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Faction idea: Koreans (Silla, Gojoseon,Goguryeo)


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Goguryeo (고구려高句麗[ko.ɡu.ɾjʌ], 37 BCE–668 CE), also called Goryeo (고려高麗[ko.ɾjʌ]), was a kingdom located in northern and central parts of the Korean Peninsula and southern Manchuria. It was one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, together with Baekje and Silla. Goguryeo was an active participant in the power struggle for control of the Korean peninsula and was also associated with the foreign affairs of neighboring polities in China and Japan.


Goguryeo was a powerful empire and one of the great powers in East Asia,[7][8][9][10] until it was defeated by a SillaTang alliance in 668 after prolonged exhaustion and internal strife caused by the death of Yeon Gaesomun.[11] After its fall, its territory was divided among the states of Later SillaBalhae and Tang China.

The name Goryeo, a shortened form of Goguryeo, was adopted as the official name in the 5th century,[12] and is the origin of the English name "Korea".



Edited by Lion.Kanzen
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Fuyu [Puyo (Buyeo)] & Koguryo 
As a result of Han Emperor Wudi's campaigns, the eastern Liaoning area and today's northern Korea, where the four Chinese commandaries were set up, would become a springboard for reaching other people to the east. Two groups of the Eastern Hu nomads existed to the west of four commandaries, the Xianbei and Wuhuan nomads in today's western Liaoning Province. To the northeast of the Xuantu Commandery would be an ancient country called Yilou (the ancient name being Su Shen [Sushen]) which had surrendered the treasures to Zhou Dynasty since the ancient times. Su-shen apparently had its border on the Japan Sea. To the north of the Xuantu Commandery would be a country called Fuyu (Puyo or Puyeo) which originally was subject to the Xuantu commandery. (Yilou was subject to Fuyu from at least the 1st century B.C.E. to the early 3rd century A.D., after which Yilou, for the first time since the early Zhou Dynasty, submitted the stone arrows to Wei China in A.D. 236 after becoming relatively independent of the Fuyu domination. Yilou, in the 2nd century A.D., was at one time subject to Koguryo as well, which shared the Fuyu lineage.) 
Fuyu, part of the ancient "Mo" and "He" people who could have lived in today's northern Shanxi Province and Inner Mongolia, had moved into Manchuria under the pressure of the ancient "Xianyun" [i.e., the predecessors of the Huns] according to classics SHI JING. Fuyu was speculated to be the ancient Bai-min [the white clothing people] or the ancient Fa-ren [the hair people]; however, in light of the eastern migration, Fuyu might not be of the same people as the original natives of Manchuria, such as the Su-shen-shei people bordering the Japan Sea. --The possible explanation was that the so-called Mo-hui people were a combination of the Mo (He) people from today's Inner Mongolia and the Hui[4] people who were speculated to have been pressured into a move into central Manchuria [from the Shandong peninsula and North China] when the Zhou people overthrew Shang Dynasty, a claim that would equate the "Hui" people as belonging to the same category as Shang Prince Ji-zi's exodus.Koreans-Japanese.jpg 
Fuyu (Puyo or Puyeo) bordered with Koguryo to the south, Yilou to the east, Xianbei to the west and Luosui (soft water, ? the Nenjiang River in the Liaoning-Amur provinces) to the north. According to Chen Shou, Fuyu (Puyo or Puyeo) had 80,000 households. Fuyu shared the same customs as the Huns on the matter of taking over the concubines of late father or late brothers. Fuyu adopted the practice of live burial, with the burial objects reaching hundreds in headcount. The Fuyu kings themselves could be sacrificed to the god should the people experience droughts and disasters. (Fuyu's superstition could be compared to the later Japanese practice of selecting one crewman as a sacrificial object on the sea journey to the Chinese continent, with the victim killed should the journey run into the storms or other disasters.) 
Fuyu later split into two parts, i.e., North Fuyu and East Fuyu, with the descendant of East Fuyu (i.e., Zhu-meng, founder of Koguryo) moving to the northeastern coast of the Korean peninsula. Split from East Fuyu (Koguryo) would be the Paekche. Later, in A.D. 723, Da-mo-lou, i.e., the descendants of North Fuyu which was destroyed by Korguryo, came to Tang Dynasty together with the Shi-wei tribe by the name of Dagou (Dadu). History stated that Da-mo-lou dwelled near the Du-na River which flew into the Amur River towards the northeastern direction.


