Gwangjong of Goryeo

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Gwangjong of Goryeo
고려 광종
高麗 光宗
Wang So (왕소)
King of Goryeo
Reign 13 April 949 - 4 July 975
Predecessor Jeongjong of Goryeo
Successor Gyeongjong of Goryeo
Born 925
Kingdom of Goryeo
Died 4 July 975 (aged 49-50)
Gaegyeong, Kingdom of Goryeo
Spouse Queen Daemok
Posthumous name
홍도선열평세숙헌의효강혜대성대왕
House House of Wang
Father Taejo of Goryeo
Mother Queen Shinmyeongsunseong
Korean name
Hangul 광종
Hanja
Revised Romanization Gwangjong
McCune–Reischauer Kwangjong
Birth name
Hangul 왕소
Hanja
Revised Romanization Wang So
McCune–Reischauer Wang So
Posthumous name
Hangul 홍도선열평세대성대왕
Hanja
Revised Romanization Hongdoseonyeolpyeongsedaeseongdae-wang
McCune–Reischauer hongdosŏnyŏlp‘yŏngse taesŏng taewang

Gwangjong (925 – 4 July 975), personal name Wang So, was the fourth king of Goryeo.[1][2]

Biography[edit]

Birth and early life[edit]

Gwangjong was born in 925 as the fourth son of king Taejo, Wang So. As he had three older brothers, Tae, Mu and Yo, he was far from the succession to the throne; however, Wang Tae died early on, and Wang Mu passed away in 945, three years after being crowned king, leaving the throne to Wang Yo, who ruled Goryeo for four years as Jeongjong. Before dying, he decided to make Wang So his heir instead of his one and only son, prince Kyeongcheonwon.[3]

According to Choe Seungno, Gwangjong "was careful and laconic, but bold if he had to seize an opportunity." He had excellent appearance and qualities, and he received a special love from his father.[3]

During his time as a prince, he played a big role in removing Wang Gyu and Park Sul-hee's opposing forces, and gave a great contribution in the crowning of Wang Yo as Jeongjong.[3]

Reign[edit]

Monarchs of Korea
Goryeo
  1. Taejo 918–943
  2. Hyejong 943–945
  3. Jeongjong 945–949
  4. Gwangjong 949–975
  5. Gyeongjong 975–981
  6. Seongjong 981–997
  7. Mokjong 997–1009
  8. Hyeonjong 1009–1031
  9. Deokjong 1031–1034
  10. Jeongjong II 1034–1046
  11. Munjong 1046–1083
  12. Sunjong 1083
  13. Seonjong 1083–1094
  14. Heonjong 1094–1095
  15. Sukjong 1095–1105
  16. Yejong 1105–1122
  17. Injong 1122–1146
  18. Uijong 1146–1170
  19. Myeongjong 1170–1197
  20. Sinjong 1197–1204
  21. Huijong 1204–1211
  22. Gangjong 1211–1213
  23. Gojong 1213–1259
  24. Wonjong 1259–1269
  25. Yeongjong1269
  26. Wonjong 1269–1274
  27. Chungnyeol 1274–1308
  28. Chungseon 1308–1313
  29. Chungsuk 1313–1330
    1332–1339
  30. Chunghye 1330–1332
    1339–1344
  31. Chungmok 1344–1348
  32. Chungjeong 1348–1351
  33. Gongmin 1351–1374
  34. U 1374–1388
  35. Chang 1388–1389
  36. Gongyang 1389–1392

When Gwangjong ascended the throne in 949 at the age of 25,[2] the kingdom of Goryeo was unstable: to unify the Later Three Kingdoms, his father Taejo made alliances with powerful and influential families through marriages. As those families all had their own armies, keeping them satisfied was paramount to avoid revolts and grant the king the absolute control. For this reason, Gwangjong felt the need to consolidate the power of the king and refused to marry a woman from a noble clan, but instead married into the royal family: Queen Daemok was his half-sister, whose mother came from the Hwangju family of Hwangbo, while his second wife, princess Gyeonghwagung, was born by his elder half-brother Hyejong and his first wife, of the Im family of Chinju. Along with studying Taizong of Tang's book Difan (Chinese: 帝範) to better understand what to do, as he found many similarities between his situation and that of Taizong, he rewarded all those who contributed to the progress of Goryeo, also making much effort to maintain good diplomatic relations with neighboring countries.[2] This allowed him to concentrate power from within and without the court, and, seven years after the start of his reign, enact a series of reforms to promote a stable and royal-centered political system, and to expand economy and military.[4]

