The Contested Heritage of Koguryo/Gaogouli and China-Korea Conflict


January 1, 2008

The Contested Heritage of Koguryo/Gaogouli and China-Korea Conflict
The Contested Heritage of Koguryo/Gaogouli and China-Korea Conflict
The Contested Heritage of Koguryo/Gaogouli and China-Korea Conflict

Yonson Ahn

Preservation of the Koguryo heritage

The ancient kingdom, Koguryo/Gaogouli (37BC – 668AD) encompassed an area from central Manchuria to Primorsky Krai (the extreme Southeastern region of Russia) to the central part of the Korean peninsular at the height of its power, around the fifth century AD. Koguryo remains, including of walled towns, fortresses, palaces and tombs, as well as wall paintings and artifacts, have been found on both sides of the Chinese-North Korean border as well as in South Korea (the ROK). The remains and relics in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) reflect the history and culture of the early and mid-period Koguryo kingdom; they also showcase Koguryo’s architectural style and pioneering new patterns of city construction, in which both mountain cities and plain cities were successfully constructed.(1)

Map of Koguryo/Gaogouli sites in the fifth century

Koguryo tombs in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) represent the later period of the kingdom after Koguryo moved its capital to Pyongyang in 427 AD. So far, approximately 13,000 ancient tombs of the Koguryo/Gaogouli kingdom have been identified in China and Korea. Among these, 90 tombs discovered near Ji’an in China’s Jilin Province (the former capital of Koguryo and home to a large collection of Koguryo era tombs), and in the vicinity of Pyongyang and Namp’o in North Korea contain wall paintings dating from around AD 500.

The Koguryo tombs demonstrate ingenious engineering solutions, an important example of burial typology and special burial customs.(2) These tomb complexes exemplify remarkable natural and man-made features important in both archaeology and art history, including different typologies of tomb structure and ceiling construction and varied iconography. The tombs can be divided into two groups according to the materials used. The stone pyramid type, which include those from an earlier period and are found in the Amnok/Yalu river area, and the later earth mound type, found both on the Amnok/Yalu river and to the south, usually containing murals.

A stone-pile tomb, Changgunch’ong Tomb, (General’s Tomb), Ji’an, China

Tokhung-ri Tomb built in 408, Namp’o, North Korea

Mural tombs have decorative paintings inside the burial chambers. The mural paintings constitute their chief claim to glory. The murals are rich in content including the family life of noble lords, feasting, dancing, drama-playing and outings. Representative pictorial motifs of the wall paintings include the following:

  • daily life scenes, such as farming, hunting, banquets and entertainment, wives and household retinue, stables, kitchens and storehouses

Hunting mural, Muyongch’ong Tomb (fifth century), Ji’an, China

Depiction of a kitchen, meat store and carriage shed, Anak Tomb No.3 built in 357, Hwanghae province, North Korea

  • scenes of official duties and/or the ordering of socio-political status and military activities

Thirteen government officials congratulating the tomb-owner, Jin, on his appointment to an important post, Tokhung-ri Tomb built in 408, Namp’o, North Korea

  • celestial, cosmological,or immortal ascent scenes and figures, such as the blue dragon and white tiger, the tortoise and the snakes, and the red phoenix, and scenes of filial piety and morality

The star constellations in Tokhung-ri Tomb built in 408, Namp’o, North Korea

Red phoenix (one of the Four Guardian Deities, defenders of the four directions on each wall to guard the soul of the deceased against demons), Kangso Middle Tomb built between the second half of sixth century and the first half seventh century AD, Namp’o, North Korea

  • scenes of deities

Sun and moon deities, Ohoe Tomb No. 4 built between in the late sixth century and the early seventh century AD, Ji’an, China

Fire deity, T’onggu Sasinch’ong Tomb built in the sixth century, Ji’an, China

  • scenes of augury and politically charged miracles (3)

