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1,300-year-old South Korean Buddha unearthed intact

AFP, Sept 11, 2007

SEOUL, South Korea -- A 70-ton granite statue of Buddha, which toppled over face-down 1,300 years ago in South Korea, has been unearthed with its features intact.

<< A 70-ton granite statue of Buddha, being unearthed with its features intact after toppling over facedown 1,300 years ago in South Korea, is made public to the press 10 September 2007 in Gyeongju.

The 5.6-metre (18-foot) sculpture was in May found buried in the southeastern city of Gyeongju and has been partially unearthed after months of work, news reports said Tuesday.

The nose missed a rock by only five centimetres when the statue toppled, the English-language JoongAng Daily quoted specialists as saying.

"It was a miracle that the Buddha's face was saved by only five centimetres," the Venerable Jigwan, administrative head of the Jogye Buddhist Order, told the newspaper.

So far the face, chest and shoulders have been excavated.

State archaeologists estimate that the statue collapsed shortly after its completion in the late 8th century, and that the features avoided erosion because the front was buried in soil.

"We hope to move the statue to its original position but it is not an easy task to move a 70-ton stone piece," You Hong-Jung, chief of the Cultural Heritage Administration, told the paper.

Local cultural authorities plan to turn the statue face-up by the end of the year.

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