Queen Seondeok of Silla

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Queen Seondeok of Silla
Hangul 선덕여왕, also 선덕왕
Hanja 善德女王, also 善德王
Revised Romanization Seondeok yeowang, also Seondeok wang
McCune–Reischauer Sŏndŏk yŏwang, also Sŏndŏk wang
Monarchs of Korea
Silla
(Pre-unification)
  1. Hyeokgeose 57 BCE – 4 CE
  2. Namhae 4–24
  3. Yuri 24–57
  4. Talhae 57–80
  5. Pasa 80–112
  6. Jima 112–134
  7. Ilseong 134–154
  8. Adalla 154–184
  9. Beolhyu 184–196
  10. Naehae 196–230
  11. Jobun 230–247
  12. Cheomhae 247–261
  13. Michu 262–284
  14. Yurye 284–298
  15. Girim 298–310
  16. Heulhae 310–356
  17. Naemul 356–402
  18. Silseong 402–417
  19. Nulji 417–458
  20. Jabi 458–479
  21. Soji 479–500
  22. Jijeung 500–514
  23. Beopheung 514–540
  24. Jinheung 540–576
  25. Jinji 576–579
  26. Jinpyeong 579–632
  27. Seondeok 632–647
  28. Jindeok 647–654
  29. Muyeol 654–661

Queen Seondeok of Silla (Korean pronunciation: [sʰʌndʌk jawʌŋ]; ? - 17 February 647) reigned as Queen[1] of Silla, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, from 632 to 647.[2] She was Silla's twenty-seventh ruler, and its first reigning queen. She was the second female sovereign in East Asian history and encouraged a renaissance in thought, literature, and the arts in Silla.[3]

Selection as heiress[edit]

Before she became queen, Seondeok was known as Princess Deokman (덕만(德曼)). According to the Samguk Sagi, she was the first of King Jinpyeong's daughters. But according to other historical records, she was the second of King Jinpyeong's daughters and much younger than her elder sister, Princess Cheonmyeong. Her nephew, Princess Cheonmyeong's son, eventually became King Muyeol of Silla while Seondeok's other sister, Princess Seonhwa, eventually married King Mu of Baekje and became the mother of King Uija of Baekje. Seonhwa's existence is controversial due to the discovery of evidence in 2009 that points to King Uija's mother as being Queen Sataek, and not Seonhwa as indicated by historical records.

Because he had no sons, Jinpyeong selected Seondeok as his heir. Though unprecedented, this action would probably not have been all that shocking within Silla, as women of the period already had a certain degree of influence as advisors, dowager queens, and regents (Jinpyeng himself gained the throne as a result of a coup d'etats organized by Lady Mishil). Throughout the kingdom, women were the heads of families since matrilineal lines of inheritance existed alongside patrilineal ones. Within the Silla kingdom, the status of women was relatively high, but there were still restrictions on female behavior and conduct; they were discouraged from activities considered unwomanly. Ultimately, Seondeok's successful reign in turn facilitated the acceptance of two more Queens regnant of Silla.[4]

Reign[edit]

In 632, Seondeok became the sole ruler of Silla, and reigned until 647. She was the first of three female rulers of the kingdom (the other two being Jindeok of Silla and Jinseong of Silla), and was immediately succeeded by her cousin Jindeok, who ruled until 654.

Seondeok's reign began in the midst of a violent rebellion and fighting in the neighboring kingdom of Baekje were often what preoccupied her. Yet, in her fourteen years as queen of Silla, she used her wit to her advantage. When Baekje invaded, she sought an alliance with Goguryeo. When Goguryeo also turned on Silla, she strengthened ties with Tang China.[5] She kept the kingdom together and sent royal emissaries and scholars to China. She is also credited with the initial formulation of a Korean chivalric code and sent young Koreans to China for martial arts training.[6]

Like Empress Wu Zetian of the Tang and her own father, she was drawn to Buddhism and presided over the completion of Buddhist temples. Notable amongst Buddhist structures she had built is the nine-story wooden pagoda in Hwangnyongsa. On each story of the 80 meters high structure was the name inscribed of one of the neighbors Silla intended to subjugate.[7] Bunhwangsa and Yeongmyosa were also built under her auspices.

She built the "Star-Gazing Tower," or Cheomseongdae, considered the first dedicated observatory in the Far East. The tower still stands in the old Silla capital of Gyeongju, South Korea. She also worked towards relief of poverty.

In the first lunar month of 647, Bidam led a revolt with the slogan that "female rulers cannot rule the country” (女主不能善理).[8] Legend says that during the uprising, a star fell and was interpreted by Bidam's followers as a sign of the end of the queen's reign. Kim Yushin (commander-in-chief of the royal army from 629) advised the queen to fly a burning kite as a sign that the star was back in its place.

Yeomjong stated that about ten days after Bidam's uprising, he and thirty of his men were executed. By then Queen Seondeok had died and her cousin had ascended the throne as Queen Jindeok. Neither the date of her birth nor the cause of her death are known.