Among these motifs, daily life scenes are numerous. Popular decorative motifs include the spiral pattern, the “king” letter pattern, lotus-petals, clouds, intertwined dragons and honeysuckle. The contents of the mural paintings provide important information on Koguryo life, customs and beliefs; for example, the lotus-petal that appears in so many murals is indicative of the spread of Buddhism during the fifth and sixth centuries. Furthermore, these walls bear an exceptional and early witness to a culture, painting tradition and archaeology in East Asia, especially during the so-called “Northern and Southern Dynasties period” which falls between the Han and Tang periods, for which there was little information until the past decade.(4)

Lotus flower and heavenly world, Ssangyongch’ong Tomb built in the late fifth century, Namp’o, North Korea

The first image of a Buddhist monk of the Koguryo period, Ssangyongch’ong Tomb built in the late fifth century, Namp’o, North Korea

China and the two Koreas are now actively taking the initiative to preserve the heritage sites. The contemporary political striving to claim the Koguryo/Gaogouli heritage can be seen in projects for excavation, reconstruction and/or preservation of the remains and relics. Attempts to preserve and claim the national heritage take the form of a competition not only between China and Korea, but also within China — “Relics protection prizes” were offered by the central government in Beijing in December 2003. Prizes were awarded to 31 national level cultural relics authorities for efforts to protect historical treasures. Ji’an City in Jilin Province, where Gaogouli archaeological remains are located, was one of the award winners, boasting numerous cultural relics from the ancient ruins. (5)

Ji’an near the North Korean border

Mass support, stimulated by the competition, is probably related to recent developments of “nationalism from below” in China. As Lothar Von Falkenhausen notes of the recent “paradigm shift to regionalism from centralism” in Chinese archaeology, regionalism encourages voluntary integration rather than coercing unity from the centre.(6) The result is to assist the central government in gaining popular support in the form of cultural patriotism, and to help local people gain official support and legitimation. Furthermore, a plan was made to launch a historical heritage protection project in Liaoning province in 2004, in order to effectively preserve its historical sites and cultural relics, including the planned investment of 20 million yuan (about 2.4 million US dollars) to protect a number of historical sites. This project includes monitoring criminal cases concerning looting cultural relics. Increasing efforts in preserving cultural heritage are announced in the Chinese Ministry of Finance’s annual allocation of 250 million yuan every year beginning in 2005.(7)

The Chinese attempt to preserve and claim the site is overwhelming in comparison with what North Korea can accomplish with its limited resources. Efforts for the preservation of the Koguryo tombs and mural paintings have been made in North Korea as well. But, at the same time, concerns about heavy reconstruction with no systematic monitoring methods, programmes of research or implementation of suitable procedures for the preservation shown in the Mausoleum of King Tongmyong in North Korea, were raised by members of the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) expert mission during a 2000 visit to North Korean Heritage sites. Hirayama Ikuo, a Japanese painter and honorary UNESCO ambassador, called for substantial efforts to preserve the mural paintings after his trip to North Korea to investigate Koguryo sites in 1997.(8)

Mausoleum of King Tongmyong, North Korea

Hirayama Ikuo’s official inspection four to North Korea in 1997

International governmental and non-governmental organisations such as UNESCO, ICCROM (International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property), ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites), and the Hirayama Foundation, have supported preservation efforts in North Korea. Notably, in 2000, the UNESCO/Republic of Korea (ROK) Funds-in-Trust was established, focusing mainly on the Preservation of the Yaksu-ri tomb and provision of basic equipment to start the project, allowing UNESCO to provide North Korea with more systematic concrete assistance, such as providing equipment and training.(9) The financial and technical assistance provided through this Trust, which operated from 2001 to 2006, contributed to preparation for applying for UNESCO World Heritage status for the ancient relics, and to preserve and administer them in the aftermath, at a time when North Korea could not afford to do in the face of famine.

