The Han Dynasty's Influence
Location (or at least the believed location) of the Commanderies
After their defeat of Gojoseon in 108 BC, the Han Dynasty established three commanderies in the domain of Wiman Joseon and then proceeded to establish one more commandery in a Northern area of the peninsula. The southernmost commandery was Zhenfan ( 真番郡 ), known as Jinbeon ( 진번군 ) in Korean, which was located slightly north of the current border between North and South Korea. Xuantu ( 玄菟郡 ), or Hyondo ( 현도군 ), was the farthest north and was located slightly above the boundary between China and North Korea. Lelang ( 樂浪郡 ), or Nakrang ( 낙랑군 ), was positioned in west near modern-day Pyongyang and Lintun ( 臨屯郡 ), or Imdun ( 임둔군 ), was located in the east near the Sea of Japan.
So what exactly were these Commanderies?
All four of the areas share the last symbol called "jun", or 郡, and this is interpreted today to mean commandery. A commandery was an administrative division of China that was positioned on the border regions of newly acquired territory. Counties, or xian ( 县 ), were also created in these areas, but by the time of the establishment of the four commanderies in Korea (actually, anytime after 221 BC), commanderies had become more important divisions because of their military power. There is some debate over how accepting the Korean people were of their new leaders. On one hand, the Lelang commandery was able to survive for over 400 years on the peninsula. This would seem to indicate that the people in the region were generally willing to submit to Han authority. The other side of the argument points to raids by the up-and-coming Goguryeo and Buyeo Kingdoms as evidence of Korea's displeasure with their foreign invaders.
Success of the Chinese Commanderies
In 82 BC, after only 25 years in existence, the Zhenfan and Lintun Commanderies were eliminated and their areas of control passed to Lelang and Xuantu respectively. What does this indicate about the success of these commanderies? Talk to a Korean scholar and he'll tell you the commanderies were forced to shut down because of Korean resistance. Talk to a Chinese scholar and he'll tell you that the areas simply came under more centralized control by the Lelang and Xuantu Commanderies. So what's the truth? Well, it seems me that the Chinese view is probably more accurate than the Korean viewpoint. That's not to say there wasn't resistance on the part of the Koreans, but overall it seems as though the Chinese treated Koreans fairly. In 75 BC, the Xuantu Commandery, the northernmost commandery, was moved west. This again may or may not have been due to resistance by the Korean people. In 204 AD another commandery was established near the modern-day North Korean / South Korean border and it was named Daifang ( 帶方郡 ), or Daebang ( 대방군 ). Xuantu was the first of the commanderies to fall when Goguryeo conquered it in 302 AD. This was followed by the Goguryeo annexation of Lelang in 313 and of Daifang later that year.
Lasting Influence of the Han Dynasty
What does the Han Dynasty have to show for a 400 year presence in Korea? The Han Dynasty actually ended up being arguably the most influential Chinese Dynasty on Korean culture. The Koreans borrowed new art forms, new technology, and even new burial practices from the Han Dynasty. Korea was also influenced by China's religious ideas and social organization, which would both manifest themselves later when the Koreans adopted Buddhism and Confucianism.
The Rise of the Confederated Kingdoms
The Four Old States (in addition to Gojoseon)
|These states were part of the Iron Age in Korea|
Buyeo was founded between the 4th and 2nd centuries BC and remnants of the kingdom lasted until 494 AD when the royal court surrendered itself to Goguryeo (to be talked about later) authority. This was the earliest of the Confederated Kingdoms and is known as the second kingdom on the peninsula. The kingdom was situated in a fertile plain in what is now Northeast China, making it the most northern of any of the Confederated Kingdoms. It is reported that Buyeo's territory stretched 2,000 ri ( 리 ), or about 500 miles, in all directions from the capital, but the name and exact location of the capital is still unknown. The founding date of Buyeo is also unknown, but through Chinese records it becomes apparent that Buyeo became a powerful kingdom around the beginning of the 1st century AD. Despite China's initial weariness of Buyeo, China and Buyeo developed a close relationship due to their mutual enemy, Goguryeo. This relationship with the Chinese protected Buyeo for most of its existence from Goguryeo and the nomadic people to the north. However, Buyeo became exposed when nomadic tribes forced the Jin Dynasty ( 晋朝 ) to move south in 316. Murong Huang ( 慕容皝 ) of Xianbei ( 鲜卑 ), a nomadic people in Manchuria and Mongolia, invaded in 346 and took the king prisoner. Possession of Buyeo was later passed to Goguryeo in 370. After paying tribute to Goguryeo for many years, Buyeo's royal court finally moved into Goguryeo territory in 494 after an attack by the Mohe ( 물길, pronounced Malgal in Korean ), bringing an official end to the state of Buyeo.
