Three Kingdoms of Korea

Three Kingdoms of Korea
History of Korea-476.PNG
Map of the Three Kingdoms of Korea—Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla—in the fifth century, at the height of Goguryeo's territorial expansion
Korean name
Hunminjeongeum
Hanja
Revised RomanizationSamguk-sidae
McCune–ReischauerSamguk-sidae
Other name
Hunminjeongeum
Hanja
Revised RomanizationSamguk-sigi
McCune–ReischauerSamguk-sigi

The Three Kingdoms of Korea (Korean삼국시대; Hanja三國時代) refers to the three kingdoms of Baekje (백제, 百濟), Silla (신라, 新羅) and Goguryeo (고구려, 高句麗). Goguryeo was later known as Goryeo (고려, 高麗), from which the modern name Korea is derived. The Three Kingdoms period is defined as being from 57 BC to 668 AD (but there existed about 78 tribal states in the southern region of the Korean peninsula and relatively big states like Okjeo, Buyeo, and Dongye in its northern part and Manchuria).

The three kingdoms occupied the entire Korean Peninsula and roughly half of Manchuria, located in present-day China and Russia.[1] The kingdoms of Baekje and Silla dominated the southern half of the Korean Peninsula and Tamna (Jeju Island), whereas Goguryeo controlled the Liaodong Peninsula, Manchuria and the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Baekje and Goguryeo shared founding myths which likely originated from Buyeo.[2]

In the 7th century, allied with China under the Tang dynasty, Silla unified the Korean Peninsula for the first time in Korean history, forming a united Korean national identity for the first time. After the fall of Baekje and Goguryeo, the Tang dynasty established a short-lived military government to administer parts of the Korean peninsula. However, as a result of the Silla–Tang War (≈670–676), Silla forces expelled the Protectorate armies from the peninsula in 676. The following period is known as the Unified Silla or Later Silla (668–935).

Subsequently, Go of Balhae, a former Goguryeo general, founded Balhae in the former territory of Goguryeo after defeating the Tang dynasty at the Battle of Tianmenling.

The predecessor period, before the development of the full-fledged kingdoms, is sometimes called Proto–Three Kingdoms period.

Main primary sources for this period include Samguk sagi and Samguk yusa in Korea, and the "Eastern Barbarians" section (東夷傳) from the Book of Wei (魏書) of the Records of the Three Kingdoms in China.

Names

Beginning in the 7th century, the name "Samhan" became synonymous with the Three Kingdoms of Korea. The "Han" in the names of the Korean Empire, Daehan Jeguk, and the Republic of Korea (South Korea), Daehan Minguk or Hanguk, are named in reference to the Three Kingdoms of Korea.[3][4]

According to the Samguk sagi and Samguk yusa, Silla implemented a national policy, "Samhan Unification" (삼한일통; 三韓一統), to integrate Baekje and Goguryeo refugees. In 1982, a memorial stone dating back to 686 was discovered in Cheongju with an inscription: "The Three Han were unified and the domain was expanded."[3] During the Later Silla period, the concepts of Samhan as the ancient confederacies and the Three Kingdoms of Korea were merged.[3] In a letter to an imperial tutor of the Tang dynasty, Choe Chiwon equated Byeonhan to Baekje, Jinhan to Silla, and Mahan to Goguryeo.[4] By the Goryeo period, Samhan became a common name to refer to all of Korea.[3] In his Ten Mandates to his descendants, Wang Geon declared that he had unified the Three Han (Samhan), referring to the Three Kingdoms of Korea.[3][4] Samhan continued to be a common name for Korea during the Joseon period and was widely referenced in the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty.[3]

In China, the Three Kingdoms of Korea were collectively called Samhan since the beginning of the 7th century.[5] The use of the name Samhan to indicate the Three Kingdoms of Korea was widespread in the Tang dynasty.[6] Goguryeo was alternately called Mahan by the Tang dynasty, as evidenced by a Tang document that called Goguryeo generals "Mahan leaders" (마한추장; 馬韓酋長) in 645.[5] In 651, Emperor Gaozong of Tang sent a message to the king of Baekje referring to the Three Kingdoms of Korea as Samhan.[3] Epitaphs of the Tang dynasty, including those belonging to Baekje, Goguryeo, and Silla refugees and migrants, called the Three Kingdoms of Korea "Samhan", especially Goguryeo.[6] For example, the epitaph of Go Hyeon (고현; 高玄), a Tang dynasty general of Goguryeo origin who died in 690, calls him a "Liaodong Samhan man" (요동 삼한인; 遼東 三韓人).[5] The History of Liao equates Byeonhan to Silla, Jinhan to Buyeo, and Mahan to Goguryeo.[4]

The name "Three Kingdoms" was used in the titles of the Korean histories Samguk sagi (12th century) and Samguk yusa (13th century), and should not be confused with the Three Kingdoms of China.