Military history of Goguryeo
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, until it was defeated by a Silla–Tang alliance in 668 after prolonged exhaustion and internal strife caused by the death of Yeon Gaesomun.
- 1 Conflicts with other Korean kingdoms
- 2 Conflicts with Chinese dynasties
- 3 Conflicts with nomadic states
- 4 Conflicts with nomadic tribes
- 5 Conflicts with Wa Japan
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes and references
- 8 Further reading
Conflicts with other Korean kingdoms
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. In 371, Geungusu led 30,000 troops and attacked the fortress of Pyongyang, slaying Gogukwon in battle.
In 392, Gwanggaeto the Great led an attack on Baekje with 40,000 troops, capturing 10 walled cities. In response, Asin, the monarch of Baekje, launched a counterattack on Goguryeo in 393 but was defeated. Asin invaded Goguryeo once more in 394, but was defeated again. After suffering multiple defeats against Goguryeo, Baekje's political stability began to crumble. In 395, Baekje was defeated once more by Goguryeo and was pushed south to its capital of Wiryeseong on the Han River. In the following year, in 396, Gwanggaeto led an assault on Wiryeseong by land and sea, using the Han River, and triumphed over Baekje. Gwanggaeto captured the Baekje capital and the defeated Asin submitted to him, surrendering a prince and 10 government ministers, as the condition for retaining his rule.
In 472, Gaero, the ruler of Baekje, requested a military alliance with Northern Wei against Goguryeo, but was unsuccessful. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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
Goguryeo became a significant independent kingdom in the first century, and expanded its power in the region. 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.
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. This conquest resulted in the end of Chinese rule over territory in the northern Korean peninsula, which had spanned 400 years.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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; 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.
Fall of Goguryeo and aftermath
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; 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. 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.
The Tang–Silla alliance mounted a fresh invasion of Goguryeo in 667, aided by the defector Yeon Namsaeng, 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
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, and forced Gogukwon to flee for a while. The Xianbei also devastated Buyeo in 346, accelerating Buyeo migration to the Korean peninsula.
In 400, the Xianbei state of Later Yan, founded by the Murong clan in present-day Liaoning, attacked Goguryeo. Gwanggaeto the Great repulsed the enemy troops. In 402, Gwanggaeto retaliated and conquered the prominent fortress called 宿軍城 near the capital of Later Yan. 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. Gwanggaeto conquered all of Liaodong. By conquering Liaodong, Gwanggaeto recovered the ancient domain of Gojoseon; Goguryeo controlled Liaodong until the late 7th century.
Conflicts with nomadic tribes
Conflicts with Wa Japan
Notes and references
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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.
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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.
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