Okjeo ( 옥저 )
Heading south leads to the state of Okjeo. Okjeo was a minor state that existed on the Korean peninsula from about the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD. It was located on the east coast in the middle area of modern-day North Korea. Okjeo was originally part of Gojoseon prior to the fall of that kingdom. Despite its 600 year existence, it was never able to expand into a true kingdom due to constant interference from its neighbors. Okjeo was turned into a vassal state by Goguryeo in the 1st or 2nd century AD before being annexed by Goguryeo in the early 5th century.
Dongye ( 동예 )
Dongye, also known as Eastern Ye, was a small state located directly to the south of Okjeo. Very little is known about this state, but it is believed to have existed between the 3rd century BC and 5th century AD. As was the case with Okjeo, Dongye encountered constant interference from Goguryeo, which greatly hindered the state's development. Dongye served as a vassal state to Goguryeo and was also annexed around the same time as Okjeo.
Jin ( 진 )
Jin was the southernmost Korean state during this period and existed during the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. The state of Jin encompassed the area of modern-day South Korea. Jin was a culturally homogeneous area, but it more than likely consisted of small walled-town states as opposed to one centrally organized state. During the 3rd century and most of the 2nd century, Jin was prevented from obtaining the advanced metalworking knowledge of the Chinese because of the obstruction of Wiman Joseon's position between itself and China. However, the collapse of the Joseon Kingdom led to rapid change in Jin as it began to acquire more knowledge about the use of iron. Jin began growing in power as a result of this new technology and it eventually turned into three new states that became known as the Samhan.
Restructuring the Peninsula
Goguryeo ( 고구려 )
Note: This post will only cover Goguryeo's interaction with the Chinese Commanderies and the other early Korean states. I will cover Goguryeo in more depth when I discuss the Three Kingdoms Period.
Goguryeo was founded in 37 BC and from the very beginning this was a warlike kingdom. In fact, the more I read about this kingdom, the more I came to think of Goguryeo as the Sparta of the East. Goguryeo's history is centered around constant battles with the Chinese and with neighboring states in Korea and Manchuria. Members of the warrior aristocracy did not engage in any activities other than training for combat, even in times of peace. The main reason given for Goguryeo's almost constant aggression is the lack of resources within its own territory. The state formed at the modern-day border of North Korea and China, but Goguryeo was eventually able to expand its territory to include all of North Korea, the northern area of South Korea, and a good portion of Manchuria. As stated previously in this post, Goguryeo successfully conquered Buyeo to the north, Okjeo and Dongye to the southeast, and the Xuantu, Lelang, and Daifang Commanderies to the southwest. In addition to these conquests, Goguryeo also successfully obtained the Liao-tung region to the west and conquered a Manchurian tribe to the northeast. Goguryeo holds a special place in Korean history because of its ability to rid Korea of the Chinese Commanderies and its unification of the northern half of the peninsula.
Samhan ( 삼한 )
So we've finally arrived at the Three Kingdoms Period. Goguryeo has successfully conquered the northern portion of the peninsula, while Baekje and Silla occupy the south. My next few posts will probably be on this time period because it is the first extensive period that I will be covering on this blog. I'm thinking maybe a post on each kingdom and then one to tie to everything together, but I haven't really figured it out yet.