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The four kingdoms at the end of the 5th century
Korean spelling
Korean alphabet : 고구려
Hanja : 高句麗
Revised Romanization : Goguryeo
McCune-Reischauer : Koguryŏ
Tomb painting from the Goguryeo period

Goguryeo was one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea that existed from 37 BC. Existed until AD 668. During its greatest extent it extended from southern Manchuria to far into the Korean Peninsula ; in addition, Goguryeo fortresses were found in what is now eastern Mongolia , which indicates a much greater extent to the north.

Evidence of the Goguryeo era are the graves recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites in what is now North Korea, as well as the capitals and other graves in the Korean autonomous region of Jilin in what is now China .

Origin of name

The name of the empire was rendered with the Chinese characters 槁 離 or homophones such as 高 離 , 高 驪 or 高麗 . The pronunciation of or is reconstructed as Old Chinese * keu , or as * ray , * C ray or * C rjaj . Beckwith concludes from the reconstruction of a consonant (C) at the beginning of the second syllable that Koryŏ (Goryeo, see also the successor state Goryeo ) was originally identical to the designation Koguryŏ (Goguryeo, 高 句 驪 or 高句麗 ) and the spelling 高 句 驪 Etc. only variants of 高 驪 etc. were.

In central China of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the pronunciation corresponds 高麗 * gaulèi. In Japanese sources such as Nihonshoki , the term 高麗 can be found , which was read in Classical Japanese as Kaurai (today: Kōrai). The Koreas is derived from the name Go (gu) ryeos.


History of Korea
to the 10th Century
Prehistoric Korea
Proto-three realms
Time of the Three Kingdoms
Northern and Southern states
Later three realms


It is believed that Goguryeo dates back to the 2nd century BC. Existed. In Chinese sources it is mentioned in connection with the defeat of Go-Joseon in 108 BC. Mentioned. Smaller tribes from the region around the Amnok River , today's border river of North Korea, formed from Go-Joseon, which was in the process of dissolution , into five kingdoms, which were later combined to form the Goguryeo tribal group, which gave the kingdom its name.

In the early days, it benefited greatly from the fact that China mainly had to fight the Xiongnu .

In 75 BC Goguryeo conquered the Chinese commandant's office Xuantu ( Chinese  玄 菟 ; Kor. Hyeondo).

According to the Chronicle Samguk Sagi written in 1145 , King Jumong only founded the kingdom in 37 BC. In Jolbon Buyeo , part of the Kingdom of Buyeo . Goguryeo traced its origin to the Yemaek (an ancient Korean tribe). The Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms imply that Buyeo and Yemaek were ethnically related and spoke a similar language. Some researchers see the Yemaek ( 濊 貊 ) as the ancestors of today's Koreans.

Development to the Kingdom

Goguryeo became a significant kingdom in the 1st century AD and was constantly expanding its sphere of influence. During the reign of King Taejo in 53, the five kingdoms were declared part of the kingdom of Goguryeo and were from then under a central government.

Goguryeo launched frequent attacks on the Chinese command posts and conquered the small states of Okjeo and Dongye . During this time, the name of the royal family changed from Hae to Go , which could indicate a change in power. It is possible that the royal family simply adopted a new name suggesting Chinese roots.

In the early 3rd century, Goguryeo was dominated by the Chinese Han and Wei dynasties .

Further expansion and conflict with Baekje and Silla

In 313 Goguryeo reached into the Chinese Liaodong peninsula and King Micheon destroyed the last Chinese command post Lelang on what is now Korea's territory, which was roughly on the current border of today's two Koreas and had functioned as a buffer state until then. This created a front position towards Baekje and Silla .

The expansion of the empire suffered minor setbacks due to attacks by the tribe of the Xianbei (342) and Baekjes (371) on Goguryeo's capital, where King Gogukwon was killed.

King Sosurim managed to stabilize the empire again. During his reign, Buddhism was declared the state religion (372) and the Taehak were established for education and training. Around the year 391 Goguryeo became the undisputed ruler of Manchuria east of the Liao River and the northern part of the Korean Peninsula.

At the height of his power

Purple: Goguryeo in its prime.
Orange: Silla , Ocher: Baekje .

Goguryeo reached its greatest extent under the reigns of King Gwanggaeto (391-413) and his son Jangsu . Gwanggaeto captured 65 cities and 1,400 villages, destroyed the Late Yan State, and captured Buyeo and Mohe . He forced Baekje to withdraw in the south and waged wars against Japan of the Yamato period (Wa). Also Silla came under Goguryeo control. His achievements are listed on the Gwanggaeto stele erected in southern Manchuria in 414.

His son, King Jangsu, who came to power in 413, strengthened ties with the Chinese kingdoms of the Former Song Dynasty and the Northern Wei Dynasty . In 427 he moved the capital to what is now Pyongyang in order to get closer to the rival kingdoms of Baekje and Silla in the south of Goguryeos. During this period, the Goguryeo Kingdom comprised three-quarters of the Korean Peninsula and much of Manchuria. In the late 5th century it annexed Bukbuyeo and the remaining Mohe and Chitan tribes .

Goguryeo's tide began to turn in the course of the 6th century. King Anjang was assassinated. His son, King Anwon , succeeded his father to the throne, but the nobility was split into two warring parties, each claiming the throne. Finally, eight-year-old Yangwon was crowned king. The split in the nobility could never be overcome and led to aristocratic feudal lords ( Daedaero ) with their own armies actually dividing power in the state.