His first reform was the law of emancipation of slaves (Hangul노비안검법; RRNobiangeombeop) in 956. The noble families had many slaves, mainly prisoners of war, who served as soldiers; they were a lot more than commoners and didn't pay taxes to the crown, but to the clan they worked for. By emancipating them, Gwangjong turned them into commoners, weakening the noble families' power, and gaining people who paid taxes to the king and could become part of his army. This reform won his government the support of the people, while nobles were against it; even Queen Daemok tried to stop the king, but with no result.[2][3][4][5][6]

In 957, scholar Shuang Ji was sent to Goryeo as an envoy, and, with his advice, Gwangjong instituted the national civil service examination (Hangul과거; RRGwageo) in 958, with the goal to expel from the court people from powerful clans and replace them with civil officials recruited by merit. The examination, based on the Tang civil service exam and the Confucian classics,[6] was open to all free-born to give everyone, not only the rich and powerful people, the opportunity to work for the state, but in practice only sons of the gentry could gain the necessary education to take the exam; royal relatives of the five highest ranks were, instead, exempt.[7] In 960, the king introduced different colours for court robes to distinguish officials of different ranks.[8]

In Kaesong and Pyongyang, medical centres known as Daebiwon (Hangul대비원; Hanja大悲院), which provided free medicine to poor patient, were set up, later expanding in the provinces as the Hyeminguk (Hangul혜민국; Hanja惠民局). Taejo had established regional granaries (Hangul의창; Hanja義倉; RRuichang) to face the times of drought, and Gwangjong added jewibo (Hangul제위보; Hanja濟危寶), stores which charged interests on grain loans, which were then used for poor relief. These measures, even if in modified forms, kept on working for the next 900 years, parallel to better cultivation methods to keep up with the growth of population.[7]

When Later Zhou emperor died in 960, the dynasty fell, as the commander of the army, Zhao Kuangyin, was empowered by his soldiers. As he returned from battlefield to found the Song dynasty, he left the mountains of Manchuria and the northern plains to Khitans and Jurchens. To improve Goryeo's defences, Gwangjong reorganized and expanded military, and built twelve garrisons along the northeast and northwest borders;[6] also, under his reign, the kingdom moved the border beyond the Chongchon river, heading towards the Yalu.[7]

Gwangjong saw the association of church and state as an aid to subdue local lords, and chose the abbot of Haeinsa Temple to promote Buddhism among the people.[7] He took capable monks as advisers, and promoted the construction of temples: for example, he built the Yongjusa Temple in Cheongju, North Chungcheong, in 962,[9] and the Cheongpyeongsa Temple in Chuncheon, Gangwon, in 973.[10] The king also created an exam for Buddhist priests, called Seonggwa, to link the government and the church, and he attempted to make peace between the Zen and textual schools to unify them under a single order, but he didn't have much success.[7][11]

Other actions undertaken to reinforce the royal authority were naming Goryeo an empire and himself Emperor, thus ending tributary relationships with China; calling Kaesong the Imperial Capital and Pyongyang the Western Capital, and adopting the era name "Gwangdeok" (Hangul광덕; Hanja光德) from 949 to 951, and "Junpung" (Hangul준풍; Hanja峻豊) from 960 to 963. By placing himself in the position of the emperor, he tried to instill in his servants that he had an absolute power.[3][8]

