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Sun Shines on ‘Smile of Baekje’ Again

Posted November. 23, 2005 08:11,   


The Seosan Maae Samjonbul (a triad of Buddhist relief images on a rock, National Treasure No. 84), otherwise known as “The Smile of Baekje” located in Seosan, Chungnam Province, will see the light for the first time in 40 years.

On November 22, the city of Seosan declared that the Cultural Heritage Administration has accepted a National Cultural Heritage Status Change request, which asks for the partial removal of the safety house erected over the Maae Samjonbul, and will dismantle the house, leaving only its pillar and roof.

The partial removal of the house is likely to shed sunlight on the visage of the Buddhist image at times of sunrise and sunset.

An official for the city of Seosan said, “According to a research conducted over several months by the National Research Institute, the difference in temperature and humidity between the interior and exterior of the safety house, combined with poor ventilation, resulted in drops of dew to form on the Buddhist image,” while adding, “Many experts expressed concern over the deformation of the image.”

The Cultural Heritage Administration installed around the Maae Samjonbul a 2.3m-high, 3m-wide safety house in 1965 to prevent damage and erosion.

The Seosan City Council and the Cultural Heritage Administration will set new preservation plans after measuring for a year the changes in temperature and humidity, with just the pillar and the roof of the house remaining. Other options such as raising the roof to shed natural light or removing the house completely are also being considered.

Myung-Hun Jee mhjee@donga.com