• Koguryo and Balhae
  • Great Tomb of Gangseo
Azure Dragon
TitleAzure Dragon
Azure Dragon

The Azure Dragon is painted on the eastern wall of the Great Tomb of Gangseo. The dragon is the most revered and beloved mythical creature since ancient times and a symbol of the eastern cardinal point as well as its guardian spirit. As it's a fictional animal, its image was created by combining the antlers of a deer, head of a camel, eyes of a specter, neck of a snake, body of a python, scales of a fish, claws of a falcon, paws of a tiger, and ears of a cow. This complex combination is interpreted to be an emphasis on the dragon's divinity.
The Azure Dragon in the Great Tomb of Gangseo is depicted with a colorful and vibrant look. The intense red flames spewing out of the Azure Dragon's huge roaring mouth demonstrate its dignified stature. The flowing S-shaped neckline and body are colored in alternating blue, green, and red and finished with mesh-pattern scales in black lines to complete the Azure Dragon's mystical and brilliant look. The dragon’s imposing presence is worthy of the descriptions contained within ancient literature as the prime example of scaled animals.
The red flame-shaped pattern on either side of the chest represent its wings and are used in conjunction with the Cheokmok (an instrument resembling a Boshan (mythical mountain) or Baozhu (lotus bud-shaped bead) required for a dragon’s ascension according to Chinese mythology) on the back of the neck for ascension into heaven. The dragon's raised paw gives off a feeling of imminent take-off for flight. The adventurous and effervescent spirit of the Koguryo people can be felt through this image.