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  Koguryeo's Walls, Monuments and Tomb Murals

Many Koguryo-era cultural assets have been recognized as world-class cultural heritage. Examples of these assets include tomb murals that are widely known for their sense of using bright colors and a variety of painted images, the 1,500-year-old fortresses and walls that still stand high in grandeur, as well as oversized, monolithic monuments.

The kingdom had an abundant supply of mountain rocks. Taking advantage of this, they built robust bulwarks at strategically important defensive points and transportation crossroads. Its fortresses retained the best of its architectural technology. The "chi" around the fortress was the protruding sections of the walls that enabled soldiers to launch an effective three-front defense, which of course

  Great Wall of Korea
pic) Great wall of korea

enhanced the defense capabilities of the bulwarks. To ensure that these defense structures would not crumble easily, they deployed solid, large rocks at the bottom and smaller rocks for the upper parts of the structures. Angles of the walls were carefully laid to ensure maximum stability. Rather than chip off cliffs or rocks, they took advantage of natural dispositions as they were; and when they built defensive walls they laid the rocks in an interlocking way, a technique to build the walls as defensively strong as possible. The superiority of Koguryo's architectural techniques was widely known to neighboring countries and influenced their culture as well. Knowing that Koguryo fortresses were hard to breach, regional powers would hold back from challenging Koguryo. The 1,500-year-old Koguryo ramparts are still extant all over the old Koguryo territory.


  Knowing how to work with rocks, the people of Koguryo used to build gigantic stone tombs. The royal mausoleum of King Jangsu (r. A.D. 413-491) is the prime example. It stands like a pyramid that measures 31 meters each side and stands 13 meters high, a reason that it is dubbed the 'Pyramid of the East.' There are over 10,000 stone tombs of this style and others (stone chambers covered with dirt on top) still extant; one of them measures 71 meters each side. Tomb guards used to take care of the mausoleums of kings and aristocrats and ceremonial services have taken place on a regular basis.   Koguryo 's Stone Tomb
pic) Stone Tomb

  Then, there is King Gwanggaeto's Monument that stands in front of the king's mausoleum. Built by his son, King Jangsu, in A.D. 414, this rectangular monolith stands 6.39 meters high and weighs 37 metric tons. A total of 1,775 Chinese characters were engraved on all four sides of the monument, which is widely recognized for its historographical value today. The Chinese inscriptions describe the "rules of care" for tomb guardians, a brief history of the kingdom, and the genealogy of royal families, as well as the great achievements of King Gwanggaeto. Another Koguryo-era monument, called "Jungwon-Koguryo-bi (the central region monument)," was excavated in 1979 in Chungju, South Korea. About 2,000 words were engraved on it. Although scholars were so far able to read only one-tenth of the inscriptions, about 200 words, it nevertheless provided invaluable information about how the kingdom governed its southern territories.   Jungwon Koguryo Tombstone
pic) Jungwon-Koguryo-bi


Finally, the representative works that epitomize Goguryeo art are those tomb murals inside more than 100 tumuli. Their purpose was to wish the dead a peaceful rest and they were portrayed in various images and contents. Popular images were decorative patterns, mostly to decorate the tomb's interior (or sometimes to convey particular meanings), the portraits of lifetime events of the deceased, deities of protection to chase off evil spirits and to lead the soul of the dead to the afterworld, paintings of brave gate guards, goblins, some of heavenly features, and various constellations. These murals vividly portray the lifestyle of the time as well as its complex spiritual worlds, not to mention the outstanding artistic painting skills. For these reasons, they have won recognition as a " world cultural heritage."

Of these tomb paintings, those found inside Anak No. 3 Tumulus (featuring a long procession of 250 participants), the Tomb of the Dancers (hunting scenes), the Large Gangseo Tumulus (a tortoise), and the Middle Gangseo Tumulus (a phoenix) well deserve to be honored as excellent examples of the world's best artworks among their contemporaries, given the exceptional techniques deployed in the handling of colors and brush strokes. Also, the paintings in the Fourth of the Five Tombs (portraying deities and hermitic figures) still retain much of their magnificent colors, and continue to mesmerize viewers.

[Source: Korea.Net]



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