Illustrated Record of Historical Relics and Sites of Korea, Goguryeo, 1990

Astronomical Ceiling

Tomb of the Wrestlers, 5th cent. A.D.
Ji'an city, Jilin province, China

The construction of Gakjeochong's ceiling is the typical octagonal corbelled dome. Goguryeo astronomical ceilings are a mixture of mythological and symbolic motifs, constellations, stars, and planets. Although most of the Gakjeochong ceiling is taken up with scrolling cloud motifs, there are at least three constellations1 to be seen in the north, south, and southwest respectively2. There is a heavily damaged sun crow in the east, and a moon toad (closeup) in the west.

1The constellations are represented as circles (stars) joined by one or more lines; three lines in this tomb, one line in Deokheungri.

2Recall that on astronomical ceilings north and south are reversed, since we are looking up at the heavens rather than down at the earth. In this photo the bottom is north, the top is south, east is right, and west is left.