Gwangjong's reforms were badly accepted by the nobles, especially by high military and civil officials who helped in the foundation of Goryeo.[2][8] The dissent of the nobles led them to stage a rebellion, but this attempt failed. In his eleventh year of reign, 960, Gwangjong started a series of purges, killing off his opposers: among them, there were his brother Wang Won (prince Hyoeun), who was suspected of treason and poisoned, king Jeongjong's son prince Kyeongcheonwon, and king Hyejong's son prince Heunghwa.[3][12] Gwangjong also mistrusted his eldest son Wang Ju, who was five years old at the time.[3] At the end of the purges, only forty of Taejo's 3,200 meritorious subjects who helped him unifying the Later Three Kingdoms were still alive.[12]

Later years and death[edit]

In his later years, Gwangjong's reliance on Buddhism increased. In 968, after a nightmare, he convened a reunion and banned the slaughter of his family. In December 971, an earthquake occurred in Goryeo, and the nobles and the people blamed the king. Gwangjong managed to handle the situation, but a second earthquake occurred in February 972: during this time, he had a nightmare and granted amnesty to prisoners in August.

Gwangjong developed a serious disease in July 975 (fifth month of the Lunar calendar) and died just after few days at the age of 50.[2] His tomb, called Heonneung (Hangul헌릉; Hanja憲陵), is located on the north side of Mount Songak, in Kaepung County, North Korea. The site inspection in 1916 found a severely damaged tomb, but the stairway and the foundation stone are preserved.[13][14]

He was succeeded by his only son Wang Ju, who became the fifth king of Goryeo, Gyeongjong.[3] The reform policies to curb the power of the capital aristocracy were passed down to his successors, but they weren't able to pursue them; as a result, the bureaucracy turned from a meritorious aristocracy to a hereditary class.[6] The law of emancipation of slaves was retracted during the sixth king's, Seongjong, reign.

Legacy[edit]

Gwangjong's bold reform policy weakened the nobles and stabilized the kingship. In addition, the national civil service examination caused the raise of a new wave of political forces, while a new cultural heritage was developed independently by taking inspiration from China.[3] Though Hyejong and Jeongjong established their reigns by relying on strong power bases represented by Park Sul-hee and Wang Sik-ryeom, respectively, Gwangjong established his own power base,[15] and, in order to restrain the power of wealthy people and influential vassals, he encouraged consanguineous marriages to avoid troubles with maternal relatives.[15] He is regarded as the king who made the most strenuous and energetic efforts to strengthen the kingship in the early Goryeo.[16]

His reforms contributed greatly to the formation of a new political order in the newborn kingdom of Goryeo, but they were mainly limited to politics; the restructuring of the local government and the reorganization of national economy and social system were comparatively weak. He was always wary of the possibility of hostile acts, and killed nobles and relatives recklessly.[3]

One of the most influential thinkers of the time was Choe Seungno, the son of a high ranked official, who strongly opposed Gwangjong's autocracy. He believed that the privileges of the nobility were to be protected, and that having as officials the sons of provincial gentlemen with no power base at the court would put it in danger.[7] Therefore, he condemned Gwangjong for his obsession with Buddhism and public projects, which, according to him, drove the kingdom into debt, and declared him a tyrant for his cruelty.[17] In the memorial he drew up for the sixth king of Goryeo, Seongjong, he wrote:

He treated his subjects with great propriety, and never lost his eye for judging people. He didn't hold his royal relatives and great nobles too close, always curbing the mighty and powerful. He never neglected the humble, and accorded favors to widows and orphans. In his first eight years, the government was clear and fair, and he didn't reward or punish excessively. Since he began to make use of the services of Shuang Ji, he had a marked tendency towards the literates, giving them excessive favors and courtesy. [...] As he neglected government affairs, important issues related to state security were ignored, but parties and banquets continued without interruption [...], and the initial virtue of the king gradually disappeared. [...] The population supplies were increasingly spent on buying honors. For this reason, the king didn't recover his previous zeal and diligence for state affairs, even when he met his counselors. Their disgust, therefore, deepened day by day. [...] Moreover, the king exceeded in his devotion to Buddhism and overestimated Buddhists. [...] In clothes and food, he spared no expense. In weighing up the merits of public works, he ignored the choice of the appropriate time. There was no respite in devising clever initiatives. Even according to a rough estimate, each year's expenses were equivalent to Taejo's expenses for a decade.
In his last ten years, many innocent people were killed. [...] For sixteen years, from the eleventh (960) to the twentysixth year (975) of Gwangjong's reign, the intriguing and the wicked competed to advance, and slanderous accusations raged. The true gentlemen were badly tolerated everywhere, while petty people reached their goals.