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I'm very tired of that Choson civ from AOE and their Legionaries, it's time to make justice.



When Han Emperor Wudi quelled Manchuria and Korea in 107 B.C., the Xuantu Commandery was organized, and the Koguryo territory was treated as a county. The Koguryo people later rebelled against the Han Dynasty by building a castle on the eastern border of the commandery, designating it with a name called Gou-lou. The sound is similar to the later statelet name. Koguryo was said to have been founded by Zhu-meng [59-19 B.C.] in 37 B.C. on the bank of the Foliu [Fuer] River. Founder Zhu-meng, also known as Dongming (Dongmyeong, i.e., brightness in the east but could be a mutation of Zhu-meng as 'ming' in the ancient Chinese was equivalent to the 'meng' word for engendering or oath, which had the same sound as 'meng' in Zhu-meng), rose up in Gaojuli [Koguryo] county of Xuantu-jun Commandery [i.e., the Xinbin-xian county of Liaoning Prov]. 
History chronicle BEI SHI (History of the Northern Dynasty) stated that the Fuyu king obtained the daughter of He-bo (the river god, i.e., an ancient China's Yellow River river god as known in MU TIAN ZI) and bore an egg after being chased by the sunlight. This egg was not touched by the dogs, pigs, horses and buffalos when deserted to the wilderness. The birds were said to have covered the egg with feathers. After the birth-mother wrapped it with clothing, a boy, i.e., Zhu-meng (i.e., meaning a good arrow shooter), came out of the cracked egg. When persecuted by the Fuyu court ministers, Zhu-meng fled across a river. He crossed the river by calling on turtles and tortoise to make a bridge. Zhu-meng claimed to be son of the SUN god and maternal grandson of the RIVER god. Zhu-meng made his statelet Koguryo in a place called the Qi-sheng-gu-cheng castle [the Huanren county of Liaoning Prov] and adopted Gao (i.e., Ko) as surname, which means "high" in Chinese. 
Samguk Yusa cited the older Korean records to state that the founder of North Fuyu was Xie Mushu, i.e., father of Xie Fulou, and that North Fuyu was launched in 59 B.C.E. The Koreans claimed that the Koguryo state was launched by Zhu-meng in 37 B.C.E. Per Korean book Samguk Yusa, Koguryo was the [new] Fuyu statelet at Zoumou. Further, Samguk Sagi stated that Xie Fulou, the North Fuyu king, prayed for son with the mountains and rivers, and went to the East Fuyu (Dong-buyeo) land, where he found a baby whom he called by Jin-wa (the golden baby). The Koguryo people and the Fuyu predecessor were successively recorded by SAN GUO ZHI, LIANG SHU and BEI SHI to have adopted the Shang Dynasty's practice and customs, namely, treating the month of lunar December as the start of the new year and lunar October the time for the sacred heaven-praying ceremony as well as wearing the white-colored clothing and decoration. The October ceremony, with adoration of a cave spirit, was called by 'Dong [eastern] Meng [oath]". 
What happened was that Zhu-meng, who was being persecuted by the Fuyu clansmen, fled to Zuoben, where he was married with Zhao-xi-nu, daughter of the local chieftan Yan-tuo-bo, and born two sons. Zhu-meng left behind his elder son in the original North Fuyu land. The elder son, i.e., future Koguryo king Liuli-wang, came to Zuoben to look for Zhu-meng, and was made into a crown prince. Among three of Zhu-meng's sons, Foliu (Biryu) and Wenzuo (Onjo), after the arrival of the elder prince from Fuyu, departed for the central Korean peninsula where they were to found the Paekche kingdom and subjugate Ma-haan at about 10 A.D. The grandson of Zhu-meng, Muo-lai, later had the [North] Fuyu kingdom subjugated and merged. Muo-lai's grandson, i.e., Gao Lian, sent emissaries to the Tuoba Wei Dynasty per ZHOU SHU. In A.D. 3, the Koguryo capital was moved to the Guonei-cheng city [the Ji'an city of Liaoning Prov]. Another major city called Wandushan-cheng was built inside today's Ji'an of Jilin Prov. The Koguryo statelet bordered with Woju to the east, Chaoxian (Korea) and Hui-mo to the south, and Fuyu to the north. Koguryo in about the 2nd century subjugated and merged those small statelets around. 
During the Xin Dynasty (AD 9-23), Emperor Wang Mang had tried to recruit the Koguryo people in the campaigns against the northern nomads. But the Koguryo people refused to participate in the campaign, and most of the Koguryo people fled northward as bandits. Governor Tian Tan tried to capture the Koguryo people but got killed. Yan You tricked the Koguryo marquis into arrest and killed him. Wang Mang thus renamed Koguryo or Ko-guryo into Xia-guryo. In here, the prefix "Ko" means high, and "Xia" means lower in Chinese. By the time of the eighth year of first Latter Han (AD 25-220) Emperor Guangwudi's reign, the Koguryo marquis sent emmisary to the Chinese capital in the name of a king (rather a marquis). 
The Chinese refugees fled to Korea at the times of turmoil. Koguryo often raided into the Chinese commandaries to abduct people, and sometimes returned the abducted people back to the Chinese commandaries. In 122, after the death of Koguryo King Gong the previous year, the new king returned some people to the Xuantu Commandery. Samguk-sagi claimed that a large number of Chinese fled to Manchuria in A.D. 197. In 217, the Chinese from Pingzhou (Liaoyang) fled to Koguryo. Samguk-sagiclaimed that in A.D. 302, Koguryo King Meichuanwang-yifuli commanded 30,000 troops to invade the Xuantu Commandery (Mukden) and abducted 8,000 people for relocation to the Pyongyang area, and further in October of 313, invaded the Chinese Lelang Commandery to abduct people. 
In A.D. 319, when Jinn China fell apart, the Chinese "ci shi" at Pingzhou, Cui Bi, had at one time rallied an alliance of Koguryo, the Yuwen-shi Xianbei, and the Duan-shi Xianbei against the Murong-shi Xianbei. After a defeat, Cui Bi fled to Koguryo. The Murong Xianbei raided deep into the Korean peninsula. According to the Biography on Murong Yun in JINN SHU, Murong Yun's grandfather, i.e., Murong He, was a descendant of Koguryo. 
History chronicle XIN TANG SHI (The New History of the Tang Dynasty) stated that Koguryo, with the capital city at Pyongyang (i.e., the China's equivalent Chang-an city, meaning "forever peaceful"), was where Han Dynasty's Lelang Commandery was. The major cities include Guonei-cheng and Han-cheng (Seoul). It had twelve levels of officialdom, five tribes, and 60 prefectures and counties. The Confucian filielty of three year mourning for parents was adopted. The oblatory gods included the stars, the sun, ke-han (khan), Ji-zi (i.e., Shang Dynasty prince), and a devine cave. Koguryo moved its capital to today's Pyongyang of Korea in A.D. 427, i.e., the 4th year of the Tuoba Wei Dynasty's Shiguang Era.


