• Koguryo and Balhae
  • Great Tomb of Gangseo
The Fourth Stone Prop of the Western Wall (Fenghuang)
TitleThe Fourth Stone Prop of the Western Wall (Fenghuang)
The Fourth Stone Prop of the Western Wall (Fenghuang)
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This Fenghuang is depicted on the side of the fourth stone prop of the western wall in the Great Tomb of Gangseo. Much like the dragon, extremely diverse descriptions of Fenghuang exist in historical texts. Shanhaijing or The Classics of Mountains and Seas states, "A bird exists that resembles a rooster and features the five cardinal colors. Its name is Fenghuang." Shuowen Jiezi (literally “Explaining and Analyzing Characters”, A Chinese dictionary from the Han Dynasty) states, "Fenghuang is an ethereal bird featuring the five cardinal colors. Its front resembles the Qilin (a.k.a. Kirin: chimerical creature of Chinese mythology), and the rear resembles a deer. It has the neck of a snake, tail of a fish, scales of a dragon, shell of a tortoise, chin of a swallow, and the beak of a rooster." Therefore, the Fenghuang sometimes resembles a rooster or is a composite of several auspicious animals.
The two Fenghuangs in the image bear a resemblance to the Vermilion Bird depicted on the southern wall of the burial chamber in the Great Tomb of Gangseo. Uniquely, the Fenghuang on the left has a red ribbon in its mouth rather than a palmette (decorative element resembling honeysuckle leaves). This element is not found in any other Fenghuang depiction in the Great Tomb of Gangseo. The high level of Koguryo artistry is demonstrated through the fine lines expressed in the wing feathers and the flowing curve of the tail.