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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Gracious and Groovy Gaya (3G), Part II: Royal Tomb of King Suro, Gimhae, Southern Gyeongsang - First King of Geumgwan Gaya and Progenitor of Gimhae Kim Clan

King Suro (수로/首露), or Sureung (수릉, 首陵) (posthumous name), (? - 199), commonly called Kim Suro, was the legendary founder and king of the state of Geumgwan Gaya - a part of the Gaya Confederacy; in southeastern Korea. He was the progenitor of Gimhae-Garak Kim Clan. Members of the Gimhae Kim clan, who continue to play important roles in Korean life today, trace their ancestry to King Suro, as do members of the Gimhae Heo clan which is originated from Queen Heo Hwang-ok; they did not inter-marry until the beginning of the 20th century.

According to the founding legend of Geumgwan Gaya recorded in the 13th century texts of the Garak State Chronicles (Hangul/Hanja/Romanization: 가락국기/駕洛國記/Garak Gukgi) of Samguk Yusa, King Suro was one of six princes born from eggs that descended from the sky in a golden bowl wrapped in red cloth. Suro was the firstborn among them and led the others in setting up 6 states while asserting the leadership of the Gaya confederacy.

Also according to legend, King Suro's queen Heo Hwang-ok was a princess from the Indian country of Ayuta (아유타, 阿踰陀). She is said to have arrived in Gaya by boat. They had ten sons and two daughters in all, two sons took their mother's family name. Ayuta is today often identified with Ayodhya in India, and the tale has gained modern significance in the light of the modern-day relations between Korea and India.

The legend as a whole is seen as indicative of the early view of kings as descended from heaven. Notably, a number of Korean kingdoms besides the six Gaya made foundation legends with ties to chickens and eggs. Jumong, the founding king of Goguryeo, is said to have been born from an egg laid by Lady Yuhwa of Buyeo; Park Hyeokgeose-Geoseogan, the first king of Saro-guk, or Silla, is said to have hatched from an egg discovered in a well; and Kim Alji, the progenitor of the Kim dynasty of Silla, is said to have been discovered in Gyerim Forest by Hogong in a golden box, where a rooster was crowing. Aspects of the legend have been mined for information about the customs of Gaya, of which little is known.

According to an "Garakgukgi" in Samguk-yusa, King Suro's Tomb was constructed in 199 A.D., and there was a small building called Pyeonbang (便房) beside the tomb at that time. But the old tomb had a wooden outer-coffin and a lower mound than the tomb we see today. It is generally thought that King Munmu of Silla re-established the royal tomb of King Suro in its present location in 661 A.D. Immediately after being enthroned, King Munmu the Great of Unified Silla gave the following order: "King Suro is my ancestor from my mother's side fifteen generations previous, so attend to him at the shrine of my royal ancestors."

The shrine was not a detached palace, as it is these days. Rather, the shrine was placed in front of the grave. King Munmu likely built a new shrine in front of King Suro's royal tomb, and raised the mound. At this time, King Munmu probably slightly changed the location of King Suro's Tomb and remodeled the interior into a stone chamber with a side entrance, making the tomb look like a typical Silla royal tomb.

King Suro's royal tomb and shrine, thus established, managed to survive through the final days of the Silla Dynasty into the Goryeo Era. However, it faced challenges from new local powers, grave robbers, and the Goryeo Dynasty. The tomb endured because King Suro's descendants in the region managed to maintain some influence into the Goryeo Era. In the latter part of the twelfth century A.D., King Munjong repaired the tombs of King Suro and Queen Heo Hwang-ok and erected a gravestone.

However, as the result of raids by Mongol and Japanese pirates between the end of the Goryeo Dynasty and the early days of Joseon, the area surrounding King Suro's tomb lay in ruins for hundreds of years. In 1439 A.D., during the reign of King Sejong the Great of Joseon, the provincial governor of Gyeongsang had a rice paddy made at the gravesite and oxen and horses were pastured on the collapsed mound of the tomb. The tomb's boundary was now scarcely thirty feet square. During the reign of King Seongjong toward the end of the fifteenth century A.D., Hoiro-dang and the shrine house were built.

Jibong-yuseol claims that Toyotomi Hideyoshi's forces raided King Suro's Tomb in 1592 A.D, during the outbreak of Imjin Invasion. At that time, it was said that the hollowed-out area inside the tomb was very wide and two young women outside the coffin seemed to have been buried alive with the deceased. In the process of restoring the tomb, gravestones and stone animal figures were erected at the tomb of King Suro and Queen Heo hwang-ok in the twenty-fourth year (1646 A.D.) of King Injo's reign.

Over successive generations, the number of buildings attached to King Suro's Tomb gradually increased. In the seventeenth year (1793 A.D.) of King Jeongjo the Great's reign, the King permitted the local inhabitants to rebuild buildings on the site and construct Napreung's Main Gate and Garak-ru. In the fifteenth year (1793 A.D.) of King Jeongjo's reign, the shrine palace, called "Sungseon-jeon," received letters written on a signboard from the King. The royal tomb and royal ancester's shrine at old Garak-guk were restored.

The Royal Tomb of King Suro which is located at 26 Garak Avenue 93rd Street/Garak-ro 93beon-gil, Seosang-dong 312-beonji, Gimhae City, Southern Gyeongsang Province is accessible by using Busan-Gimhae LRT to Station B117: Royal Tomb of King Suro Station (Gimhae Express Bus Terminal).