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What do the stone sculptures around the royal tombs of the Joseon Dynasty stand for?

What do the stone sculptures around the royal tombs of the Joseon Dynasty stand for?

  • The royal tomb of the Joseon Dynasty has stone slabs placed around its grave mounds, surrounded by a stone balustrade, with stone animals such as stone sheep and stone tigers set in front. Honyuseok (rectangular stone table) is sitting directly in front of the tomb, with a pair of Mangjuseok (stone watchtower posts) placed on both sides. Jangmyeongdeung (stone lantern) is placed in front of the stone table, and the three sides (east, west and north) of the tomb are enclosed by a stone wall. One or two pairs of civil official statues are set facing each other on either side of the stone lantern, with stone horses behind the statues. The statues of military officials are placed one step down from the civil official statues and arranged in the same way.
  • Stone slabs: guardian rocks, which prevented the mound from erosion and insects, with 12 zodiacal animal deities or flower patterns like peonies engraved onto their 12 faces
  • Stone sheep and stone tiger: stone sculptures, which were placed to pray for the blessing of the person buried in the tomb and ward off evil spirits
  • Mangjuseok: a stone watchtower post, which was set to make the tomb noticeable from a distance and help the soul locate its tomb
  • Jangmyeongdeung: a stone lantern, which was modeled after stone lanterns in temples and had a symbolic meaning of lighting a tomb
  • Civil and military official statues: Stone figures which symbolized subjects serving a king and were required by law to be installed in 1474, the fifth year of King Seongjong’s reign
  • Yegam: a stone case, which were used for burning and burying the written prayer after memorial services
  • Gokjang: a three-sided wall, which protected the mound from threatening winds
  • Stone horse: a horse-shaped stone sculpture, which symbolized the means of transportation for civil and military official statues
  • Honyuseok: a rectangular stone table, which was placed to invite the soul to come out to play

Military Official Statues in Heolleung (the Tombs of King Taejong and Queen Wongyeong of the Joseon Dynasty)

  • What do the terms, “jwa-cheong-nyong” and “u-baek-ho” mean?
  • The royal tomb of the Joseon Dynasty is generally placed against Jusan (Main Mountain) and at the foot of the mountain ridge. This arrangement is based on Pungsujiri, with Jusan lying to the north of the tomb. As the tomb faces south, its left side points to east and its right side west. According to Pungsujiri, “jwa” meaning left and east, stands for “cheong” (blue) and “nyong” (dragon), while “u” meaning right and west, stands for “baek” (white) and “ho” (tiger). This is how the terms “jwa-cheong-nyong (left-blue-dragon)” and “u-bae-ko (right-white-tiger)” were made.