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Detail of inscription.
|Hangul||광개토왕릉비 also 호태왕비|
|Hanja||廣開土王陵碑 also 好太王碑|
|Revised Romanization||Gwanggaeto wangneungbi also Hotae Wangbi|
|McCune–Reischauer||Kwanggaet'o wangneungbi also Hot'ae Wangbi|
The stele of Gwanggaeto the Great of Goguryeo was erected in 414 by Jangsu of Goguryeo as a memorial to his deceased father. It is one of the major primary sources extant for the history of Goguryeo, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, and supplies invaluable historical detail on his reign as well as insights into Goguryeo mythology.
It stands near the tomb of Gwanggaeto in what is today the city of Ji'an along the Yalu River in present-day northeast China, which was the capital of Goguryeo at that time. It is carved out of a single mass of granite, stands nearly 7 meters tall and has a girth of almost 4 meters. The inscription is written exclusively in Classical Chinese and has 1,802 characters.
The stele has also become a focal point of varying national rivalries in East Asia manifested in the interpretations of the stele's inscription and the place of the Empire of Goguryeo in modern historical narratives. An exact replica of the Gwanggaeto Stele stands on the grounds of War Memorial of Seoul and the rubbed copies made in 1881 and 1883 are in the custody of China and the National Museum of Japan, respectively, testament to the stele's centrality in the history of Korea and part of Manchuria.
The stele's location, in Ji'an in the northeastern Chinese province of Jilin, was key to its long neglect. Following the fall of Goguryeo in 668, and to a lesser extent the fall of its successor state Balhae in 926, the region drifted outside the sway of both Chinese and Korean geopolitics. Afterwards the region came under the control of numerous Manchurian states, notably the Jurchen and from the 16th century the Manchu. When the Manchu conquered China in 1644 and established their hegemony, they guarded their ancestral homeland in Manchuria, prohibiting movement there by any non-Manchu peoples. This seclusion came to an end at the end of the 19th century, when the region was opened up for Han Chinese emigration. Manchuria thereafter became the coveted prize of vying regional powers, notably Russia and Japan for its rich natural resources and strategic location.
The opening up of Manchuria also resulted in the influx of Chinese and Japanese scholars, the latter often supplemented by Japanese spies traveling incognito to spy the region's fortifications and natural layout, prescient of a future of increased international rivalry. In the late 19th century many new arrivals to the region around Ji'an began making use of the many bricks and baked tiles that could be found in the region to build new dwellings. The curious inscriptions on some of these tiles soon reached the ears of Chinese scholars and epigraphers. Many were found to bear an inscription in ancient Chinese script reading:
"May the mausoleum of the Great King be secure like a mountain and firm like a peak."
It was around 1875 that an amateur Chinese epigrapher Guan Yueshan, scrounging for more samples of such tiles around Ji'an, discovered the mammoth stone stele of Gwanggaeto obscured under centuries of mud and overgrowth.
The clearing away of the stele's face invariably led to the damaging of its engraved text. Almost every inch of the stele's four sides were found to be covered with Chinese characters (nearly 1800 in total), each about the size of a grown man's hand. The discovery soon attracted scholars from Japan, Russia, and France. In 1883 a young Japanese officer named Sakō Kageaki traveling in the guise of an itinerant Buddhist monk arrived in Ji'an. Sakō had been ordered from his last post in Beijing to proceed back to Japan via Manchuria and to make detailed observations there of the region's layout. It was while traveling through Liaoning that he apparently heard of the stele's recent discovery and managed to procure an ink rubbing of the stele's face to carry back to his homeland. It was scholars in Japan who were to make the first detailed analysis of the stele's ancient text.
Note: Text written with italic in brackets has been reconstructed from glyphs chipped or eroded on the stone monument.
