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Monday, 8 July 2013

Gracious and Groovy Gaya (3G), Part I: Royal Tomb of Queen Heo Hwang-ok, Gimhae, Southern Gyeongsang - Queen Consort of King Suro of Geumgwan Gaya and the Progenitor of Gimhae Heo Clan


Heo Hwang-ok (Hangul/Hanja: 허황옥/許黃玉) was a princess who is believed to have travelled from the ancient kingdom of "Ayodhya" to Korea; however her source is still a matter of ongoing research. Information about her comes almost entirely from a few short passages in the Samguk Yusa, an 11th-century Korean chronicle. According to that chronicle, she arrived on a boat and married King Suro of Geumgwan Gaya (Kim Suro) in the year 48 CE. She was the first queen of Geumgwan Gaya, and is considered as the progenitor of Gimhae Heo Clan.

According to the Samguk Yusa, Heo's parents had a dream of King Suro. The dream showed that the king had not yet found a queen. Her father then told her to go to him. She arrived on a boat with gold, silver, and a tea plant. Before marrying the king, she took off her silk trousers and prayed to the mountain spirit.

A tomb believed to be Heo's lies near that believed to be her husband's, in Gimhae, South Korea. A pagoda traditionally held to have been brought to Korea on her ship is located near her grave. The Samguk Yusa reports that the pagoda was erected on her ship in order to calm the god of the ocean and allow the ship to pass. The unusual and rough form of this pagoda, unlike any other in Korea, may lend some credence to the account.

The Samguk Yusa also records that a temple was built in honor of Heo and her husband by King Jilji in 452. The temple was called Wanghusa, or "the Queen's temple." Since there is no other record of Buddhism having been adopted in 5th-century Gaya, modern scholars have interpreted this as an ancestral shrine rather than a Buddhist temple.

Members of both the Heo lineages (including the clans of Gimhae, Hayang, Taein, and Yangcheon{=Gongam}) and the Gimhae Kim lineage consider themselves descendants of Heo Hwang-ok and King Suro. Two of the couple's ten sons chose the mother's name. The Heo clans trace their origins to them, and regard Heo as the founder of their lines. The Gimhae Kims trace their origin to the other eight sons.

The tomb of Queen Heo Hwang-ok is located at 1 Garak Avenue 190th Street/Garak-ro 190beon-gil, Gusan-dong 120-beonji, Gimhae City, Southern Gyeongsang Province - not far from her husband's tomb, which is located at 26 Garak Avenue 93rd Street/Garak-ro 93beon-gil, Seosang-dong 312-beonji in the same city.