|The History of Korea|
Hanseong period (BC 18 ~ AD 475)
There are two different accounts of the founding of Baekje. According to the Samguk Sagi, Baekje was founded in 18 BC by King Onjo, who led a group of people from Buyeo in Manchuria to the Han River region of Korea.
Baekje as a kingdom first appeared in 345 in Chinese records. Much earlier, according to the San Guo Zhi, one of the Mahan chiefdoms in the Han River basin in the early Common Era was called Baekje (伯濟). The early history of Baekje is, thus, attested only through Korean chronicles compiled much later, in the Goryeo dynasty.
However, according to Samguk Yusa, King Onjo was the son of Jumong (King Dongmyeongseong ), the founder of Goguryeo. Jumong escaped from Buyeo, where he was persecuted, to the Jolbon area, where he married the daughter of a local leader and founded the kingdom of Goguryeo. After finding out his true origins, Yuri , Jumong's son from his original marriage in Buyeo, arrived at the palace of Goguryeo and became the crown prince. The sons of Jumong from his new marriage (Onjo and Biryu ) became aware that they would not be welcome in Goguryeo when Yuri succeeded Jumong. So, the two brothers decided to leave Goguryeo and head south with their followers. On the advice of their followers, Onjo built a town in Wiryeseong (current-day Seoul, South Korea) and called his country Sipje (meaning 10 vassals), but Biryu chose to live by the sea, building a town in Michuhol (current-day Incheon, South Korea). However, the salty water and marshes in Michuhol made life unbearable for many, while the people of Wiryeseong lived prosperously. In shame of ignoring the advice, Biryu killed himself. The people of Michuhol then moved to Wiryeseong and King Onjo happily accepted them and renamed the country Baekje (meaning 100 vassals).
Throughout this early period of Baekje, the capital was frequently moved from one point to another for strategic reasons. King Onjo moved the capital from south of the river, to north of the river, and then south again under the pressure of attacks from other Mahan states. The northern and southern locations came to be known as Habuk (north-of-the-river) Wiryeseong and Hanam (south-of-the-river) Wiryeseong. King Gaeru is believed to have moved the capital to the Bukhan Mountain Fortress in 132.
During the reign of King Goi (234-286), the state systems of the kingdom were consolidated. King Geunchogo (346-375) expanded its territory to the north through war against Goguryeo, whilst annexing the Mahan societies in the south. During this period Chinese culture and technology were actively adopted. At this time Baekje reached its greatest geographic extent. During King Geunchogo's reign, the territories of Baekje included most of current-day western Korea (except the two Pyeongan provinces) . Baekje also became a sea power, and continued mutual goodwill relationships with the rulers of Japanese Yamato period . For more information, see Relations with Japan.
Ungjin period ( 475 ~ 538 )
In the 5th century, Baekje retreated under the southward military threat of Goguryeo, and in 475, the capital, Hanseong (present day Seoul), was overrun by the invading troops of Goguryeo. After this invasion, the capital of Baekje was moved to Ungjin (present-day Gongju), and Najedongmaeng, a military solidarity treaty, was made with Silla against Goguryeo.
Sabi period ( 538 ~ 660 )
In 538, King Seong moved his capital to Sabi (in modern-day Buyeo County), and rebuilt his kingdom as a strong state. From this time, the official name of the country was Nambuyeo (meaning South Buyeo), a reference to the country of Buyeo from which Baekje is supposed to have originated. The Sabi Period witnessed the flowering of Baekje culture, alongside the development of Buddhism, which Baekje transmitted to Japan.
In the 7th century, with the growing influence of Silla in the southern and central Korean peninsula, Baekje began to lose influence, regardless of military aid from Japan. Finally, in 660, the coalition troops of Silla and Tang of China launched an attack on Baekje. The capital Sabi eventually fell to Silla and Tang, resulting in the annexation of Baekje by Silla. King Uija and his son were sent into exile in China. Some of the royals probably fled to Japan, where Baekje nobility had long since established cordial ties with the local elite.
The establishment of a centralized state in Baekje is usually traced to the reign of King Geunchogo. He may also have been the first to establish patrilineal succession. Baekje was a monarchy, but like most monarchies a great deal of power was held by the aristocracy. The kings frequently struggled with the nobles for power. For example, King Seong strengthened royal power, but after he was slain in a disastrous campaign against Silla the nobles took much of that power away from his son.