North Korea did not initially actively protest China’s claim to the ancient kingdom and its artistic and cultural legacy, probably because of their dependency on China. However, North Korea actively sought to register the relics on the North Korean side as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, applying for this earlier than China. Having the Koguryo relics inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, a status that North Korea previously lacked, could counter images of a nuclear weapon-producing rogue state, a missile producer, famine, drugs, refugees and indifference to human rights. (10) Both North Korea and China applied to UNESCO separately to have the disputed remains registered as World Heritage sites of their own nations. North Korea initially submitted the nomination dossier in 2002, two years before China, which proposed the Koguryo/Gaogouli heritage site in 2004. The problem of registration of the Kyoguryo heritage of North Korea alone was discussed at the general assembly of the 27th World Heritage Committee meeting held in Paris in June 2003. But the nomination was “deferred” pending further steps by the State Party, meaning that registration was not approved. The nomination was discussed again at the 28th World Heritage Committee meeting in Suzhou, China, in 2004 at the time when the nomination dossier by China was submitted as well. The Koguryo Heritages in North Korea and China were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in July 2004 during the 28th session of the World Heritage Committee. Probably, UNESCO sought to include both sides of the Koguryo heritage on the World Heritage list at the same time, in order to avoid creating political tensions. The inscription of the Koguryo relics on the UNESCO list was one of the most sensitive and highly politicized processes the organisation confronted.

Known as the “Complex of Koguryo Tombs,” 63 tombs from five areas, including the Kangso Three Tombs, Royal Tomb of King Tongmyong and 16 tombs containing mural paintings in North Korea, were incorporated in a World Heritage site in July 2004.

Kangso Great Tomb, Namp’o, North Korea

Portrait of the tomb owner’s wife: Anak Tomb No.3, Hwanghae province, North Korea

This became the first World Heritage site for North Korea, which ratified “the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural Natural Heritage” (which is to protect cultural and natural relics in the world as common heritage of the human race) in 1998. The same session of the World Heritage Committee inscribed the “Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom”, presented by China, on the UNESCO World Heritage List as a serial nomination of sites, including archaeological remains of three capital cities (Wunu Mountain City, Guonei City and Wandu Mountain City) and 40 tombs (26 noble tombs, 14 royal tombs), along with the Stone Monument of King Kwanggaet’o/ Haotaiwang, on the same day.(11) City wall building and stone material processing in the capital cities represent a unique form of mountain city. The Koguryo heritage is the 30th cultural and natural World Heritage site for China, which became a party to the convention in 1985.

Wunu Mountain on the summit of which Wunu Mountain City is located, Liaoning, China

The nomination was submitted individually by two state parties, not one proposing a trans-border site. There were two separately submitted nomination dossiers concerned the heritage from the same civilisation (Koguryo/Gaogouli). North Korea and China nominated different cultural properties, each located in its own territory.

Koguryo for the two Koreas and China

Koguryo/Gaogouli heritage and/or history had attracted little attention in Korea and China prior to the year 2000 when the conflict flared. Although Koguryo history is one of the proudest and most significant chapters of national history of North Korea, North Korea has limited financial and outreach resources to investigate, preserve and lay claim to the remains and relics it views as its ancient patrimony. Studies of ancient history in South Korea have focused on Silla (57 BC – 935 AD) rather than Koguryo, since Silla, one of the Three Kingdoms that eventually formed Korea, was located in the South. Moreover, it has not been easy for South Korean or international researchers to gain access to Koguryo heritage sites, most of which are located in northeast China and in North Korea, particularly before South Korea and China agreed to establish diplomatic relations in 1992. Since the mid-1990’s, there has been a proliferation of research and exhibitions on Koguryo history, art and cultural heritage.

