Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom

Last updated by christyinguilin at 2014/10/28

The Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient KoguryoKingdom are distributed in the area of Ji'an city, Jilin Province, and there is a inner city, a hill city and 14 imperial tombs and 16 other tombs in which the nobles were buried. Koguryo, which is often called Koryo for short by the Chinese people, is the name of an important ethnic group who had lived in the northeastern China from the Western Han Dynasty (206BC-25AD) to the Tang Dynasty (618AD-907AD). This group of people has had great influence on the development of the local culture.

Of all the Koguryo ancient cities, the earliest one is Wunvshan (the mountain of Five Women) city, which was built in the mountains. Nowadays there are all together over 100 ancient Koguryo cities built in the mountainous areas, and Wunvshan city is the best-preserved and the largest one with abundant relics. Inside the city there are mainly ancient ruins of architectures, military equipments and fortifications as well as utensils and other things used in daily life. These relics reflect the strong and prosperous culture of the ancient Koguryo people. When constructing Wunvshan city, the ancient Koguryo people also kept some architectural traditions which were often shared by the ancient people who lived in the northeastern China and liked to construct their cities in the great mountains. However, the Koguryo people made much more progress and innovations in the aspects of choosing places, making layout, building city walls and selecting building materials. As a result, a unique form of ancient city was created, which symbolized that the construction of cities in the mountainous areas had come to its golden age in northeastern China or even in Asia. It also has an irreplaceable significance in the architectural history of northeast China. From this area, Koguryo people gradually enlarged their inhabiting region and during the following 700 years, great cultures were created with strong ethnic features.

The inner city and the Wandushan (Wandu Mountain) city which was originally called Rock City were both constructed in the early and middle periods of the whole Koguryo history. That was from the first century to the fifth century. The main characteristics of these two cities are that each of the cities includes two parts which are closely combined into one. One part of the city was built on the flat plains in front of the mountains and the other part was in the mountains. And the two were closely connected with each other. Of all the relics of the Koguryo ancient cities, the two cities mentioned above are the most famous architectural masterpieces. The inner city was constructed completely on the plains, and the city walls were built with pieces of stones. The city walls that are still existed today are not only strong as they used to be, but also quite solemn and eye-catching. It is no doubt that this city is nowadays still a great Koguryo style capital city.

The layout of Wandu hill city looks quite natural, because the whole city has been constructed combining the natural beauty and human work. The design and the style of construction are perfect and reasonable. The relics of ancient Koguryo palaces discovered through archeological excavations can reflect the original grandeur and solemn of the original architectures. Both the inner city and the Wandushan city have served as the capital cities for quite a long time, so by visiting the two cities people could be able to learn something about the splendid civilization created by the Koguryo people.

On the plains around the Ji'an city, there are more than 10,000 ancient Koguryo tombs, which are well-known as Donggou Ancient Tomb Group both at home and abroad. About 7,000 of the tombs are distributed outside the ancient city. They are on the plains which are surrounded by great mountains. In most of the tombs, there are beautiful mural paintings with abundant mythological topics, which is quite unique and rarely seen in China. In spite of a history of over 1,000 years, the paintings are still keeping their bright colors. Represented by the General Tomb and Taiwang Tomb, 14 big imperial tombs with their colorful paintings vividly reflect the great history of the Koguryo nationality and they are undoubtedly cultural and artistic treasures left to us by the ancient Koguryo people.

Of all the tombs already discovered, the General Tomb, the Taiwang Tomb and the Qianqiu Tomb are extraordinarily large. The first two are located quite close to each other. On the east side of the Taiwang Tomb, there stands a tablet which is called No.1 Tablet in east China. The tomb was constructed by Emperor Changshou (Changshou means to live a long life) to worship Emperor Taiwang, who was the nineteenth emperor in the history of Koguryo nationality. The big tablet was made from a square column stone, which was over 6 meters high. On the four sides of the tablet there are 1,775 characters carved there. The inscriptions are about the merits and stories of Emperor Taiwang, the origin of the Koguryo nationality and the founding of their nation. These characters are in fact written materials about Koguryo history with the characters of the largest number.

From the Nineties, Chinese archeologists have discovered and excavated several relics of the ancient Koguryo cities and aristocratic tombs. In the meanwhile, they have repaired some of them already damaged by nature. Gradually people began to know the mysterious ancient Koguryo culture. Of all the excavations, the General Tomb, which is actually the tomb of the twentieth Koguryo emperor, is located on the cliff of Long Mountain, 4 kilometers northeast of Ji'an city. The design of this tomb is quite similar to that of the ancient Egyptian pyramids; as a result, this tomb has also been called the Oriental Pyramid. The base of the tomb is 31 meters long and 7 meters high. There are also seven layers of terraces there and the design is quite exquisite and solemn. This is believed to be a typical reflection of the architectural techniques and artistic achievements of the ancient Koguryo people.

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