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Thursday, 30 October 2014

Silla Superiority Complex, Part XXVII: Royal Tomb of King Wonseong (Gwaereung), Gyeongju, Northern Gyeongsang

King Wonseong of Silla (Hangul/Hanja: 원성왕/元聖王; Reigned: 785-798, died 798), whose born as Kim Kyung-shin (김경신/金敬信) was the 38th Monarch of Silla Dynasty. He was a twelfth-generation descendant of King Naemul-Maripgan. His father was Kim Hyo-yang, and his mother was Lady Gye-oh, the daughter of Park Chang-do. Wonseong's queen was Lady Yeonhwa, the daughter of Gakgan Kim Sin-sul.

In 780, Wonseong fought alongside his kinsman Kim Yang-sang to defeat the rebellion of Kim Ji-jeong. The rebellion left King Hyegong a.k.a Kim Geon-woon dead, and Kim Yang-sang took the throne as King Seondeok. The new king gave Wonseong the title of sangdaedeung. After Seondeok died without an heir, the nobles chose Wonseong as the new king.

In 787, Wonseong sent tribute to Tang China and requested a title. In 788, he established the national civil service examination for the first time, on the Tang model. After his death in 798, the king was buried south of Bongdeoksa Temple which is known as the Sillan Royal Tomb of Gwaereung (괘릉/掛陵).

The Royal Tomb of King Wonseong (Gwaereung), 38th king of the Silla Kingdom (785-798) in 139 Singyeipsil Street/Singyeipsil-gil, Gwaereung-ri san 17-beonji, Oedong-eup, Gyeongju, Northern Gyeongsang Province is Historic Site No. 26. The tomb is 21.9m in diameter and 7.7m high and is encircled by a stone fence decorated with twelve oriental zodiac images. 

The area is also home to a number of stone monuments that stand facing each other: Hwapyoseok (marking the border of the tomb), Muninseok (civil servant statue), Muinseok (military officer image statue) and Dolsaja (a stone lion that protects the tomb). Muinseok in particular is a favorite among visitors because of its exotic appearance. The statue is sometimes compared to a strong and charismatic person of Arabic or Persian descendant, much like the merchants who came to Silla in ancient times.

Gwaereung is styled after tombs of the Tang dynasty, but still retains all the characteristics typical of Silla tombs; namely, the stones around the tomb, the 12 oriental zodiac figures, the protective walls, and the decorative stonework.