Songdok Bell
Sokkuram Grotto
Ch'omsongdae Observatory
Kyongju City
National Kyongju Museum

The eyes of the courtiers, and of Kyongdokwang, the 35th king of Shilla, were centered on the person in charge of tolling the bell. Noon arrived and the bell-man struck the bell.

The sound was not what the king had wanted. Kyongdokwang soon died from his disappointment and wanted his son, Songdok, to complete his mission. Songdok had yet to reach nine years of age when he ascended the throne.

It was only natural that the new king wished to accomplish the dreams of his father. So the new king called in two ministers, Ong Kim and Yang-Sang Kim and directed them to make a new bell.

The two ministers in charge of making the bell commissioned artisans to make the bell's mold and to carve flying images into it. The only step remain was to pour the molter iron into the mold. However, the minister's fear of failure made them hesitate.

The ministers had heard a rumor that, to make a perfect bell, it was necessary to sacrifice an innocent child by dropping the child into the molter iron used to cast the bell. Believing the sacrifice was necessary to make the bell.

Ong and Yang-Sang solicited the assistance of many great monks across the country. Their goal was to find a child for the sacrifice.

There was much argument about how the search should proceed until a friar related a story about a house he had visited. He said, "I visited the house of a mother and daughter while asking for alms. The mother replied that they were very poor and could not give alms with the exception of giving her child. Of course this caused the child to cry. The mother then soothed the child. The image was very affectionate, so I prayed for them. "What do you think of sacrificing this child?"

So, some courtiers and monks visited the house and asked for the child as sacrifice. The mother objected saying that she had been misunderstood and that her offer had been said in jest. However, they took the child anyway claiming that she should not have tried to deceive Buddha. They then placed the child into the simmering liquid iron. The cry of the child echoed all over the world. They poured iron liquid into the mold and a perfect body of the bell was made.

The day to test the bell came and all in the capital held their breath. Even the wind stopped blowing. The bell rang softly and clearly, "Emile".

The bell was finally completed.

All content Copyright 1998 Soyon Park
Questions and comments go to sopark@evl.uic.edu