— Choe Seungno, Goryeosa[17]

Family[edit]

  • Father: King Taejo (고려 태조; 31 January 877-4 July 943)
  • Mother: Queen Sinmyeongsunseong of the Chungju Yu clan (신명순성왕후 유씨; 900-951)
  • Consorts:
  1. Queen Daemok of the Hwangju Hwangbo clan (대목왕후 황보씨), half sibling
    1. Wang Ju (왕주, 9 November 955-13 August 981), 1st son - Gyeongjong of Goryeo
    2. Crown Prince Hyohwa (효화태자), died prematurely
    3. Lady Cheonchujeon (천추전부인)
    4. Lady Bohwagung (보화궁부인)
    5. Queen Mundeok (문덕왕후)
  2. Princess Gyeonghwagung (경화궁부인), daughter of Hyejong of Goryeo and Queen Uihye (의화왕후)
  3. Royal Noble Consort Hyeon of the Kim clan (현비 김씨)

Popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Choi Seung-ro, the Architect of Goryeo Political Structure". May 3, 2013. Retrieved September 18, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Gwangjong, el monarca que otorga libertad a los esclavos" [Gwangjong, the monarch who granted freedom to slaves] (in Spanish). KBS World. May 30, 2014. Retrieved September 18, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Park, Yeong-gyu (1996). 한권으로 읽는 고려왕조실록 [The Goryeo Dynasty as a book] (in Korean). ISBN 9788975270482. 
  4. ^ a b Lee, Carol (October 19, 2015). "A reforma política do reino de Goryeo" [The political reform of the kingdom of Goryeo] (in Portuguese). Korea Post. Retrieved September 19, 2016. 
  5. ^ "Goryeo Dinasty". June 2, 2009. Retrieved September 18, 2016. 
  6. ^ a b c d Kim, Djul Kil (30 May 2014). The History of Korea, 2nd Edition. p. 64. ISBN 978-1-61069-581-7. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Tennant, Roger (1996). A History Of Korea. 
  8. ^ a b c Yi, Ki-baek (1988). A New History of Korea. ISBN 978-0-67461-576-2. 
  9. ^ "Iron Banner Pole of Yongjusa Temple". September 16, 2013. Retrieved September 18, 2016. 
  10. ^ "Cheongpyeongsa Temple (Chuncheon) (청평사 (춘천))". Retrieved September 18, 2016. 
  11. ^ Grayson, James Huntley (2002). Korea - A Religious History. ISBN 978-0-70071-605-0. 
  12. ^ a b Park, Gyeong-ja (2001). 고려시대 향리연구 [Study on Folklore in the Goryeo Period] (in Korean). ISBN 9788982065798. 
  13. ^ 헌릉 [Heonneung] (in Korean). Retrieved July 10, 2017. 
  14. ^ 고려 광종 헌릉 (in Korean). Retrieved July 10, 2017. 
  15. ^ a b Global World Encyclopedia, Unification of Goryeo.
  16. ^ 광종(光宗) [Gwangjong] (in Korean). Archived from the original on July 10, 2012. Retrieved July 11, 2017. 
  17. ^ a b Lee, Peter H. (21 November 1996). "Sources of Korean Tradition: Volume One: From Early Times Through the Sixteenth Century". ISBN 978-0-23110-567-5. 
  18. ^ "Jang Hyuk and Oh Yeon Seo to play royal lovers in 'Shine or Go Crazy'". Kdramastars. November 20, 2014. Retrieved July 3, 2013. 
  19. ^ "INTERVIEW: The 4th Prince Lee Joon Gi reveals thoughts on Scarlet Heart Ryeo". DramaFever. September 26, 2016. Retrieved July 3, 2013. 
Gwangjong of Goryeo
Born: 925 Died: 4 July 975
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Jeongjong
King of Goryeo
949–975
Succeeded by
Gyeongjong