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Discovery of a Koguryŏ Stele in Ji’an
Mark E. Byington
A Koguryŏ stele was discovered in summer of 2012 in a riverbed at Maxiangou, in the western part of Ji’an, Jilin Province. The stele was made of cut stone, with an angled top and a tenon on the bottom, indicating that it was once fixed into a stone base. The surface of the stele was badly worn, but an inscription of 218 characters appears on the front face, of which some 140 characters have been deciphered so far. The stele stands 173 meters in height and is more than 60 centimeters wide, and it weighs 464.5 kilograms.
The inscription mentions the Koguryŏ progenitor, Ch’umo, in language very similar to that on the Kwanggaet’o stele, also in Ji’an, dated to 414. The closing section of the Kwanggaet’o stele mentions that the king, during his lifetime, has stone stelae set up on the tombs of all the former kings in order to record the names of the families who guarded the tomb precincts. The newly discovered stele appears to be one of those mentions in the Kwanggaet’o stele inscription.
The stele was discovered a few hundred meters to the northwest of the Tomb of One Thousand Autumns (Qianqiumu) and a little over 1,000 meters to the east of the Great Western Tomb (Xidamu), both thought to be royal mausolea. The stele could have belonged to either of these tombs, or possibly to another royal tomb in the area, but the surviving text of the inscription does not indicate which tomb or which king is associated with that stele. There must once have been many other stelae of this kind marking the royal mausolea in Ji’an, so there is hope that more may come to light in time.
A transcription of the inscription appears below, based on Chinese reports and a photograph of a rubbing taken of the front face of the stele. The transcription must remain tentative until more precise data are made available. Reports indicate that a volume on the stele has already been prepared and will be published soon.
A translated news article in Chinese can be accessed here
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