In 1971, a large earthen mound was discovered in Gongju while repairing a drainage system. It turned out to be a tomb, where the remains of Muryeong, the 25th king of Baekje, had lain for some 1,500 years. Among the many treasures found inside the tomb was this small stone creature, a tomb guardian who had faithfully done its duty for over a millennium.
A seoksu, or stone animal guardian, is a type of statue that was placed at or within a tomb or palace. These sculptures came in various forms, including lions, horses, oxen, elephants, pigs, tigers, or mythical animals like the haetae. Seoksu could also be placed in the pile of stone and rubble used to surround the tomb.
This seoksu sculpture was found in the center aisle of nearby King Muryeong’s tomb, and has since been moved to the permanent collection of the Gonju National Museum, along with a wealth of other items found in the excavation of the tomb of King Muryeong. It is around 30 centimeters in height, 48 centimeters in length, and 22 centimeters in width. The sculpture kind of resembles a pig, and if you look closely you can see carved details depicting a tail and anus. However, the leaf-shaped steel horn on its head and the flame patterns depicting wings show that it is likely a depiction of a mythical creature. The sculpture has a large nose and a blunt mouth, which still holds some remnants of red paint, suggesting that the Sroksu was once brightly painted.
Although it may not seem quite as precious as some of the other treasures found within King Muryeong’s tomb, the seoksu was the first example of a stone figure excavated that had been buried alongside a Baekje king.
Know Before You Go
You can also visit the nearby tumuli which is the excavated tomb of King Muryeong.