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Twin-lion stone lantern of Jungheungsanseong Fortress

gwangju national museum jungheungsanseong ssangsaja stone lantern national treasure 103 united silla period

Korean National Treasure No. 103 (Jungheungsanseong Ssangsaja stone lantern) from the United Silla Period in Gwangju National Museum

After biking my way (mostly uphill) in extreme heat and humidity to the Gwangju National Museum (국립광주박물관), I was a bit horrified to see the front doors all standing wide open. This meant there would be no AC inside (like many places in Korea). I was already dripping in sweat so I figured I would just take a quick look around and then head back home for a cold shower. However, once I walked in, two “English-speaking” guides said they would escort me around. I hadn’t heard or spoken a word of English in days so I didn’t turn them down. They were super nice, but their English was nearly impossible to understand. They talked about this stone lantern (광양 중흥산성 쌍사자 석등) for a long time. Actually they talked about everything in the museum for a long time (while I was about to burst into flames from the heat), but they talked about this lantern for an extra long time so I figured it must be pretty important. Then, when I was in Busan, I saw a replica of this same stone lantern at the Busan Museum so it must be really important if replicas of it exist all over the country.

The story my tour guides conveyed to me is that a farmer found this lantern in his field and sold it to a Japanese man. When the Japanese man tried to take the stone lantern back to Japan he was not allowed. Korea then purchased the lantern from the Japanese man to regain ownership.

Korea is now up to a little over 300 designated national treasures. This was number 103 (국보 103호).

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