Whether you’re a Tourist or a Townie, there’s always something different and fun to do in the Los Angeles area. But the cost of fun in the City of Angels can add up fast. Below is number 7 in a series of 25 things to do in Los Angeles that will cost $25 or less.
Bells first began to appear in China around 2000 BC with the advancement of metallurgy. Over millennia, bells came to hold different meanings for different cultures. In some circles, they symbolize beginnings, as in weddings, and endings, as in funerals. The Chinese art of Feng Shui uses bells to bring prosperity and protection. The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia symbolizes American freedom from the British. And in San Pedro, California, a 17-ton bronze bell symbolizes friendship between two countries.
The Korean Bell of Friendship was a gift from Korea to the United States in 1976 to commemorate our 200th anniversary as a nation. The Korean government spent over $1 million to cast the bell and construct housing for it. It was modeled after an ancient Korean bell circa 771 AD, a time when bells were believed to have the power to heal and restore peace. Though many in Los Angeles have never heard of this bell, it has great meaning for the Korean community here. Some liken it to a West Coast Statue of Liberty.
Cast in bronze at 12 feet high and 7.5 feet in diameter, the bell is truly a work of art, with intricate reliefs of Korean goddesses paired with likenesses of Lady Liberty, the Korean flag, a branch of the Rose of Sharon (the Korean national flower), laurel branch and peace dove. Roses encircle the base. The shape of the bell is not what Americans would expect. It doesn’t flare out, but forms a dome with nearly straight sides. A bowl underneath reflects the sound waves back up into the bell and out through a pipe at the top. This creates a powerful resonance that can be heard from miles away. People describe the sound as deeply spiritual and moving. The bell is not rung like a church bell. There’s no clapper inside. Rather, it’s struck on the outside with a wood log suspended from above and swung like a pendulum.
The bell is housed in a beautiful stone pagoda custom built at its San Pedro location by Korean craftsmen who were flown in specifically for the task. The structure is supported by 12 painted columns that represent the 12 signs of the Zodiac. It stands atop a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Angels Gate Park, just a short drive south of Los Angeles and right next door to the Port of Los Angeles.
For years, the bell was rung five times a year for Korean Liberation Day, U.S. Constitution Day, Korean American Day, the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve. However, after a long period of neglect and damage from nesting birds, weather and graffiti, the bell fell silent. The City of San Pedro lacked the funds and knowledge to restore such a precious work of art, so the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism stepped in with over $300,000 to save the bell. They hired Korean bell masters with the ancient knowledge and skills to restore it to its former glory. A nonprofit group, Korean Friendship Bell Preservation Committee, coordinated the project with the South Korean government, the bell masters and San Pedro.
In January 2014, after 10 months of restoration at a price tag of $569,680, the Korean Bell of Friendship rang once again during a rededication ceremony at Angels Gate Cultural Center in San Pedro, with officials such as Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti and South Korean Consul General Yeon-sung Shin in attendance. Los Angeles made a commitment to maintain the bell under the auspices of the Department of Recreation and Parks, Harbor Region, Point Fermin Maintenance District so future generations can enjoy this treasure and symbol of friendship.
“The coasts of Korea and … America aren’t thousands of miles away, they are connected as one. The sound of this bell is the sound of freedom — a universal cry for all peoples to be free, but also for the friendship to continue between our two great nations,” decried Mayor Garcetti before a crowd of about 100 people.
You can visit the Korean Bell of Friendship for free at Angels Gate Park, 3601 S. Gaffey Street, San Pedro. The park is open from sunrise to sunset, so plan to spend the day here. Bring a picnic lunch (no alcohol allowed) and enjoy the magnificent ocean view. Your dog is welcome, but he must be on a leash. Take a hike along nearby trails. Read, write, paint, do yoga or meditate. Enjoy the day. It will cost you nothing but time.
Check the Angels Gate Recreation Center website for information on bell ringing ceremonies and how to hold a wedding ceremony at the Korean Bell of Friendship.