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Saturday, 2 August 2014

Silla Superiority Complex, Part XV: Royal Tomb of King Naemul-Maripgan, Gyeongju, Northern Gyeongsang - A Sensible Bit of Old Korean Language


King Naemul-Maripgan of Silla (Hanja: 奈勿麻立干; died 402; Reigned: 356–402) was the 17th ruler of the Korean kingdom of Silla. He was the nephew of King Michu-Isageum and the second King from the Royal House of Gyeongju Kim. He married Michu's daughter, Lady Boban (보반부인/保反夫人). He is given the regnal title of Naemul-Isageum (내물이사금/奈勿尼師今), the same one borne by earlier rulers since the reign of King Yuri-Isageum from the Royal House of Gyeongju Park, in the Samguk Sagi; he is given the title Maripgan, borne by later rulers, in the Samguk Yusa. King Naemul was known as the first king to initiate the king title of ‘Maripgan’ and was known for spreading cultural advancements from China to the Korean people. 

He is also the first king to appear by name in Chinese records. It appears that there was a great influx of Chinese culture into Silla in his period, and that the widespread use of Chinese characters began in his time. Naemul sent a tribute mission to the king of Early Jin in 381.

Naemul's later reign was troubled by recurrent invasions by Wa Japan and the northern Malgal tribes. This began with a massive Japanese incursion in 364, which was repulsed with great loss of life. When the allied forces of Baekje and Japan attacked, he asked King Gwanggaeto the Great of Goguryeo for help and led the people to victory, contributing to the increased strength of the Silla Kingdom. After his demise, the throne of Silla Kingdom was succeeded by King Silseong-Maripgan of the Royal House of Gyeongju Kim.

The Royal Tomb of King Naemul-Maripgan in Gyodong 14-beonji, Gyeongju, Northern Gyeongsang Province is a large mound (2.2m in diameter and 5.3m in height) that sits on the northern hill of Gyeongju Hyanggyo. The edge of a natural stone is exposed around the bottom of the mound, pointing to the fact that the inner chamber tomb was made of stone. In the historical document Samguk Sagi (History of the Three Kingdoms), no records are found about the tomb, but the Samguk Yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms) describes the king’s tomb as being located in the southwest of Cheomseongdae, which is consistent with the tomb’s location.


Old Korean Language (Languages of Korean Three Kingdoms)
Old Korean is the historical variety of the Korean language or Koreanic languages dating from the beginning of Three Kingdoms of Korea to the latter part of the Unified Silla, roughly during the 4th to 10th centuries CE. It is distinct from Proto-Korean (원시 한국어), the ancestral language reconstructed from comparison of Korean dialects. Old Korean may have been one of the Altaic languages, although this has not been clearly established.

The extent of Old Korean is unclear. It is generally accepted as including Sillan, which is thought to be the direct ancestor of Middle and Modern Korean, and may also have included Buyeo, Goguryeo, and Baekje. If so, Old Korean was a language family, not a single language.

Only some literary records of Unified Silla, changed into Goryeo text, are extant and some texts (written in their native Writing system) of the Three Kingdoms period are mostly available in form of inscriptions at present. Thus, the languages of the Three Kingdoms period are generally examined through official government names and local district names. The point at which Old Korean became Middle Korean is assessed variously by different scholars. The line is sometimes drawn in the late Goryeo dynasty, and sometimes around the 15th century in the early Joseon Dynasty. But it is usually thought that Middle Korean started at the establishment of Goryeo, and the standard language of Old Korean was changed from the Silla dialect to the Goryeo dialect.

The first texts in Old Korean date from the Three Kingdoms period. They are written using Chinese characters (Hanja) to represent the sound and grammar of the native language. Various systems were used, beginning with ad hoc approaches and gradually becoming codified in the scribal idu system and the hyangchal system used for poetry, and in a later phase (leading up to Middle Korean) gugyeol. Additional information about the language is drawn from various proper nouns recorded in Korean and Chinese records, and from etymological studies of the Korean pronunciations of Chinese characters, which are believed to have been first adapted into Korean in the late Three Kingdoms period.