Wednesday 19 July 2017

Silla Kingdom of Korea

Silla was one of the three ancient kingdoms of Korea which is believed to have been founded in 57 BC and remained in power until 935 CE becoming one of the longest sustaining dynasties. It began as a chiefdom in the Samhan confederacies, once allied with China, but Silla eventually conquered the other two kingdoms, Baekje in 660 and Goguryeo in 668.

The Silla rule in Korea is divided into three periods called Early (57 BC–654 AD), Middle (654–780), and Late (780–935). Silla was founded by King Park Hyeokgeose in 57 BC, around present-day Gyeongju. He ruled from 57 BC to 4 CE. In 37 BC Hyeokgeose built Geumseong in the capital city (present-day Gyeongju), and in 32 BC he built a royal palace inside. He died at age 73 and was succeeded by his eldest son Namhae.


Namhae of Silla was the second King of Silla who ruled from 4 CE to 24 CE. By the 2nd century, Silla existed as a distinct state in the southeastern area of the Korean peninsula. It expanded its influence over neighboring Jinhan chiefdoms, but through the 3rd century was probably no more than the strongest city-state in a loose federation. Namhae was succeeded by Yuri of Silla who ruled from 24 to 57 CE.

Bulguksa Temple, Gyeongju

Yuri of Silla was succeeded by Talhae of Silla who ruled from 57 CE to 80 CE. In 64, the rival Korean kingdom Baekje attacked several times. Silla battled the Gaya confederacy in 77. A tomb believed to be Talhae's is located in northern Gyeongju City. The Gyeongju National Museum is constructed on the site where Talhae had a palace built. He was succeeded by Pasa of Silla who ruled from 80 to 112 CE. In 87, he built Silla's first recorded castles outside of the Gyeongju region.

Gyeongju National Museum

Talhae of Silla was succeeded by Jima who ruled from 112 CE to 134 CE. Relations with neighboring Gaya confederacy were peaceful, after Jima's unsuccessful invasion attempts across the Nakdong River in 115 and 116. In 123, he established relations with the Japanese kingdom of Wa. He was succeeded by Ilseong of Silla who ruled from 134 CE to 154 CE.  He is primarily remembered for his 144 edict banning the use of jewelry and other luxury goods by the populace. The tomb of King Ilseong is located in Tap-dong, central Gyeongju City.

Bridge over Nakdong River

Ilseong of Silla was succeeded by Adalla who ruled from 154 CE to 184 CE. He opened the road over Haneuljae (in present-day Mungyeong) in 157, and also the pass of Jungnyeong (in present-day Yeongju) in 159, extending Silla north of the Sobaek mountains. He was succeeded by Beolhyu of Silla whose reign extended from 184 CE to 196 CE. In 185, he conquered a small chiefdom called Somun-guk (in today's Uiseong).

Sobaek Mountains

Beolhyu of Silla was succeeded by Naehae who was the tenth king of Silla and ruled from 196 to 230 CE. Kingdom of Baekje invaded  Silla in 199 and 214; Silla responded by conquering Baekje's Sahyeon-seong. Naehae personally led the successful defense to Baekje's next attack in 218. He was succeeded by Jobun of Silla (r. 230 – 247 CE).

Jobun of Silla was succeeded by Cheomhae who ruled for 14 years from 247 CE to 261 CE. He was succeeded by Michu. He was the son of Gudo, a leading Silla general. In 264, he visited the peasant people to encourage them during a severe famine. In 268, subjects were dispatched by Michu to hear concerns of people. His tomb is preserved in central Gyeongju today. He was succeeded by Yurye of Silla who reigned from 284 to 298 CE.

Royal tomb of Michu of Silla, South Korea

Yurye of Silla was succeeded by Girim(r. 298-310, died 310) who became to be the 15th emperor of Silla. In 308, he gave the country the name "Silla." It had previously been known as Saro-guk or Seorabeol. He was succeeded by Heulhae of Silla who ruled for 46 years from 310 CE to 356 CE. There was an alliance by marriage with Wa(Japan), which was concluded in 313 but broke down in 346. In 347 there was a major invasion and the Japanese forces laid siege to Gyeongju.

