Military history of Goguryeo

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The military history of Goguryeo involves wars with other Korean kingdoms, Chinese dynasties, nomadic peoples, and Wa Japan. Goguryeo was a powerful empire and one of the great powers in East Asia,[1][2][3] until it was defeated by a SillaTang alliance in 668 after prolonged exhaustion and internal strife caused by the death of Yeon Gaesomun.

Conflicts with other Korean kingdoms[edit]


Goguryeo at its height in 476 CE.

Goguryeo and Baekje were two of the Three Kingdoms of Korea; both claimed descent from the ancient Korean kingdom of Buyeo. Onjo, the founder of Baekje, was said to be a son of Jumong, the founder of Goguryeo. Despite the common ancestry, the relationship between Goguryeo and Baekje was often contentious.

During the 4th century, Geunchogo expanded Baekje's territory to the north at the expense of Goguryeo. In 369, Gogukwon, the monarch of Goguryeo, attacked Baekje with 20,000 troops, but was defeated by Crown Prince Geungusu at the Battle of Chiyang.[4] In 371, Geungusu led 30,000 troops and attacked the fortress of Pyongyang, slaying Gogukwon in battle.

Gogukyang, a son of Gogukwon, invaded Baekje in 386.[5][6]

In 392, Gwanggaeto the Great led an attack on Baekje with 40,000 troops, capturing 10 walled cities.[7] In response, Asin, the monarch of Baekje, launched a counterattack on Goguryeo in 393 but was defeated.[7] Asin invaded Goguryeo once more in 394, but was defeated again.[7] After suffering multiple defeats against Goguryeo, Baekje's political stability began to crumble.[8] In 395, Baekje was defeated once more by Goguryeo and was pushed south to its capital of Wiryeseong on the Han River.[7][9] In the following year, in 396, Gwanggaeto led an assault on Wiryeseong by land and sea, using the Han River, and triumphed over Baekje.[7] Gwanggaeto captured the Baekje capital and the defeated Asin submitted to him,[10][11] surrendering a prince and 10 government ministers,[7] as the condition for retaining his rule.[12]

In 400, Silla requested aid from Goguryeo in repelling an allied invasion by Baekje, Gaya, and Wa. Gwanggaeto dispatched 50,000 troops and annihilated the enemy coalition.[10]

In 433, Baekje and Silla formed an alliance (Hangul: 나제동맹, Hanja: 羅濟同盟) to balance the Goguryeo threat to the north.[13]

In 472, Gaero, the ruler of Baekje, requested a military alliance with Northern Wei against Goguryeo, but was unsuccessful.[13][14] In 475, Jangsu, the son of Gwanggaeto, launched a full-scale invasion from both land and sea against Baekje. Jangsu proceeded toward the capital and easily captured the capital of Wiryeseong and executed Gaero.[15][16] Henceforth, Baekje had no choice but to move its capital to mountainous Ungjin (present-day Gongju), 80 miles to the south, which provided a natural protection for the devastated kingdom.[13][17]

In 479, Baekje and Silla reaffirmed their alliance through marriage,[13] which was the primary reason why Goguryeo was unable to conquer the entire peninsula.[18]

In 551, a Baekje–Silla alliance attacked Goguryeo in order to capture the important Han River region from Goguryeo, planning to split it between them. In 553, Baekje gained the critical region after expending itself with a series of costly assaults on Goguryeo fortresses, but Silla troops, arriving on the pretense of offering assistance, attacked the exhausted Baekje troops and took possession of the entire Han River region, leading to a war between the two former allies in which the Baekje monarch was killed.[19][20]

In the mid-7th century, Goguryeo and Baekje formed an alliance (Hangul: 여제동맹, Hanja: 麗濟同盟) aimed toward territorial restoration against Silla.


In 245, Dongcheon ordered an attack on Silla, but the two kingdoms entered into friendly relations in 248.

