The Emile Bell or "the Sacred Bell
of King Songdok" is the largest bronze bell in Asia. You can find it in Korea in the heart of Gyeongju city. It was cast in 771 AD during the Shilla
period for King Hyegong. Hyegong wanted a bell to honor his deceased father, the previous king Songdok. King Songdok actually wanted to create the bell but he died before work on it could begin.
Weighing in at 25 tons of solid bronze
, the Emile Bell is the mother of all bells. In fact, the name "emile" is derived from an ancient Korean word for "mommy" (em-ee-leh
). The origin of the mommy nickname for the bell is two fold. One, the bell has several protrusions that resemble nipples. And then there's a rather horrifying
tale about how when the bell was first cast by the monks, it would not ring. The head monk, no expert in metallurgy
, decided to melt the bell down and throw a small female child into the molten bronze before recasting it. People say when the bell rings, it makes the sound of a baby girl crying for her mommy
. Okay, not one of Korea's finer moments.
For over a thousand years the bell was rung, calling people to prayer. People up to 50 miles away could hear the bell. The Emile Bell is rarely rung these days, however. There is a small crack and it's feared further ringing will expand the crack and destroy the bell's cherished and mysteriously pure
sound. Of course cherishing the sound of a bell that's never rung raises certain philosophical implications like what is the sound of one hand clapping?
or your basic tree falling in the forest dilema
. Koreans being a pragmatic
people, albeit lacking a certain broader ethic when it comes to building musical instruments out of living children, realized this. Oct 2001 they rang the bell 18 times and scientists recorded the sound for study and future preservation. Reportedly, no children were harmed this time around.