Conservation research symposium in South Korea

Delegates at tomb of King Muryeong-wang, Kongju

Dr. Maureen Young and Dr. Jonathan Ball, Research Fellows from the School of Construction, Property and Surveying, spent the week of 3rd to 10th December 2000 on a trip to South Korea. They were invited to participate in a symposium (New Millennium International Forum on Conservation of Cultural Property) in Daejeon organised by Prof. Suh Mancheol of the Institute of Conservation Science for Cultural Heritage at Kongju National University. The symposium was planned by The Presidential Commission for the New Millennium and was funded by the Cultural Properties Administration in South Korea.


Prof. Suh Mancheol (centre) and delegates
at the tomb of King Muryeong-wang, Kongju.

In South Korea, cultural property includes national treasures, historic or scenic sites, national monuments and people with particular skills or folklore knowledge. The symposium addressed the specific issues surrounding recent advances in scientific conservation treatments for building materials. Stone is not a common building material in South Korea, but granites and other stone types have been used for thousands of years in the construction of pagodas, Buddha statues and other monuments. In common with many countries, the Koreans have recently become aware of the deterioration that can result when ancient stones and other building materials are exposed to modern levels of air pollution and environmental pressures. The development of conservation treatments, methods and investigative techniques are matters of world-wide concern with respect to cultural property. Drs. Young and Ball, members of the Masonry Conservation Research Group, were invited to present results from their recent Historic Scotland funded research into the effects of conservation treatments on rates of stone decay and biological colonisation, and on methods for mapping the decay of stone.

The symposium took place over two days on the 5th and 6th of December 2000. The following two days were taken up with field excursions to heritage sites in Kongju, Iksan and Kyongju. Topics covered by papers presented to the symposium included:

Images from South Korea

Delegates at the tomb of King Muryeong-wang, Kongju.

Tomb of King Muryeong-wang
Delegates visit the burial mound of King Muryeong-wang (462-523AD), Kongju, Chungnam Province. - Dr. Young and Dr. Ball, 2nd & 6th from right, resp. King Muryeong-wang was the 25th king of the Paekche Kingdom (18BC-660AD) and ruled Paekche for 23 years until his death at the age of 62. The tomb was discovered during drainage work in 1971. It is constructed of black bricks, decorated with lotus designs, with an arched ceiling. The tomb is 4.2m long and 2.7m wide with flame-shaped niches for lamps. Many objects were excavated from the tomb, including gold ornaments from the King's and Queen's crowns, gold pendants and earrings, a bronze mirror and two stone plates engraved with records about the burial of the King and Queen.

Pulguk-sa temple, Kyongju.

Pulguk-sa temple, Kyongju
Pulguk-sa temple, south-east of Kyongju was begun in 528AD and enlarged during the Shilla period in 751AD, during the reign of King Pob-Hung. Kyongju was the capital city of the Shilla dynasty for almost 1000 years, from about 57BC until the 10th century AD. It was the capital of the whole peninsula for about 300 years after Shilla conquered the surrounding kingdoms. Destroyed by the Japanese in 1593, the temple was reconstructed along the original lines between 1970-1972.

Painted wooden sculpture of temple guardian from Pulguk-sa temple, Kyongju.

Decorative painting at Pulguk-sa temple
Colourful gods and warriors guard the entrance to the second gate to Pulguk-sa temple.

Painted decoration of roof eaves at Pulguk-sa temple. The internal woodwork and eaves of the wooden buildings are wonderfully painted with a range of patterns and images.

Painted decoration of eaves at Pulguk-sa temple, Kyongju.
Observatory at Chomsongdae, Kyongju.

Chomsongdae Observatory, Kyongju
Chomsongdae Observatory in Kyongju is one of the oldest observatories in East Asia. It is a stone structure, built between 632 and 646AD. The 12 stones around its base and the 30 layers of stones are thought to symbolise the months of the year and the days of the month. 366 stones were used in its construction, approximately one for every day of the year.

Reconstructed pagoda from Miruk-sa temple, Iksan.

Miruk-sa Temple, Iksan
These images show the reconstructed eastern pagoda from Miruk-sa temple, Iksan. This granite pagoda, on the east side of the temple site, was reconstructed in 1993, using some original granite blocks where possible.

An identical pagoda on the west side awaits reconstruction; on its north-east side, only six of its original nine stories remain.

Miruk-sa temple was constructed by King Moo who ruled the Paekche Kingdom from 600-640AD.

Reconstructed pagoda from Miruk-sa temple, Iksan.


Reference for proceedings from the symposium:
Suckwon Choi and Mancheol Suh (Editors),
Proc. New Millennium International Forum on Conservation of Cultural Property,
5-8th Dec 2000, Korea. 379 pages.

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