Three kingdoms of Korea

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Map of the four kingdoms of the Korean Peninsula at the end of the 5th century
Korean spelling
Korean alphabet : 삼국
Hanja : 三國
Revised Romanization : Samguk
McCune-Reischauer : Samguk
History of korea
Prehistoric Korea
Proto-three realms
Time of the Three Kingdoms
Northern and Southern states
Later three realms
States of imperial unity
Colonial times
Division of Korea

The three kingdoms of Korea are the kingdoms of Goguryeo , Baekje and Silla , which were established between the 1st century BC. BC to the 7th century AD ruled large parts of the Korean Peninsula and Manchuria . The period from the fall of the northern kingdom of Go-Joseon and the relatively little explored southern kingdom of Jin to Silla's victory over Goguryeo is therefore also referred to as the time of the three kingdoms in Korean historiography .

Some historians consider the name to be wrongly chosen, since there was also another kingdom, Buyeo, from the 2nd century BC, which was influenced by Koreans . Existed in Manchuria until 494 AD, which was conquered by Goguryeo in 494 .

Reports about this time are mainly based on the Samguk Sagi ( German Chronicle of the Three Kingdoms), which was created in 1100 AD , and is the oldest surviving Korean script on the history of Korea. There are also Chinese and Japanese sources. To what extent the information in the Samguk Sagi is true is questionable, since it can be assumed that the author Kim Bu-sik, who, like 38 of the 56 Silla kings, belonged to the Gyeongju-Kim clan, tried to defend the supposed superiority of the later dominant kingdom To highlight Silla.

There is evidence that the three kingdoms developed as influential states between the 4th and 6th centuries AD. Goguryeo had the tiger as heraldic animal, Baekje the bear and Silla a rooster.

The three kingdoms

The three kingdoms were probably founded as city-states soon after the defeat of Go-Joseon and the fall of the southern Jin Empire, and gradually gained influence through the annexation of the surrounding areas. Three of the four Chinese command posts dating from the Han Dynasty 108 BC After the victory over Go-Joseon were founded on its territory, quickly fell to the loose confederation of Jinhan in the east of today's South Korea, from which Silla was later to emerge. The last, Lelang , was defeated by Goguryeo in 313 AD. All three kingdoms had a similar culture, which was strongly influenced by Confucianism and Daoism due to the close ties to the Chinese Empire . They all introduced Buddhism as the state religion around the 4th century AD .


According to the Samguk Sagi, the kingdom of Goguryeo was founded in 37 BC. Founded by King Dongmyeong (Jumong) on the banks of the Yalu River in today's border area between North Korea and China . But it was probably older and had split off from Go-Joseon almost 100 years earlier. The name Goguryeo is found in Chinese scripts as early as 75 BC. Chr. Mention.

Goguryeo soon succeeded in conquering large parts of Manchuria . It became the largest of the three kingdoms. After 313 n. Chr Chinese. Lelang commandery had defeated, it moved his capital south to Rakrang ( kor. 락랑 ), located on the territory of modern Pyongyang was. In the 5th century AD, at the zenith of his power, Goguryeo occupied the Chinese peninsula Liaodong in the north and the area around what is now Seoul in the south . After the Sui Dynasty in China reunified the empire in 581, Goguryeo was repeatedly exposed to attacks by Chinese troops, which continued under the subsequent Tang Dynasty .


According to the Samguk Sagi, the Baekje Kingdom was established in 18 BC. BC by King Onjo , a son of the founder of Goguryeo, in what is now Seoul. It covered the southwest of the Korean Peninsula. The Chinese script Sanguo Zhi describes a member of the Manhan League of Nations as "Baekje".

Baekje largely adopted Chinese culture and technology. As a sea power, it played a special role in trade and relations with Japan .


The Samguk Sagi reports that the kingdom of Saro (also Seorabol ) was founded in 57 BC. By the union of Jinhan , a federation of city-states. Saro was renamed Silla in 503 AD .

The capital of Silla was Seorabol . Excavations suggest that Silla's culture was more strongly influenced by nomadic tribes in the north and that the influence of Chinese culture was correspondingly less.

Smaller states

Other smaller states existed in the "period of the three kingdoms" , which were gradually conquered by the three great kingdoms:

  • Gaya or Mimana on the south coast of the peninsula: conquered by Baekje and Silla
  • Dongye and Okjeo on the north east coast of the peninsula: conquered by Goguryeo
  • Buyeo north of the peninsula: controlled by Goguryeo before its demise
  • Usan on Ulleungdo and Tamna on Jejudo : vassal states dependent on Silla


Silla incorporated the kingdom of Gaya or Mimana in the first half of the 6th century AD, after which Goguryeo and Baekje allied against Silla. In order to be able to defend himself against the attacks of his rivals, the king of Silla asked the help of the Chinese Tang dynasty , which was made possible by the recently conquered access to the Yellow Sea . After Silla, with the support of his Chinese allies, first occupied Baekje (660 AD) and finally Goguryeo (668 AD), it drove out the remaining Tang troops and ushered in the era of the United Silla on the Korean Peninsula.

See also


  • JW Best: Buddhism and polity in early sixth-century Paekche . Korean Studies 26.2 (2003), pp. 165-215.
  • Lee Ki-baek : A New History of Korea . Tr. by EW Wagner, EJ Schulz, based on the revised edition from 1979; Seoul: Ilchogak, 1984
  • Na Hee-la: Ideology and religion in ancient Korea . Korea Journal 43,4 (2003), 10-29. [1]
  • Sarah M. Nelson: The archeology of Korea . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993
  • Richard J. Pearson , JW Lee, WY Koh, A. Underhill: Journal of Anthropological Archeology, 8.1 (1989), pp. 1-50.

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