Broken 7th-century tile designated as S. Korea's national treasure

By Park Sae-jin Posted : November 27, 2018, 11:26 Updated : November 27, 2018, 11:26

[Courtesy of the Cultural Heritage Administration]

SEOUL -- "The Smile of Silla", a broken 7th-century roof-end tile adorned with the delicate and smiling face of a woman, was designated as a national treasure.

The Cultural Heritage Administration, a state body, said Tuesday that the off-white tile, used to decorate the eaves of a roof representing the excellent technology of the ancient Silla dynasty (57 BC-935 AD), was designated as the national treasure No. 2020.

The tile is cylindrical with a circular end and the woman conveys a delicate and contented expression with somewhat plump cheeks, gently closed eyes and her subtly upturned lip. The face pattern is particularly unusual because roof-end tiles were often decorated with lotus flower or dragon designs.

Like many other historical relics, the tile was snatched and kept by Japan during its 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean peninsula.

In 1932, it was excavated at the site of a ruined temple in Gyeongju, the capital of the Silla dynasty, and purchased by a Japanese doctor. In 1940, the tile left its hometown when the doctor returned home. After being forgotten for decades, it was sent back to the museum in Gyeongju in 1972 thanks to strenuous efforts by a former museum head
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