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Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Silla Superiority Complex, Part III: Royal Tomb of Silla Oreung, Gyeongju, Northern Gyeongsang - Untold Stories of Four Kings of Silla

The Royal Tomb of Silla-Oreung (“oreung” meaning “five royal tombs”) have been officially designated Historic Site No. 172 and are the final resting places of three kings of the Park clan — King Park Hyeokgeose-Geoseogan (founder of the Silla Kingdom), King Namhae-Chachaung, King Yuri-Isageum, King Pasa-Isageum — and one queen (Lady Aryeong, wife of King Park Hyeokgeose-Geoseogan). The tomb is located at 38-9 Geumseong Avenue/Geumseongno, Tapdong, Gyeongju City, Northern Gyeongsang Province.  

To the east of the royal tombs lies Sungdeokjeon Shrine, which holds the ancestral tablet of King Park Hyeokgeose. Behind the shrine is the Aryeongjeong Well, said to be the birthplace of Queen Aryeong.

About King Hyeokgeose-Geoseogan
Hyeokgeose of Silla (69 BC - 4 AD, r. 57 BC–4 AD), commonly called Bak (Park, Pak) Hyeokgeose, was the founding monarch of Silla, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. He was the progenitor of all Park clans in Korea.

His title Geoseogan (거서간, 居西干) or Geoseulhan (거슬한, 居瑟邯), means "king" in the language of the Jinhan confederacy, the group of chiefdoms in the southeast of the Korean Peninsula. His surname was Bak (Park, Pak), which comes from the Korean word for "gourd", as legend says that he was born from an egg shaped like a gourd. He is thus known as the originator of the Korean family name Park (박, 朴). "Hyeokgeose" was not a personal name, but the hanja for his honorific name, pronounced "Bulgeunae" (불그내) in archaic Korean, meaning "bright world."

The Samguk Sagi and Samguk Yusa describe the founding of Silla by Hyeokgeose. Refugees of Gojoseon lived in the valleys of present-day Gyeongsang Province, South Korea, in six villages called Yangsan (양산촌, 楊山村), Goheo (고허촌, 高墟村), Jinji (진지촌, 珍支村), Daesu (대수촌, 大樹村), Gari (가리촌, 加利村), and Goya (고야촌, 高耶村).

In 69 BC, the heads of the six chiefdoms gathered to discuss forming a kingdom and selecting a king. In the forest, at a well called Najeong at Yangsan, a strange light shone from the sky, and a white horse was bowed down. Chief Sobeolgong of Goheo discovered a large egg there. A boy came out of the egg, and when bathed, his body radiated light and birds and beasts danced.

Sobeolgong raised him, and the six chieftains revered him. The chieftains made him king when he became 13 years old. The state was named Seonabeol. Upon becoming king, he married Lady Alyeong (알영, 閼英), who is said to have been born from the ribs of a dragon.

This legend reflects developments in the city-state stage, the six chieftains representing a loose group of Gojoseon refugees. The story implies the ascendency of the Bak clan over the native peoples, and may indicate horse and sun worship.

According to the Samguk Sagi, Hyeokgeose and his queen traveled the realm in 41 BC, helping the people improve their harvests. The people praised them as the Two Saints or Two Holy Ones (이성, 二聖).

In 37 BC Hyeokgeose built Geumseong (금성, 金城) in the capital city (present-day Gyeongju), and in 32 BC he built a royal palace inside. The Chinese Lelang commandery invaded in 28 BC but seeing that the people enjoyed piles of grain and did not lock their doors at night, called Silla a moral nation and retreated.

In 20 BC, the king of the Mahan confederacy demanded a tribute. Silla sent Hogong, who was a minister of Silla. The king was angry that Silla sent Hogong and not a tribute. Hogong criticized the king's impoliteness with fortitude. The king was angry at him and tried to kill him, but nearby subordinates stopped the king, and he was permitted to return to Silla. Hyeokgeose also sent an emissary upon the death of the Mahan king in 19 BC. In 5 BC, East Okjeo (a small state to the north, later conquered by Goguryeo) sent an emissary, and Hyeokgeose presented him with 20 horses.

Hyeokgeose ruled for around 60 years, and set the foundation for a kingdom that would unify much of the Korean Peninsula in 668. Hyeokgeose maintained control over his kingdom and was one of the few Park rulers to hold complete power over Silla. He died at age 73, and was buried in Sareung, north of Dameomsa (south of Namcheon). Hyeokgeose was succeeded by his eldest son Namhae.

Though not much is known about Hyeokgeose, his many legacies and reminders survive to this day. One of them being his numerous descendants, the Park clans of Korea, who are numbered as the third largest group of people with a common last name. Another legacy was the kingdom that he established. Despite the fact that his descendants eventually lost power over Silla, the fact that he founded it remained under high respects and great consideration.