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3 minutes ago, sphyrth said:

Love them potential assets!
I was actually hoping for the navy since Korea was more known for that. Too bad Lee Soon Shin (or is it Yi Sun Sin) is a 15th century figure.

I can wait Stan or Lordgood try something...

or Wackyserious can try mod some unit.

i can believe how interesting are Koreans in this timeframe, they deal with Huns and forefathers.

and help Japan( Yamato) Yamato are more like Celts, very tribal clans.

Han Dynasty is like the Romans or Macedonians, and huge sofisticaste Empire. Fighting vs Nomads and trying get some commerce to West.

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 Proto–Three Kingdoms Period (c. 1st-2nd century BC to 3rd-4th century AD)


According to Chinese text Sanguo Zhi, it recorded the existence of three types of prehistoric dwellings in Korea: pit houses, log houses and elevated houses. Only the remains of pit houses have been identified, however. Pit houses consisted of a 20–150 cm deep pit and a superstructure of grass and clay supported by a tripod-like frame made of timber to provide protection from the wind and rain. Pit houses of the Neolithic period had circular or oval pits about 5–6 meters in diameter with a hearth at the center. Most of the early ones were located on hills. As these dwellings moved down nearer to rivers, the pits became rectangular in shape as well as larger, with two separated hearths.[2] In 108 BC, the Chinese commanderies was established after the destruction of Gojoseon. Official buildings of this period were built of wood and brick and roofed with tiles having the features of Chinese construction.