Even though archaeology in China’s northeastern provinces had been particularly well developed during the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, historical remains and relics in China’s peripheral areas including the remote northeast were more or less neglected prior to the 1980’s. However, from the late 1970’s, the unified archaeological picture of Neolithic China originating in the Yellow River Valley faced increasing challenges as new evidence from outlying archaeological cultures emerged.(12)

Gaogouli relics unearthed from the ruins of Guonei City, Ji’an, China

Recently, the political and cultural significance of Gaogouli increased, leading to active efforts to claim, investigate and display its sites, relics and history. The Chinese state has interpreted Korea’s historical claims to the region and its artistic legacy as posing the threat of irredentism. Chinese central and local governments have paid attention and supported research on the history and relics of the region and, for excavation, preservation, and protection from looting Gaogouli relics, examples of which occurred even during the last decade. Most strikingly in 2002, China launched the “Northeast Project” (its full name is the Northeast Borderland History and the Chain of Events Research Project), a five-year state-funded project, which dealt with various problems related to history, geography and ethnicity in China’s Northeastern provinces, Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning. The project stimulated a Koguryo “boom” in practicing history, including art history, and a flurry of media activity, including TV series on Koguryo history in South Korea.

In reexamining the ancient history of the region, project researchers conclude that the Gaogouli kingdom, which Korean nationalists consider an ancestral state of Korea, was an ethnic regime which constitutes a part of China’s national history.(13) Wei Cuncheng, a Chinese professor of Jilin University and an expert on the Koguryo issue, also considers Koguryo a regime established by ethnic groups in northern China, representing an important part of Chinese culture.(14) These claims have given rise to political tensions between Korea and China. For China, Gaogouli became a symbol of national integrity and stability in the northeastern border region where a flood of North Korean refugees and territorial boundary disputes pose a threat of instability. China’s concern for its northeastern border centers on how the issues might play out in the aftermath of Korean reunification, underlining the determination to secure the borderland together with its history and relics along the Yalu River between North Korea and China. The Gaogouli remains in China are correlated with buttressing mass support through cultural patriotism emphasising the historical and cultural integrity of the borderlands, thereby reinforcing national myths of unity.

Koguryo has always been treated as an ancestral state within the Korean historical tradition which both nurtures and unites people under one national identity. The Koguryo issue has led to an escalation in the debate over sites of “ethnic origins” and national continuity in Korea. With the eruption of the controversy, it became a central symbol both for distinguishing Korea from China and for consolidating or uniting North and South Korea. In order to claim the Koreanness of the Koguryo heritage and history, North and South Korean historians emphasise distinctiveness of Koguryo culture. For example, in the work of Ri Ki Ung in North Korea and Kim Il-Gwon in South Korea, rather than acknowledging influences and interaction across the region and particularly across contemporary borders between China and Korea.(15)

China’s claims over the ancient kingdom and its heritage have had an effect on North and South relations. In confronting to the China’s claims, the two Koreas actively cooperated in the interest of claiming the nation’s common heritages and shared national ancestry. Ri Ui Ha, head of the North Korean delegation, in a remark made at the UNESCO meeting shortly after the 2004 decision to register Koguryo relics as a World Heritage, highlighted this commonness: He said, “Koguryo culture is the Korean nation’s common heritage, which unites our national blood vessels.” Furthermore, North-South cooperation on the relics and remains has been deemed symbolic of reconciliation in the Korean peninsula. It is even viewed as “a spiritual and cultural basis of the reunification” by both North and South Korea.(16)

Lake Ch’onji/Tianchi (Heavenly Lake) at the Paekdu/Changbai peak

Since 2006, moreover, friction has flared between China and the two Koreas over Mount Changbai/Paekdu located at the heart of the ancient Koguryo kingdom, which straddles the border between North Korea and China. As the Paekdu range is located in the territory of Koguryo and, furthermore, Koguryo also considered the mountain sacred, the Changbai/Paekdu issue closely relates to the ongoing Koguryo dispute. South Korea’s Donga Daily criticised China’s recent move to develop the Changbai/Paekdu area for tourism, calling it the “Mt. Paekdu Project” and viewing it as a bid to retrospectively incorporate Koguryo into Chinese history and territory.(17) In short, South Korean nationalists view the recent “Paekdu Project” as integral to the above-mentioned Northeast Project. This Paekdu/Changbai dispute involves not only territorial issues, but also heritage issues which continue to the present day. Thus, war over heritage and history between China and Korea is far from over. Unity, continuity, antiquity, and coherence are claimed in Korea and China through invoking the history and heritage of Koguryo/Gaogouli.

