Once Upon a Roof: Vanished Korean Architecture

Architectural illustration of a traditional Korean building, with details popped out into bubbles showing photo details of the roof eaves and tiles
  • Dates

    May 21–October 30, 2022

  • Location

    Arthur M. Sackler Gallery | Gallery 22

  • Collection Area

    Korean Art

Roof tiles made of fired clay are key elements of traditional Korean architecture. They not only protected wooden structures from the weather; they also carried aesthetic value and symbolic meaning. One special type of ornamented roof tile is the focus of this exhibition. Called chimi in Korea, these impressive features crowned both ends of the main roof ridge of prominent buildings. In addition to protecting and embellishing building peaks, they were believed to ward off evil.

While the ancient wood frame buildings they adorned are long gone, clay roof tiles, including chimi, have survived more than one thousand years. This exhibition features three chimi unearthed from the sites of two Buddhist temples and one palace complex dating to the Three Kingdoms (Baekje) and Unified Silla periods. Also included are round roof tile ends excavated at the same sites. Together, these artifacts reveal hidden stories of the ancient architecture of Korea.

Most of these works have never been exhibited outside Korea.

We thank our colleagues at the National Museum of Korea for sharing their research and for facilitating this exhibition.


Video Poster

Ornamented Tiles at the Seventh-century Buddhist Temple Mireuksa | This video shows the relative scale and layout of buildings at the Buddhist temple site called Mireuksa, in addition to how three types of ornamented ceramic tiles were used at the temple. © Iksan National Museum | View on YouTube

Video Poster

Exhibition Highlights | View on YouTube

Video Poster

Meditation & Mindfulness | View on YouTube


Scroll Back To Top