Monday, October 24, 2011

The Three Kingdoms of Ancient Korea

The Three Kingdoms period in Korean history refers to the period of time from 57 BC  to AD 668, when Korea was divided into three separate kingdoms: Silla, Koguryo and Paekche kingdoms (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2011).

The Koguyro Kingdom (pronounced “Gorudeo”; 37 BC - 670 AD) was the northern and largest of the three kingdoms, extending into what is now modern day China.  In the
ceiling of the Myung- Chong Royal Tomb, archeologists found a mural depicting two youths engaged in sparring.  Located in Tunsko, the capital of Koguyro, the Myung-Chong tomb dates from 3 - 427 AD.  Beginning in 372 AD, during the time of the Koguyro kingdom, the Buddhist monk Sun-Tae introduced philosophical ideas into Tae-kyon and Soo Bak.  Monks continued to develop the martial arts as a means for common man to achieve total body fitness.

The Paekche Kingdom (pronounced “beck-jay”; 18 BC - 668 AD) was located on the southwestern tip of the Korean peninsula, is thought to have been founded in 18 BC, by a legendary leader name Onjo. B y the 3rd century AD, the Paekche kingdom had extended its control to the entire Han River basin area in central Korea.  The kings that ruled the Paekche kingdom supported the martial arts.  Ancient records suggest that the military and common people favored barehanded fighting as a fighting art. Competitions were staged for men and women that included archery and horsemanship.

The Silla Kingdom (57 BC - 936 AD) was located in the southeastern part of Korea and was the smallest of the three kingdoms.  Due to the kingdom's martial arts abilities and leadership of the Hwarang-do, the Koguyro and Paechke kingdoms were assimilated into the Silla kingdom in 668 AD and 660 AD respectively.  The Hwarang-do was an educational, social and military organization  founded by King Jin Heung of the Silla kingdom. Hwarang-do members were comprised of groups of youths from noble families that were devoted to cultivating mind, body and spirit, to better defend and serve the Silla kingdom.  Wong-Wang Bopsa, a teacher for the Hwarang, created a five-point code of honor that is still an important part of Taekwondo today:

1. To serve the king and nation with loyalty.
2. To respect and obey one's parents.
3. To be faithful to one's friends.
4. Courage in battle.
5. Not to kill indiscriminately.

The Silla Kings presided over a cultural renaissance lasting over a thousand years. During this period of time, the Silla kingdom fostered developments in the sciences, mathematics, the arts, culture, and religion.

CTI Student Manual. (2008). In Colorado Taekwondo Institute.
Korean History. (2011). In VANK (VANK (Voluntary Agency Network of Korea). Retrieved
Three Kingdoms period. (2011). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from

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