Legends[edit]

It is believed that Seondeok's selection as her father's successor was justified by her displays of precocious intelligence when she was a princess. One such story (both in Samguk Sagi and Samguk Yusa) recounts that her father received a box of peony seeds from the Emperor Taizong of Tang accompanied by a painting of what the flowers looked like. Looking at the picture, the young Seondeok remarked that while the flower was pretty it was a shame that it did not smell. "If it did, there would be butterflies and bees around the flower in the painting." Her observation about the peonies' lack of scent proved correct — just one of many illustrations of her intellect and hence of her ability to rule.

There are two other accounts of Seondeok's unusual ability to perceive events before their occurrence. In the first it is said that Seondeok once heard a horde of white frogs croaking by the Jade Gate pond in the winter. She interpreted this as an impending attack from the Kingdom of Baekje (the croaking frogs were seen as angry soldiers) in the northwest of Silla (white symbolized the west in astronomy) at the Women's Valley (the Jade Gate was associated with women). When she sent her generals to the Women's Valley, they were able to capture two thousand Baekje soldiers.

The second is an account of her death. Some days before she died, Seondeok gathered her officials and gave the order "When I die, bury me near the Dori-cheon (忉利天, "Heaven of Grieved Merits")." Decades after her death, the thirtieth king Munmu of Silla constructed Sacheonwang-sa (四天王寺 "Temple of the Four Heavenly Kings") in her tomb. Then the nobles realized that one of the Buddha's sayings, "Dori-cheon is above the Sacheonwang-cheon", was accomplished by the Queen.

Media[edit]

She was portrayed by actresses Nam Ji Hyeon and Lee Yo-won in MBC's Queen Seondeok, which was first broadcast in 2009, and by Park Joo Mi and Hong Eun-hee in the 2012 KBS drama Dream of the Emperor.

Family[edit]

  1. Princess Cheonmyeong (天明公主 천명공주, dates unknown),[10] 1st or 2nd daughter
  2. Princess Seonhwa (善化/花公主 선화공주, dates unknown),[11][12] 3rd daughter[13][14]
  3. Princess Cheonhwa (天花公主 천화공주, dates unknown)[15]
  • Brothers-in-law and their issue:
  1. Kim Yong-chun (金龍春 김용춘,[16] 578-647),[17] Princess Cheonmyeong's husband[citation needed],[18] 13th Pungwolju.
    1. Kim Chun-chu (金春秋 김춘추 604-661), only son[citation needed], 18th Pungwolju; later King (Taejong) Muyeol (太宗武烈王 태종무열왕).
  • Cousin: Kim Seung-man (金勝曼 김승만), only daughter of Gukban (國飯 국반)[19][20] & Lady Wolmyeong of the Park clan (月明夫人朴氏 월명부인 박씨);[21] later Queen Jindeok (眞德女王 진덕여왕).
  • Husband: Galmunwang Eum (飮葛文王 음갈문왕) - possibly married to Queen Seondeok after the first year of her reign.

External links[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ She was sometimes referred to as (female) King Seondeok, since the Korean language uses the term "female king" for the position referred to as "queen regnant]]" in English.
  2. ^ Il-yeon: Samguk Yusa: Legends and History of the Three Kingdoms of Ancient Korea, translated by Tae-Hung Ha and Grafton K. Mintz. Book One, page 57. Silk Pagoda (2006). ISBN 1-59654-348-5
  3. ^ Silla Korea and the Silk Road by Koreasociety
  4. ^ Lee. p. 137.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ Lee. p. 139.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ Wollock. p. 254.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ Lee. p. 140.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ * (7. Silla and Wa) - Bidam
  9. ^ Her royal name is influenced by Śākyamuni's mother's name
  10. ^ Posthumously known as the Empress Dowager Munjeong (文貞太后 문정태후).
  11. ^ (Korean) Princess Seonhwa at Doosan Encyclopedia
  12. ^ According to the Memorabilia of the Three Kingdom, she is the wife of Baekje's King Mu and mother of Uija.
  13. ^ However, theories based on the History of the Three Kingdoms suggest that she was the wife of King Dongseong and some theories say that she wasn't even a princess but a daughter of a wealthy noble.
  14. ^ (Korean) Princess Seonhwa at The Academy of Korean Studies
  15. ^ Her existence is recorded through the The Annals of the Hwarang.
  16. ^ He is also known as Kim Yong-su (金龍樹 김용수)
  17. ^ Posthumously known as the Great King Munheung (文興大王 문흥대왕).
  18. ^ Princess Cheonmyeong is Kim Yong-chun's 1st wife; he had 3 other wives (two of them were her sisters Queen Seondeok when she was still Princess Deokman, and the other was Princess Cheonhwa); as well as having 3 lovers.
  19. ^ Also known as Gukgian (國其安 국기안); youngest brother of King Jinpyeong.
  20. ^ Granted the title of Galmunwang (葛文王 갈문왕) in Jinpyeong's first year (579), and was known as Galmunwang Jin'an (眞安葛文王 진안갈문왕).
  21. ^ Also known as Lady Ani (阿尼夫人 아니부인)

Sources[edit]

  • Lee, Bae-yong (2008). Women in Korean History. Ewha Womans University Press. 
  • Wollock, Jennifer G. (2011). Rethinking Chivalry and Courtly Love. Praeger.