Ongoing photo exhibition of Koguryo Tomb mural paintings at the Japan Newspaper Museum

Koguryo tomb mural painting

The Complex of Koguryo Tombs, along with beautiful wall mural paintings, are the only remains and evidence of the Koguryo culture. Koguryo was one of the strongest kingdoms in northeast China and half of the Korean peninsula between the 3rd century BC and the 7th century AD. The best known cultural heritage remains of this kingdom are the tombs, built of stone and covered by stone or earthen mounds. The special burial customs of this culture had an important influence on other cultures in the region, including Japan’s. Tomb mural painting techniques are said to have been brought to Japan by Koguryo monks and craftsmen (see “Kitora Mural Vividly Shows Koguryo’s Influence on Ancient Japanese Tumuli” and “Kitora tomb originates in Koguryo murals“).

The Complex includes several groups of and individual tombs situated mainly at the foot of mountains and some in villages. Located in Pyongyang and surrounding provinces, the tombs are thought to have been made for the burial of kings, members of the royal family and the aristocracy.

Only about 90 out of more than 10,000 Koguryo tombs discovered in China and Korea so far, have wall paintings and half of those are in the Complex. The  wall paintings the subject of the photo exhibition, constitute masterpieces of the art of wall painting, offering unique evidence of the richness and complexity of the now-vanished Koguryo culture, portraying the costumes, food, residential life and burial customs, as well as religious practices and imagery associated with Buddhism, Taoism and the Four Deities. This photo exhibition is a rare opportunity to get up close in Japan with the Koguryo cultural heritage.


Venue: Japan Newspaper Museum: Photo exhibition of Koguryo Tombs, their mural paintings (10.6 – 12.16)

Press Photo Exhibition of the Koguryo Mural Tombs

Kyodo News and the Japan Newspaper Museum will jointly hold a press photo exhibition featuring the Koguryo Tombs and their wall paintings. The Complex of Koguryo Tombs, which was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, offers a unique testimony to Koguryo culture, its burial customs, and religious practices as well as daily life and beliefs, especially through the mural paintings. The paintings notably include images of hunting, women in colorful clothes and the Four Deities.

These artworks that flourished in ancient East Asia are believed to have connections to Japan’s Takamatsuzuka Tumulus and Kitora Tumulus.

Kyodo News in 2010 and 2011 exclusively covered five tombs in Pyongyang and its vicinity, shooting numerous photographs. On display at the exhibition will be photographs of the ”Four Guardian Deities” murals at the Kosan-dong No. 1 Tomb in Pyongyang which was excavated in 1936 by Japanese researchers, and recently-discovered images of people at the Okdori Tomb in Nampo.

Kyodo News became the first foreign media organization to cover the Okdori Tomb. Other photos to be shown include those of the Tokhungri Tomb, the Anak No.3 Tomb and the Kangso Great Tombs and their mural paintings to introduce the essence of Koguryo culture. Life-size replicas of stone chambers of the Kosan-dong No. 1 Tomb and Takamatsuzuka Tomb will be on display as well.

◆Opening Period: Oct. 6 (Sat.) ~Dec. 16 (Sun.), 2012
◆Venue: The Japan Newspaper Museum (2F gallery)
11 Nihon Odori, Naka-Ku,
Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture 〒231-8311
(The museum is located in the
Yokohama Media and Communications Center)
◆Organizers: Kyodo News
The Japan Newspaper Museum
◆Supporters: National Federation of UNESCO Associations in Japan
Foundation for Cultural Heritage and Art Research
Board of Education, Kanagawa Prefecture
Yokohama City Board of Education
◆Opening Hours: 10:00 a.m. ~ 5:00 p.m. (Must enter the facility by 4:30 p.m.)
Closed on Monday (If Monday is a holiday or a compensatory
holiday, we will be closed on the next business day.)
◆Admission Fee: 500 yen for adults and college students 300 yen for high school students Free for junior high school students or
younger ※Various discounts are available.
◆Access: ・Direct connection to Nihon Odori Station (Minatomirai line, Exit No.3)
・10-minute walk from Kannai JR train/municipal subway stations
・1-minute walk from Nihon Odori Eki Kencho-mae municipal bus stop
・3-minute drive from Yokohama Park exit ramp of the Metropolitan Expressway

Source: Kyodo News press release


Further readings:

N.Korean-Japanese Team Finds Koguryo Tomb in Pyongyang, Chosun, Aug 16, 2010

Goguryeo ladies mural in Susanri tomb 修山里古墳の壁画「侍女図」

Japanese tomb murals removed for restoration, Jul 1, 2007

Japan – ancient murals in Nara tomb – May 13, 2005.

Nara tomb murals


Han Mural Tombs: Reflection of Correlative Cosmology through Mural Paintings”, ASIAN AND AFRICAN STUDIES, Volume XV, Issue 1, Ljubljana, May 2011  (pp. 19-48) by Nataša VAMPELJ SUHADOLNIK

Japan Comparative Study of Ancient Mural Tomb by HAN ZHAO


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