The first public sundial of the Joseon dynasty “Angbuilgu” has returned from the U.S. The Cultural Heritage Administration announced on Tuesday that an Angbuilgu was returned to South Korea after the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation bought it at a U.S. auction in the first half of this year. It is unknown when and how the sundial was smuggled out of the country, but an individual has owned the clock after buying it at an antique shop in St. Louis, Missouri.
The returned Angbuilgu is made of copper alloy, measuring 24.1 centimeters in width and 11.7 cm in height and weighing about 4.5 kilograms. It is presumed to have been manufactured in the 18 or early 19th century based on the latitude of Hanyang, the then-name of Seoul, marked on the sundial. There are seven Angbuilgus of a similar size and material in South Korea. Two of them owned by the National Palace Museum of Korea are designated as National Treasures.
Angbuilgus were the first public clocks of the Joseon dynasty and had been manufactured after King Sejong the Great took the throne until the end of Joseon. The Angbuilgus installed in Jongmyo Shrine and the Hyejeong bridge during the Sejong period do not exist anymore. It has almost no error compared to the modern clock system and informs solar terms, bearing, sunrise and sunset times, directions, etc.
The returned Angbuilgu will be revealed to the public at the National Palace Museum of Korea from November 18 to December 20.