Fortress architecture


Goguryeo, the largest kingdom among the Three Kingdoms of Korea, is renowned for its mountain fortresses built horizontally and vertically along the incline of slopes. One of the well-preserved Goguryeo fortresses is Baekam fortress (白巖城) constructed before 6th century in present-day South-West Manchuria. A Chinese historian noted, "The Goguryeo people like to build their palaces well." Patterned tiles and ornate bracket systems were already in use in many palaces in Pyongyang, the capital, and other town-fortresses in what now is Manchuria.

Edited by Lion.Kanzen
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Koreans developed a unique and distinct fortress tradition.[1] There are numerous types of Korean fortresses, including sanseong (mountain fortress), eupseong (city fortress), pyeongjiseong, gwanseong, jangseong, chaekseong, and more.[2]Korean fortresses were based on a stone culture and built using stones, and often incorporated natural mountainous terrain, and therefore were conceptually completely different compared to Chinese fortresses, which were based on an earth culture and built using bricks from earth.[3][4] Korean fortresses were invented by Goguryeo and spread to Baekje and Silla,[5] and then inherited and further developed by Goryeo and then Joseon.[4] Korea, especially Goguryeo,[2][6][7] has often been called the "country of (mountain) fortresses";[1][4][8][9] almost 2,400 mountain fortress sites have been found in Korea.[1][4]

Goguryeo fortress ruins have been found in about 170 sites to date, including in China;[6] one of the most notable among them is Anshi Fortress, which successfully defended against Tang Taizong during the Goguryeo–Tang War.[10][11] Goguryeo fortress ruins have also been found in present-day Mongolia.[12][13][14]

Korean-style fortresses can be found in Japan, which were constructed and supervised by immigrants of Baekje origin.[4]



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The Silla dynasty was one of three to rule Korea during the Three Kingdoms period (57 BC to 668 AD). Murals have been found showing cavalrymen with intricate armor on both horse and rider, but until now, that was all the evidence we had of Silla warriors.

Archaeologists excavating the Silla tombs of the Jjoksaem District of Gyeongju (the onetime capital of the Silla Kingdom), have unconvered an astonishingly complete set of armor, scale for the human and barding for the horse, dating between the 4th and 6th centuries AD.

Scale armor is made of hundreds of small, intricately connected metal pieces. Compared to ordinary metal armor, scale armor makes it a lot easier for warriors to move, significantly enhancing the mobility of the entire army.

Murals from the era show that scale armor was used during the Three Kingdoms period, but without any hard evidence, Korean archaeologists have only been able to guess at what the armor might have looked like.

“Scale armor is known to have been used in other countries like China, but in Korea it only existed in rock paintings that we haven’t seen in person,” Lee of the Cultural Heritage Administration said.

Silla burial customs seem to have played a major part in the dispersal of their remains. After burial, a person’s belongings were left outside the tomb for people to take, so finding a buried set of armor is unprecedented. 

This burial had a coffin where the body was interred (no remains of the body were found) and a box containing the decedent’s belongings. The armor was found in the coffin, laid out flat underneath the body.

The barding was on the bottom, neck and chest armor first, then the flank and hindquarters armor. On top of that was the scale armor.

You can see how it looks flattened out in the picture on the left. The mural on the right shows it in action.



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GYEONGJU - The warrior’s body and bones are long gone, decayed into the soil. But the armor that once protected him from enemy swords and arrows has survived the passage of time and has been revealed for the first time in 1,600 years. 

The armor of the heavily protected cavalrymen of the Silla Dynasty (57 B.C. - A.D. 935) - proof of which has previously existed only in paintings - was discovered in the ancient tombs of the Jjoksaem District of Hwango-dong, Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang. The Jjoksaem District has the largest concentration of ancient Silla Dynasty tombs in Korea. 

The armor was believed to have been used by Silla warriors sometime between the fourth and sixth centuries. 

Although the discovery may not be as impressive as the terra-cotta figures of ancient China, it is just as important to the field of archaeology in Korea. 

