Korean history - Gojoseon, the first state of Korea
History of Korea
The history of Korea stretches from Lower Paleolithic times to the present. The earliest known Korean pottery dates to around 8000 BC, and the Neolithic period began before 6000 BC, followed by the Bronze Age around 2500 BC. The Gojoseon (Old Joseon) kingdom was founded in 2333 BC, eventually stretching from the peninsula to much of Manchuria. By 3rd Century BC, it disintegrated into many successor states.
In the early Common Era, the Three Kingdoms (Goguryeo, Silla, and Baekje) conquered other successor states of Gojoseon and came to dominate the peninsula and much of Manchuria. The three kingdoms competed with each other both economically and militarily. While Goguryeo and Baekje were more powerful for much of the era. Especially Goguryeo, which defeated massive Chinese invasions. Silla's power gradually extended across Korea and it eventually established the first unified state to cover most of Korean peninsula by 676, while former Goguryeo general Dae Jo-yeong founded Balhae as the successor to Goguryeo.
Unified Silla itself fell apart in the late 9th century, giving way to the tumultuous Later Three Kingdoms period (892-936), which ended with the establishment of the Goryeo Dynasty. After the fall of Balhae in 926 to Khitan, much of its people led by the Crown Prince Dae Gwang-hyeon were absorbed into Goryeo.
During the Goryeo period, laws were codified, a civil service system was introduced, and Buddhism flourished. In 993 - 1019 Khitan Liao Dynasty invaded Goryeo and were repelled. In 1238, the Mongolian Empire invaded and after nearly thirty years of war, the two sides signed a peace treaty.
In 1392, the general Yi Seong-gye established the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) after a coup. King Sejong the Great (1418-1450) promulgated hangul, the Korean alphabet. Between 1592-1598, Japan invaded Korea, but was eventually repelled with the efforts by the Navy led by Admiral Yi Sun-shin, resistance armies, and Chinese aid. In the 1620s and 1630s, Joseon suffered invasions by the Manchu Qing Dynasty.
Beginning in the 1870s, Japan began to force Korea out of China's sphere of influence into its own. In 1895, Empress Myeongseong of Korea was assassinated by Japanese agents. In 1905, Japan forced Korea to sign the Eulsa Treaty making Korea a protectorate, and in 1910 annexed Korea, although neither is considered to be legally valid. Korean resistance to the Japanese occupation was manifested in the massive nonviolent March 1st Movement of 1919. Thereafter the Korean liberation movement, coordinated by the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea in exile, was largely active in neighboring Manchuria, China and Siberia.
With the defeat of Japan in 1945, the United Nations developed plans for a trusteeship administration by the Soviet Union and the United States, but the plan was soon abandoned. In 1948, new governments were established, the democratic South Korea and Communist North Korea divided at the 38th parallel. The unresolved tensions of the division surfaced in the Korean war of 1950, when North Korea invaded South Korea.
Jeulmun Pottery Period
The earliest known Korean pottery dates back to c. 8000 BC or before. This pottery is known as Yungimun Pottery (융기문토기) is found in much of the peninsula. Some examples of Yungimun-era sites are Gosan-ri in Jeju-do and Ubong-ri in Greater Ulsan. Jeulmun or Comb-pattern Pottery (즐문토기) is found after 7000 BC, and pottery with comb-patterns over the whole vessel is found concentrated at sites in west–central Korea between 3500–2000 BC, a time when a number of settlements such as Amsa-dong and Chitam-ni existed. Jeulmun pottery bears basic design and form similarities to the Jōmon culture in Japan and to that of the Russian Maritime Province, Mongolia, and the Amur and Sungari River basins of Manchuria.
The people of the Jeulmun practiced a broad spectrum economy of hunting, gathering, foraging, and small-scale cultivation of wild plants. It was during the Jeulmun that the cultivation of millet and rice was introduced to the Korean peninsula from the Asian continent.
