Bronze Vessel from Kyongju's Tomb of the Heavenly Horse
Sixth century Shilla
Height 26.7cm, diameter 21.6cm
This three-legged bronze vessel from Kyongju's Tomb of the Heavenly Horse was probably used as an incense burner. Its three legs reflect the ubiquitous Korean attachment to the number three, which was apparent from earliest times. Indeed, a belief in the power of the number three is found in many cultures throughout East Asia and the world. A three-legged crow, an image from Chinese myth, is found in Koguryo tomb paintings. Three-story pagodas and Buddhist triads are plentiful throughout Korea and East Asia, and much of the furniture from Korea's Choson kingdom features three drawers, doors or stories. All reflect a belief in the cosmic relationship between the heavens, earth and humanity.