Hae clan and Jin clan were the representative royal houses who had considerable power from the early period of Baekje and they produced many queens over several generations. We can guess that Hae clan was the old royal house before Buyeo clan occupied the royal house, and Hae clan also may have been from the lineage of Buyeo and Goguryeo. The eight clans, Sa, Yeon, Hyeop, Hae, Jin, Guk, Mok, Baek, were powerful nobles in the Sabi era and these clans were recorded in Chinese records like Tongjeon.
It is widely known that Baekje divided its government officials into 16 official ranks, and it seems that the government officials in the rank of Sol from the first, Jwapyeong to the sixth, Naesol may have been the commanders in the fields of politics, administration, military. And the government officials in the rank of Deok from the seventh, Jangdeok to the eleventh, Daedeok may have been the government officials in charge of each field. Mundok, Mudok, Jwagun, Jinmu, Geuku from the twelfth to the sixteenth, may have been the Nang-rangking officials working in the field of military administration. Because the division between the ranks was very clear, the government officials in the rank of sol were dressed in purple and the government officials in the rank of Deok were dressed in red, and the officials in the rank of Mundok and below were dressed in blue.
According to the Samguk Yusa, during the Sabi period the chief minister (or jaesang, 재상) of Baekje was chosen by a unique system. The names of several candidates were placed under a rock(Cheonjeongdae , 天政臺) near the Hoamsa temple located close to Sabi. After a few days, the rock was moved and the candidate whose name had a certain mark was chosen as the new chief minister. Whether this was a form of selection-by-lot or a covert selection by the elite is not clear.
Extent of rule
Most maps of the Three Kingdoms period show Baekje occupying the Chungcheong and Jeolla provinces, and indeed during the Ungjin period and Sabi period this was the core of the country, over which Baekje maintained control until the end. However, during the Hanseong period Baekje control over much of this area was weak or nonexistent. The original heartland of Baekje lay in the Han River valley near present-day Seoul. In the beginning, Baekje was just one among many Mahan states in the valley, but it appears to have become a significant force by the time of King Goi in the mid-3rd century. Through the early centuries of the Common Era, Baekje gradually gained control over the other Mahan tribes, extending it's way until it came into contact with Censored page, which occupied the Nakdong River valley to the west of Mahan territory. The Japanese chronicle Nihonshoki reports that this contact took place in 249.
The boundaries of Baekje control shifted substantially through the centuries. According to Chinese chronicles, Baekje rule during the time of King Geunchogo extended to the Shandong peninsula in present-day China, but it's not clear. At this time Baekje controlled almost the entire coastline of the West Sea (or Yellow Sea). However, the area under Baekje control soon contracted under pressure from Goguryeo and Silla.
Location of the capital
The Baekje capital was moved numerous times during its history. According to most modern scholars, the two locations of Baekje's original capital Wiryeseong were probably within modern-day Seoul. However, the later capital of Hanseong was probably located within present-day Gwangju, to the southeast of Seoul. This capital was kept until it and the Han River valley were seized by Goguryeo in 475. Subsequently the capital was moved to Ungjin in present-day Gongju city, marking the Ungjin period. Under the reign of King Seong, the capital was moved to Sabi, inaugurating the Sabi period which continued until the fall of Baekje.
Each of these transitions marks a shift in Baekje's international position. The Hanseong location provided a basis for control over the fertile Han River valley at a time when Baekje was just emerging as a power among the Mahan states. The Han River was essentially the heartland of the country. This location also facilitated trade with Goguryeo, which archeological evidence indicates was substantial. Its relatively southerly location at Gwangju provided some buffering against the growing Goguryeo menace. The loss of Hanseong in the 5th century was also the permanent loss of the Han River valley.
After this loss, the capital's new location at Ungjin marked a highly defensive posture as Baekje fought to survive. Isolated in fairly mountainous terrain, the new capital was secure against the north but also disconnected from the outside world. It was closer to Silla than Hanseong had been, however, and in this period an alliance was forged between Silla and Baekje.
The capital's 6th-century move to Sabi coincided with King Seong's renaming of the country as "Nambuyeo," or "Southern Buyeo." King Seong sought to redefine the country and place it in a stronger relationship with China. The location of Sabi on the navigable Geum River made trade and diplomatic exchange with China much easier, and indeed both trade and diplomacy flourished during the 6th and 7th centuries. It also marked less friendly relations with Silla.