Mumun Pottery Period
Agricultural societies and the earliest forms of social-political complexity emerged in the Mumun Pottery Period (c. 1500–300 BC). People in southern Korea adopted intensive dry-field and paddy-field agriculture with a multitude of crops in the Early Mumun Period (1500–850 BC). The first societies led by big-men or chiefs emerged in the Middle Mumun (850–550 BC), and the first ostentatious elite burials can be traced to the Late Mumun (c. 550–300 BC). Bronze production began in the Middle Mumun and became increasingly important in Mumun ceremonial and political society after 700 BC. The Mumun is the first time that villages rose, became large, and then fell: some important examples include Songgung-ni, Daepyeong, and Igeum-dong. The increasing presence of long-distance exchange, an increase in local conflicts, and the introduction of bronze and iron metallurgy are trends denoting the end of the Mumun around 300 BC.
The period that begins after 300 BC can be described as a 'protohistoric' period, a time when some documentary sources seem to describe socieites in the Korean peninsula. The historical polities described in ancient texts such as the Samguk Sagi are an example. The Korean Protohistoric lasts until 300AD-400AD when the early historic Korean Three Kingdoms formed as archaeologically recognizable state societies.
Gojoseon was the first Korean kingdom. According to the Samguk Yusa and other Korean medieval-era records, Gojoseon was founded in 2333 BC by the legendary Dangun, said to be descended from the Lord of Heaven.
The people of Gojoseon were the descendants of migrating Altaic tribes that settled in Manchuria, far eastern China north of the Yangtze River, and the Korean Peninsula. They are the first direct Korean ancestral line recorded in writing.
Initially, Gojoseon was probably located in Liaoning, but around 400 BC, moved its capital to Pyongyang, the capital of modern North Korea.
Bronze Culture: The Bronze Age is often held to have begun around 1500 – 1000 BC in Korea, though recent archaeological evidence suggests it might have started as far back as 2500 BC. Bronze daggers, mirrors, and weaponry have been found, as well as evidence of walled-town polities. Rice, red beans, soybeans and millet were cultivated, and rectangular pit-houses and increasingly larger dolmen burial sites are found throughout the peninsula. Contemporaneous records suggest that Gojoseon transitioned from a feudal federation of walled cities into a centralised kingdom at least before the 4th century BC.
Iron Culture: It is believed that by the third century BC, iron culture was developing and the warring states of China pushed refugees eastward and south. Recently however, an iron mirror has been found in Songseok-ri Kangdong-gun Pyongyang in North Korea, that may have originated from 1200 BC.
Around this time, a state called Jin arose in the southern part of the Korean peninsula. Very little is known about Jin, but it established relations with Han China and exported artifacts to the Yayoi of Japan. A king of Gija Joseon may have fled to Jin after a coup by Wiman. Jin later evolved into the Samhan confederacies.
Later the Han Dynasty defeated the Wiman Joseon and set up Four Commanderies of Han.
Decline and Fall: The course of the decline and fall of Gojoseon is in dispute, depending on how historians view Gija Joseon. The theory suggested by Joseon Sangosa is that Gojoseon disintegrated by about 300 BC as it gradually lost the control of its former fiefs. Many smaller states sprang from the former territory of Gojoseon such as Buyeo, Okjeo, Dongye, Guda-guk, Galsa-guk, Gaema-guk, and Hangin-guk. Goguryeo and Baekje descended from Buyeo. The Three Kingdoms refer to Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla, although Buyeo and the Gaya confederacy existed into 5th and 6th centuries respectively.
The Proto-Three Kingdoms period, sometimes called the Several States Period (열국시대), is the time before the rise of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, which included Goguryeo, Shilla, and Baekje, and occurred after the fall of Gojoseon. This time period consisted of numerous states that sprang up from the former territories of Gojoseon. Among these states, the largest and most influential were Dongbuyeo and Bukbuyeo.