Koguryo as “sites of memory”

Various attempts have been made to promote Koguryo/Gaogouli’s “sites of memory” where cultural memory crystallises and secretes itself. Since the mid 1990s, “sites of memory” for Koguryo/Gaogouli in both China and Korea have been actively promoted such as by establishing museums, and holding exhibitions on Koguryo history, art or cultural heritage. Gaogouli Relics Park was established in one of the Gaogouli capital cities, Guonei City/ Kungnaesong, Ji’an. Gaogouli historical relics are exhibited in museums such as in the Ji’an municipal museum in northeast China. These museums are considered important repositories for education in patriotism. Calls have been issued to increase financial support for upgrading or maintaining museums “as a key way for the Chinese to know more about their country’s 5,000-year history, of which they are proud,”.(18)

Gaogouli Relics Park in former Guonei City/ Kungnaesong, Ji’an, China

Promoting “sites of memory” to cherish and take pride in the ancient kingdom can be witnessed in both North and South Korea. Several Koguryo exhibitions have been held in each. Among them, a photo exhibition of the Koguryo tomb mural paintings and artifacts was opened at the Korean Central History Museum in Pyongyang, North Korea under the co-sponsorship of Yonhap News of South Korea and Kyodo News of Japan, on October 11, 2007. At the opening ceremony, the Koguryo tomb mural paintings were hailed as precious treasures associated with the soul and resourcefulness of the Korean nation and cultural heritage.(19)

“Black warrior”, a combination of snake and turtle in one body, Kangso Great Tomb, Namp’o, North Korea

In South Korea, the Gwangjin District Office in Seoul has launched the “Koguryo Project” to preserve the Ach’a Fortress, which is considered an important Koguryo relic, and to establish a Koguyro museum. Guri City in Kyonggi Province has been active in creating Koguryo sites of memory, such as by organising the Kwanggaet’o Festival, erecting the statue of King Kwanggaet’o, planning to erect a copy of the Kwangaet’o stele, and launching a donation campaign to build a Koguryo History Memorial.(20) Koguryo postage stamps were also issued in both North and South Korea. As recently as July 2007, there was an exhibition in Seoul of Koguryo postal stamps which have been issued since 2005. All these attempts to disseminate memory of Koguryo/Gaogouli through museums and exhibitions play important roles in the construction and glorification of the Koguryo national heritage and commemoration of the nation’s ancient past for China and Korea.

Koguryo postage stamps issued in North Korea in 2000 with wall paintings from Koguryo Tombs

Series of Koguryo stamps issued in South Korea in 2005

Who “owns” the Koguryo/Gaogouli heritage?

Koguryo/Gaogouli relics and remains are pivotal in the contestation between China and Korea. The 2004 co-registration on the UNESCO World Heritage list as the heritage of both China and North Korea fuelled debate regarding “rightful” ownership of the relics. Both North Korea and China assert ownership of the Koguryo/Gaogouli heritage sites on an ethnic basis, and each lays archaeological and historical claim to the region and its heritage as the historical patrimony of its people. Thus, in both countries, ownership of national heritages and historic relics is deemed imperative in establishing hegemony or legitimacy in the border region, and in asserting sovereignty over the past. Exclusive claims to sovereignty over the contested past in the form of a heritage associated with the ancient kingdom of Koguryo/Gaogouli have been intensified by two Koreas and China. The ancient cultural legacy is held to show the distinctiveness of a national past linked to the present.