Nulji, the king of Silla, who had been a vassal of Jangsu, broke off relations with Goguryeo in 454. Jangsu invaded Silla in 468, expanding his domain into parts of Gangwon Province, and again in 489, capturing 7 walled cities and expanding his domain into parts of North Gyeongsang Province.[21]

After Silla's betrayal of Baekje and conquest of the Han River region from Goguryeo, Goguryeo and Baekje applied political, military, and economic pressure against Silla. In 643, the Silla court dispatched Kim Chunchu to the Tang dynasty to request military assistance, and the two states made an alliance. In 660, Goguryeo's ally, Baekje, fell to the Silla–Tang alliance; the victorious allies continued their assault on Goguryeo for the next eight years but could not defeat Yeon Gaesomun. However, Yeon Gaesomun died of a natural cause and civil war ensued among his three sons, leading the Silla–Tang alliance to launch a fresh invasion.

In November 668, King Bojang surrendered to the Silla–Tang alliance and Goguryeo finally fell.

Conflicts with Chinese dynasties[edit]

Han dynasty[edit]

Goguryeo became a significant independent kingdom in the first century, and expanded its power in the region.[citation needed] By the time of Taejo of Goguryeo in 53, the five tribes became five centrally ruled districts of the kingdom, and foreign relations and the military were controlled by the king. Taejo successfully expanded Goguryeo by attacking Han China's commanderies of Lelang, Xuantu, and Liaodong, becoming fully independent from the Han commanderies.[citation needed]

Continuing its expansion to the northwest, Goguryeo began large-scale, organized attacks against the Chinese, as well as conquering neighboring statelets such as Okjeo and Dongye.

Wei dynasty[edit]

Main article: Goguryeo–Wei War

In 244, Guanqiu Jian, a general of Han's successor state Cao Wei, defeated Dongcheon and briefly occupied and sacked Goguryeo's capital.[22]

Wei invaded again in 259 but was defeated at Yangmaenggok;[23] according to the Samguk Sagi, Jungcheon assembled 5,000 elite cavalry and defeated the invading Wei troops, beheading 8,000 enemies.[24]

Lelang Commandery[edit]

Main article: Lelang Commandery

As Goguryeo extended its reach into the Liaodong Peninsula, the last Chinese commandery at Lelang was conquered and absorbed by Micheon in 313, bringing the remaining northern part of the Korean peninsula into the fold.[25] This conquest resulted in the end of Chinese rule over territory in the northern Korean peninsula, which had spanned 400 years.[26][27]

Sui dynasty[edit]

Main article: Goguryeo–Sui War

The Sui Dynasty was founded in 581. It grew in power and emerged as a powerful dynasty in China, defeating and conquering large forces of "Barbarians" to the North, Northwest, West, and South of China. Many neighbors of China were now forced to pay yearly tribute to the Sui Dynasty. Finally, only Goguryeo was left to be brought to its knees, but Goguryeo did not give into demands for tributes and the following threats.

Additionally, Goguryeo's expansion conflicted with the Sui Dynasty and increased tensions. In 598 the Sui, provoked by Goguryeo military offensives (pre-emptive strike) in the Liaodong region, attacked Goguryeo in the first of the Goguryeo–Sui Wars. In this campaign, as with those that followed in 612, 613, and 614, Sui met with costly defeat.[citation needed]

One of Sui's most disastrous campaigns was the campaign of 612, in which Sui mobilised at least 1,138,000 combat troops. General Eulji Mundeok, led the Goguryeo troops to victory by luring the Sui troops into a trap outside of Pyongyang. At the Battle of Salsu River, Goguryeo soldiers released water from a dam, which overwhelmed the Chinese army and drowned nearly every Chinese soldier. Chinese historians record that of the over 305,000 Sui troops, a mere 2,700 returned.[28]

The wars depleted the national treasury of the Sui Dynasty and after revolts and political strife, the Sui Dynasty disintegrated in 618. However the wars exhausted Goguryeo's strength and its power declined.[citation needed]

Tang dynasty[edit]

Main article: Goguryeo–Tang War

Under Tang Taizong, the Tang Dynasty forged an alliance with Goguryeo's rival Silla after defeating Goguryeo's western ally, the Göktürks. Later in Tang Taizong reign, he also began campaigns against the Goguryeo, much to the opposition of many advisors.