Japanese invasion of Korea 

Heulhae of Silla was succeeded by Naemul who ruled from 356 CE until his death in 402 CE. He was the first king to appear by name in Chinese records. He sent a tribute mission to the king of Early Jin in 381. Naemul's later reign was troubled by recurrent invasions by Wa(Japan) and the northern Malgal tribes. He was succeeded by Silseong (r. 402 – 417 CE). After being crowned in 402, Silseong established an alliance with Wa and sent Naemul's son Kim Misaheun there as a hostage. In 412, he sent another son of Naemul, Kim Bokho, to Goguryeo as a hostage.

Royal Tomb of King Naemul

Silseong of Silla was succeeded by Nulji (reigned 417–458) who became the 19th ruler of Silla Dynasty. In the later part of the 4th century, Silla allied with kingdom of Goguryeo. However, when Goguryeo began to expand its territory southward, moving its capital to Pyongyang in 427, Nulji was forced to ally with kingdom of Baekje in 433 CE. Nulji was succeeded by Jabi of Silla who ruled from 458 CE to 479 CE. In 474, Goguryeo launched a massive assault on Baekje, Silla's neighbor to the west. Jabi sent troops to aid Baekje, forming a historic alliance between the two kingdoms which lasted into the 6th century.

Jabi of Silla was succeeded by Soji (r. 479–500) who became the 21st ruler of Silla Dynasty. Soji was succeeded by Jijeung of Silla who reigned from 500 CE to 514 CE.  He is remembered for strengthening royal authority and building Silla into a centralized kingdom. Jijeung began his program of legal reform in 502, when he outlawed the custom of burying servants with their masters.  He established a market in eastern Gyeongju in 509. In 512, he sent Kim Isabu to conquer the island nation of Usan-guk.

Jijeung of Silla was succeeded by Beopheung(r. 514–540 AD). By his time (514–540), Silla was a full-fledged kingdom, with Buddhism as state religion, and its own era name systems. Silla absorbed the Gaya confederacy during the Gaya–Silla Wars, annexing Geumgwan Gaya in 532.

Beopheung was succeeded by King Jinheung(526 - 576, reign 540 - 576) who was the 24th ruler of Silla. He established a strong military force. Silla helped Baekje drive Goguryeo out of the Han River (Seoul) territory, and then wrested control of the entire strategic region from Baekje in 553, breaching the 120-year Baekje-Silla alliance. Also, King Jinheung established the Hwarang. He was succeeded by Jinji of Silla who ruled from 576 CE to 579 CE.

Olympic Bridge on Han River, Seoul

Jinji of Silla was succeeded by Jinpyeong who ruled from 579 CE as the 26th ruler of Silla Dynasty. He died in January 632, in the 54th year of his reign. He is buried in Bomun-dong, Gyeongju. His tomb was designated a historical landmark by the Korean government in 1969.

Tomb of Jinpyeong of Silla

Jinpyeong was succeeded by Queen Seondeok of Silla who became Silla's first female ruler in 632 CE and ruled until 647 CE. She was the second female sovereign in recorded East Asian history and encouraged a renaissance in thought, literature, and the arts in SillaSeondeok's reign began in the midst of a violent rebellion and fighting in the neighboring kingdom of Baekje were often what preoccupied her. Like Empress Wu Zetian of the Tang and her own father, she was drawn to Buddhism and presided over the completion of Buddhist temples.

Queen Seondeok of Silla

Queen Seondeok of Silla was succeeded by Queen Jindeok who was 28th ruler and second queen of Silla reigning from 647 CE to 654 CE.  During her seven-year reign Queen Jindeok's primary concern was foreign policy. With the help of general Kim Yushin she was able to strengthen Silla's defenses and greatly improve her kingdom's relations with Tang China. Her tomb is located on the hill in Gyeongju city.

Tomb of Queen Jindeok's tomb, Gyeongu City

Queen Jindeok of Silla was succeeded by King Taejong Muyeol who reigned from 654 CE to 661 CE.  He is credited for leading the unification of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. He constantly pleaded with the Tang for reinforcements to destroy Baekje, to which the Tang finally acquiesced in 660, sending 130,000 troops under General Su Dingfang. Meanwhile, Kim Yusin ,a Silla army general set out from Silla with 50,000 soldiers and fought the bloody Battle of Hwangsanbeol leaving Baekje devastated and unprotected. King Uija of Baekje finally surrendered, leaving only Goguryeo to face Silla as an adversary on the Korean peninsula.

Battle of Hwangsanbeol

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