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  • The Murals of Anak Tomb No. 3

The Murals of Anak Tomb No. 3

The Murals of Anak Tomb No. 3
TitleThe Murals of Anak Tomb No. 3
LanguageEnglish
ReplayTime10m 27s

“Picture to Embrace the Era – Mural Painting of Anak Tomb No. 3”
Located at Anak-gun, Hwanghaenam-do, North Korea, Anak Tomb No. 3 was built in 357 B.C. under the reign of King Gogukwon.
It is a Seoksil Bongtobun (mounded stone chamber tomb with mural painting) built around basalt and limestone slats. At the time of investigation, it was an elliptical tomb with a north-south length of 33 meters, an east-west length of 30 meters, and a height of six meters from the ground to the top of the tomb. It is currently being restored in a larger scale.
The inside of the tomb is structured with a tomb entrance passage, front chamber, right and left-side chambers and main chamber, and a reversed L-shaped corridor. The tomb entrance passage, the front chamber, and the corridor are not connected separate spaces, but are sectioned off by pillars and an inserted wall so that the overall the floor plan appears to have two separate compartments.
The ceiling and walls of each chamber are filled with various mural paintings that depict the people and customs of the time: the paintings of the couple who are the owners of the tomb and a parade stand out the most, and are particularly spectacular and vivid.
The other paintings feature a rice mill, well, kitchen, meat storage house, garage, stable, etc. and recreate the lifestyle of the Koguryo people in the mid-4th century
The procession of honor guards is depicted on the eastern and western walls of the tomb entrance passage. The presence of these honor guards at the tomb entrance passage is the distinguishing feature of Anak Tomb No. 3.
On the eastern and western walls of the front chamber, there is a painting featuring figures in the honor guard holding Hwagye (a hexagon-shaped parasol decorated with embroidery and paintings), various flags, Jeol (a type of stick), and axes. These figures are turned in the direction of the entrance in a slightly bowing position, and a band playing bugles and drums also face the entrance.
To the left below the procession, there is a painting of Buwolsoo (axe army). They are shown holding axes and wearing long sleeve jackets, pants, and bands around their waists.
The front chamber connected to the tomb entrance passage is rectangular shaped, being longer at the sides, and the ceiling is Pyeonghaengsamgakgoim (a composite ceiling with parallel and intersecting arches). Side chambers were built at the eastern and western sides of the front chamber.
On both walls around the entrance of the western chamber, Janghadogs (King’s guard) face each other.
Mukseo (Chinese characters written in ink) is displayed over the Janghadogs wearing head pieces with a pointed frontal part called “Chaek.” While the Mukseo on the left (south) Janghadog is relatively legible, only traces are left of the writing on the right (north) and it is impossible to read.
The Mukseo on the left is a record about a man named “Dongsu” who served office for 13 years during Yeonghwa and passed away at the age of 69.
Scholars are divided regarding the ownership of Anak Tomb No. 3: one camp thinks the owner is King Gogukwon; the other believes the owner is “Dongsu.” More concrete and in-depth discussion is required to determine who the actually owner was.
The side chamber on the west has a rectangular shape that is longer in the northeast direction.
The portrait of the owner of the tomb is hung on the front wall of the side chamber on the west. The figure of the portrait who is sitting erect on the low wooden bench wore an additional white Kwan (type of hat) over a black inner Kwan. The white Kwan is made of “La,” which is a type of a very finely textured silk.
The painting delicately illustrates the owner of the tomb, who wore flamboyant red colored silk clothes, managing the affairs of state with his officials at his left and right sides.
The portrait of the owner’s wife was painted right next to the owner on the southern wall. She is in a sitting position and slightly turned toward the owner of the tomb. The wife is described to have a slight smile on her rather plump face and was served by maids wearing splendid hair pieces and flower patterned silk dresses.
On the left side of the entrance, which is located at the eastern wall, there is a gatekeeper standing to the direction of the entrance and holding his hands modestly.
The girder directly above the wall is decorated with stunning cloud patterns, whereas the center of the Samgakgoim Ceiling (a ceiling with intersecting arches) is decorated with red lotus flowers.
Outside the western side chamber, there is a painting divided into an upper and lower part: it depicts Subakhee, a fist-based martial art that was very popular for Koguryo people, and a line of Buwolsu (axe army) holding axes on the right wall at the entrance of the eastern side chamber.
The eastern side chamber is also rectangular, longer in the northeast direction, and is a bit smaller than the western chamber.
The walls of the chamber are filled with colorful mural paintings that allow us to peek into the Koguryo housing culture. From crop trimming and cooking to elaborately painted wagon, cattle, etc., the images are very realistic and seem to depict the actual house of the owner.
At the right side of the western wall, there is a picture of a mill that hints to the origin of a treadmill. It is interesting to see the images of women pounding with a mortar and winnowing.
To the right, there is a painting of a Yongdurae well that uses the principle of a lever on the northern wall. It features water pots of various shapes and mangers around the wall.
In the kitchen on the eastern wall, a woman who appears to be a maid is cooking in front of a large steamer. From the size of the container, we can estimate how many members lived in that household. In front of the furnace, another maid earnestly tends the embers. Another maid next to her arranges plates and items on top of a tray.
A slaughterhouse and a garage are shown by the kitchen. Animals such as roe deer and pigs hung by rings are shown in the slaughterhouse. There are two wagons in the garage. These wagons pulled by cows can also be found in “Procession Scene in Yaksuri Tomb with Mural Painting.”
In a stable illustrated on the southern wall, there were three cows, a black, yellow, and brindled cow. All of them have red horns and wear nose rings.
The left side of the western wall depicts a stable. The painting features incredible detail in various colors of the horses and in each hair of the horses’ manes.
The living space is elaborately expressed in such great detail because of the ardent desire for the owner to continue his prosperity into the afterlife.
The front chamber and the main chamber are partitioned by four pillars.
There is a three-man band and a dancer who are seemingly from the countries bordering on Western China. They are dancing with twisted legs on the eastern wall of the main chamber, which is distinguished by four pillars from the front chamber. This painting is a reflection of the active external cultural exchange of Koguryo at the time.
The main chamber has a square-shape and its ceiling is a Pyeonghaengsamgakgoim structure that places double platform triangle prop over a triple parallel prop.
From the eastern wall to the northern wall, the corridor is enclosed in a reverse-L shape. The southern wall of this corridor has a painting of an elevated building, and there is a “painting of a procession” of around 250 people.
A multitude of people are featured in the scene, including the owner of the tomb in the cow-pulled wagon at the center and a marching band performing songs, music, and dance in the front, followed by the flag bearers, maids, and horse-riding civil officials at the back of the procession. The sheer number of people depicted indicates that the owner of the tomb was a man of very high position.
As shown in the mural paintings, Koguryo incorporated various cultures from the East and the West based on its wide foreign relations. The people re-interpreted and developed at other nations had to offer into their own distinctive culture.
The mural painting of Anak Tomb No. 3 allows us to get an understanding of the development of Koguryo painting and calligraphy, the era’s culture and various lifestyles, and a piece of its political-history during the Mid 4th century.
Therefore, Anak Tomb No. 3 is recognized to have a very special position in our study of Koguryo’s cultural history.
Because it allows us to understand a range of customs of the Koguryo people through its mural painting, Anak Tomb No. 3 is considered a great artwork reflecting the lives of the Koguryo people. It is our precious cultural heritage and offers valuable evidence in our study of Koguryo life.

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