|Jangneung: Alleged Tomb of King INJONG|
Jangneung: Alleged Tomb of King Injong
Although he ascended to the throne at a young age, Injong was wise enough to set up schools in counties and prefectures around the country to promote education. Under his orders Kim Bu-sik compiled History of the Three Kingdoms (Samguk sagi 삼국사기) in 1145, among his various outstanding achievements. However, Injong left problems in aristocratic society unresolved. As a result, Goryeo under his reign is largely perceived to have been an era when its social order began to crumble due to the irrational behavior of aristocrats. Injong died in 1146 at the age of 38. He was given the posthumous name Gonghyo 공효, meaning “reverence and filial piety.”
In 1916, a Japanese antique dealer sold several artifacts excavated by grave robbers from a Goryeo royal tomb near Gaeseong, supposedly belonging to King Injong, to the government-general. These artifacts were later recovered by the National Museum of Korea after national liberation in 1945. The items were King Injong’s epitaph book with the inscription “Sixth Year of Huangtong” and four plain celadon vessels - - a melon-shaped vase, a covered bowl, a covered cup and a vessel stand, a bronze seal, and a silver spoon and chopsticks. All of these objects are known to the public today. Also, there is a double-layered box, consisting of a bronze inner box and a stone outer box, which is on display for pubic viewing for the first time.
Because these items were discovered and retrieved by grave robbers, the authenticity of these artifacts has always been questioned. The celadon objects, however, show even quality with refined vessel forms and pure glazes in jade color. They all exhibit extremely restrained decoration and the bases have silica supports. Due to these very obvious stylistic similarities, there seems to be little possibility that they were mixed up at the time of excavation. These are considered invaluable materials for the study of Goryeo celadon as well as of Goryeo society and culture during the early 12th century.
Epitaph Book of King Injong 인종 시책
Goryeo, circa 1146
Excavated form Jangneung, a tomb attributed to King Injong (r. 1122-1146)
L. 33cm, W. 3cm, T. 2.5cm (each tablet)
L. 33cm, W. 8.5cm, T. 2.5cm (each tablet with a guardian god image)
When a king or a queen died, their virtuous deeds were usually recorded in a jade book. The epitaph book of King Injong 인종 시책, dated “Six Year of Huangtong,” corresponding to 1146, is an important object providing glimpses into the political and social circumstances of Goryeo during the early 12th century. It describes Injong’s character as well as Goryeo’s delicate foreign relations and the positions of the king and his courtiers regarding the rebellion of the Buddhist monk Myocheong.
King Injong’s epitaph book was delivered to be made of jade before it was confirmed to be of calcite, a kind of calcium carbonate. It consists of 41 calcite tablets, incised with an epitaph and designed to be connected with cords, and two wider cover panels each carved with a Buddhist guardian god image. There are additional seven fragments of broken tablets that do not fit each other. The stick-like tablets have holes with a diameter of 0.6cm pierced from the sides at 4.7-4.8 cm form the top and the bottom so they can be strung together with two cords. Gold powder remains on some Chinese characters as well as the heads of guardian deities, suggesting the text was originally rendered in gold script. A copper pigment is also detected on some parts of the deity images. Incised with gold script and embellished with copper red, the book originally must have looked quite gorgeous.
The composition of the epitaph book was basically influenced by Chinese jade books. For example, a jade book of Emperor Zhenzong of Northern Song Dynasty, with the inscription “The First Year of Dazhong Xiangfu,” corresponding to 1008, consists of 16 jade tablets incised with gold script. The stick-like tablets are strung together with two gold cords running through holes on the sides. The jade book was unearthed along with 52 jade panels decorated with dragon and phoenix designs that are believed to be components of a box. In this regard, the Buddhist deity images embellishing King Injong’s epitaph book may be said to show Goryeo’s unique choice of decorative motifs. The neatly incised regular script has a gentle and elegant and elegant appearance.
Location: Celadon Gallery at the Sculpture and Crafts section (3rd Floor)
Period/Date: Goryeo, 12th century
Accession no. Bongwan 4254
* This article is extracted from the publication "Royal Ceramics of Goryeo Dynasty."