Mausoleum of King Kogukwon ― Koguryo Tomb with Mural Paintings Representative of Eastern Culture

Mausoleum of King Kogukwon is a tomb with mural paintings for King Kogukwon, 21st king of Koguryo, situated in Oguk-ri, Anak County, South Hwanghae Province. It dates back to mid-4th century and it is also called Anak Tomb No. 3.

The mausoleum, precious heritage of our national culture, is by far the number one of all Koguryo tombs ever known in terms of scale and richness of content of mural paintings. As a world-famous relic representative of the eastern culture in 4th century that gives an impression of an underground palace, it fully demonstrates the high level of might and culture of Koguryo.

It has a side chamber with figure and genre paintings. It is colossal in size ― about 33 metres from north to south, about 30 metres from east to west and 6 metres high. Located on the mountain and merged with it into one, it looks really magnificent like a huge mountain. It consists of a doorway, a front chamber, two side chambers in the east and west of the front chamber, inside chamber, a corridor, etc. that are built of stone semi-underground on the mountaintop cut downward flat.

The entrance facing the south of the doorway is blocked by a standing plain rock. The doorway is 2.17 metres long from east to west, 2.12 metres wide from north to south and about 3.48 metres high. Two stone doors are attached between the doorway and the front chamber. The front chamber is 4.88 metres long from east to west, 2.73 metres wide from north to south and 3.47 metres high. Between the front chamber and the inside chamber stand 3 octagonal pillars and between the two side chambers and the entrance to the corridor stand 2 square pillars, on the tops of which crenelles (layers of "cow's-tongue" ornamentation) or caps are placed.

The inside chamber is 3.8 metres long from east to west, 3.32 metres wide from north to south and 2.8 metres high. The eastern and the northern sides of the inner chamber are connected by an L-shaped corridor. The corridor is 10.13 metres in length, 0.69~0.87 metres in width and 2.5 metres in height. The ceiling of the corridor is supported by double parallel stays.

The murals are painted on bare stone walls. On the walls of the doorway are painted warriors guarding the king buried in this tomb and in the front chamber are found paintings of guards of honour, subakhui (Korean style of martial art using only the hands), singing and dancing. In the west side chamber are seen the scenes where the king, the main character, wearing “Paekragwan” (crown worn by Koguryo kings) and colourful silk robes is conducting state affairs together with civil and military officers, and the queen is being waited by the court ladies. In the east side chamber there are murals of kitchen, meat storage, well, mill, stable, cowshed, coach house, etc. The corridor is decorated with the mural of the main character wearing “Paekragwan” on an oxcart followed by the grand procession advancing majestically under the guard of warriors, civil and military officers, instrumental march music band, ceremonial flags such as “Songsangbon”, “Ttukki”, “Jongjol”, etc. owned only by the Koguryo kings. Each mural is different in painting technique.

The best-painted ones of all the murals are those with main characters in them. Although they have the limitation of the period when the portraits of the main characters were painted differently in size according to their social standings, they are invaluable ones that ascertain the very beginning of portrait painting in our country. The procession of several columns overlapping each other is portrayed skillfully by the technique of a bird’s-eye view. Demonstrating that its technique of picture painting was contemporarily of the highest level, this mural, in terms of the number of characters of over 250, the size and the complicated and colourful scenes, ranks first of all the murals in our country and it is a leading masterpiece that holds an important position in the history of the world fine arts.

At first there was a huge amount of valuable objects made of gold, silver, copper, iron, jade, etc. in the mausoleum, but at the time when it was discovered, only earthenware like plates, small bowls, pots, etc. was found due to grave robbery a long time ago.

The mausoleum is a precious cultural heritage that vividly shows the history, custom, architecture, art, music, dance, weapons, armament, etc. through the structure of chambers and the murals in them.

The architecture of bolsters and the murals in the mausoleum are the precious national cultural heritage that clearly shows the wisdom and resourcefulness of the Korean nation as well as the high level of its cultural development and world-famous relics representative of the contemporary eastern culture.