Gwanggaeto the Great
|Gwanggaeto the Great|
|Revised Romanization||Go Damdeok|
|Monarchs of Korea
Gwanggaeto of Goguryeo (374–413, r. 391–413) was the nineteenth monarch of Goguryeo, the northernmost of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. His full posthumous name means "Supreme King, Broad Expander of Domain, buried in Gukgangsang", generally abbreviated to Gwanggaeto Wang (King Broad Expander of Domain) or Hotaewang. His era name is Yeongnak and he is occasionally recorded as Yeongnak Taewang (Yeongnak the Great). Gwanggaeto's independent reign title meant that Goguryeo was a vis-à-vis of the dynasties in the Chinese mainland.
Under Gwanggaeto, Goguryeo became a powerful empire and one of the great powers in East Asia, having once enjoyed such a status in the 2nd century AD. Gwanggaeto made enormous advances and conquests into: Western Manchuria against Khitan tribes; Inner Mongolia and the Maritime Province of Russia against numerous tribes and nations; and the Han River valley in central Korea to control two-thirds of the Korean peninsula.
In regard to the Korean peninsula, Gwanggaeto defeated Baekje, the then most powerful of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, in 396, capturing the capital city of Wiryeseong in present-day Seoul. In 399, Silla, the southeastern kingdom of Korea sought aid from Goguryeo due to incursions by Baekje troops and their allied wokou pirates from the Japanese archipelago. Gwanggaeto dispatched 50,000 expeditionary troops, crushing his enemies and securing Silla as a de facto protectorate of Goguryeo. Gwanggaeto continued his southern campaigns in the distant part of the Korean peninsula until the beginning of the 5th century and then he resumed his western campaigns, defeating the Xianbei of the Later Yan empire and conquering the Liaodong peninsula. During his rule, Gwanggaeto subdued the other Korean kingdoms, achieving a brief unification of the Korean peninsula under Goguryeo that would be continued by his son Jangsu.
Gwanggaeto's accomplishments are recorded on the Gwanggaeto Stele, erected in 414 at the supposed site of his tomb in Ji'an along the present-day China–North Korea border. Constructed by his son and successor Jangsu, the monument to Gwanggaeto the Great is the largest engraved stele in the world.
Birth and background
At the time of Gwanggaeto's birth, Goguryeo was not as powerful as it once had been. In 371, three years prior to Gwanggaeto's birth, the rival Korean kingdom of Baekje, under the leadership of Geunchogo, soundly defeated Goguryeo, slaying the monarch Gogukwon and sacking Pyongyang. In this weakened state, the succeeding Goguryeo monarch, Sosurim, adopted a foreign policy of appeasement and reconciliation with Baekje, and concentrated on domestic policies to spread Buddhism and Confucianism throughout Goguryeo's social and political systems. Sosurim's successor, Gogukyang, maintained his predecessor's cultural policies but focused on rehabilitating and remobilizing the military and invaded Later Yan in 385 and Baekje in 386.
Under the monarch Geunchogo's great leadership, Baekje defeated Goguryeo in 371 and became one of the dominant powers in East Asia. Baekje's influence was not limited to the Korean peninsula, but extended across the sea to Liaoxi in China, taking advantage of the weakened state of Former Qin, and to the east where Baekje established close relations with the people of Wa in the Japanese archipelago. Hence, Goguryeo was surrounded by powerful Baekje to the south and to the west, and was inclined to avoid conflicts with its ominous neighbor, while cultivating constructive relations with the Former Qin, the Xianbei, and the Rouran, in order to defend itself from future invasions and bide time to reshape its legal structure and initiate military reforms.
Rise to power and campaigns against Baekje
Gwanggaeto succeeded his father, Gogukyang, upon his death in 391. Upon his coronation, Gwanggaeto adopted the era name Yeongnak (Eternal Happiness) and the title Taewang (Supreme King), affirming that he was an equal to the rulers of China and Baekje. He then began rebuilding and retraining Goguryeo's cavalry and navy in preparation of war with Baekje. In the following year, in 392, Gwanggaeto personally led an attack on Baekje with 50,000 cavalry, capturing 10 walled cities along the border of the two nations. In response, Asin, the monarch of Baekje, launched a counterattack on Goguryeo in 393 but was defeated. Despite the ongoing war, during 393, Gwanggaeto established 9 Buddhist temples in Pyongyang. Asin invaded Goguryeo once more in 394, but was defeated again. After suffering multiple defeats against Goguryeo, Baekje's political stability began to crumble and Asin's mandate came under question. In 395, Baekje was defeated once more by Goguryeo and was pushed south to the Han River. In the following year, in 396, Gwanggaeto led an amphibious assault on Wiryeseong using the Han River, catching Asin off guard, who had been expecting an attack by land, and triumphing over Baekje.