Buyeo and other Northern States: After the fall of Gojoseon, Buyeo arose in today's North Korea and southern Manchuria, from about the 2nd century BC to 494. Its remnants were absorbed by Goguryeo in 494, and both Goguryeo and Baekje, two of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, considered themselves its successor.
Although records are sparse and contradictory, it is thought that in 86 BC, Dongbuyeo (East Buyeo) branched out, after which the original Buyeo is sometimes referred to as Bukbuyeo (North Buyeo). Jolbon Buyeo was the predecessor to Goguryeo, and in 538, Baekje renamed itself Nambuyeo (South Buyeo).
Okjeo was a tribal state that was located in the northern Korean Peninsula, and was established after the fall of Gojoseon. Okjeo had been a part of Gojoseon before its fall. It never became a fully-developed kingdom due to the intervention of its neighboring kingdoms. Okjeo became a tributary of Goguryeo, and was eventually annexed into Goguryeo by Gwanggaeto Taewang in the 5th century.
Dongye was another small kingdom that was situated in the northern Korean Peninsula. Dongye bordered Okjeo, and the two kingdoms faced the same fate of becoming tributaries of the growing empire of Goguryeo. Dongye was also a former part of Gojoseon before its fall.
Samhan: Samhan (三韓) refers to the three confederacies of Mahan, Jinhan, and Byeonhan. The Samhan were located in the southern region of the Korean Peninsula. These three confederacies eventually become the foundations, at which Baekje, Silla, and Gaya were established. Mahan was the largest and consisted of 54 states. Byeonhan and Jinhan both consisted of 12 states, bringing a total of 78 states within the Samhan. The term "Samhan" is later used to describe the Three Kingdoms of Korea.
Today, the hanja name for Korea comes from the hanja of Samhan (韓).
Goguryeo, the powerful kingdom in ancient Northeast Asia
Three Kingdoms Period
Goguryeo: Goguryeo was founded the earliest and was the largest of the three kingdoms. It was founded in 37 BC by Jumong (posthumous name Dongmyeongseong). Later, King Taejo centralized the government. Goguryeo was also the first Korean kingdom to adopt Buddhism as the state religion in 372, under King Sosurim reign.
Goguryeo reached its zenith in the fifth century, when reign of the King Gwanggaeto and his son, King Jangsu expanded into almost all of Manchuria and part of inner Mongolia, and took the Seoul region from Baekje. Gwanggaeto and Jangsu subdued Baekje and Silla during their times.
Goguryeo later fought and defeated massive Chinese invasions in the Goguryeo-Sui War of 598 - 614, contributing to Sui's fall, and continued to repel the Tang dynasty under several important generals including Yeon Gaesomun and Yang Manchun.
However, numerous wars with China exhausted Goguryeo and it fell into a weak state. After internal power struggles, it was conquered by an allied Silla-Tang forces in 668.
Korean history - Baekje Kingdom
The Sanguo Zhi mentions Baekje as a member of the Mahan confederacy in the Han River basin (near present-day Seoul). It expanded into the southwest (Chungcheong and Jeolla provinces) of the peninsula and became a significant political and military power. In the process, Baekje came into fierce confrontation with Goguryeo and the Chinese commanderies in the vicinity of its territorial ambitions.
At its peak in the 4th century, it had absorbed all of the Mahan states and subjugated most of the western Korean peninsula (including the moder provinces of Gyeonggi, Chungcheong, and Jeolla, as well as part of Hwanghae and Gangwon) to a centralized government. Baekje acquired Chinese culture and technology through contacts with the Southern Dynasties during the expansion of its territory.
Baekje played a fundamental role in transmitting cultural developments, such as Chinese characters, Buddhism, iron-making, advanced pottery, and ceremonial burial into ancient Japan. Other aspects of culture were also transmitted when the Baekje court retreated to Japan after Baekje was conquered. Baekje was defeated by a coalition of Silla and Tang Dynasty forces in 660.
