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Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Silla Superiority Complex, Part XXXVII: Royal Tomb of King Heon-gang, Gyeongju, Northern Gyeongsang - Golden Years of Silla Dynasty


King Heon-gang of Silla (Hanja: 憲康王; Born: circa 861 - Died: 886; Reigned: 875–886), whose born as Kim Jeong (김정/金晸) was the 49th ruler the Korean ancient kingdom of Silla. According to the Samguk Sagi, he excelled at civil affairs. Heon-gang was the eldest son of King Gyeongmun and his mother was Queen Munui. He had no legitimate heir, but did leave a son (later King Hyogong) by Lady Uimyeong. King Heon-gang paired Cheoyong, son of the Dragon King of the East sea and beauty.

Referring to the prosperity of Geumseong-Seorabeol, the capital of the ancient Silla, records from Samguk Yusa (‘Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms’) reveal that there were ‘178,936 houses’. Sillan Citizens enjoyed its Golden Years under the reign of King Heon-gang. During the reign of King Heon-gang, Silla enjoyed the most peaceful reign so much so that people never stopped singing in the streets.

In 879, Heon-gang was faced with the rebellion of a high official, his Ilgilchan Shin Hong. In 886, he sought to defuse domestic discontent with a decree of general forgiveness. King Heon-gang died in 886 CE and buried to the northeast of Borisa temple in Gyeongju.

The Royal Tomb of King Heon-gang in Namsan-dong san 55-beonji, Gyeongju City, Northern Gyeongsang Province is a round grave mound thickly surrounded with pine trees, giving it a cozy feeling. The mound looks unique for its four layers of stones piled together around the bottom of the tomb to prevent it from collapsing. Inside the tomb where a room, the coffin and a connecting passageway is located, the internal structure and excavated remains reveal a style that had not been used since the 8th century. 

When considering the period of King Heon-gang’s rule, its style often raises controversy as to whether it truly is the grave of King Heon-gang. The reason why this grave site was assumed to be King Heon-gang’s is because of the phrase in Samguk Sagi (‘The Historical Record of the Three Kingdoms’) which says, ‘The funeral took place in the southeastern direction of Borisa Temple’.