Portrait of the Owner

Anak Tomb #3, 357 A.D.
North Korea, Hwanghae Province

The owner of this tomb is Dong Shou, the last ruler of the Lelang Commandery of Han China. In spite of Dong Shou's name, dates, and biography having been inscribed in the tomb itself, alternative theories about the occupant are still being argued even now; there is little that is not controversial in this field of study. The Anak tombs are located near Pyongyang in North Korea, one of two major concentrations of Goguryeo painted tombs (map); the other major grouping is in Ji'an, China. In all, about 10,000 Goguryeo tombs have been identified so far (2011); only a hundred of these tombs are painted, of which Anak #3 is the earliest known example.

Some of the tombs can be quite large; Anak #3 is a square pyramid that measures 33m x 30m (108ft x 98ft) on the sides and 6m (20ft) high; the tomb was built above ground on a N-S axis and then covered with soil (photo). Its five interior stone chambers were built on a cruciform plan, with columns surrounding the central chamber, in imitation of palace architecture (photo). Extensive paintings occupy the stone walls of the tomb, which were first prepared with a coating of lacquer. They include scenes of the tomb occupants, daily life, and a stunning military frieze (following pages). In the scene illustrated here, Dong Shou is represented as a governor or ruler. He is wearing Chinese costume and sitting upon a throne of state underneath a canopy, where he attends to the reports of his subordinate officials. The painting is located in the rear chamber (burial chamber) of the tomb.