Of old, when our first Ancestor King Ch'umo laid the foundations of our state, he came forth from Northern Puyo as the son of the Celestial Emperor [Ch'onje]. His mother, the daughter of the Earl of the River (Habaek), gave birth to him by cracking an egg and bringing her child forth from it. Endowed with heavenly virtue, King Ch'umo [accepted his mother's command and] made an imperial tour to the south. His route went by the way of Puyo's Great Omni River. Gazing over the ford, the king said, "I am Ch'umo, son of August Heaven and the daughter of the Earl of the River. Weave together the bullrushes for me so that the turtles will float to the surface." And no sooner had he spoken than [the God of the River] wove the bullrushes so that the turtles floated to the surface, whereupon he crossed over the river. Upon the mountain-fort west of Cholbon in Piryu Valley he established his capital, wherein his family would long enjoy the hereditary position. Accordingly he [ritually] summoned the Yellow Dragon to come down and "meet the king." The King was on the hill east of Cholbon, and the Yellow Dragon took him on its back and ascended to Heaven. He left a testamentary command to his heir apparent, King Yuryu, that he should conduct his government in accordance with the Way. Great King Churyu succeeded to rule and the throne was handed on, [eventually] to the seventeenth in succession, [who], having ascended the throne at twice-nine [i.e., eighteen], was named King Yongnak ("Eternal Enjoyment"). His gracious beneficence blended with that of the August Heaven; and with his majestic military virtue he encompassed the Four Seas like a [spreading] willow tree and swept out [the Nine Tribes of Barbarians (Kui),] thus bringing tranquillity to his rule. His people flourished in a wealthy state, and the five grains ripened abundantly. But Imperial Heaven was pitiless, and at thirty-nine he expired in majesty, forsaking his realm. On the twenty-ninth day, uryu, of the ninth month of the kabin year [28 October 414] his body was moved to its tumulus, whereupon we erected this stele, with an inscription recording his glorious exploits to make them manifest to later generations. Its words are as follows:
It came to pass in the fifth year of "Eternal Enjoyment" [Yongnak] [AD 395], ulmi, that because the Piryo [wouldn't desist from their quarrelling], the King personally at the head of his army crossed over Pu Mountain and [then another] Pu Mountain. On reaching the bank of the Yom River, he smashed their three villages, with six or seven hundred encampment in all; he seized cattle, horses, and sheep too numerous to count. He thereupon turned homeward.
Paekchan [Paekche] and Silla had long been our subject peoples and such had brought tribute to our court. But the Wa [the Yamato Polity in Japan] had, since the sinmyo year , been coming across the sea to wreak devastation. Paekche [in concert with them] invaded Silla and subjected its people.
In the sixth year, pyongsin , the King personally led his naval force to chastise Paekche. The army, [marching by separate routes], first attacked and took eighteen fortified towns, after which they [advanced and laid siege to] that state's capital. The enemy, rather than bring their spirit into submission, dared to come out and fight numerous battles. Flaring up in terrible rage, the King crossed the Ari River. He sent his vanguard to put pressure on the city, and [with a lateral thrust and frontal assault] they seized the capital. The Paekche king (Chan wang), in dire straits, proffered a thousand male and female captives and a thousand bolts of fine cloth. Pledging his allegiance to our king, the Paekche king swore a solemn oath: "From this time on I shall forever be your slave-guest." Our King graciously granted him pardon for his [earlier] transgressions and formally recorded the sincerity of his pledge of obedience. Thereupon, [having taken possession of] fifty-eight towns and seven hundred villages, he turned his army around and returned to his capital, bringing with him the Paekche king's (Chan wang's) younger brother and ten great officers.
In the ninth year, kihae, of Yongnak [ AD 399], Paekchan [Paekche], in violation of its sworn oath, concluded a peace with the Wa. The king responded by making a tour down to P'yonyang, where an envoy sent from Silla reported to him, saying "The Wa people have filled our territory and are overwhelming and smashing our walls and moats. Since, as slave-guests, we have become your subject people, we take refuge in Your Majesty and ask for your command." The great king in his benevolence praised the sincerity of their loyalty and sent the envoy home to impart [a secret plan] to the Silla king.
