• Koguryo and Balhae
  • Great Tomb of Gangseo
Golden Dragon
TitleGolden Dragon
Golden Dragon

This is the Yellow Dragon painted in the center of the ceiling inside the burial chamber of the Great Tomb of Gangseo. The Yellow Dragon was supplemented from the Five Elements of Daoism to the Four Spirits and represents the center of the cardinal points. In the Pyongyang region, the Buddhism-influenced lotus was primarily used as a decorative element for ceilings prior to the emergence of the Yellow Dragon. The decorative Sun, Moon, and Stars representing the heavens were also frequently utilized for the same purpose.
The Great Tomb of Gangseo is noteworthy in that it is the only tomb from the Pyongyang region's late renditions of the Paintings of the Four Spirits to have the Yellow Dragon on the ceiling. In contrast, renditions of the Four Spirits in tombs from China's Ji'an region contained the Yellow Dragon on the ceiling without exception. This is a clear indication of the ongoing cultural exchanges between Pyongyang and the Ji'an region during the period even after moving the capital.
The Yellow Dragon is coiled in a distinctive oval shape. This depiction is referred to as Panryong or Coiled Dragon. Unlike the Azure Dragon which is depicted to be flying, this type of rendition is ideal for portraying a dragon's long body in a limited square area. The overall portrayal of the Yellow Dragon is similar to the Azure Dragon painted on the eastern wall of the burial chamber.
The Yellow Dragon in the Great Tomb of Gangseo is similar to depictions of the Yellow Dragon from the Ji’an region. In particular, the lotus and palmettes (decorative element resembling honeysuckle leaves) depicted in the four corners of the ceiling are in a configuration closely resembling the Four Spirits in Tonggou. These characteristics distinguish the Yellow Dragon in the Great Tomb of Gangseo from the sun and moon, constellation, and lotus & palmette motifs commonly found in tombs of the era including Jinpari Tomb No. 1, Middle Tomb of Gangseo, and others from the Pyongyang region. Therefore, the Yellow Dragons that appear in the late Four Spirits murals from the Pyongyang region can be considered the most modern, and indicate the cultural correlation to the Ji'an region.