Faces in the Ancient Tomb Mural


Some ancient stone tombs have murals, which give important information to show how ancient people lived and what kind of thoughts they had. This custom came from China, most prevailed in Koguryo and was passed on to Koryo. In the frescos are described many scenes of life, dance, music, wrestling, hunting and parade. Among them, the most noticeable are the characteristic faces, which are expressed very vividly. The ancient tomb murals of Koguryo have plenty of Korean faces expressed.
The ancient tomb murals of Koguryo are divided into three periods. The murals of the earlier period (mid 4th mid 5th century), have the genre pictures of the period when the couple varied there lived as well as their portraits. In the middle period (mid 5th mid 6th century) the genre pictures still prevailed and Sasin-do, the portraits of the Four Gods apperared, occupied larger parts and finally and formed the main stream of the murals in the latter period (mid 6th century A.C 668). Therefore, the lives of people of Koguryo can be easily found in the murals of the earlier and middle period.
In the third tomb of Anak, of which production can that can be dated (mid 4th century), there are the portraits of a husband and a wife varied there, parading people, military officers, a woman cooking in the kitchen and a woman pounding something in a mill, etc. These figures must have been strongly influenced by China, especially the lady that was expressed as very fat with fleshy cheeks and chin, and a very small mouth. In the ancient tomb mural of Deokheung-ri made in the earlier 5th century were expressed many people : Jin, the person varied there, his subjects, man and female servants, warriors riding horses and the Altair and the Vega. While Jin, the governor of Yuju, and the 13 governor-generals who were holding a congratulatory ceremony for Jin were shown as majestic with well-defined features and big eyes full of fire, the features in genre pictures of lifestyle looked intimate and sweet. These intimate and sweet faces of Koguryo people can also be found in murals such as Muyong-chong named from dancing and singing males and females) or Gakjeo-chong named from wrestlers). But on the other hand in the 12th tomb of Tong-gu the valiant warriors are described with the thick eyebrows, big bright eyes and mustaches stretched upward. Besides, dauntless faces like these are found in a gatekeeper picture of the Yaksu-ri ancient tomb and the warrior of Samsil-chong.
The beautiful women in the murals show the transition of Koguryro peoples view of beauty. Vega in the ancient tomb of Deokheung-ri has features of a narrow forehead, fat round jaw, high nose, small mouth and squared eyebrows. On the other hand, the lady and her maids in the ancient tomb of Susan-ri have the thorough features of Koreas traditional beauty such as oval faces, thin and round eyebrows, narrowly lain bright eyes, small but high noses, and small, red lips. This kind of beauty also appears in Biechon (Flight to Heaven) of the second tomb of Anak. The feature in this mural shows the real beauty of Koguryo with a balanced face of classical appearance, smiling with her small and red lips slightly opened.
Mostly, the features of Koguryo in the ancient tomb mural have broad foreheads, thin and long eyebrows, faintly rising eyes and small mouths. While men have big noses and scanty beards, women have small and high noses. The features of Koguryo in the ancient tomb mural express faces representing Koguryo for the first time and in this period the standard of traditional and classical beauty of Koguryo had been formed.
After Koguryo, faces can be found in the murals of Koryo. But Koryo expressed mostly the human features of the 12 gods(the twelve animals - mouse, cow, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, chicken, dog, and pig), which are found in the murals of the King Gong-min's Royal Tomb, Suragam-dong and Seogok-ri. Close facial descriptions are found in the murals of Seogok-ri : Flushing faces with wide chins and cheeks, squared bulging eyes, imposing noses, small mouths, mustaches stretched to the right and left, and beards grown downward. These features have a strong and spiritual countenance with heavy and clumsy faces. The murals of Dunma-ri have illustrations of fairies. The flute player among the fairies has a round face, narrowly lain eyes and eyebrows, and fresh pupils of the eyes, and appears very vivid. Though the murals of Koryo express the 12 gods or the fairies, they are also descriptions of human shapes, and the features of Koryo people are shown in these murals