Silla: According to legend, the kingdom Silla began with the unification of six chiefdoms of the Jinhan confederacy by Bak Hyeokgeose in 57 BC, in the southeastern area of Korea. Its territory included the present-day port city of Busan, and Silla later emerged as a sea power responsible for destroying Japanese pirates, especially during the Unified Silla period.
Korean history - Silla Kingdom
Silla artifacts, including unique gold metalwork, show influence from the northern nomadic steppes, with less Chinese influence than are shown by Goguryeo and Baekje. Silla expanded rapidly by occupying the Han River basin and uniting the city states.
By the 2nd century, Silla existed as a large state, occupying and influencing nearby city states. Silla began to gain power when it annexed in 562 the Gaya confederacy, between Baekje and Silla. Silla often faced pressure from Baekje and Japan, and at various times allied and warred with Baekje and Goguryeo.
In 660, King Muyeol of Silla ordered his armies to attack Baekje. General Kim Yu-shin, aided by Tang forces, conquered Baekje. In 661, Silla and Tang moved on Goguryeo but were repelled. King Munmu, son of Muyeol and nephew of General Kim launched another campaign in 667 and Goguryeo fell in the following year.
Gaya: Gaya was a confederacy of chiefdoms in the Nakdong River valley of southern Korea, growing out of the Byeonhan confederacy of the Samhan period. In 562, Gaya ultimately was absorbed into Silla.
North and South States
The term North-South States refers to Unified Silla and Balhae, during the time when Silla controlled the Korean peninsula while Balhae expanded into Manchuria. During this time, culture and technology significantly advanced, especially in Unified Shinla.
Unified Silla: After the unification wars, the Tang Dynasty established territories in the former Goguryeo, and began to administer and establish communities in Baekje. Silla attacked the Chinese in Baekje and northern Korea in 671.
China then invaded Silla in 674 but led by General Kim Yu-shin, Silla defeated the Chinese army in the north. Silla drove the Tang forces out of the peninsula by 676 to achieve unification of most of the Three Kingdoms.
Unified Silla was a time when Korean arts flourished dramatically and Buddhism became a large part of Silla culture. Buddhist monasteries such as the Bulguksa are examples of advanced Korean architecture and Buddhist influence. State-sponsored art and architecture from this period include Hwangnyongsa Temple, Bunhwangsa Temple, and Seokguram Grotto, a World Heritage Site. Unified Silla was also a time of peace, as the Song Dynasty of China was nonaggressive. The Song was also an important trading partner with Silla.
Silla began to experience political troubles in 780. This severely weakened Silla and soon thereafter, descendants of the former Baekje established Later Baekje. In the north, rebels revived Goguryeo, beginning the Later Three Kingdoms period.
Korean history - Balhae
Balhae: Balhae was founded in the northern part of former lands of Goguryeo by Dae Joyeong, a former Goguryeo general. Balhae controlled the northernmost areas of the Korean Peninsula, much of Manchuria (though it didn't occupy Liaodong peninsula for much of history), and expanded into present-day Russian Maritime Province. Balhae styled itself as Goguryeo's successor state. It also adapted from the Tang Empire, for example in the layout of its capitals.
In a time of relative peace and stability in the region, Balhae culture flourished, especially during the long reign of the third Emperor Mun (r. 737-793). Like Silla culture, the culture of Balhae was strongly influenced by Buddhism. However, Balhae was severely weakened by the tenth century, and the Khitan Liao Dynasty conquered Balhae in 926.
No historical records from Balhae have survived, and the Liao left no histories of Balhae. Goryeo (see below) absorbed some Balhae territory and received Balhae refugees, including the crown prince and the royal family, but compiled no known histories of Balhae either. The Samguk Sagi ("History of the Three Kingdoms"), for instance, includes passages on Balhae, but does not include a dynastic history of Balhae. The eighteenth century Joseon dynasty historian Yu Deukgong advocated the proper study of Balhae as part of Korean history, and coined the term "North and South States Period" to refer to this era.
