• Koguryo and Balhae
  • Anak Tomb No. 3
Anak Tomb No. 3
TitleAnak Tomb No. 3

Anak Tomb No. 3 is located at the top of a hill northwest of Yuseun-ree (village), Yongsun-myeon (region) approximately 4.3 miles (7 km) from Anak-eup (town) in South Hwanghae Province. It is one of only two mural tombs from the Koguryo era that has a confirmed date of construction. According to the ink inscriptions found within the tomb, Anak Tomb No. 3 was completed in 357 CE. The tomb is comprised of a complex configuration of an entrance approach, entrance passage, antechamber, two auxiliary chambers, a main chamber, and an L-shaped gallery adjacent to the main chamber. Soil was heaped upon the structure to form a tumulus (mound of earth raised over a grave). Anak Tomb No. 3 is well known for its large-scale depiction of a procession on the gallery walls as well as a long-standing debate surrounding the entombed.
Murals were mostly painted directly on stone surfaces. Finely-polished basalt and limestone were used as primary building materials for the tomb. The central motifs are everyday life and customs. The tomb features portraits of the deceased, depictions of a grand procession, various living areas, a horse stable, images of wrestling, singing and dancing, gatekeepers, as well as depictions of lotuses, Guimyeons (demon mask), oddly-shaped clouds and various other decorative patterns.
Both walls of the entrance passage feature depictions of honor guard processions. Although the soldiers themselves are too faint to discern, their red-tasseled spears and black shields treated with red outlines still remain visibly clear. Of all similar mural tombs of the era, only Anak Tomb No. 3 features depictions of honor guard processions on the entrance passage walls.
The stone-door entrance to the tomb is on the southern wall of the antechamber. One mural (western side) features a ceremonial band while the opposite wall features an honor guard procession, both in a split, two-tier format. The honor guards in the mural can be seen facing the entrance holding banners, a sunshade, a Jeol (ceremonial flag featuring pompons), and axes. Their upper bodies are slightly bent forward in a display of respect to the entombed. The ceremonial band on the opposite wall is also facing the entrance, and a drummer and horn flutist can be seen in the mural. Red sketches formed the base of the murals predominantly colored in red, black, and green. Black outlines were used to finish the images. The horn flutist is a stunning example of this painting method. The western wall of the antechamber, leading into the western auxiliary chamber, features depictions of Royal Guards on each side of the threshold. Although both depictions include inscriptions above each figure, only the inscription on the left remains legible. A portrait of the deceased is depicted on the western wall of the western auxiliary chamber. The central figure of the portrait is wearing red silk attire with a Baek-ragwan (literally "white silk hat," a type of hat worn only by kings) and sitting upright on a wooden platform. He is surrounded by valets and a maid. A portrait for the wife of the deceased is depicted on the southern wall of the western auxiliary chamber facing her husband. The wife of the deceased is wearing flower-patterned silk garments and an extravagant hairstyle and is surrounded by maids tending to her needs. Among the numerous murals painted in Anak Tomb No. 3, these portraits of the deceased are distinguished by their sophisticated and refined painting techniques. The northern wall of the western auxiliary chamber does not feature a mural possibly due to deterioration. The adjacent section of the eastern wall depicts a gatekeeper facing the threshold with his hands held together in a gesture of respect. Oddly-shaped cloud patterns decorate the joists directly above the western auxiliary chamber walls, and a blooming red lotus is depicted in the center of the ceiling constructed with triangular supporting stones.
The eastern wall of the antechamber, leading into the eastern auxiliary chamber, features depictions of axmen and a Subak (ancient Korean martial art) exhibition on the southern side of the threshold. Both combatants in the Subak exhibition feature detailed beards expressed meticulously strand-by-strand. The northern side of the threshold is the starting point for the L-shaped gallery. The mural that spans this gallery features a large-scale procession containing over 200 figures.
The walls of the eastern auxiliary chamber depict scenes of everyday life including a mill, well, kitchen, meat storehouse, carriage house, barn, and horse stable. Although faint, a bird can be seen sitting on the roof of the meat storehouse. The roofs of the kitchen and carriage house both feature black birds with red beaks.
Four stone columns line the northern end of the antechamber as a partition between the antechamber and main chamber. The sides of each column's capital are decorated with Guimyeon (demon mask) imagery. Only the eastern wall, joists, and ceiling of the main chamber feature murals. The eastern wall of the main chamber depicts musicians as well as barbarians (non-Chinese) performing dances originated from the Western Regions (Generally refers to areas to the west of China). The joists are decorated in cloud patterns, and the center of the ceiling features a blooming red lotus larger and more vibrant than that of the western auxiliary chamber.
An L-shaped gallery borders the northern and eastern walls of the main chamber. A large-scale procession appears on the eastern wall of the gallery. Although the figures in the procession scene are depicted in profile views without proper perspective, the overall image feels like an overhead view. As a reflection of the significant social status of the deceased, the scene is massive in scale, and the ambience is quite solemn. The central figure can be seen riding a carriage at the rear of the procession, and a figure carrying a black banner is marching directly in front of the carriage. The banner bears the message “His Majesty's Banner.” The lower portion of the southern gallery wall features a depiction of a palace.
Murals in Anak Tomb No. 3 were ostensibly completed by first creating rough sketches in red, then applying color, and finally drawing black ink outlines to finish the images.
Judging by their contents, the murals in Anak Tomb No.3 seem to portray a slice of opulent residential life in the Koguryo era. The multi-room structure of the tomb and the murals contained within illustrate a remarkable representation of life in an actual house. As a reflection of daily life in Koguryo, Anak Tomb No. 3 is an invaluable resource for studying and understanding the political, cultural, and ideological aspects of Korean cultural heritage.