Complex of Koguryo Tombs
Complex Of Koguryo Tombs
Cultural Democratic People's Republic Of Korea Asia And The Pacific Pyongyang, South Phyongan Province, Nampho, South Hwangghae Province

The Koguryo Tombs are exceptional testimony of the Koguryo culture, its burial customs, and its daily life and beliefs. The special burial customs of thisculture had an important influence on other cultures in the region, including those in Japan. The wall paintings of the tombs are masterpieces of the culture and the period of the Koguryo Kingdom, while the construction of the tombs demonstrates ingenious engineering solutions.

The World Heritage site includes several groups and individual tombs, totalling about 30 individual graves, from the later period of the Koguryo Kingdom, one of the strongest kingdoms in north-eastern China and half of the Korean peninsula between the 3rd century BC and 7th century AD. The tombs, many with beautiful wall paintings, are almost the only remains of this culture. Only about 90 out of more than 10,000 Koguryo tombs discovered in China and Korea so far have wall paintings. Almost half of these tombs are located on this site and they are thought to have been made for the burial of kings, members of the royal family and the aristocracy. These paintings offer a unique testimony to daily life of this period.

The site includes 63 tombs from five areas in North Korea, believed to have been constructed between the 5th and 6th centuries. Of these, the Kangso Three Tombs and the Royal Tomb of King Tongmyong, along with 16 other tombs, contain mural paintings.

As Koguryo extended from what is now Jilin Province in north-eastern China to Pyongyang in North Korea, the historical sites in the two nations have long been a point of conflict over their ancestry. Koreans insist that Koguryo is a kingdom of ancient Korea based on historical evidence, whereas Chinese historians have claimed Koguryo as part of their history, as artefacts from the period have been held and preserved by China because of their geographical distribution within its borders. The two countries agreed to put the ancient kingdom's historical heritages on the World Heritage List separately as it is considered to be 'non-political' and the two countries are focusing on preserving the sites and taking advantage of them as tourist attractions and as sources of historical research.

Koguryo, one of Korea's ancient three kingdoms, existed for 700 years and was ruled by 26 wise kings. All these rulers strove to improve the welfare of the people and strengthen the military forces. Koguryo had to fight against invaders from the north, and so its citizens were well organized and trained in the art of warfare. It developed a unique culture and remarkably advanced educational, socio-political and military systems. Koguryo murals are rich in color and tone: the images of women dancing, warriors in training, birds in the sky, dragons, fish in rivers, beasts in forests, wind and clouds of the murals are so real and fresh that they seem as though they may jump out of the canvas at any time.