕대왕신종) is a large bronze bell, the largest extant bell in Korea. The full Korean name means "Sacred (or Divine) Bell of King Seongdeok the Great." It was also known as the Emille Bell (에밀레종), after a legend about its casting, and as the Bell of Bongdeoksa Temple, where it was first housed.

The bell was commissioned by King Gyeongdeok to honor his father, King Seongdeok. However, King Gyeongdeok never lived to see the casting of the bell, as he died in 765 A.D. The bell was finally cast in 771 A.D., during the reign of Gyeongdeok's son, King Hyegong.

Now stored in the National Museum of Gyeongju, the bell was designated as the 29th national treasure of Korea on December 12, 1962. It measures 3.75 meters (12.3 ft) high, 2.27 meters (7.4 ft) in diameter at the lip, and 12 to 25 centimeters (4.7 to 9.8 in) in wall thickness. The Gyeongju National Museum weighed it in 1997, and found that its weight was 18.9 tons.[1]

Artistic characteristics

Bell of King Seongdeok, Gyeongju National Museum, South Korea

The bell is considered a masterpiece of Unified Silla art. It is unique among Korean bronze bells because of the presence of delicate designs and the title text, written in an elegant literary language. The whole structure, including its decorative elements, produces a wide range of sound frequencies; the sound tube absorbs high frequency waves, contributing to a distinctive beat.[2][3]

The hook of the bell is in the shape of a dragon's head. There are many relief patterns on the bell, including flower patterns along the rim and shoulder. There are also reliefs of lotus flowers, grass, and a pair of two apsaras (heavenly maidens). The striking point of the bell (dangjwa) is also in the shape of a lotus and sits between two of the apsara reliefs. The bottom of the bell is in a rhombic shape, designed to augment the sound reverberation.

The inscriptions on the bell (the title text), over a thousand Hanja, are a fine example of Korean calligraphy and carving. They provide detailed information about the bell and why it was cast.

The column the bell hangs on is quite firm. Even a column of the same diameter, made of a modern alloy, might bend under the weight of the bell, yet the bell still hangs on an ancient column that has lasted for several centuries.[4]



The bell is commonly known as the Emile Bell in both Korean and English. Emile, pronounced "em-ee-leh," is an ancient Silla term for "mommy".[citation needed]

According to legend, the first bell that was cast produced no sound when it was struck. The bell was recast many times but with no success. The king that had wanted the bell cast died after a while and his young son took over with the help of the queen. The son carried out what his father had started but still he didn't have any success. Later, a monk dreamed that if a child was cast into the metal, the bell would ring. The monk then took a child from the village and had her cast into the metal. When the bell was complete, the bell made the most beautiful sound when struck.[citation needed]

Some, however, believe the legend may actually be a modern invention, and that the story and name originated in the 1920s. A story that was published about the "Eomilne bell" or "Earmilne bell" (어밀네 종) may have been distorted in retelling.[5] The most recent argument is that legend about other bell became confused with the legend of the Emile bell.[6][7]

See also



  1. ^ Korea Tourism Organization. "The Divine Bell of King Seongdeok". Visit Korea. Archived from the original on 2012-03-05. Retrieved 2021-03-28.
  2. ^ Kim Seock Hyun, Beat Maps of King Song-Dok Bell, Beat Map Drawing Method of Bell Type Structures and Beat Maps of the King Seong-deok Divine Bell, archived from the original on 2019-11-27
  3. ^ Kim, Seock-Hyun; Lee, Chi-Wook; Lee, Jang-Moo (March 2005). "Beat characteristics and beat maps of the King Seong-deok Divine Bell". Journal of Sound and Vibration. 281 (1–2): 21–44. doi:10.1016/j.jsv.2004.01.038.
  4. ^ Yu HengJun. "Chapter 9". 나의 문화유산답사기 [My Cultural Heritage Exploration]. Vol. Book 3.
  5. ^ [1] (Korean), also fiction section of the '매일신보(Official newspaper of the Governor-General of Korea, published by the Japanese colonial government). One picture of the link is original text of Earmilne bell. Opponents reference Hulbert (1906, p. 326), a story about other bell in Seoul and Japanese records about 1920.
  6. ^ Hulbert, Homer B. (1906). The Passing of Korea. New York: Doubleday, Page & Co. p. 326 – via Internet Archive.
  7. ^ 송작생/松雀生 (1929-09-27). 오래인 벙어리 종로鍾路인경의 신세타령. 별건곤 [Byeolgeon-gun] (23). cited in 초록불 (2009-02-10). 에밀레 종의 비밀을 찾아서 [In search of the secret of the Emile Bell]. 초록불의 잡학다식 (in Korean).

Further reading