• Koguryo and Balhae
  • Great Tomb of Gangseo
White Tiger
TitleWhite Tiger
White Tiger

The White Tiger is painted on the western wall of the Great Tomb of Gangseo. Unlike the Azure Dragon, the tiger is a real animal and has been an object of worship since ancient times due to its boldness. The White Tiger symbolizes the western cardinal point in the Five Elements, and serves as the western guardian spirit in Daoism. Just as the Azure Dragon, the White Tiger is depicted with a lively leaping motion facing toward the entrance from the center of the wall.
The White Tiger's valor can be seen in its big, bright eyes and gaping mouth as if to ward off demons and devour everything in sight. Similar to the Azure Dragon, the White Tiger features an S-shaped neckline, tail with a stepping curve, and a raised paw. This type of iconography originated from the Southern and Northern Dynasties of China in the 6th century and signifies the cultural exchanges between Koguryo and Chinese states of the period.
The bright red wings depicted on the chest of the White Tiger clearly show that it is not an ordinary tiger that actually exists in nature. Unlike the fictional Azure Dragon, the appearance of a White Tiger mostly resembled that of a real tiger on which is was modeled. The elegant lines and fierce appearance are representative of artwork from the peak of the Koguryo era.