Goguryeo Tomb Paintings in China Stolen
Korean burial tomb wall paintings from the Goguryeo-era located in what is now China¡¯s Jillin Province are missing and appear to have been removed by grave robbers ahead of their designation as World Heritage by UNESCO next year. Part of one of the two sites had already been raided in 1996.
¡°It is so serious that in some places the whole wall is gone,¡± says the head of the local Chinese Public Security office responsible for protecting historical sites and artifacts. ¡°The culprits are all Chinese citizens, including an ethnic Korean. We have arrested them all, but the murals are nowhere to be found.¡± Burglars appear to have removed the mural in pieces, cutting fragments out with a chain saw, after apparently using the ¡®Frisco method¡¯ of spreading lime over the mural area to absorb the color and preserve the painting in full. Chinese authorities are refusing to disclose the whole of the incident, but they have sealed the entrance to one site with cement and another, which lies in the middle of a corn field, has had its steel doors welded shut. Official at a local museum claim the sites were raided on May 19 and August of last year.
The wall paintings include some of the only existing evidence of life in Goguryeo, founded in 37B.C., and was, along with Silla and Paekje, one of the ¡®Three Kingdoms.¡¯ One painting, of Koreans worshiping Buddha, is the oldest record of Buddhism among Koreans. The paintings were first introduced to the South Korea public in 1992, when the Chosun Ilbo organized an exhibit of pictures of the paintings titled ¡®Ah! Goguryeo.¡¯
(Shin Hyeong-jun, firstname.lastname@example.org)