A visit to the Korean national museum

One of the first things we did in Korea was to go to the national history museum in Seoul. The whole internet said we should go and we really needed to learn some history. It’s amazing how little we learn of history outside our own bubble (Europe) when we go to school.

So what we were mostly interested in was what happened when, who have ruled Korea, how has the country developed, which are the important historic events and what has defined Korea. As we only knew what has happened after 1945, there was a lot to learn.

I won’t write the complete history of Korea here, but some important bits are that Korea has been a monoculture for almost 8000 years. They have always have a good relationship with the part of China that is closest and a more sour relationship with Japan. Many big heroes have come out of the fights with Japan. Korea has almost always been extremely stable, all dynasties have ruled for a long time (up to 800 years), they have always been reasonably well off and quite techinally advanced. Few wars and little unrest.


Outside the main builing og the museum. There were many buildings and a big garden that were also part of the museum. I don’t remember where everything was from, but I will try and write something.

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This is the gold crown of the Shilla empire that was found in those burial mounds we visited. They are more than a 1000 years old and of the most intricate details.

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When I see things like this I always compare to Norway. What did we do a 1000 years ago? We were all caught up in ordinary and rudimentary agriculture, wooden houses and bad food. Imagine cultures like these? No wonder the vikings travelled.


This is a stone pagoda, they are everywhere in Korea.


It was three stories tall, I think.

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We had a look at Buddahs and learned some of the symbolism of how he is positioned.

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This is a temple gong from a Buddhist temple.

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Then there is fine pottery made in Korea a long time ago.


A certain time period is defined by this greenish colour.

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Korea has always drawn inspiration both from China and Japan, even though the three countries are very different.

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There were separate rooms on the influences from different countries. Very illuminating.

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After a quick tour with an English speaking guide, we went back to the exhibition on the history of Korea and had a closer loog on the handicraft work.

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It reminded me of the travelling Afghan exhibition I saw in Trondheim a couple of years ago, with the hidden Afghan golden treasures.

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The oldest things made by man, found in Korea. There are very old settlements in the country and it is fascinating to learn about, for a person who comes from a country that everyone walked into, but it took a long time to make a country and one culture.



I was very happy with the museum and very happy that we went. Understanding some of the history made the journey in Korea richer and more interesting.

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