In 645, Taizong commanded an army of 100,000 Tang soldiers.[29] Taizong's noted army enabled him to conquer a number of border city fortresses of Goguryeo. The Tang army in several cases defeated the Korean forces on open battlefields. Outside the Ansi Fort, Go Yeonsu and Go Hyezin had mobilized 150,000 troops, though it proved to be fruitless. After tactics by Taizong with Li Shiji commanding 15,000 men and Zhangsun Wuji with 11,000 coming from behind, the Korean generals were confused and defeated, the losses were 20,000 for the Koreans and 36,000 captured.

However, forts would be the one issue that the Tang Taizong couldn't solve, most particularly Ansi fortress itself. the remaining Goguryeo troops get in inside Ansi City. Ansi was under siege by the Tang army. However Tang was not able to conquer Ansi fortress. After a protracted siege, Taizong ordered the construction of a large siege ramp by making a mountain of soil to tower over the high Ansi walls. As the mountain rose higher, so did the walls as it was raised higher with wooden extensions. However the siege mountain collapsed. In mid-September 645, the harsh winter worsened the conditions for the Tang army, which compelled Emperor Taizong to withdraw his forces from Goguryeo.[30]

After Taizong's death in 649, the conquest of Goguryeo and the personal rivalry with Yeon Gaesomun became an obsession with Taizong's son Gaozong. He invaded Goguryeo numerous times but was defeated;[31] Yeon turned the Tang back every time, perhaps most notably during Yeon's celebrated annihilation of the Tang forces in 662 at the Sasu River (蛇水) where the invading general Pang Xiaotai (龐孝泰) and all 13 of his sons were killed in the battle.[citation needed]

As a result, while Yeon Gaesomun was alive, Tang was not able to conquer the Goguryeo.[32]

Fall of Goguryeo and aftermath[edit]

Goguryeo's ally in the southwest, Baekje, fell to the Silla–Tang alliance in 660, and the alliance continued its assault on Goguryeo during the next eight years. The alliance attacked Goguryeo but was repulsed by Yeon Gaesomun in 662;[33][34] however, in 666 (though dates vary from 664-666), Yeon Gaesomun died of a natural cause and a civil war ensued among his three sons. His eldest son and immediate successor, Yeon Namsaeng, defected to Tang and was a big part in the next invasion of Goguryeo, serving as the primary key to the downfall of Goguryeo, as only when he defected did Emperor Gaozong become willing to send troops to Goguryeo again, since the defector knew most of the weaknesses and shortcuts, that Tang did not, into Goguryeo's fortified territory.[35] Yeon Gaesomun's second son, Yeon Namgeon, resisted in the face of death, as opposed to his brother's treachery, and fought until the very end. Meanwhile, Yeon Gaesomun's younger brother, Yeon Jeongto, defected to the Silla side.[36]

The Tang–Silla alliance mounted a fresh invasion of Goguryeo in 667, aided by the defector Yeon Namsaeng,[36] and in 668, finally vanquished the weary kingdom, which had been suffering from a series of famines and internal strife.

Silla thus unified most of the Korean peninsula in 668, but the kingdom's reliance on Tang China had its price. Tang China attempted to impose its rule over the entire Korean peninsula, but Silla forcibly resisted and expelled Tang. However, Silla's unification of the Three Kingdoms of Korea was short-lived because the former Goguryeo general Dae Joyeong led remnants of Goguryeo, united with the Mohe people, and established Balhae, a successor to Goguryeo. Balhae eventually reconquered and retained much of Goguryeo's former territory.

