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The Legacy of the Goguryeo: The Story Left Behind in Ancient Tombs, Part 1 of 2

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The Complex of Goguryeo Tombs, located in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is a culturally invaluable UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site. Goguryeo, or Koguryo, was a powerful Korean kingdom with a 700-year-old history, located in the northern and central parts of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast China. His Majesty King Jangsu, who ruled Goguryeo in the fifth century, changed the name of the kingdom from Goguryeo to Goryeo. Goryeo is the origin of the current English name of the country, Korea.

Among the most well-known cultural heritage of Goguryeo are the tombs, which have a stone foundation and an earthen or stone mound covering. Wall paintings have been found in about 100 tombs, and approximately 80 of these are located in the Northern part of Korea. The exquisite wall murals are extremely well-preserved and are prime examples of this culture’s decorative art. The Complex of Goguryeo Tombs displays the remarkable building skills employed during the Goguryeo dynasty.

The Tomb of King Dongmyeong is perhaps the most important of all Goguryeo dynasty-era tombs, belonging to its founder, the legendary King Jumong, the first of 28 Goguryeo kings.“Long ago, King Jumong, the progenitor, established the country. A son of the Heavenly emperor and the daughter of the river god, he grew up in Buyeo. He was born from an egg and endowed with heavenly virtue.” The egg is initially abandoned but is protected and kept alive by various animal-people until it hatches, revealing an incredibly beautiful boy, who grows to be intelligent and strong. His commanding prowess, infused with heavenly potency, allows him to pacify all rivals, earning the respect of human- and animal-people alike, who assist him at every turn to build the foundations of his new kingdom and establish his capital in Jolbon.

The capital of Goguryeo was moved three times. The last capital relocation was in AD 427, and the “Samguk Sagi” records that “the capital was moved to Pyongyang in the 15th year of King Jangsu.” The Tomb of King Dongmyeong was also relocated to the current location when the capital city was changed. This tomb, the largest of all tombs in Goguryeo, is now located on the west side of Mount Jeryeong in the southeast of Pyongyang and is designated as the National Treasure Cultural Relic No. 36.
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