Later Three Kingdoms: The Later Three Kingdoms (892 - 936) consisted of Silla, Hubaekje ("Later Baekje"), and Taebong (also known as Hugoguryeo, "Later Goguryeo"). The latter two, established as Unified Silla declined in power, were viewed as heirs to the earlier Three Kingdoms of Korea.
Taebong (Later Goguryeo) was originally led by Gung Ye, a Buddhist monk who founded Later Goguryeo. The unpopular Gung Ye was deposed by Wang Geon (877-943) in 918, when Gung Ye killed his wife and son. Wang Geon was popular with his people, and he decided to unite the entire peninsula under one government. He attacked Later Baekje in 934 and received the surrender of Silla in the following year. In 936, Goryeo conquered Later Baekje.
Goryeo,the birth country of Printing technology
Goryeo : Goryeo was founded in 918 and by 936, replaced Silla as the ruling dynasty of Korea. ("Goryeo" is a short form of "Goguryeo" and the source of the English name "Korea.") The dynasty lasted until 1392. During this period laws were codified, and a civil service system was introduced. Buddhism flourished, and spread throughout the peninsula. The development of celadon industry flourished in 12th and 13th century. The publication of Tripitaka Koreana, and world's first metal printing technology in 13th century, attests to Goryeo's cultural achievements.
In 1231 the Mongols began its campaigns against Korea and after 25 years of struggle, the royal family relented by signing a treaty with the Mongols. For the following 80 years Goryeo survived, but under the interference of the Mongols. In the 1340s, the Mongol Empire declined rapidly due to internal struggles. King Gongmin was free at last to reform a Goryeo government. Gongmin had various problems that needed to be dealt with, which included the removal of pro-Mongol aristocrats and military officials, the question of land holding, and quelling the growing animosity between the Buddhists and Confucian scholars.
Another problem was that "Japanese" pirates were now organizing deep raids into the country. General Lee Seonggye distinguished himself by repelling the pirates in a series of successful engagements. The Goryeo dynasty would last until 1392, when Yi Seonggye, who had heavy support among aristocracy, would easily take power in a coup.
Korean history - Joseon Dynasty
Joseon : In 1392 a Korean general, Yi Seonggye, was sent to China to campaign against the Ming Dynasty, but instead he returned to overthrow the Goryeo king and establish a new dynasty. He named it the Joseon Dynasty in honor of the previous Joseon before (Gojoseon is the first Joseon. "Go" was added to distinguish between the two). King Taejo moved the capital to Hanseong (formerly Hanyang; modern-day Seoul) and built the Gyeongbokgung palace. In 1394 he adopted Confucianism as the country's official religion, resulting in much loss of power and wealth by the Buddhists. Joseon experienced advances in science and culture; most notably, the hangul alphabet was invented by King Sejong in 1443. The Joseon Dynasty is believed to have been the longest-lived actively ruling dynasty in East Asia during the last millennium.
Joseon maintained a stable economy during peaceful times. After the Joseon court was established and completed, the economy began to prosper as well. Early during the Joseon Dynasty, the economy was stable, especially during King Sejong's rule. However, the economy suffered after the Japanese invasions 1592-1598 and internal court corruption, bribery, and heavy tax, strained the Korean economy.
The Joseon formed a class system that greatly affected the economy. The king was at the top of the system, while the yangbans and government officials and generals were below him. Yangbans were influential scholars during the Joseon Dynasty. The middle class consisted of a few merchants and craftsmen.
Joseon dealt with a pair of Japanese invasions from 1592 to 1598 (Imjin War). This conflict brought prominence to Admiral Yi Sun-sin, and the use of turtle ships and hwachas by the Korean military. Subsequently, there were invasions from Manchuria in 1627 (see the First Manchu invasion of Korea) and again in 1636 (see the Second Manchu invasion of Korea), after which the Joseon dynasty recognized the suzerainty of the Qing Empire. There was trade with the Japanese at Busan, and emissaries were sent to Edo in Japan. Europeans were not permitted to trade at Korean ports until the 1880s.