In the tenth year, kyongja [AD 400], the king sent five myriads of troops, both foot and horse, to go to the aid of Silla. The whole area from Namgo-song to the Silla capital was filled with Wa people. At the approach of our government troops the Wa enemy retreated. [Our government troops came following their tracks; attacking the Wa] from behind, our troops reached Chongbal-song in Imna gara (Mimana), which forthwith surrenderd.
The troops of the Alla people seized the Silla capital. It was full of Wa people, who flooded over the walls [in flight?].
In the fourteenth year, kapchin [AD 404], the Wa rose up and made an incursion into the territory Daebang. The king's forces, having waited for them at a critical point, surprised and assaulted them. The Wa marauders [Woegu] were utterly defeated, and countless numbers of them had their throats cut.
In the seventeenth year, chongmi [AD 407], the king issued instructions for the dispatch of five myriads of troops, foot and horse, [to wipe out the Wa marauders once and for all. When the marauders turned back and invaded P'yongyang, the royal] army engaged them in battle, smiting them mightily and wiping them out entirely.
Chronology of Gwanggaeto Wars
The stele records entire battles of Gwanggaeto's reign and his triumphs. Recorded battles are following;(The full text in classical Chinese is available at the Chinese wikisource) These historical accounts were also verified to be accurate by historical Chinese texts.
- Article of year 395:
- The King led troops to defeat Paeryeo tribe (稗麗; believed to be a Khitan tribe) and acquired their livestock. He inspected the state and returned in triumph.
- Article of year 396:
- Baekje and Silla were previously the subservient states of Goguryeo.
- Since 391, Wa had been crossing the sea to attack Silla in conjunction with Baekje (see next section below).
- At this year, the King led troops and conquered many Baekje castles. As the troop reached the capital, the Baekje king surrendered and swore to be a subject of Goguryeo. Gwanggaetto returned home with kidnapped Baekje prince and nobles.
- Article of year 398:
- Assigned troops to conquer a tribe of Sushen (粛慎土谷) to capture 300 people. Since then, they have sent tribute to Goguryeo.
- Article of year 399:
- Baekje broke previous promise and allied with Wa. Gwanggaeto advanced to Pyongyang. There he saw Silla's messenger who told him that Wa's troops were crossing the border for invasion, and asked Goguryeo for help. As Silla swore to be Goguryeo's subject, the King agreed to save them.
- Article of year 400:
- The King sent 50,000 troops to save Silla. Wa's troops retreated just before the Goguryeo troops reached to Silla capital. They chased Wa's forces to a castle in Imna Gaya (Mimana). The Japanese troops in the castle soon surrendered.
- (Following many disappeared letters; Some traceable letters include "Alla soldiers in defense (安羅人戍兵)", "Wa (倭)", and "collapse (潰)", and likely to be records of further battles against Gaya and Wa, but no details are available.)
- Prince Bokho of Silla paid tribute to Goguryeo.
- Article of year 404:
- Wa unexpectedly invaded southern border at Daifang. The King led troops from Pyongyang to prevail. Wa troops collapsed with enormous casualties.
- Article of year 407:
- The King sent 50,000 troops and battled (the chinese characters mentioning the opponent state are scratched out). The triumphant Goguryeo force acquired enormous amount of military equipment, capturing six castles.
- Article of year 410:
- Eastern Buyeo ceased tribute to Goguryeo. The King led troops to conquer them. Eastern Buyeo was surprised (and surrendered. Some characters are also scratched out in this passage). As they submitted to the King's kindness, there was also a noble who followed the King to Goguryeo.
