Reproduction bell with mallet and stand, 'Sacred Bell of King Seongdeok', lost-wax casting, bronze / wood, made by Won Kwang-sik, Jincheon-gun, Chungcheongbuk-do, Republic of Korea, 2011
This bell was made by Won Kwang-sik, the Master of Cast Iron. He has been designated as Important Intangible Cultural Property No. 112 by the Korean government. The traditional technique of making bells was lost in Korea. However Won researched and revived the traditional lost-wax technique and the bell has been made as close as possible to the original Korean technique, which requires a highly complex combination of art and science. It represents how the traditional practice of metal craft has been passed on to contemporary Korea.
This bell is a small scale reproduction of the 'Sacred Bell of King Seongdeok', the most well known and largest bell (3.75m (h) x 2. 27m (dm) x 11.25cm (thickness)) in the Republic of Korea. The original bell was made in 771 during the Unified Silla period. It was also known as 'Emille bell', the name of which was derived from a legend illustrating the enormous difficulties involved in casting the great bell. According to Samgukyusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms), the master of bell making spent years failing repeatedly before he finally succeeded in producing a bell with the right sound, but only after throwing a small girl into the molten bronze as a human sacrifice.
This bell was also one of the key objects in "Spirit of jang-in: treasures of Korean metal craft' exhibition on display in the Museum in 2011 and 2012 which highlighted Korean crafts. Won is the only living national treasure recognised by the Korean government for making bells. Jang-in is a Korean historical term used in a similar way to the English terms 'artisan', 'craftsman' or 'master'. In Korea, people who devoted themselves to a particular profession throughout their lives, or mastered a particular skill, becoming masters of that profession, were called 'jang-in'. They believed in setting high moral standards and considered their works to be their 'other-self' because they embodied the passion, soul and dedication of the maker.
This reproduction bell, with mallet and stand, was made by Won Kwang-sik in Jincheon-gun, Chungcheongbuk-do, Republic of Korea, in 2011.
The bell is created using a traditional Korean lost-wax casting technique. The technique involves building an inner clay mould and then an outer mould with the bell's surface detail on the inside surface, fashioned by the wax duplicate. The melted metal is then poured between the formed moulds to create the bell.
The bell was made for display in the 'Spirit of jang-in: treasures of Korean metal craft' exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum from 27 October 2011 - 12 February 2012. It was donated to the Museum by the artist, who is the Master of Cast Iron, Important Intangible Cultural Property No. 112 in the Republic of Korea. The exhibition was held to celebrate the 50 year friendship between Australia and Korea.