• Koguryo and Balhae
  • Tokhung-ri Tomb
Tokhung-ri Tomb
TitleTokhung-ri Tomb

Tokhung-ri Tomb is a mural tomb from the early Koguryo era located in Tokhung-dong of the Gangseo region in the city of Nampo within the South Pyeongan Province. (Original designation: Tokhung-ri, city of Dae-an, South Pyeongan Province) According to ink inscriptions found inside the burial chamber, the mural tomb is the burial site for Jin, a former Youzhou Provincial Governor. The tomb has been dated to the 18th year of King Gwanggaeto, or 408 CE.
Finely-polished stone slabs were used to construct a semi-underground stone chamber tomb, and soil was heaped upon the structure to form a tumulus (mound of earth raised over a grave). Tokhung-dong (village) is located approximately 12.5 miles (20 km) away from the city of Pyongyang, and the tomb itself is situated on top of a hill at the southern tip of Jade Maiden Peak in western Mt. Muhak. A mile-long (1.8 km) field sits between Tokhung-ri Tomb and the Great Tomb of Gangseo.
Tokhung-ri Tomb is a two-chamber tomb consisting of an entrance passage, antechamber, main middle passage, and the main chamber containing the sarcophagus. The entrance passage connects the entrance to the antechamber, and murals were painted on its eastern and western walls. A threshold was installed between the entrance passage and antechamber. The rectangular antechamber's dimensions are 8.2 ft. (2.51 m) in length running east-to-west, 6.5 ft. (2 m) in width, and 9.4 ft. (2.85 m) in height. The burial chamber walls gently curve inward where they meet the ceiling to form an arc. This architectural design was implemented to optimally distribute the load of the ceiling stone slabs and earth pressure of the burial mound. The vaulted antechamber ceiling, also known as a caisson ceiling, was constructed in a dome-like shape and stacked with two tiers of parallel supporting stones before being capped with a square stone slab. A rectangular stone table, measuring 3.3 ft. (1 m) in length, 1.6 ft. (0.5 m) in width, and 0.6 ft. (17 cm) in height, was installed flush in the corner of the northern and western walls of the antechamber. A portrait of Jin was painted on the northern wall above the stone table, and it is estimated to have been used as a ceremonial altar for placing food.
The main chamber is square, and its dimensions are 10.8 ft. (3.28 m) in length and width and 9.5 ft. (2.9 m) in height. Similar to the antechamber, the walls of the main chamber gradually curve inward to create a dome-like ceiling structure while also utilizing parallel supporting stones to fill the void. The main chamber utilized five tiers of parallel supporting stones (as opposed to the two-tier setup of the antechamber) and a square stone slab to complete its caisson ceiling. A sarcophagus was placed in the main chamber with a northerly bias. The sarcophagus measures 8.2 ft. (2.5 m) in length, 6.7 ft. (2 m) in width, and 0.7 ft. (21 cm) in height.
A low and narrow middle passageway connects the antechamber and main chamber. Murals were painted on both walls of the middle passage, remnants of a door can be found at the threshold to the antechamber.
A combination of three-soil mixture (building material made by mixing clay, lime, sand, and water) and dry grass stems were applied to the walls of the tomb then whitewashed (limewash) before the murals were painted. Upon closer examination of the painting techniques, the mural was ostensibly completed by first creating rough sketches in red, then applying color, and finally drawing black ink outlines to finish the images. The large wall murals have real-world themes, and the ceilings feature depictions of the heavens. Real-world motifs include portraits of the deceased, affairs of the deceased, outings, hunts, Seven-Treasure Ceremony (a type of Buddhist ceremony), and other scenes of everyday life and customs. Otherworldly motifs include The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd, immortals, auspicious animals, Sun, Moon, and Stars & celestial objects, and other elements symbolizing the immortal world.
Due to the current lack of Koguryo era historical records, the rich murals and nearly 600 Chinese characters inscribed in Tokhung-ri Tomb are considered to be invaluable sources of information detailing Koguryo culture and ideologies.