For example, the Koguryo murals have been hailed as illustrative of the early formation of an advanced culture in East Asia. A consistent aspect of distinctiveness and uniqueness of the relics, especially in the tomb structure and the pictorial motifs of the murals, is often emphasised by South Korean art historians such as Pak Arim and Kang Hyun-sook. Kang claims that the Koguryo tombs “reveal high status as a powerful cultural center— not as mere imitations of their Chinese counterparts but as distinctive.”(21) She concludes that the influence of Koguryo cultural forms in Japan and the Korean peninsula demonstrates its prominent position as a powerful regional state (Kang 2004: 106-107). The Koguryo heritages and archaeological remains thus are presented as the legacy of a hegemonic regional culture. Sarah Nelson’s point that archaeology serves present agendas is quite relevant in the Koguryo case as well. She argues that Korean archaeology has been adversely affected by the contemporary political desire to see the Korean culture past and the present as distinctive and homogeneous. (22) While hardly unique to Korea, we note below the ways in which Korean nationalist archaeology and art history have pursued evidence of the uniqueness and homogeneity of Korean identity through Koguryo relics.

China, for its part, stresses Han dynasty influence on Gaogouli. According to Wang Mianhou, the three capital cities of Gaogouli, (Guonei City, Wandu Mountain City and Wunu Mountain City) in contemporary China and the capital Pyongyang in North Korea present the clearest evidence of Han cultural influence on Gaogouli institutions.(23) As another example, the Haotaiwang/Kwanggaet’o stele, dedicated to King Haotaiwang/Kwanggaet’o, who reigned 391-413 AD, was erected in 414 and has 1,775 Chinese characters inscribed, is deemed to show the impact of Chinese culture on the Koguryo, who did not develop their own writing. (24)

Kwanggaet’o stele

Inscription in Chinese on the Kwanggaet’o stele

Only a few archaeologists and historians in China and South Korea view Koguryo/Gaogouli as a separate site apart from Korea or China, in terms of history and the evolution of tomb structures. The “history wars”, which glorify the heritage, history and territoriality of Koguryo/Gaogouli in forming or reinforcing ethnic or national identity, are at the centre of this conflict. In this process, art history and archaeology have played a critical role in the battle over the “cultural capital” of the past and in the competitive desire to monopolise the “national sites”. Gaogouli/Koguryo heritage is represented, glorified, and mobilised to claim ownership of its heritage by both China and Korea.

The conflict has important implications for the uses and perceptions of national history and national heritage. At the centre of the dispute over Koguryo is the fact that boundaries of national heritage and history are drawn differently in China and Korea. Chinese history, heritage and culture are defined from the perspective of present-day territories and borders over which the state claims sovereignty. It is assumed that heritage, culture, and history are inscribed onto territory, which means contemporary national boundaries. Moreover, it is assumed that contemporary claims are reinforced by ancient cultural achievements. Accordingly, the history and heritage of Gaogouli are claimed as part of a greater Chinese state. On the other hand, Korean national heritage and history are defined by the area where people whose origin is considered Korean settled beyond its contemporaneous territory. This difference in criteria by which the rigid boundary of national heritage and national history is determined contributes to contemporary debates on Koguryo heritage and history.

