Historic site of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom which has been
included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage Site List, is located in
and around Ji’an. The site contains the archaeological remains of
three cities (Wunu Mountain City, Guonei City, and Wandu Mountain
City), and forty identified tombs of Koguryo imperial and noble
Until recently, little has been known about the origin of Korea in
the northern regions of China and in North Korea. At the end of the
Joseon Dynasty in the late nineteenth century, China had become
protective of the northern regions historically claimed by Korea.
China and Joseon signed an agreement that the movement of Koreans
into Manchuria would be a crime punishable by death.
Still, Koreans migrated secretly into the historic region of
Korea’s origin, the area of Tangun Joseon, Kija Joseon, and
The more than 2,000-year royal cities and royal tombs of Koguryo
Kingdom, including Wunvshan City, Guonei City, Wandoushan City, 12
Royal Tombs, 26 noble tombs, and the stele of Great King
Haotaiwang, are mainly located in Ji’an County, Jilin Province and
Huanren City Liaoning Province.
Huanren and Ji’an were the political, cultural and economic center
of Koguryo regime, which lasted 465 years. Nowadays the two cities
have treasured the largest number of Koguryeo historical relics.
Guonei City and Wandoushan City, both located inside Ji’an, are two
dependent capitals for Koguryeo, a typical “complementary-style
capital”. Normally the king would live in Guonei City in the
plains, while retreating into Wandoushan City in the mountains.
Guonei City was located on the Tongguo Plain, the right bank of
Yalu River, and now the city walls preserved are still solid, firm
and solemn. Guonei City was the political, economic and cultural
center then, 2.5 km (1.6 miles) from Wandoushan City.
Wandoushan City was the typical mountainous town of Koguryo
Kingdom. Constructed among the hills, the city follows the natural
trend of the mountain ridge, on which solid city walls were built.
It became the temporary capital of Koguryo Kingdom twice during the
long history and was broken and destroyed twice. Nowadays we only
see some wall ruins, a horse pond, 37 tombs and some remains of
palaces, towers and military camps.
Among the famous sites, Donggou Tombs are the concentrative
reflection of Koguryo civilization. Located on the Donggou Plain of
Ji’an County, it covers a huge land with over 10,000 tombs, which
can be divided into stone tombs and earth tombs.
The superiority of Koguryo’s architectural techniques was widely
known to neighboring countries and influenced their culture as
well. Among the magnificent architectures, the Taiwang Tomb, the
general’s tomb and Qianqiu Tomb are of extreme popularity. The
Taiwang Tomb with a shape of square cone (every side 66 meters long
and 14.8 meters high) was constructed for the nineteenth king of
Koguryo, Tai De (太王谈德). It is the largest tomb in and around the
The royal mausoleum of King Jangsu, as another example, stands like
a pyramid that measures 31 meters each side and stands 13 meters
high, a reason that it is dubbed the ‘Pyramid of the East.’ Tomb
guards used to take care of the mausoleums of kings and aristocrats
and ceremonial services have taken place on a regular basis.
Besides, there is King Gwanggaeto’s Monument standing in front of
the king’s mausoleum. Built by his son, King Jangsu, in A.D. 414,
this rectangular monolith stands 6.39 meters high and weighs 37
metric tons. A total of 1,775 Chinese characters were engraved on
all four sides of the monument, which is widely recognized for its
historographical value today.
The Chinese inscriptions describe the “rules of care” for tomb
guardians, a brief history of the kingdom, and the genealogy of
royal families, as well as the great achievements of King
Gwanggaeto. Another Koguryo-era monument, called
“Jungwon-Koguryo-bi (the central region monument),” was excavated
in 1979 in Chungju, South Korea.
About 2,000 words were engraved on it. Although scholars were so
far able to read only one-tenth of the inscriptions, about 200
words, it nevertheless provided invaluable information about how
the kingdom governed its southern territories.
The representative works that epitomize Koguryeo art and
civilization are those tomb murals inside more than 7000 tumuli.
Their purpose was to wish the dead a peaceful rest and they were
portrayed in various images and contents. Popular images were
decorative patterns, mostly to decorate the tomb’s interior (or
sometimes to convey particular meanings), the portraits of lifetime
events of the deceased, deities of protection to chase off evil
spirits and to lead the soul of the dead to the afterworld,
paintings of brave gate guards, goblins, some of heavenly features,
and various constellations.
These murals vividly portray the lifestyle of the time as well as
its complex spiritual worlds, not to mention the outstanding
artistic painting skills. For these reasons, they have won
recognition as a “world cultural heritage.” Of these tomb
paintings, those found inside Anak No. 3 Tumulus (featuring a long
procession of 250 participants), the Tomb of the Dancers (hunting
scenes), the Large Gangseo Tumulus (a tortoise), and the Middle
Gangseo Tumulus (a phoenix) well deserve to be honored as excellent
examples of the world’s best artworks among their contemporaries,
given the exceptional techniques deployed in the handling of colors
and brush strokes.
Also, the paintings in the Fourth of the Five Tombs (portraying
deities and hermitic figures) still retain much of their
magnificent colors, and continue to mesmerize viewers.
In all, UNESCO experts believe that the Koguryo cultural heritage
inside China has been providing real evidences for an evanescent
civilization. It is the genuine creation of the ancestor of the
Chinese nation, as well as the non-renewable cultural resources.
Koguryo is the largest of the three kingdoms into which ancient
Korea was divided until 668. Koguryo is traditionally said to have
been founded in 37 BC in the Tongge River basin of northern Korea
by Chu-mong, leader of one of the Puyo tribes, natives to the area.
By the reign of King T’aejo (53–146 A.
D), Koguryo emerged as a full-fledged aristocratic state. Its
territory was extended greatly during the reign of King Kwanggaet’o
(391–412 A.D) and further by Changsu (413–491 A.D). The entire
northern half of the Korean peninsula and the Liaodong Peninsula
and a considerable portion of Manchuria (Northeast China) were
under Koguryo rule during the kingdom’s peak period.
The kingdom was defeated in 668 by the forces of the southern
Korean kingdom of Silla and the Tang dynasty, and the entire
peninsula came under the Unified Silla dynasty (668–935 A.D).
Several locations in far southern Jilin province, China, containing
early Koguryo ruins and tombs were collectively designated a UNESCO
World Heritage site in 2004.
Located in the northeast region of the ancient China, Koguryo was
an influential and highly characteristic nation as well as local
government. It once created glorious culture and history. Its main
historical sites of a large number have been preserved in Jilin and
Liaoning provinces in China, and have become irreplaceable
evidences with important historical and cultural value for a
Among the historical remains, Koguryeo’s Walls, Monuments and Tomb
Murals have been recognized as world-class cultural heritage.
Examples of these assets include tomb murals that are widely known
for their sense of using bright colors and a variety of painted
images, the 1,500-year-old fortresses and walls that still stand
high in grandeur, as well as oversized, monolithic monuments. They
are mainly distributed in Ji’an County and Hengren County of
Liaoning Province. Ji’an Donggou ancient tombs, in particular, have
been inscribed on the World Heritage.
How to get there: There are many city bus lines reaching the attractions from the
city proper, with a price of 1 yuan.
Notes: travelers can take local man-power vehicles or taxis to nearby
attractions. Normally, it takes 5 yuan or so.
The coupon ticket costs 100 yuan, including the General’s Cemetery,
Wukui Grave (Five Helmets Grave), Wandoushan City, Taiwang Tomb and
Haotaiwang Monument and other attractions.
- Check other World Heritage Sites in China
- Check Our China World Heritage Tour