Debate over an ancient message
It soon became clear that the stele was dedicated to king Gwanggaeto of Goguryeo, who reigned 391–413 CE It also became clear the stele was raised as a grand memorial epitaph to the celebrated monarch, whose empty tomb indeed lay nearby. Though historians and epigraphers still grapple with the interpretation of portions of the text, the inscription's general layout is clear. One face provides a retelling of the foundation legend of Goguryeo. Another provides terms for the maintenance of Gwanggaeto's tomb in perpetuity. It is the rest of the inscription, which provides a synopsis of Gwanggaeto's reign and his numerous martial accomplishments (see section above) that is rife with the most controversy.
The most controversial portion of the stele's narrative has come to be known simply as the "sinmyo passage". The sinmyo passage as far as it is definitively legible reads thus (with highly defaced or unreadable characters designated by an X):
- 而 倭 以 辛 卯 年 來 渡 海 破 百 殘 X X [X斤 (新)] 羅 以 爲 臣 民
The Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Office, which learned about the stele and obtained a rubbed copy from its member Kagenobu Sakōo in 1884, became intrigued over a passage describing the king's military campaigns for the sinmyo 辛卯 year of 391 (sinmyo being a year designator in the sexagenary cycle that characterizes the traditional Sino-oriented East Asian calendar). Some officers in the Japanese army and navy conducted research during the 1880s and the rubbed copy was later published in 1889. Most Japanese scholars, notably Masatomo Suga, interpreted the passage as follows (brackets designating a "reading into" the text where the character is not legible):
- "And in the sinmyo year the Wa (Japanese) came and crossed the sea and defeated Baekje, [unknown], and [Sil]la and made them subjects."
They presumed that Wa referred to a centralized Japanese government at the time that controlled the entire western part of Japan.
In the 1910s and 20s, Torii Ryūzō and other Japanese scholars traveled to Ji'an and observed the stele close hand. They found that the inscription had been repaired by clay and lime, and therefore questioned the credibility of the rubbed copy.
The first Korean scholarly study was that of Chang in 1955. He supposed that the subjects of the sentence 渡海破 and 以爲臣民 were respectively Goguryeo and Baekje. By Chang's interpretation the entire passage read as follows:
- "And in the sinmyo year Goguryeo came and crossed the sea and defeated Wa. Baekje made [unknown] and [Sil]la its subjects."
In 1959 the Japanese scholar Teijiro Mizutani published another important study. He had acquired rubbed copies made before the repair of the stele and concluded that Sakō's copy had not been made by the rubbing method but rather had been traced, a method known in China as 双鉤塡墨.
The North Korean scholar Kim reported his conclusions in a 1963 article. He had studied the Japanese chronicles Kojiki and Nihonshoki, and concluded that Wa referred to colonies of Samhan in Japan. He claimed that these colonies were established by Korean immigrants and was centered in Kyūshū, Kinai, Izumo. Later, according to Kim, the colonies were absorbed by Yamato polity, which was also founded by Koreans. He also posited that the subject of 來渡海破百殘 was Goguryeo, and 百殘 was not the Baekje kingdom but Baekje's colony in Japan. Other North Korean scholar also argued for Goguryeo's invasion of Japan.
Many Korean scholars reject the interpretation that Japan conquered Baekje and Silla on the basis of evidence that cites the contrary. It is difficult to tell when sentences begin or end because of the absence of punctuation and the necessity of reading into the text via context. Furthermore, the subjects Baekje and Silla are not recognizably mentioned in the passage; only the first character for "Baekje" (百) is noted, and even the supposed first character of Silla is not complete (only 斤 as opposed to 新). Furthermore, the character "jan" (殘) was a character used derogatively by Goguryeo in place of the character "jae" (濟) in Baekje's official name (this may have denoted wishful thinking on the part of Goguryeo that another nation came and conquered Baekje). Thus, when taking into consideration the major absence of characters and lack of punctuation, the passage reads:
And in the sinmyo year the Wa (Japanese) crossed the sea. (Abbreviation of someone's title) made (?) subjects of (?) However, further analysis of the passage is that Goguryeo, not Japan, crossed the sea and defeated Baekje or Wa.
