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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Gracious and Groovy Gaya (3G), Part IV: Royal Tomb of King Guhyeong, Sancheong, Southern Gyeongsang - Final Ruler of Geumgwan Gaya

King Guhyeong of Geumgwan Gaya (Hanja: 仇衡王), also often King Guhae (Reigned: 521-532) was the tenth and final ruler of Geumgwan Gaya, a Gaya state of ancient Korea. He was the son of King Gyeomji and Queen Suk. He married Queen Gyehwa, who was the daughter of the suijil Bunjil. They had three sons, each of whom later became a gakgan, or general: Kim Sejong, Kim Mudo and Kim Moo-ryeok (Kim Yu-shin's grandfather).

Faced with an onslaught of Silla forces under King Beopheung, King Guhyeong chose to surrender freely, and brought his family and his treasures to Silla. He was received with ceremony and his family were admitted to the second-highest rank of the Silla bone rank system, the "true bone." The king was given the rank of Sangdaedeung, and permitted to keep his former territory as sigeup stipend land. According to the Samguk Yusa, this occurred either 520 or 490 years after the kingdom's legendary founding by King Suro.

This stone grave which is located at Hwagye-ri san 16-beonji, Geumseo-myeon, Sancheong County, Southern Gyeongsang Province is known to be the tomb of King Guhyeong, the 10th King of the Gaya Kingdom. He is also known as King Guhae or King Yang, and is the great-grandfather of Kim Yu-shin. Since becoming the King of Gaya in 521 CE, he reigned for 11 years until he handed over his country to King Beopheung of the Silla Kingdom in 532 CE.

There are two different scholarly opinions about this tomb. One is that it should be classified as a stone pagoda and the other, a royal tomb. The reason why this was regarded as a pagoda is that there are similarly shaped stone pagodas in the Andong and Uiseong regions. The basis for it being called Wangneung, or royal tomb, is that there is a record in Dongguk Yeoji Seungram (an ancient history book published during the rule of King Seongjong in the Joseon Dynasty) and in Saneum-hyeon Sancheonjo (a record of events in the region) of it being a tomb. The notes state that "there is a structure with steps on the four faces, in the form of nine dragons piled up of stones at a distance of about 16 km (40 ri in traditional Korean scale) from the village, so people believe it must be a royal tomb".

The record describing the name of the king buried in this tomb can be extracted from a record of travels called Wangsan Shimneunggi written by Hong Ui Young, a Joseon Dynasty scholar. In addition, there’s also an entry  in Wangsansagi, a book on the history of Wangsansa Temple (a temple located west of the tomb) that the person buried in the tomb is King Guhyeong.

Unlike ordinary graves, the tomb is built at the middle part of the hill's slope. The tomb has a unique appearance made up of steps and layers, with the highest point being 7.15 meters high. There are seven layers at the front and no steps at the back due to it being built on an inclined surface. The overall shape of this tomb is different from the pyramids built on level ground. The top of the tomb is oval in shape. At the center, there is a stone tablet with the words "Royal Tomb of King Yang of the Garak Nation". In front of the tomb, there are several stone pieces that have been added to the original tomb. 

During the 17th Year of King Jeongjo of the Joseon Dynasty (1793), a wooden box that was passed down from generation to generation in Wangsansa Temple was discovered. The box contained portraits of King Guhyeong and his queen - Queen Gyehwa, their clothes, an archery bow, and other objects. To preserve these, a royal building called Deogyangjeon Hall was constructed. To this date, a memorial service is held here in spring and autumn of every year.