• Koguryo and Balhae
  • Great Tomb of Gangseo
The Fourth Stone Prop of the Southern Wall (Fenghuang)
TitleThe Fourth Stone Prop of the Southern Wall (Fenghuang)
The Fourth Stone Prop of the Southern Wall (Fenghuang)
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This Fenghuang is depicted on the side of the fourth stone prop of the southern 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.
Just one Fenghuang is visible in the image. Its prominent red tone is reminiscent of the Vermilion Bird. Cement repairs at the top of the stone span over the head of the Fenghuang, thus the decorative element in its mouth is unclear. Brownish clouds surround the Fenghuang, providing the empty space with a sense of volume and motion.