This is the first time such a vast array of the armor of the cavalrymen of the Three Kingdoms period (57 B.C. - A.D. 668) has been unearthed in such good condition. The Three Kingdoms era in Korea refers to the period in which three kingdoms - Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla - ruled the country. 

Last month, archaeologists at the Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and officials of the Cultural Heritage Administration opened the excavation site to the public. The armor on display included complete sets of scale armor and barding, or armor for horses. 

“This is the first time in East Asia that such complete sets of the armor of the heavily armed cavalrymen have been found,” Lee Geon-mu, the chief of the Cultural Heritage Administration, said. “It’s also the first evidence of the existence of the Silla cavalrymen.” 

Archaeologists say that the pieces provide an important clue as to how the Silla Dynasty adopted the use of heavily armed cavalrymen from Goguryeo and used them to strengthen their national defense capabilities. The use of cavalrymen in this way enabled Silla to eventually conquer Goguryeo and Baekje and unify the peninsula. 

Silla conquered Baekje in 660 and Goguryeo in 668. Thereafter, Unified Silla occupied most of the Korean Peninsula. 

The capital of Silla was Gyeongju and thus, a significant number of Silla tombs can still be found in that city. The area was registered on the Unesco World Heritage list in 2000 as The Gyeongju Historic Areas. 

For those in academia, the find is a major breakthrough, and solves a decades-old mystery. 

The archaeologists at the Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage excavated some sets of barding in Haman County, South Gyeongsang, in 1992. Plain metal armor has also been unearthed. But there have been no discoveries of scale armor, although supplementary pieces presumed to have been part of the scale armor have been found. 

Scale armor is made of hundreds of small, intricately connected metal pieces. Compared to ordinary metal armor, scale armor makes it a lot easier for warriors to move, significantly enhancing the mobility of the entire army. 

Murals from the era show that scale armor was used during the Three Kingdoms period, but without any hard evidence, Korean archaeologists have only been able to guess at what the armor might have looked like. 

“Scale armor is known to have been used in other countries like China, but in Korea it only existed in rock paintings that we haven’t seen in person,” Lee of the Cultural Heritage Administration said. 

One of the things that kept the scale armor hidden for such a long time was the burial traditions of the time. 

“In Goguryeo it was customary to leave the belongings of the dead outside the tombs so that passersby would take them. This tradition has made it extremely hard to preserve the relics of the time,” Lee explained. 

The tomb from which the archaeologists excavated the collection of armor, Tomb C10, shows the typical characteristics of early Silla tombs. It had a coffin where the body was laid and, next to it, another box where the belongings of the dead were kept. The coffin and the box were made of wood and placed in pits made to fit them. 

It was in the coffin, measuring 440 centimeters (173 inches) long and 220 meters (722 feet) wide, that the archaeologists found the armor. The barding was laid on the bottom, with the neck and chest armor first, followed by the armor for the flank and the armor for the hindquarters. The scale armor was laid on top. 

“It seems that the bodies were laid on top of the armor,” Ji Byeong-mok, the director of the Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, said. “That arrangement has made the armor flat.” 

Ji and the archaeologists argue that if the dead had been buried wearing the armor or if the armor had been laid on top of the dead, the armor would have been uncovered in an uneven manner due to the difference in the time it would have taken for the bodies and the wood to decay. 

“Looking at the state in which it’s been excavated, we’re pretty certain that the armor was laid under the bodies. With time, the bodies seem to have vanished into the soil,” Ji said. 

It is uncertain as to whom the tombs belonged, experts say, but judging from the armor found therein, they believe they must have belonged to people of high status. 

The armor weighs between four to five kilograms, with the barding weighing about four to five times more. In addition to this latest discovery, archaeologists have uncovered about 150 tombs and 3,000 relics including gold jewelry and saddles. 

Once the Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage completes the excavation, it plans to preserve and exhibit a portion of its findings. Ji from the Gyeongju heritage institute says that it will take between five to 10 years for the armor to be fully restored to its former glory. 

By Lee Kyong-hee [hkim@joongang.co.kr]


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Interlude 4: Shamanism in the Ancient Kingdoms

Dressed in colorful, almost androgynous garbs reminiscent of older days, surrounded by the smiling images of ancient guardian deities over the mounds of offerings dedicated to them, moved by the ecstatic clanging of drums and chants, the mudang is ready to enter into a trance. She (the majority of shamans in Korea these days are female)  will change costumes many times during the drama of gut, invoking various gods, ancient generals, and spirits while reciting old legends of resentful spirits.