In conclusion, the victorious Gwanggaeto conquered around 58 walled cities and 700 towns, and the defeated Asin submitted to Gwanggaeto and surrendered over 10 political hostages, including princes and ministers, as a condition for retaining his rule.
Conquest of the North
In 395, while his campaign against Baekje was ongoing to the south, Gwanggaeto made an excursion to invade the Khitan Baili clan to the west on the Liao River, destroying 3 tribes and 600 to 700 camps. In 398, Gwanggaeto conquered the Sushen people to the northeast.
In 400, while Goguryeo was dealing with Japanese troops in Silla, Later Yan, founded by the Xianbei Murong clan in present-day Liaoning, attacked Goguryeo. Gwanggaeto responded swiftly, recovering most of the territory seized by the Xianbei and driving most of them from Goguryeo. In 402, Gwanggaeto launched an offensive on Later Yan, determined to protect his nation from further threats of invasion, and defeated the Xianbei, capturing walled cities along the border. He invaded Later Yan once more in 404 and conquered the entire Liaodong peninsula.
In 405 and again in 406, Later Yan crossed the Liao River and attacked Goguryeo to recover lost territories, but was defeated and repelled both times, putting an end to long campaigns and cementing Goguryeo's control over the region. Goguryeo's control over Liaoning remained strong until the Tang dynasty seized the region during the Goguryeo-Tang War in the late 7th century.
Gwanggaeto led several more campaigns against the Xianbei and the Khitan in present-day Inner Mongolia, which he brought under his control. Recovering this region indicated the complete occupation of lost territories after the collapse of Gojoseon in 108 BC.
In 410, Gwanggaeto turned his attention to Eastern Buyeo to the northeast. Although Eastern Buyeo possessed a political system advanced enough to become a dominating power over its neighbors, it was unable to develop into a full-fledged empire. In the ensuing war, Gwanggaeto conquered and subdued the northern nation.
In 400, Silla, another Korean kingdom in the southeast of the Korean peninsula, requested aid from Goguryeo in repelling an allied invasion by Baekje, Gaya, and Wa. Gwanggaeto dispatched 50,000 troops, smashed the enemy coalition, and made both Silla and Gaya submit to him. Thereupon, Silla became politically dependent on Goguryeo, and Gaya began to decline and never recovered. In 402, Gwanggaeto returned Prince Silseong, who had resided in Goguryeo as a political hostage since 392, back home to Silla and appointed him as the monarch of Silla. Goguryeo influenced Silla as a suzerain and maintained a military presence in Silla for more than 100 years.
Death and legacy
Gwanggaeto died of an unknown illness in 413 at the age of 39. His conquests are said to mark the zenith of Korean history, building and consolidating a great empire in Northeast Asia and uniting the Three Kingdoms of Korea under his influence. Gwanggaeto conquered 64 walled cities and more than 1,400 villages, completing the firm subjugation of the northern peoples. Except for the period of 200 years beginning with Gwanggaeto's son and successor, Jangsu, who would build upon his father's legacy, and the golden age of Balhae, Korea never before or since ruled such a vast territory. There is evidence that Goguryeo's maximum extent lay even further west, in present-day Mongolia, bordered by the Rouran and Göktürks. Gwanggaeto is also given credit for establishing the reign titles that were recorded for the first time in Korean history, a symbolic gesture elevating Goguryeo monarchs as equals to their Chinese counterparts.
Gwanggaeto the Great is one of two rulers of Korea whose names are appended with the title "the Great", with the other being Sejong the Great of Joseon, who created Hangul the Korean alphabet. Gwanggaeto is regarded by Koreans as one of the greatest heroes in Korean history, and is often taken as a potent symbol of Korean nationalism.
The Gwanggaeto Stele, a six-meter tall monument erected by Jangsu in 414, was rediscovered in 1875 by a Chinese scholar. The stele was inscribed with information about Gwanggaeto's reign and achievements, but not all the characters and passages have been preserved. Korean and Japanese scholars disagree on the interpretation in regard to passages on the Wa.
Depiction in arts and media
The Legend (also known as Taewang Sasingi) is a Korean historical fantasy drama, broadcast in 2007, based in part on Gwanggaeto and in part on Dangun. The drama spans the period from the birth of Gwanggaeto to the midpoint of his reign at the end of the 4th century AD, with Yoo Seung-ho playing the child version and Bae Yong-joon the adult version of the main protagonist.
The International Taekwon-Do Federation created a pattern, or teul, to honor Gwanggaeto the Great. The pattern's diagram represents Gwanggaeto's territorial expansion and recovery of lost territories, and the 39 movements represent the first two numbers of 391 AD, the year when Gwanggaeto came to the throne.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gwanggaeto the Great.|
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- (Korean) Campaigns of Gwanggaeto The Great
- Picture of Gwanggaeto The Great
- (Korean) An Attempt to Reconstruct the King's Southerly Conquest
- (Korean) 
Gwanggaeto the GreatBorn: 374 Died: 413
|King of Goguryeo