March 22, Juche108(2019)

Cultural Heritage of Korea—Koguryo Tomb Murals

The cultural heritage of Korea includes Koguryo tomb murals.

Koguryo was the first feudal state in Korea that existed from 277 BC to AD 668.

When their king or an aristocrat died, Koguryo people made a large tomb with stones, and painted pictures on the walls and ceiling of its chamber, cherishing the memory of the deceased and a religious faith that their soul was alive.

Such tombs are distributed in many regions, including Ji’an of Jilin Province of China, which was the capital of Koguryo, and in the area around Pyongyang. The number of tombs known up to now amounts to over 100.

Most of the tombs are situated on hills overlooking vast fields or on plains. Their mounds were round on the top and square on the bottom. They were usually hardened with clay and covered with turf.

The murals painted in the chamber with different themes are diversified in forms and rich in contents.

They include paintings of figures and customs, four guardians and ornamental patterns reflecting the life of Koguryo people. Typical tombs with murals of figures and customs are the Mausoleum of King Tongmyong who was the founder of Koguryo, the Mausoleum of King Kogugwon, and Anak mural tomb No. 2. The murals of four guardians—blue dragon, white tiger, phoenix and tortoise-serpent—can be seen in the big and medium tombs in Kangso and other tombs.

The murals, based on rich pictorial language and the unique techniques of the Korean painting, still remain unchanged even at this distance of time.

Koguryo painters drew pictures on plastered walls before hardening or directly on polished stone plates. They skillfully applied the method of line drawing and created vivid features by using various colours.

As the oldest of Korea’s pictorial heritage, Koguryo tomb murals are the cream of wall paintings in the middle ages.

Over 60 pieces of them, including the Tokhungri, Yaksuri and Susanri tomb murals, were registered as the world cultural heritage in July 2004.

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