Mudang_performing_a_ritual_placating_the_angry_spirits_of_the_deadA Mudang Shamaness Source: Wikipedia

  There are variations depending on region and ritual. But they all inhabit a world where humans, spirits and divinities share a common space, influencing one another for good or bad. The most common kind of exorcism the mudangs perform deals with people afflicted by spirits who have died violently or has some lingering resentment towards the world. Through the drama of suffering and singing songs that give voice to these resentments, the mudang offers  therapeutic relief to the spirit who in turn leaves the tormented person alone.

The system of shamanism that exists in Korea today has had many transformations, absorbing beliefs, historical figures and rituals as it goes through a path of suppression and revival, suppression again and revival once more. But the worldview of the shaman offers us a rare glimpse into the world inhabited by the people of the ancient kingdoms of Korea.

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20. Expanding of Territories: King Gwanggaeto The Great


Source: Wikipedia

Korea has awarded the title “The Great” to only two kings in its history. And there is an appropriate symmetry between the two. The later Great King, Sejeong of Joseon, was the philosopher king, wise ruler and inventor, creator of the Korean alphabet. The other, Gwanggaeto of Goguryeo, the great expander of territories, the victor of many battles and one of the first to unify- however temporary- the peninsula, was the warrior king.

Gwanggaeto assumed the throne in 392. Goguryeo was already experiencing a revival thanks to the reforms of the previous king Sosurim. But the kingdom still had scores to settle with their enemies in the North, the Yan dynasty of the Murong Xianbei, and their enemies in the South, Baekje.

Almost immediately after becoming king, Gwanggaeto seized Baekje’s fortresses in a push towards the south. He took over Gwanmi fortress, an important location just north of the Han river. The loss caused turmoil within Baekje and the kingdom’s King Jinsa ended up being either deposed or killed in a hunting accident (anyone familiar with East Asian history knows that there is no contradiction between the two, and “died in a hunting accident” is usually a synonym of a coup in the palace). Baekje’s next king, Ansin, tried to take back the fortress but failed. This would be the beginning of a long series of conflicts between Ansin and Gwanggaeto, with the latter always emerging victorious.

The next big battle between Baekje and Goguryeo was in 395 at a location named Paesu river. Baekje was defeated. Not being one to give up or learn a lesson, Ansin attempted another attack in the 11th month of the year, but his troops were stopped by a snowstorm. Another year, another attack. But this time Gwanggaeto not only defeated Ansin’s troops, but forced the Baekje king to sign a treaty, a treaty heavily in the favor of Goguryeo. Things were set to be stable, until in 399 Gwanggaeto received a distress call from his only ally in the south: Silla.

Silla had been watching Baekje’s growing power with concern. The alliance between Baekje, Gaya, and the Wa of Japan was a major threat to Silla, and the king sent an emissary in 392 to Goguryeo in hopes of forming an alliance of their own. After Baekje’s humiliating defeat and treaty, the kingdom called upon its allies and attacked Silla. Gwanggaeto responded, and the joint Baekje-Wa-Gaya army lost the battle. In the year 400, Baekje and Gaya were subdued, and Gwanggaeto’s troops stayed behind in Silla. The Wa and Baekje tried successive attempts at warding Goguryeo, but it was futile at that point. The influence of Goguryeo over the peninsula meant the first time a single power occupied the region which would later be called Korea.

Gwanggaeto’s influence would reach far beyond that. While moving southward, the king was also engaged in a series of campaigns in the north, sometimes within the same year as a Baekje attack. He fought against the Yan dynasty, and at a certain point the Yan split into smaller kingdoms, one of which, Northern Yan, was ruled by a descendant of one of the Goguryeo hostages that the Murong Xianbei had taken off with earlier. The king, Go-un, recognized Goguryeo as the parent country and formed a peace treaty. Gwanggaeto then took over Eastern Buyeo- because at this point, why the hell not?- which meant that by the time Gwanggaeto died at the age of 39, no doubt from sheer exhaustion caused by all the campaigns, Goguryeo had reached a size that would never be rivaled by future Korean dynasties again.