Balhae would go on to become a buffer in trade and a powerful empire that Tang could not bother. Its end would come at the hands of the Khitan in 926. Balhae's end was a decisive event in Northeast Asian history for it was the last Korean kingdom to hold territory in Manchuria.

Conflicts with nomadic states[edit]

Former Yan[edit]

During the winter of 342, the Xianbei of Former Yan, ruled by the Murong clan, attacked and destroyed Goguryeo's capital, Hwando, capturing 50,000 Goguryeo men and women to use as slave labor in addition to taking the queen mother and queen prisoner and exhuming the body of Micheon,[37] and forced Gogukwon to flee for a while. The Xianbei also devastated Buyeo in 346, accelerating Buyeo migration to the Korean peninsula.[26]

Later Yan[edit]

In 385, Gogukyang, a son of Gogukwon, invaded and defeated Later Yan, the successor state of Former Yan.[5][6]

In 400, the Xianbei state of Later Yan, founded by the Murong clan in present-day Liaoning, attacked Goguryeo.[38] Gwanggaeto the Great repulsed the enemy troops.[39][40] In 402, Gwanggaeto retaliated and conquered the prominent fortress called 宿軍城 near the capital of Later Yan.[38][41] In 405 and again in 406, Later Yan troops attacked Goguryeo fortresses in Liaodong (遼東城 in 405, and 木底城 in 406), but was defeated both times.[38] Gwanggaeto conquered all of Liaodong.[10][42] By conquering Liaodong, Gwanggaeto recovered the ancient domain of Gojoseon;[10][39] Goguryeo controlled Liaodong until the late 7th century.

Conflicts with nomadic tribes[edit]

In 395, Gwanggaeto invaded the Khitan Baili clan to the west on the Liao River,[43] destroying 3 tribes and 600 to 700 camps.[44]

In 398, Gwanggaeto conquered the Sushen people to the northeast,[10] who were Tungusic ancestors of the Jurchens and Manchus.[45]

Conflicts with Wa Japan[edit]

