• Koguryo and Balhae
  • Susahn-ri Tomb
Western Wall of the Main Chamber
TitleWestern Wall of the Main Chamber
Western Wall of the Main Chamber

This is a detailed view of the noble couple’s procession depicted on the western wall of the main chamber in Susahn-ri Tomb. Ten figures are depicted in the procession including the noble couple. Three acrobats can be seen performing next to the nobleman on the left side of the mural.
The procession is being led by the entombed nobleman in full dress. Directly behind, a valet is covering the nobleman with a sunshade, followed by a strapping young man. The finely-dressed noblewoman is walking behind the young man. The noblewoman is also covered by a sunshade. Three women are trailing the noblewoman's maid, maintaining uniform spacing. Two maids can be seen at the tail end of the procession.
Just who might these figures be? The figures who are covered by sunshades are the noble couple - the central characters in this procession. The identity of the young man standing between the noble couple is of great interest. He is wearing trousers decorated with colorful polka dot patterns referred to as Daegugo (wide-legged trousers generally worn by noblemen) as evidence of his nobility. Although this figure may appear to be the nobleman's valet at first glance, his scale suggests that he is of far greater significance in contrast to the valet to his left. This young man is most likely the noble couple's son.
The single most important evidence for this deduction is the fact that figures in Koguryo-era murals were depicted in scale according to their social standing. The figures in this procession are all depicted in a variety of different sizes. The nobleman is clearly the largest, followed by his wife and son who appear slightly smaller. The remaining figures are all depicted in different sizes according to social status and importance. The valet and maid holding the sunshades for the nobleman and noblewoman, respectively, are young and of low social status, and thus they appear almost comically miniature. In contrast, the maids at the end of the procession are larger as they are married women who directly tend to the noblewoman. Judging by the extravagant attire and overall scale, the two women trailing the noblewoman are surmised to be the nobleman's second and third wives. The slightly smaller woman behind the nobleman's concubines is less-extravagantly dressed, and she is very likely the young man’s wife, or in other words, the noble couple's daughter-in-law. This hierarchical scale painting technique using varying sizes and spacing is an extremely effective way to visually decipher a person's identity. One cannot help but admire the insightful portraiture of Koguryo-era artists.
The yellow, rectangular spaces next to each figure were intended to contain inscriptions but were left blank for reasons unknown. These spaces generally contained information about a person for whom commemorative rituals were held, and such examples can be seen in Tokhung-ri Tomb from early Koguryo era. In particular, the inscriptions in Tokhung-ri Tomb contained not only information regarding a person, but descriptions related to the scene depicted in the murals. These traditions were inherited in Susahn-ri Tomb.