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Saturday, 31 January 2015

Silla Superiority Complex, Part XXIX: Tomb of General Kim Yu-shin, Gyeongju, Northern Gyeongsang


The tomb of General Kim Yushin (Born: 595 - Died: 673) is Historic Site No. 21. It is located in a scenic area thick with pine trees, on the eastern hill of Mt. Songha (Specific Location: 44-7 Chunghyo 2nd Street/Chunghyo 2-gil, Chunghyo-dong san 7-10 beonji, Gyeongju, Northern Gyeongsang Province).

Known as the ‘Hero and Unifier of Silla Kingdom,’ General Kim Yushin was the great grandson of King Guhae, the last king of the Geumgwan Gaya Dynasty, and the son of Seo Hyeon, the great general of the Silla Kingdom. Yushin joined the Hwarang (aristocratic youth military corps) at 15 and began dreaming of ways to unify the peninsula’s three kingdoms. Kim Yushin gained his political foothold by establishing a strong relationship with nobleman Kim Chunchu and made a name for himself through his valor on the battlefield.

When Kim Chunchu eventually succeeded to the throne as the 29th king of the Silla Kingdom (changing his name to King Taejong-Muyeol), Kim Yushin rose through the ranks and was eventually promoted to the extraordinarily high-ranking position of Sangdaedeung (in the year 660, 7th year of King Muyeol’s reign). Kim then went on to defeat the Baekje in cooperation with the Tang Dynasty, also later conquering the Goguryeo (in the year 668). The Tang Dynasty, turned against the Silla after the collapse of Goguryeo, but was defeated by Kim Yushin’s army in cooperation with the armies of Goguryeo and Baekje. With the fall of the Tang, Kim finally realized his dream of unifying the three kingdoms and was appointed the highest government post in Silla in honor of his heroic achievement.

The tomb of General Kim Yu-shin is a large tomb measuring roughly 30m in diameter. The relief carvings of 12 Oriental zodiac gods (half man, half animal) stand guard around the tomb, brandishing weapons. The elaborately decorated tomb is second in grandeur only to those of royalty, further underscoring Kim Yushin’s major contribution in unifying the three kingdoms.

The path to this tomb is also a sight not to be missed. The street leading up to the tomb is called Heungmuro, and has been selected as one of the 100 Most Beautiful Streets in Korea. The street is full of cherry blossoms in spring and is famous for being a great place to take a walk or go for a drive.