Goguryeo after Gwanggaeto and his son Jangsu were done. Source: Wikipedia

Gwanggaeto and his campaigns are the stuff of legends. Korea today, looking to a past where the country was stronger, more powerful, still romanticizes the warrior king in a series of novels, legends and TV shows. The cult around Gwanggaeto, however, started almost immediately after his death. Spearheaded by his son, King Jangsu, a steele was built in 414 to honor Gwanggaeto’s exploits. This stele, a giant monument recounting the reign of Gwanggaeto, is located so far north outside of current Korean borders that later generations assumed it belonged to a king from another country. It was only in the 19th century that the stele was rediscovered, and with enormous consequences.

The steele starts off with the founding myths of Goguryeo- from Jumong to Daemusin– and then about the wars Gwanggaeto fought and won. The controversial line describes the state of the southern peninsula in 396, and the stele says something along the lines of “the Wa crossed the sea and occupied Baekjan (a derogatory word for Baekje) and Silla.” This gave credibility to the Imperialist project of 19th century Japan, which had claimed that Korea during the three kingdoms era was part of Japanese territory, a claim they used to justify their occupation. Scholars to this day still grapple with the inscription and the meaning behind it, They have come up with many theories in the following years.

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7. A Match Made In Heaven: Kim Suro and Heo Hwang-Ok

It is important to remember that “The Three Kingdoms” era was named well after the kingdoms grew, prospered, and fell. At the time of their founding by Jumong, Onjo and Hyeokgeose, there was no indication that the kingdoms would become as powerful as they have. There were many other confederacies and and kingdoms around at the time that were more powerful. It was only around the 3rd or 4th century, after conquering and absorbing most other political bodies around them, that the Three Kingdoms emerged as the clear dominant powers of the region.

The Three Kingdoms were established by the end of the BCE era, but by the mid first century, around 42 CE, another would be kingdom emerged as a possible contender. It was a confederacy of six city-states, each with its own ruler, that occupied the southern regions between Baekje and Silla. Although it was absorbed into Silla before it could become a kingdom in its own right, this confederacy has left some important legacies for the peninsula and the rest of history. This was the Gaya Confederacy, divided into Daegaya, Seongsan Gaya, Ara Gaya, Goryeong Gaya,Sogay and Geumgwan Gaya. Geumgwan was the head of the confederacy, and had it’s own semi-mythological founder king.

Map_of_Gaya_-_en Gaya in relation to Baekje and Silla. Source: Wikipedia

Nine chieftains of different villages gathered to perform their annual purification rituals, when a strange sound rumbled from the mountains. This went on for a while, many people assembled to see what was going on. Then a disembodied voice called out “Is anybody here?” The chieftains called out that they were there. “Where am I?” the voice asked. “Turtle Mountain Peak!” they replied, presumably very confused. The voice told them that he was sent on a mission from heaven, and told them to dig at the peak of the mountain, singing and dancing and reciting the verse ‘Turtle, turtle, push out your head. If you do not, we will cook and eat you.” Which sounds very much like a shamanistic ritual, as these rituals usually heavily involve singing and dancing. The turtle verse is one of the oldest verses of Korea that remain intact.

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Before that, the Gaya confederacy enjoyed some economic power. The reason for that is the region of the confederacy was rich in iron. The people had skill in smelting and making of iron, and traded heavily with Baekje and Japan.  An important legacy of Gaya is also the inspiration for a much beloved traditional Korean instrument, the Gayageum.


There was a belief that Gaya was actually a Japanese outpost named Miamana. There were two sources for this story: one was a strange inscription on the Stele in the honor of King Gwanggaeto (more later) which said that the Japanese occupied the southern regions of Korea. Japan’s own Nihonshiki, an ancient record of historical and mythological events, talked about an Empress named Jingu sailing to the Korean peninsula and conquering the shores of Gaya.

Japan and Gaya enjoyed a very good relationship, but  it was one of political alliance, not a relationship of conqueror and  conquered. The records of the Stele with the part about Japan is very dubious, some even say it was a forgery. And the name of Jingu has been removed from the list of historical Emperors and Empresses. That did not stop people in the early 1900s, where there was a movement that claimed that the story of Mimana proved that part pf the peninsula was once Japanese territory. This blatant  piece of propaganda was used as justification for the takeover of Korea. An ancient kingdom which had disappeared more than a thousand years before became a pawn in the rigged game of Imperialism.