In the case of this interpretation, and the abbreviation of King Gwanggaeto's title in the passage, the passage states:
And in the sinmyo year the Wa crossed the sea. King Gwanggaeto (abbreviation) made Silla and Baekje subjects of (?). Some point out several facts that put in doubt the traditional Japanese interpretation of the sinmyo passage. Firstly, the term Wa at the time the stele was made did not solely refer to people from Japan but could also refer to the people from southern Korean, particularly from the Gaya Confederacy.
In 1972 the Zainichi Korean scholar Lee Jin-hui reported the most controversial theory of the interpretation. He claimed the stele had been intentionally damaged by the Japanese Army in the 20th century to justify the Japanese invasion of Korea in the 20th century. According to his books, Sakō altered the copy and later the Japanese General Staff thrice sent a team to make the falsification of the stele with lime. In 1981, the Korean Lee Hyung-gu began putting forth the argument, based on the irregularity of the Chinese character style and grammar, that the sinmyo passage was altered so as 後 read 倭, and 不貢因破 read 來渡海破. Thus, the subject of the sinmyo passage becomes Goguryeo. Geng Tie-Hua questioned another character, claiming 毎 was altered to 海
Chinese scholars participated in studies of the stele from the 1980s. Wang Jianqun interviewed local farmers and decided the intentional fabrication had not occurred and the lime was pasted by local copy-making workers to enhance readability. He criticized Lee Jin-hui's claim. and he considered 倭("Wa") word meaning is not a country but a pirate group, and he also denied Japan dominated the southern part of Korea. Xu Jianxin of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences discovered the earliest rubbed copy which was made before 1881. He also concluded that there was no evidence the Japanese had damaged any of the stele characters.
Today, most Chinese scholars advocate the theories, based on the study of the stele itself and controvert Japanese intervention in the era despite the efforts of Japanese historians to deny such claims. Japanese scholars seem to be unable to agree upon the purported size and participants amongst themselves.
In the project of writing a common history textbook, Kim Tae-sik of Hongik University (Korea) denied Japan's theory. But, Kōsaku Hamada of Kyushu University (Japan) reported his interpretation of the Gwanggaeto Stele text, neither of them adopting Lee's theory in their interpretations.
Relations to other chronicles and archaeological records
The question is to be asked as to why a monument honoring the triumphs of a Goguryeo king singles out a Japanese victory as worthy of mention on the stele (if one follows the Japanese interpretation).
Generally, Japanese scholars points out that the rhetoric of inscription describes Gwanggaeto's battle as "overcoming the trying situation". Yukio Takeda claims that "Wa's invasion" was used as such situation when describing battles against Baekje. Many Japanese scholars also agree that Wa's power was more or less exaggerated by Goguryeo to illustrate the triumph of the King, and the sinmyo passage does not necessarily prove the power of Wa in Korean peninsula of the late 4th century.
On the other hand, they generally reject the Korean interpretation because the stele says Baekje was previously a state subservient to Goguryeo before the simmyo passage and that recording the conquest into Baekje would result tautology in this section of the stele. However, Korean scholars generally refute this claim by pointing to ancient records (chiefly the Samguk Sagi and Samguk Yusa), which make clear that before King Gwanggaeto, Baekje held out well against its northern neighbor. Therefore, the statement in the stele that claims Baekje was a Goguryeo subject before the sinmyo passage would be propaganda on the part of Goguryeo; thus the conquest of Baekje would not be redundant.
|Chinese Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
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1984년에는 중국의 왕젠췬[王建群]이 장기간의 실지조사를 토대로 『호태왕비연구(好太王碑硏究)』를 발표했는데, 그는 이제까지 잘못 읽은 부분은 시정하고 탈락된 문자를 복원했다고 주장하고, 비문의 총 글자를 1,775자로 확정했다. 그리고 비문에 등장하는 왜(倭)를 일본 기타큐슈[北九州]의 해적집단으로 보아 임나일본부설을 부정했을 뿐만 아니라 이진희의 석회조작설도 비판했다.
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