• Koguryo and Balhae
  • Great Tomb of Gangseo
The Second Stone Prop of the Southern Wall (Side - Immortal)
TitleThe Second Stone Prop of the Southern Wall (Side - Immortal)
The Second Stone Prop of the Southern Wall (Side - Immortal)

This immortal is depicted on the side of the second stone prop of the southern wall in the Great Tomb of Gangseo. The concept of Daoist immortals emerged during the late Warring States period. The term immortal and its synonym supernatural being were poetically defined by Ban Gu (32 - 92 CE) in the 'Art and Literature' section of the Hanshu or The History of the Hany Dynasty as "Maintaining a truthful life while wandering the outside world, with pure intentions in one way or another, soothing the heart in balance of life and death, and existing without any sorrow." Therefore, an immortal or supernatural being was an ideal existence pursued by all since ancient times to transcend death and wander the heavens.
The Daoist immortal appeared frequently in both art and literature of the Southern and Northern Dynasties after Immortal Ideology became prevalent during the era. Notably, after Immortal Ideology was assimilated into Daoism and Daoism became a major religion in China, its influence greatly expanded throughout the general population. As depictions of immortals greatly increased during this period, a gradual process of anthropomorphosis changed beasts-forms into elegant, tall, and slender human-like figures. The immortals on the murals in the Great Tomb of Gangseo show the influence of immortal figures from the Southern and Northern Dynasties. They are categorized into traditional immortal iconography as well as Buddhism-influenced immortals wearing Heavenly Clothes.
General characteristics of traditional immortal iconography include the following: ① Reliance on external modes of transportation such as dragons or cranes. ② Riding on clouds. ③ Sprouting wings. ④ Wearing Winged Clothes. ⑤ Long ears. ⑥ Wearing pointed shoes. In addition, they are often depicted holding Immortal Flora, incense, canes, fans, or wearing headpieces.
Four immortals donned in Winged Clothes (clothing worn by immortals with the ends of the hems split like bird wings) can be seen in the image. They are all in the same pose, equidistant from each other, and facing left in unison.
The setting for this mural can be interpreted as an auspicious place inhabited by supernatural beings due to depictions of clouds and lotus & palmette (decorative element resembling honeysuckle leaves) rendered in the five cardinal colors. Additionally, these elements enhance the sense of speed of the flying immortals to convey dynamism and vitality.
The imaginative Daoist heavens have been well-depicted with elegant lines and vivid colors.