Main article: Goguryeo–Yamato War

In 404, Gwanggaeto defeated an attack by the Wa from the Japanese archipelago on the southern border of what was once the Daifang commandery, inflicting enormous casualties on the enemy.[38][46][47]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Roberts, John Morris; Westad, Odd Arne. The History of the World. Oxford University Press. p. 443. ISBN 9780199936762. Retrieved 15 July 2016. 
  2. ^ Gardner, Hall. Averting Global War: Regional Challenges, Overextension, and Options for American Strategy. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 158–159. ISBN 9780230608733. Retrieved 15 July 2016. 
  3. ^ Laet, Sigfried J. de. History of Humanity: From the seventh to the sixteenth century. UNESCO. p. 1133. ISBN 9789231028137. Retrieved 10 October 2016. 
  4. ^ "치양전투". 민족문화대백과사전. Academy of Korean Studies. 
  5. ^ a b "국양왕". KOCCA. Korea Creative Content Agency. Retrieved 11 October 2016. 
  6. ^ a b "King Gogukyang". KBS World Radio. Retrieved 11 October 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f 이윤섭. 광개토대왕과 장수왕 (in Korean). ebookspub(이북스펍). pp. 89–91. ISBN 9791155191323. Retrieved 11 October 2016. 
  8. ^ "King Gwanggaeto the Great (1)". KBS World Radio. Korea Communications Commission. Retrieved 7 October 2016. 
  9. ^ Yi, Hyun-hui; Pak, Song-su; Yun, Nae-hyon (2005). New History of Korea. Seoul: Jimoondang. p. 170. ISBN 8988095855. 
  10. ^ a b c d e Kim, Jinwung. A History of Korea: From "Land of the Morning Calm" to States in Conflict. Indiana University Press. p. 35. ISBN 0253000785. Retrieved 11 October 2016. 
  11. ^ Jeon ho-tae, 〈Koguryo, the origin of Korean power & pride〉, Dongbuka History Foundation, 2007. ISBN 8991448836 p.137
  12. ^ Institute of Korean Studies; Seoul National University (2004). "Korean studies". Seoul Journal of Korean Studies (17): 15–16. 
  13. ^ a b c d Ring, Trudy; Watson, Noelle; Schellinger, Paul. Asia and Oceania: International Dictionary of Historic Places. Routledge. p. 484. ISBN 9781136639791. Retrieved 12 October 2016. 
  14. ^ Kim, Bushik (1145). Samguk Sagi. Retrieved 2 February 2016. 
  15. ^ Historical Survey Society (2007). Seoul : a field guide to history (English ed.). Paju: Dolbegae Publishers. p. 16. ISBN 9788971992890. 
  16. ^ Korean Historical Research Association. (2005). A history of Korea. London: Saffron Books. p. 43. ISBN 9781872843872. 
  17. ^ "King Jangsu". KBS Radio. KBS. Retrieved 2 February 2016. 
  18. ^ Walker, Hugh Dyson. East Asia: A New History. AuthorHouse. p. 137. ISBN 9781477265178. Retrieved 12 October 2016. 
  19. ^ Chŏng, Yang-mo; Smith, Judith G.; Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.). Arts of Korea. Metropolitan Museum of Art. p. 25. ISBN 9780870998508. Retrieved 14 October 2016. 
  20. ^ Kim, Jinwung. A History of Korea: From "Land of the Morning Calm" to States in Conflict. Indiana University Press. pp. 44–45. ISBN 0253000246. Retrieved 12 September 2016. 
  21. ^ "장수왕". 민족문화대백과사전. Academy of Korean Studies. Retrieved 12 October 2016. 
  22. ^ Charles Roger Tennant (1996). A history of Korea (illustrated ed.). Kegan Paul International. p. 22. ISBN 0-7103-0532-X. Retrieved 9 February 2012. Wei. In 242, under King Tongch'ŏn, they attacked a Chinese fortress near the mouth of the Yalu in an attempt to cut the land route across Liao, in return for which the Wei invaded them in 244 and sacked Hwando. 
  23. ^ Injae, Lee; Miller, Owen; Jinhoon, Park; Hyun-Hae, Yi. Korean History in Maps. Cambridge University Press. p. 30. ISBN 9781107098466. Retrieved 10 October 2016. 
  24. ^ Kim Bu-sik. Samguk Sagi. 17. 十二年冬十二月王畋于杜訥之谷魏將尉遲楷名犯長陵諱將兵來伐王簡精騎五千戰於梁貊之谷敗之斬首八千餘級 
  25. ^ 'Ki-Baik Lee', "A New History of Korea", 1984 Harvard University Press, page 20