The present academic and political debate over which state “owns” the historical heritage of Koguryo unfolding between China and Korea is far from over. Self-concepts highlighting absolute difference rather than a shared cultural heritage between Chinese and Korean appear to “nationalise” the Koguryo/Gaogouli heritage and history, and to exclude shared dimensions that took shape long ago in the interstitial areas of borderlands. Heritage and its historical representation are constructed in the nation-centred discourses of contemporary nation-states. As a consequence, various attempts have been made by contemporary nation-states to appropriate Koguryo/Gaogouli heritage. However, the very question of who owns the historical relics of Koguryo/Gaogouli is the unfortunate legacy of the rigid boundaries of modern nation-states. The nation-state framework in the present construct through the lens of nationalism clouds understanding of the ancient kingdom Koguryo/Gaogouli as a shared cultural legacy, one which encompasses and expresses the variety and permeability of political and cultural boundaries. Actually, the recent friction over Koguryo shows that one is constructed by others even while attempting to distance oneself from those others through asserting one’s uniqueness. In fact, although North Korea and China nominated different cultural properties of Koguryo as UNESCO World Heritage, the heritage is that of a common history of Koguryo. Furthermore, Koguryo’s contribution to the development of a regional culture can be extended from the Korean Peninsula to the Japanese Archipelago. This dimension of Koguryo culture suggests the need to recognise the position of the Koguryo legacy in a broader historical and geographical context, so that it can show cultural interaction in the region of East Asia. Focus needs to be placed on the multiple relationships and mutual observations that transcend national, cultural, social and political borders. Such a transnational approach makes it possible to posit the Koguryo/Gaogouli heritage in cross-continental relations and influences as a heritage of East Asia that is not the exclusive property of a single nation, but which spread across a wide area eventually leaving its imprint on realms that include contemporary Northeast China, North Korea, South Korea and beyond to Japan.

Yonson AHN is a former research fellow at the East Asian Institute, the University of Leipzig, Germany. She is conducting research on Korean “comfort women” and Japanese soldiers during the Asia-Pacific War and on historical controversies in East Asia, including debates over the ancient kingdom Koguryo/Gaogouli and the Paekdu/Changbai Mountains, colonial history in Korea and historical revisionism in Japan. See her “Competing Nationalisms: The mobilisation of history and archaeology in the Korea-China wars over Koguryo/Gaogouli”and “China and the Two Koreas Clash Over Mount Paekdu/Changbai: Memory Wars Threaten Regional Accommodation.”
She can be contacted at [email protected].

This article was written for Japan Focus. Many thanks to Mark Selden for comments on earlier drafts of this article. Posted at Japan Focus on January 11, 2008.


(1) See: “World cultural and natural heritage in China”. (accessed September 14, 2007).

(2) See: “Complex of Koguryo Tombs”. (accessed September 5, 2007).

(3) Miwha Lee Stevenson, “Conceptualizing Iconographic Regimes: Reflections on Relationships Between the Painted Tombs of Eastern Han and Koguryo”, The First International Conference of Koguryo Foundation, Seoul, September 16, 2004.

(4) Ariane Perrin, “The Nomination Process for “The Complex of the Koguryo tombs located in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” as a World Heritage Site”, International Conference on Koguryo History and Cultural Heritage, March 26, 2004, Seoul Museum of History.

(5) See: “Relics protection prizes awarded”, People’s Daily, December 27, 2003. (accessed June 11, 2004).

(6) Lothar von Falkenhausen, , “The regionalist paradigm in Chinese archaeology” in: Philip L. Kohl and Clare Fawcett (eds.), Nationalism, Politics, and the Practice of Archaeology, Cambridge University Press, 1995: 200, 215.

(7) See: “Liaoning works to protect historical heritage”, People’s Daily, February 13, 2004. (accessed July 11, 2004) and “Chinese government spends 250 million yuan annually for relic protection”, People’s Daily, June 14, 2005. (accessed November 20, 2005).

(8) See: “UNESCO Envoy Recommends Koguryo’s Murals Be Registered as World Heritage”, The People’s of Korea, November 12, 1997, (accessed October 11, 2007).

(9) See: “Conservation Work”, Preservation of the Koguryo Kingdom Tombs, UNESCO, 2005: 37-38. (accessed December 14, 2007).

(10) See: “Pyongyang Eager to Get Koguryo Tomb Murals Registered As World Heritage”, The People’s Korea. (accessed December 21, 2007) and “Northeast Asia’s intra-mural mural wars”, Asia Times, December 23, 2003. (accessed October 21, 2007).

(11) See: “China to put forward 3 historical sites for UNESCO heritage list”, People’s Daily, May 12, 2004. (accessed December 22, 2005) and “Chungguknae Koguryo yujok hweson simgak (Serious Problems with Damaged Koguryo Heritage)“, Yonhap News, December 12, 2005. (accessed December 22, 2005).

