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Changchuan Tomb No. 1 and its North Asian Context

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image of Journal of East Asian Archaeology

Changchuan Tomb No. 1 (late fifth–sixth centuries CE), in modern Jilin Province, China, is one of 96 tombs with wall paintings that survive from the Korean kingdom of Koguryo. Here, the tomb serves as the starting point for an inquiry into Koguryo funerary architecture and painting. Not surprisingly, the tomb structure and many of the paintings of Changchuan Tomb No. 1 can be shown to borrow much from Han China, especially the Eastern Han (23–220 CE). It will also be shown that the tomb structure is traceable to funerary architecture of Shandong, as opposed to the Eastern Han capital Luoyang. Ceiling construction of southern Shandong and northern Jiangsu tombs are most important in this analysis. The sources of painting motifs that are shared in numerous Koguryo tombs are traced to murals from all parts of China during the Han dynasty.

Yet, it is shown that even Han sources, pre-Koguryo Korean construction and iconography, art and architecture of the Yan states that flourished in northeast Asia between the fall of Han and 436 CE, and the famous early Koguryo tombs such as Anak No. 3, which belonged to a Chinese general, in combination, cannot fully explain how Changchuan Tomb No. 1 came to be built and painted. It is suggested here that Koguryo funerary art and architecture should be studied together with contemporary tombs of Gansu Province and places even farther west, in Xinjiang. Similarities with tomb architecture and painting from northeast and northwest of China can elucidate the possible sources of Buddhist imagery at Changchuan Tomb No. 1 as well as forms and motifs of the Koguryo kingdom from the fourth through the mid-seventh centuries.


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