  26. ^ a b Tennant, Charles Roger. A History of Korea. Routledge. p. 22. ISBN 9780710305329. Retrieved 10 October 2016. Soon after, the Wei fell to the Jin and Koguryŏ grew stronger, until in 313 they finally succeeded in occupying Lelang and bringing to an end the 400 years of China's presence in the peninsula, a period sufficient to ensure that for the next 1,500 it would remain firmly within the sphere of its culture. After the fall of the Jin in 316, the proto-Mongol Xianbei occupied the North of China, of which the Murong clan took the Shandong area, moved up to the Liao, and in 341 sacked and burned the Koguryŏ capital at Hwando. They took away some thousands of prisoners to provide cheap labour to build more walls of their own, and in 346 went on to wreak even greater destruction on Puyŏ, hastening what seems to have been a continuing migration of its people into the north-eastern area of the peninsula, but Koguryŏ, though temporarily weakened, would soon rebuild its walls and continue to expand. 
  27. ^ Chinul (1991). Buswell, Robert E., ed. Tracing Back the Radiance: Chinul's Korean Way of Zen. Translated by Robert E. Buswell (abridged ed.). University of Hawaii Press. p. 3. ISBN 0824814274. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  28. ^ (Korean) "Battle of Salsu", Encyclopædia Britannica Korean Edition
  29. ^ New Book of Tang, vol. 220 [1].
  30. ^ Lee, Kenneth B. (1997). Korea and East Asia: The story of a phoenix. Westport: Praeger. p. 16. ISBN 9780275958237. .
  31. ^ Ring, Trudy; Watson, Noelle; Schellinger, Paul. Asia and Oceania: International Dictionary of Historic Places. Routledge. p. 486. ISBN 9781136639791. Retrieved 16 July 2016. 
  32. ^ Discovered of Goguryeo (고구려의 발견), p.486, Written on South Korea historian Kim Yong-man.
  33. ^ Ring, Trudy; Watson, Noelle; Schellinger, Paul. Asia and Oceania: International Dictionary of Historic Places. Routledge. p. 486. ISBN 9781136639791. Retrieved 16 July 2016. 
  34. ^ Injae, Lee; Miller, Owen; Jinhoon, Park; Hyun-Hae, Yi. Korean History in Maps. Cambridge University Press. p. 29. ISBN 9781107098466. Retrieved 4 August 2016. 
  35. ^ 보장왕(상) - 삼국사기 고구려본기 - 디지털한국학
  36. ^ a b Yi, Ki-baek. A New History of Korea. Harvard University Press. p. 67. ISBN 9780674615762. Retrieved 5 August 2016. Loath to let slip such an opportunity, T'ang mounted a fresh invasion under Li Chi in 667 and Silla launched a coordinated offensive. This time the T'ang army received every possible assistance from the defector Namsaeng, and although Koguryŏ continued to hold out for another year, the end finally came in 668. 
  37. ^ Chinul (1991). Buswell, Robert E., ed. Tracing Back the Radiance: Chinul's Korean Way of Zen. Translated by Robert E. Buswell (abridged ed.). University of Hawaii Press. p. 4. ISBN 0824814274. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  38. ^ a b c d 이윤섭. 광개토대왕과 장수왕 (in Korean). ebookspub(이북스펍). pp. 93–95. ISBN 9791155191323. Retrieved 11 October 2016. 
  39. ^ a b 김상훈. 통 세계사 1: 인류 탄생에서 중세 시대까지: 외우지 않고 통으로 이해하는 (in Korean). Dasan Books. ISBN 9788963702117. Retrieved 11 October 2016. 
  40. ^ "King Gwanggaeto the Great (2)". KBS World Radio. Korea Communications Commission. Retrieved 11 October 2016. 
  41. ^ 조한성. 역사의터닝포인트14_삼국의전성기 (in Korean). Book21 Publishing Group. ISBN 9788950944087. Retrieved 11 October 2016. 
  42. ^ Yi, Ki-baek. A New History of Korea. Harvard University Press. pp. 38–40. ISBN 9780674615762. Retrieved 11 October 2016. 
  43. ^ Bourgoin, Suzanne Michele, ed. (1998). "Kwanggaet'o". Encyclopedia of World Biography: Kilpatrick-Louis. Gale Research. p. 94. 
  44. ^ Holcombe, Charles (2001). The Genesis of East Asia : 221 B.C. - A.D. 907. Honolulu: Associate for Asian Studies [u.a.] p. 174. ISBN 9780824824655. Retrieved 17 June 2016. 
  45. ^ Walker, Hugh Dyson. East Asia: A New History. AuthorHouse. p. 137. ISBN 9781477265161. Retrieved 29 July 2016. He also conquered Sushen tribes in the northeast, Tungusic ancestors of the Jurcid and Manchus who later ruled Chinese "barbarian conquest dynasties" during the twelfth and seventeenth centuries. 
  46. ^ Kamstra, Jacques H. Encounter Or Syncretism: The Initial Growth of Japanese Buddhism. p. 38. 
  47. ^ Batten, Bruce Loyd. Gateway to Japan: Hakata in War And Peace, 500-1300. p. 16. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Graff, David A. (2002). Medieval Chinese Warfare, 300–900. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-23954-0.