Unified Silla with indication of territory
|Capital||Seorabeol (present-day Gyeongju)|
|Common languages||Old Korean|
|Religion||Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Korean shamanism|
• Start of Later Three Kingdoms period
• Handover to the Goryeo Dynasty
• 8th century
|Today part of||South Korea|
Part of a series on the
|History of Korea|
|Proto–Three Kingdoms period|
|Three Kingdoms period|
|Northern and Southern States period|
|Later Three Kingdoms period|
Later Silla (668–935, Korean: 후신라; Hanja: 後新羅; RR: Husilla, Korean pronunciation: [huː.ɕil.la]) or Unified Silla (Korean: 통일신라; Hanja: 統一新羅; RR: Tongilsilla, Korean pronunciation: [tʰoːŋ.il.ɕil.la]) is the name often applied to the Korean kingdom of Silla, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, after it conquered Baekje and Goguryeo in the 7th century, unifying the central and southern regions of the Korean peninsula.
During its heyday, the country contested with Balhae, a Goguryeo–Mohe kingdom, to the north for supremacy in the region. Throughout its existence, Later Silla was plagued by intrigue and political turmoil in its newly conquered northern territory, caused by the rebel groups and factions in Baekje and Goguryeo, which eventually led to the Later Three Kingdoms period in the late 9th century.
Despite its political instability, Later Silla was a prosperous country, and its metropolitan capital of Seorabeol (present-day Gyeongju) was the fourth-largest city in the world at the time. Through close ties maintained with the Tang dynasty, Buddhism and Confucianism became the principal philosophical ideologies of the elite as well as the mainstays of the period's architecture and fine arts. Its last king, Gyeongsun, ruled over the state in name only and submitted to Wang Geon of the emerging Goryeo kingdom in 935, bringing the Silla dynasty to an end.
Although traditionally considered by many Koreans the first unified Korean state, modern Korean historians argue that the subsequent Goryeo kingdom was in fact the first truly unified state of the Korean nation.
Modern Korean historians began to criticize the traditional view of Unified Silla as the unification of Korea. According to this perspective, Goryeo is considered the first unification of Korea, since Balhae still existed after the establishment of "Unified Silla", despite occupying territory north of the Korean peninsula.
In 660, King Munmu ordered his armies to attack Baekje. General Kim Yu-shin, aided by Tang forces, defeated General Gyebaek and conquered Baekje. In 661, he moved on Goguryeo but was repelled. King Munmu was the first ruler ever to look upon the south of the Korean Peninsula as a single political entity after the fall of Gojoseon. As such, the post-668 Silla kingdom is often referred to as Unified Silla. Unified Silla lasted for 267 years until, under King Gyeongsun, it fell to Goryeo in 935.
Later Silla carried on the maritime prowess of Baekje, which acted like the Phoenicia of medieval East Asia, and during the 8th and 9th centuries dominated the seas of East Asia and the trade between China, Korea and Japan, most notably during the time of Jang Bogo; in addition, Silla people made overseas communities in China on the Shandong Peninsula and the mouth of the Yangtze River.
Later Silla was a golden age of art and culture, as evidenced by the Hwangnyongsa, Seokguram, and Emille Bell. Buddhism flourished during this time, and many Korean Buddhists gained great fame among Chinese Buddhists and contributed to Chinese Buddhism, including: Woncheuk, Wonhyo, Uisang, Musang, and Kim Gyo-gak, a Silla prince whose influence made Mount Jiuhua one of the Four Sacred Mountains of Chinese Buddhism.
Unified Silla and the Tang maintained close ties. This was evidenced by the continual importation of Chinese culture. Many Korean monks went to China to learn about Buddhism. The monk Hyech'o went to India to study Buddhism and wrote an account of his travels. Different new sects of Buddhism were introduced by these traveling monks who had studied abroad such as Son and Pure Land Buddhism.
Unified Silla conducted a census of all towns' size and population, as well as horses, cows and special products and recorded the data in Minjeongmunseo (민정문서). The reporting was done by the leader of each town.
Woodblock printing was used to disseminate Buddhist sutras and Confucian works. During a refurbishment of the "Pagoda That Casts No Shadows", an ancient print of a Buddhist sutra was discovered. The print is dated to 751 CE and is the oldest discovered printed material in the world.
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