west side

east side

Astronomical Ceiling

Dome of south chamber (diagram)
Deokheung-ri, 408 A.D.
Taean City, North Korea

The astronomical ceiling on the south dome of Deokheung-ri shows a developed knowledge of the stars and constellations, together with a fancy for decoration that ultimately goes back to Han Chinese tombs; it is a fascinating mixture of pure astronomy and mythological figures.

In the south, the Milky Way is pictured as a river, separating the two celestial lovers Weaver Maid and Cowherd. There is a phoenix (the red bird of the south), and various planets and constellations. The Big Dipper is in the north, along with a two-headed creature that represents the axis of the earth.

The west side of the dome begins with celestials and human-headed birds flying in the lower atmosphere. The scene progresses upward to depict constellations, stars, planets, and the moon with its emblematic toad. On the east side of the dome, the lowest band is a terrestrial hunting scene among mountains. Birds and other flying creatures appear above this, then the sun with its three-legged crow, constellations, and a fish.

The four directional animals on this dome are Flying Celestial (W), Red Bird (S), Fish (E), and Axis (N). This is different from the standard set of White Tiger (W), Red Bird (S), Blue Dragon (E), and Dark Warrior (N); only the Red Bird is the same in both sets.