The Sui Wars

598 attacked the Chinese Sui dynasty , who saw themselves threatened by continuous attacks on the Liaodong peninsula , Goguryeo. In one of the battles, General Eulji Mundeok , who is still revered in Korea, lured the Chinese troops into an ambush and inflicted heavy losses on them. Chinese sources report that of over 300,000 soldiers, only 3,000 returned. After further unsuccessful wars from 612 to 614, the Sui had to give up and thus sealed their downfall as an imperial dynasty.


642 Goguryeos king Yeongnyu was murdered by his henchman Yeon Gaesomun , who then ascended the throne. The Kingdom of Silla, looking for allies in its war against Baekje, asked Yeon Gaesomun for support, but the latter refused. Thereupon Silla managed to win China ( Tang Dynasty ) , which was hostile to Goguryeo . From 645 onwards the Chinese attacked Goguryeo. Goguryeo's ally Baekje fell victim to the superiority of Silla and Tang 660. Goguryeo was also weakened when, after the death of Yeon Gasemun, his three sons quarreled about the succession and thus sparked a civil war. The worn-out Goguryeo finally had to surrender to the attackers in 668.

Most of Goguryeo in the south was attached to Silla. In the northwest, part of the Tang Dynasty was awarded and the remainder went into the new kingdom of Balhae .

Balhae, founded in 698, claimed the successor to Goguryeo in diplomatic negotiations with Japan . Also Taebong , the first (Hu-Goguryeo 後高句麗 "Later Goguryeo") called, saw itself as Goryeo as the successor to Goguryeo.

Goguryeo in current politics

Although Goguryeo is widely regarded as the Kingdom of Korea, the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China (Taiwan) have claimed it as part of their history since the early 1990s. Whether the motivations of China behind this historical revisionism are defensive or offensive is the subject of discussion. China either only wants to protect its own national territory in the event of Korean reunification , since Korea could lay claim to Manchuria , where more than two million people of Korean origin live. Or China is aggressively pursuing plans to expand its own influence on the Korean Peninsula . China basically justifies its stance with the fact that the majority of the former Goguryeo is now Chinese national territory and in ancient times Jīzǐ / Gija , a Han Chinese, is said to have driven out the king and taken over power. He founded the Kingdom of Gija-Joseon , into which many Han Chinese are said to have immigrated. China's claims sparked anti-Chinese sentiment among Koreans and a renewed “Goguryeo boom” in South Korea . A variety of popular films, television series, or video games were created that deal with this period.

See also


  • Kim Hiyoul: Korean History: An introduction to Korean history from prehistory to modern times . Asgard-Verlag, Sankt Augustin 2004, ISBN 3-537-82040-2 .
  • Joachim Schüring: A divided history . In: Adventure archeology . tape 4/2005 . Spectrum of Science Verl.-Ges., ISSN  1612-9954 , p. 70-77 .
  • Song Sun-Hee: The Koguryo Foundation Myth: An Integrated Analysis . In: Asian Folklore Studies . tape 33 , no. 2 , 1974, p. 37-92 .

Web links

Commons : Goguryeo  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Lucas Woo Miecky: Archaeological Research on the Reasons for the Collapse of Goguryeo Civilization via Complexity Theory . ( academia.edu [accessed December 12, 2019]).
  2. Christopher I. Beckwith: Koguryo. The Language of Japan's Continental Relatives . Leiden / Boston: Brill, 2004, p. 31 f.
  3. Unihan Database according to Hugh M. Stimson: T'ang Poetic Vocabulary . Far Eastern Publications, Yale University, 1976
  4. 高麗 . In: Daijisen at kotobank.jp. Retrieved February 12, 2017 (Japanese).
  5. a b c d Sin Hyeong-sik: A Brief History of Korea . Ewha Womans University Press, 2005, ISBN 978-89-7300-619-9 (English, limited preview in Google Book Search).
  6. ^ C. Melvin Aikens: Pacific northeast Asia in prehistory . WSU Press, 1992, ISBN 978-0-87422-092-6 , pp. 191–196 ( limited preview in Google Book Search).
  7. Peter H. Lee, Wm. Theodore de Bary (Ed.): Sources of Korean Tradition, Vol. 1: From Early Times Through the 16th Century (=  Introduction to Asian Civilizations ). Columbia University Press, 1996, ISBN 978-0-231-10567-5 , pp. 7-11 (English).
  8. ^ Hyung Il Pai: Constructing "Korean" Origins: A Critical Review of Archeology, Historiography, and Racial Myth in Korean State-formation Theories . Harvard University Asia Center, 2000, ISBN 978-0-674-00244-9 , pp. 86 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  9. Stella Yingzi Xu: That glorious ancient history of our nation: The contested re-readings of “Korea” in early Chinese historical records and their legacy on the formation of Korean-ness . ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, Los Angeles 2007, ISBN 978-0-549-44036-9 , pp. 220 (English, preview [accessed March 8, 2017]).
  10. ^ A b c Peter Hays Gries: The Koguryo controversy, national identity, and Sino-Korean relations today . In: East Asia . tape 22 , no. 4 , 2005, doi : 10.1007 / s12140-005-0001-y (English).

Coordinates: 41 °  N , 127 °  E