Art and culture
Baekje artists adopted many Chinese influences and synthesized them into a unique and brilliant artistic tradition. Buddhist themes are extremely strong in Baekje artwork. The beatific "Baekje smile" found on many Baekje sculptures of Buddhas and bodhisattvas expresses the warm feeling found in most Baekje carvings. In addition, Taoist and other Chinese influences are widespread. Chinese artisans were sent to the kingdom by the Liang Dynasty in 541, and this may have given rise to an increased Chinese influence in the Sabi period.
The tomb of King Muryeong (501-523), although modelled on Chinese brick tombs and yielding some imported Chinese objects, also contained many funerary objects of the Baekje tradition, such as the gold diadem ornaments, and gold earrings. Mortuary practices also followed the unique tradition of Baekje. This tomb may be seen as a representative tomb of the Ungjin period.
A splendid gilt-bronze incense burner (백제금동대향로) excavated from an ancient Buddhist temple site at Neungsan-ri , Buyeo County, and considered to be the essence of the Baejke culture, vividly demonstrates the peak of Baekje achievements.
The creativity and excellence of the Baekje culture can be appreciated through the delicate and elegant lotus designs of the roof-tiles of this culture, the splendid and beautiful brick patterns, the beauty of the flowing curves of the pottery style, and the flowing and elegant epitaph writing.
Little is known of Baekje music. However, it would appear from various mentions of local musicians being sent with tribute missions to China in the 7th century that a distinctive Baekje musical tradition had developed by that time.
Relations with China
Buddhism was introduced officially into Baekje in the first year of King Chimryu. Baekje's diplomatic policy for China was changed after Dongjin was destroyed in 418 A.D. and Song Dynasty (a state and dynasty in ancient china) was founded in 420 A.D. Baekje sent envoys frequently to Song and received official rank and asked for all kinds of books and the technological instruction.
King Muryeong and King Seong sent envoys to Liang several times and received titles of nobility. At that time, the purpose of diplomacy toward China was to secure the high ground in the world system centering on China and to receive advanced civilization. These facts were proved by the result of excavation research of King Muryeong's tomb.
Relations with Japan
For most of its existence, Baekje enjoyed close and cordial relations with the Yamato period Japanese kingdom of 倭, pronounced Wa in Japanese and Wae (왜) in Korean. From the 3rd century onward, Wa provided frequent military support to Baekje while Baekje provided Wa with Chinese culture.
Large numbers of Japanese scholars came to Baekje for education and culture, while a large influx of Baekje scholars and immigrants went to Japan and contributed a great deal to the development of the Japanese culture. In addition, Japan provided substantial military support to Baekje. Many members of the Baekje nobility and royalty married into the Japanese imperial line, and many fled to Japan when the kingdom was overthrown.
After Baekje's fall, in 663 Japan sent the general Abe no Hirafu with twenty thousand troops and one thousand ships to revive Baekje with Buyeo Pung, who was a son of King Uija and had been a hostage in Japan. However, this attempt failed; the prince was slain and only half of the troops made it back to Japan.
In the Later Three Kingdoms Period after the decline of Silla, the Baekje state was briefly revived. In 892, the general Gyeon Hwon established the short-lived kingdom of Later Baekje based in Wansan (present-day Jeonju). Hubaekje was overthrown in 936 by King Taejo of Goryeo.
Baekje's role in influencing Yamato period Japanese culture has been a symbolic issue in contemporary relations between South Korea and Japan. The exact nature of the relation between Baekje and Japan has been a flashpoint of controversy. However, the close bonds between the two nations are not in dispute. The current emperor, Akihito, has acknowledged that he is descended from Emperor Kammu, whose mother was a direct descendant of King Muryeong of Baekje. These ties are related in the Japanese chronicle Nihonshoki.
In contemporary South Korea, Baekje relics are often symbolic of the local cultures of the southwest, especially in Chungnam and Jeolla. For example, the gilt-bronze incense burner is a key symbol of Buyeo County, and the Baekje-era Buddhist rock sculpture of Seosan Maaesamjonbulsang is an important symbol of Seosan City.
- Baekje History Museum
- Buyeo National Museum
- Gongju National Museum
- Baekje Research Institute