Silla and Persia | Ala Talebian (ITP 2017)

Written by Ala Talebian, ITP fellow 2017, Iran

Last Sunday I got the chance to visit the Silla and Persia: A Common Memory exhibition at the National Museum of Iran during its last days. For me it was especially interesting because I didn’t know much about the Kingdom of Silla. Silla (57 BCE-935 BC) was one of major ancient kingdoms of Korea. They used to build massive tombs for their kings and during 4th to 6th centuries CE, those tombs were built in Gyeongju, the capital of Silla. Researchers found many artifacts in the tombs that indicate they were from lands far west, such as Persia, as well as eastern lands. It’s presumed it was through the Silk Road that the culture of Persia was introduced to Korea. Therefore Korea and Iran share a long history and this history is the main reason for having the exhibition in Tehran.


Gyeongju city and burial mounds

The first gallery focuses on the many golden ornaments that have been discovered in the wooden chamber tombs. The gold burial goods found in royal tombs reveal the special regard that the people of Silla had for gold. It is indicated in historical literature that Silla held a longstanding reputation as a “nation of gold” both inside and outside the Kingdom.

Sheets of gold were connected to make a belt ornament. This belt is assumed to have been connected to the costume of the northern nomadic tribes.

The second gallery emphasises the life of Silla’s people. It shows many jars, decorated potteries and amazing figurines. These figurines demonstrate that the people of Silla were open-minded, outgoing and enjoyed singing and dancing.

The last gallery talks about the relationship between Silla and Persia.  What interested me the most was a stone pillar which was one of the four pillars of a square-shaped grave. A person and a lion are carved on the outward sides. The man has large eyes, a long nose, leather boots and holds a stick assumed to be for Chogan (Polo). This figure is very likely to represent a Persian.