About King Namhae-Chachaung
Namhae of Silla (?-24, r. 4–24 CE) was the second King of Silla, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. He is commonly called Namhae Chachaung, chachaung being an early Silla title. Namhae is the only king who is called Chachaung. According to the Samguk Sagi, Kim Dae-Mun explained that the title "Chachaung" meant a shaman in Old Korean. He was the eldest son of Park Hyeokgeose, Silla's founder, and Lady Aryeong. His surname was Park, and his wife was Lady Unje (운제, 雲帝).

His reign was characterised by a series of foreign invasions. In 4, the Nangnang army surrounded Geumseong, the Sillan capital, but was repelled. The Wa of Japan invaded Silla in 14, and while Silla stopped them, Nangnang invaded again. A comet shower was said to have scared the Lelang soldiers, however, and they retreated. He was buried in Sareung-won.

About King Yuri-Isageum of Silla
Yuri of Silla (?-57, r. 24-57) was the third king of Silla, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. He is not to be confused with King Yuri-myeong of Goguryeo. He is commonly called Yuri Isageum. 

As a descendent of Silla's founder Hyeokgeose, his surname was Park. His title was Isageum, also recorded as Ijilgeum or Chijilgeum. This title is a change from Geoseogan (the first king Hyeokgeose) and Chachaung (second king Namhae). The actual Silla word is thought to be Itgeum. Imgeum is the modern Korean word for "King".

Yuri was the son of Silla's second ruler, Namhae, and his queen Lady Unje. It is unclear how many siblings Namhae had, but he did have a sister. This sister, Princess Ani, was married to a non-Sillan man named Talhae, who originated from an island nation called Tapana. Talhae became a very highly ranked official and Namhae seemed to prefer him as successor instead of his son. This is revealed on Namhae's deathbed, but Talhae insists that the prince's rise to the throne would be righteous and allowed Yuri to become the next ruler of Silla.

According to the Samguk Sagi, the principal source for events of this period, Yuri centralized rule over the aristocracy by turning the six tribes into six official administrative divisions of Silla. He is said to have granted surnames to each of the clans: Yi, Choi, Son, Jeong, Bae, and Seol. He is also said to have created 17 bureaucratic rank levels. However, modern scholars doubt that these occurred so early in Silla's development.

Silla was attacked by Lelang commandery and other tribes, but made peace with Maekguk (probably Dongye, present-day Chuncheon). The Samguk Sagi records that Silla conquered Iseoguk (present-day Cheongdo), but this appears to be a mistaken recording of an Yurye-era event.

During Yuri's reign, the Silla people celebrated a holiday during the 15th day of the 8th month, where two teams of women would compete in a contest. The losers of the contest would have to prepare songpyeon, rice cakes, meats, fruits, and other food, shared by everyone in a feast. This is said to have been the origin of the modern Korean holiday Chuseok.

Also during Yuri Isageum's reign was the rise of the Gaya confederacy as a military power in the region. Silla was under constant rivalry with Baekje already, but Gaya in the middle was even more of a direct threat.

Yuri Isageum had two sons, but his dying words were to make his brother-in-law, Seok Talhae (Future King Talhae-Isageum), his successor to the throne. Yuri Isageum died in 57 AD after 34 years of reign.

About King Pasa-Isageum
King Pasa-Isageum (Hanja: 婆娑尼師今; died 112, r. 80–112) was the fifth ruler of Silla, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. He is commonly called Pasa Isageum, isageum being the royal title in early Silla. As a descendent of Silla's founder King Hyeokgeose-Geoseogan/Geoseulhan, his surname was ParkHe succeeded to the Silla Dynasty's Throne after fourth monarch, King Talhae-Isageum of Gyeongju Seok Clan died in 80 CE.

According to the Samguk Sagi, he was either the second son of Silla's third king Yuri-Isageum (not to be confused with King Yurimyeong of Goguryeo), or the son of Yuri's younger brother Naero. If he was Yuri's nephew, this may indicate the powerful support of the Seok clan.

In 87, he built Silla's first recorded castles outside of the Gyeongju region which is called Pasa Fortress - located at Yeoju, Gyeonggi Province.

In 94, when the adjacent Gaya confederacy attacked, Pasa sent 1,000 cavalry to respond. When the Gaya attacked again two years later, he personally led a force of 5,000 to another victory. Pasa was subsequently appeased by an emissary from Gaya, but maintained superiority over the confederacy.

In 101, the Wolseong royal fortress was first constructed. Portions of this fortress are still preserved in central Gyeongju.

The next year, Silla gained control over the previously independent states of Siljikgok (present-day Samcheok, Gangwon Province), Eumjipbeol (present-day northern Gyeongju, Northern Gyeongsang), and Apdok (present-day Gyeongsan, Northern Gyeongsang). Six years later he took over the states of Biji (present-day Hapcheon, Southern Gyeongsang), Dabeol (present-day Pohang, Northern Gyeongsang), and Chopal (present-day Changwon, Southern Gyeongsang) as well.

The rival Korean kingdom of Baekje had attacked in 85, but King Pasa made peace with King Giru of Baekje in 105.