All these troubles would come much later, for now, the Samguk Yusa will give King Suro and Queen Hwang-ok their happy ending. The King and Queen got married, they set up their new government and “Thereupon [he] ruled his country like his own household and loved his people like his own children. His instructions were not strict yet carried weight, and his rule was not harsh but fitting. Therefore, the pairing of the king and queen was like the pairing of Heaven and Earth, the sun and moon, and yin and yang.” (Sources of Korean Tradition Vol 1 p. 17)


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Korean History

There is archaeological evidence that people were living on the Korean peninsula 700,000 years ago. The Palaeolithic period began around 70,000 BC, and earliest known Korean pottery dates to around 7000 BC, and the Neolithic period begins around 6000 BC.

Eventually (2333 BC according to the Dangun legend), Gojoseon was founded, encompassing northern Korea and Manchuria. In 108 BC, Gojoseon fell to the Chinese Han dynasty, who installed four commanderies in northern Korea, three of which quickly fell to Korean resistance. In this period, southern Korea was occupied first by the Jin state, and later the Samhan, three loose confederacies.

In the north, the expanding Goguryeo reunited Buyeo, Okjeo, and Dongye in the former Gojoseon territory, and destroyed the last Chinese commandery in 313.

The three kingdoms Goguryeo, Silla, and Baekje (the latter two arising from the Samhan) competed with each other as minor statelets fell or merged with these regional powers. Sophisticated state organizations developed under Confucian and Buddhist paradigms. Goguryeo was the most dominant power, but was at constant war with the Chinese Sui and Tang. Emperor Yang-ti of Sui, with one million troops, invaded Goguryeo, but in 612 CE, General Eulji Mundeok pushed the Chinese force into retreat. The Sui fall from power in China was partly due to Goguryeo.



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The splendid culture and the vast territory of Goguryeo would not have been possible without the flourishing ironware culture. Driven by the maturation of the Iron Age, Goguryeo is remembered as a period when Korea boasted the largest territory in its history. It boasted one of the strongest powers in Northeast Asia. The ironware culture of Goguryeo is reborn in the Goguryeo Blacksmith’s Village (on Achasan Mountain).



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Korean armor during the Korean Three Kingdoms Period consisted of two major styles: a lamellar armor sharing the style of Chinese armor at the time and the armor of the steppe hordes, and plate armor, found in the Gaya Confederation and its vicinity. The lamellae were often of hard materials such as bronze, iron, bone, or stiffened leather; plates were always of iron, steel or bronze.[citation needed]

During later periods, Korean armor also included forms of brigandine, chain mail, and scale armor. Due to the cost of iron and steel equipment that were often too high for peasant conscripts, helmets were not always full steel and stiffened leather caps were not uncommon.

Korean armor pieces, from top to bottom, typically consisted of a helmet or a cap, a heavy main armor coat with pauldrons or shoulder and underarm protection, leg coverings (supplemented by the skirting from the main coat), groin protection, and limb protection. In terms of armament, Korean militaries employed heavy infantry equipped with swords or spears along with shields, pikemen, archers, crossbowmen, and versatile heavy cavalry capable of horse archery. Korean naval warfare saw large deployments of heavy wooden shields as a means of protecting personnel on the top decks of Korean ships.

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The best preserved armors from the three kingdoms period originate almost exclusively from the Gaya confederacy. The armour from Gaya are the best examples of plate armor from ancient times rivaling those of Mediterranean basin from the same period. These Gaya style plate armour are categorized into three types- one is made by joining vertical steel bands to form a single plate, another by joining horizontal bands, and the other by putting small triangular steel pieces together. The first type is found in Gaya and Silla, while most examples for the other two are found in Gaya but some have been found in northern Baekje. Similar styles have been also found in Kyushu and Honsu, Japan.

Goguryeo armor was a type of lamellar armour, made of small steel plates woven together with cord. Ancient tombs of the Jjoksaem District of Hwango-dong, Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang uncovered the first example in 2009. Goguryo murals found in North Korea also shed light on how Goguryo armour looked like.




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