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The Legacy of the Goguryeo: The Story Left Behind in Ancient Tombs, Part 2 of 2

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Within the Complex of Goguryeo Tombs is the Tomb of King Dongmyeong, a stone-chambered earthen mausoleum for the legendary founding monarch of Goguryeo, His Majesty King Dongmyeong, also known as King Jumong. It is estimated the inner sanctums are decorated with 640 lotus flowers, each with a diameter of 12 centimeters and drawn at regular intervals on the wall and ceiling. Just 120 meters to the south of King Dongmyeong’s mausoleum is Chongrungsa, or Jongrung Buddhist Temple, where the funeral rites for the king were held. After the disappearance of Goguryeo, the dynasties continued to change, but the Tomb of King Dongmyeong remained respected.

Notable as examples of stone surface mural art from the late 6th century, most Goguryeo tomb murals were painted upon a lime mortar surface. Nearby in Pyongyang is the Honam-ri Sasin, or the Four Spirits Tomb, designated as National Treasure No. 26. Within the Great Kangso Tomb, the distinct geometrical roofing design is another example of ingenious functional architecture, implemented to support the huge earthen weight above it, combined with exquisite artistry. Located in South Hwanghae Province are the Anak Tombs. Anak Tomb No. 3 is one of the largest of all Goguryeo Tombs, resembling a subterranean palace.

The Grand Royal Procession mural is over 10 meters long and two meters high. It contains around 250 separate figures that either mourn or guard the deceased. Center pieces of mural art in this era were of the tomb occupants and also held spiritual symbolism, depicting the sun and the moon, immortal Taoist practitioners, as well as sacred people from the plant and animal kingdoms.

The Susan-ri Tomb dates from the fifth century. There are 63 individual tombs registered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In 2020 and 2021, new tombs were excavated around the existing tombs.

The monument’s wall paintings are masterpieces of the Goguryeo kingdom, and the construction of the tombs demonstrates ingenious engineering solutions. The special burial customs of the Goguryeo culture had an important influence on other cultures in the region, including Japan. Included in the partnership has been a series of successful and ongoing collaborations between the Northern and Southern parts of Korea due to their shared cultural heritage.
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