(12) About Chinese archaeology, see Enzheng Tong, “Thirty years of Chinese archeology (1949-1979)” in Philip L. Kohl and Clare Fawcett eds., Nationalism, Politic, and the Practice of Archeology, Cambridge University Press, 1995.

(13) For example, see Ma Dazheng ed., Zhongguo Dongbei bianjiang yanjiu (Studies of the Northeast Borderlands in China), Beijing: Zhongguo Shehui Kexue Chubanshe, 2003.

(14) See: “China’s ancient Koguryo Kingdom site added to World Heritage List”, People’s Daily, July 2, 2004. (accessed December 22, 2005).

(15) Ri Ki Ung, “The excavation of Koguryo sites”, Preservation of the Koguryo Kingdom Tombs, UNESCO, 2005: 36. (accessed December 14, 2007) ; Kim Il-Gwon, “Astronomical and spiritual representations”, Preservation of the Koguryo Kingdom Tombs, UNESCO, 2005: 27. (accessed December 14, 2007).

(16) “Koguryo Heritages registered on World Heritage List”, The People’s Korea, July 17, 2004. (accessed October 19, 2005).

(17) “China Seeks U.N. Title to Mt. Baekdu”, Donga Ilbo, July 31, 2006. (accessed May 5, 2007) and “China’s ‘Mount Paekdu Project’ – History and Culture Distortion Has Become Conspicuous”, Donga Ilbo, September 4, 2006. (accessed May 5, 2007).

(18) See: “Why Chinese museums on edge of survival?”, People’s Daily, May 20, 2005. (assessed October 24, 2006 and “Jilin Province travel guide” (assessed June 24, 2006).

(19) See: “Yonhap and Kyodo hold joint photo exhibition of ancient murals in North Korea”, Yonhap News, October 18, 2007. (assessed November 2, 2007) and KFA Forum (assessed November 2, 2007).

(20) See: Official Gwangjin website. (accessed October 22, 2007), official Guri website. (accessed October 22, 2007) and “Kwanggaet’o wangbi Kyonggido Gurisi-eso Puwalhanda (Kwanggaet’o Stele will be restored in Guri City in Kyonggi Province)“, OhmyNews, 31 December 2007, (accessed 31 December 2007)

(21) Kang Hyun-sook, “Koguryo Tombs: Past and Present”: in Kim Lena ed. World Cultural Heritage: Koguryo Tomb Murals, Seoul: ICOMOS-Korea: 2004: 105; Pak Arim, “Chungkuk kobun pyokhwaui pikyo yon’gu (A comparative Study on China’s tomb mural paintings and Koguryo’s tomb mural paintings)”, International Conference on Koguryo History and Cultural Heritage, March 26, 2004, Seoul Museum of History.

(22) Sarah M. Nelson, “The Politics of ethnicity in prehistoric Korea”, in Philip L. Kohl and Clare Fawcett, Nationailsm, Politics, and the Practice of Archaeology, Cambridge University press, 1995.

(23) Wang Mianhou, “The system of walled towns and the capitals of Gaogouli (Gaogouli de chengyi zhidu yu ducheng)”, Liaohai wenwu xuekan, 1997:2, 89-103, 114; Wang Mianhou, Gaogouli gucheng yanjiu (Research on ancient cities of Gaogouli), Beijing: Wenwu Chubanshe, 2002, cited in “Lips and Teeth: The Shared Cultural Heritage of China and Korea”, China Heritage Quarterly, 11, September 2007, click here for website. (accessed October 29, 2007).
Built in 37 BC, the Wunu Mountain City located in Huanren County of northeast China’s Liaoning Province was the first mountain capital of the Koguryo Kingdom for defense.

(24) See: “China’s ancient Koguryo Kingdom site added to World Heritage List”, People’s Daily, July 2, 2004. (accessed November 2, 2006).

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Volume 6 | Issue 1

Article ID 2631

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