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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Korea's first period of unification

If you had asked me to guess whether Silla, Baekje or Gogureyo united the Korean peninsula by the end of seventh century I would have said Gogureyo. It was by far the biggest of the three kingdoms. It may surprise you to know that it was actually the significantly smaller Silla. With the aid of the Chinese, Silla conquered first the Gaya federation of chiefdoms in 562, then Baekje in 660 and Gogureyo in 668. I haven't read much about Korea's relations with China over the centuries but I know they have often been allies. During the Silla period trading and diplomatic ties with China were particularly strong.

Confucianism has played a strong role in the shaping of Korean culture and identity. However under the unified Silla dynasty Buddhism was the official state religion. The strong association between Buddhism and the state can be seen in the building of temples and icons paid for by the royal family. Archaeological evidence has also shown that until at least as late as the sixth century rulers attempted to bolster their reputations by associating themselves with Shamanism. (Shamanism is indigenous to Korea and is still going strong today. A friend of mine recently opened a new shop. In the first week she caught a heavy cold and had her purse stolen. She put it down to forgetting to burn money at the river so rushed off to do it at the first available opportunity.) Queen Seondeok was reputed to have the shamanistic ability to see into the future.

I've taken this account from an internet source which I'm not going to reveal just yet because I can still get posts from it. I don't want you reading ahead of me now. ; -) On a completely unrelated note there are ninety-four academic positions available here. I just thought I'd point it out.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is shamanism just superstition?

3:56 pm  
Blogger Mapo said...

Oy. Absolutely not. I'll look at it in detail next time.

4:06 pm  
Blogger Mapo said...


11:54 pm  

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