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Royal Tombs in Songsan-ri

The Royal Tombs in Songsan-ri are widely known as the Royal Tombs of Baekje or the Tomb of King Muryeong. They are located on the upper southeast ridgeline of a small hill (75m high), standing in the south of the Geumgang River and extending to a southeast direction.

The first excavation of the Royal Tombs in Songsan-ri was conducted in 1927 and excavations were undertaken in 1932 illegally during the Japanese colonial period. The Tomb of King Muryeong was accidentally discovered during water drainage work on the Royal Tombs in Songsan-ri in 1971, leading to full-fledged archaeological excavation.

Royal Tombs in Songsan-ri

The types of Baekje tombs discovered include the “stone chamber tomb with a corridor” and the “brick chamber tomb.” Tombs No.1 to No.5 are stone chamber tombs with a corridor and domed ceiling, which are the traditional type of Baekje tombs. Tomb No. 6 and the Tomb of King Muryeong are brick chamber tombs with a vaulted ceiling - a type of tomb that was popular in China during that period. These tombs were built after 475, the year of the capital’s relocation to Ungjin. The fact that all the tombs except for two were stone chamber tombs with a corridor suggests that the style and structure of a stone chamber tomb was well organized and established as an exclusive type of tomb for the royal family of Baekje during the Ungjin Period.

General Status of the Royal Tombs in Songsan-ri
General Status of the Royal Tombs in Songsan-ri
ID No. Types of Ceilings Materials Size of Burial Chamber Shapes of Plane Surface Floor Others
No. 1 Dome Trimmed stones 258×177×- Rectangle Pebbles Plastering
No. 2 Dome Trimmed stones 333×279×312 Rectangle Pebbles and stone slabs Plastering
No. 3 Dome Trimmed stones 337×275×200 Rectangle Pebbles and stone slabs Plastering
No. 4 Dome Trimmed stones 345×350×280 Square Pebbles and stone slabs Plastering
No. 5 Dome Trimmed stones and bricks 345×326×311 Square Brick coffin platform Plastering
No. 6 Vault Bricks 370×224×313 Rectangle Brick coffin platform Murals
Tomb of King Muryeong Vault Bricks 420×272×293 Rectangle Brick coffin platform Lamp niches

During the Ungjin Period, these standardized stone chamber tombs with a corridor rapidly had spread within the border areas of Baekje, constructed for tombs of the local ruling class from the 6th century. The Baekje kingdom’s tombs had spread out nationwide.

This type of tomb had certain structural weaknesses that made it easy to loot; many burial objects were stolen illegally, making it difficult to take a clear picture of the burial culture of that period.

송산리고분-봄-무령왕릉

The structure of the stone chamber tombs with corridor found in Songsan-ri consists of an entrance corridor, a wooden coffin, and a main burial chamber in which funerary objects were buried together with the deceased. A large earthen mound was usually covering the tomb. However, as the mounds were gradually eroded away over time, it is difficult to determine the exact shape of the original mounds.

The size of the interior of these tombs may vary slightly, but the length of the entrance corridor accounts for about two meters, while the height and width are about one meter. The main burial chamber is three meters in length and width, and has a square floor. The ceiling is domed, with walls rising vertically up to a certain height before narrowing toward the center from that point, which is covered by a large stone slab on the top.

The two brick chamber tombs in Songsan-ri - Tomb No. 6 and the Tomb of King Muryeong - have arched ceilings, rectangular burial chambers, and peach-shaped lamp niches installed in the east, west, and north walls.

Tomb No. 6 contains murals of the Four Deities. It was the only case that such figures have been found in a brick chamber tomb. After plastering mud or mortar on the spots in the four sides where the murals were to be drawn, the murals were painted with whitewash; the figures of sun and moon were also painted on the south wall.

The Tomb of King Muryeong had never been disturbed by grave robbery. It is the rare case among all the ancient royal tombs of East Asia for which the identity of its occupant has been confirmed and has found intact. Therefore, the Tomb of King Muryeong plays a central role in research on East Asian royal tombs. The discovery of the buried tomb stone has revealed that King Muryeong and his queen were buried inside the tomb, and the exact dates of their deaths and burial have been explicitly confirmed as well. The Tomb of King Muryeong constitutes a tomb in determining the construction period of historic sites and findings as well as in estimating the status of the buried person for research on ancient tombs in China, Korea, and Japan.

The archaeological findings excavated from the tomb clearly attest to the international exchange with other regions of Asia at the time of King Muryeong. The coffin made of Japanese wood and the tomb guardian beasts and pottery from China were found inside the tomb, illustrating international exchanges with other regions of East Asia. Also, there were glass beads made of lead originated from Thailand. Flower ornaments for the diadem of the queen are the same patterns with the railings of the Great Stupa in India. These archaeological findings indicate that Baekje engaged in international exchanges with other regions of Asia.