Map of the Silla-Tang War (in Korean), with final northern border of Silla marked in dotted black line. Red lines indicate Silla attack routes; blue lines indicate Tang attack routes; explosion marks/stars indicate battles. Historically accurate place names are given.
Goguryeo (vassal of Silla)
Baekje (vassal of Silla)
|Commanders and leaders|
|~30,000 (675)(According to Korean sources) ||~200,000 (675)(According to Korean sources) |
The Silla–Tang War occurred in the 7th century between the Korean Silla Kingdom and its newly conquered vassals Goguryeo and Baekje (commonly referred to as Unified Silla), and the Chinese Tang dynasty that began in the geopolitical context immediately following the conquest of Goguryeo and Baekje by Silla and Tang Dynasty.
While there was no clear victor, as both sides suffered considerable losses, Silla claimed tactical victory by capturing the contested focal territory south of Taedong River.
The Silla-Tang alliance, which had defeated both the Korean kingdoms of Baekje and Goguryeo, resulted in the occupation of the former territories of both of these kingdoms by coalition (i.e. Silla and Tang) armies. After the fall of Goguryeo in 668 AD, the Tang Emperor created the office of Protectorate General to Pacify the East and attempted to place the entire Korean Peninsula, including its erstwhile independent ally Silla, under its rule. The Silla-Tang alliance subsequently fell apart as the Tang tried to establish dominion over the Korean Peninsula through this new office and its former ally Silla resisted these efforts.
King Munmu of Silla assembled the Silla army with the armies of the defeated kingdoms Goguryeo and Baekje in a coalition against the Tang army. He had the unenviable challenge of freeing his country and hard-won conquests (particularly the entirety of what was formerly Baekje and some of the southern portions of what was formerly Goguryeo) from Tang domination. To achieve this, Munmu forged alliances with Goguryeo resistance leaders such as Geom Mojam and Anseung, and launched attacks on the Tang forces occupying territories formerly belonging to the conquered kingdoms of Baekje and Goguryeo. Starting almost immediately after the fall of Goguryeo in 668 AD and the establishment of the office of Protectorate General to Pacify the East, the struggle between the former allies lasted through much of the 670s AD.
By 674, Tang and Silla were in frequent battle, as King Munmu had taken over much of the former territories of Baekje and Goguryeo from the Tang forces that had occupied these lands following the Goguryeo-Tang War and Baekje–Tang War, and fostered native resistance against the Tang in those territories of the other Korean kingdoms still occupied by the Tang. In this year, Emperor Gaozong, in anger, arbitrarily declared King Munmu's brother Kim Inmun (김인문, 金仁問) to be the king of Silla and commissioned Liu Rengui with an army to attack Silla. However, before any major battles could be fought, King Munmu, for unknown reasons (perhaps unwilling to deal with the potential divisions that could be caused by having a royal pretender loose in his kingdom and unprepared to fight the Tang), formally apologized and offered tribute; this satisfied Emperor Gaozong (he and King Munmu's father, King Muyeol, were actually friends before Gaozong became emperor, and it has been suggested that this relationship not only enabled Gaozong to help King Muyeol start the wars of Korean unification in 660 AD in spite of having active enemies elsewhere, but also caused Gaozong to view Silla in a non-antagonistic manner), and, not wanting to prolong the campaign, he ordered a withdrawal and recalled Kim Inmun.
In 675, Li Jinxing (李謹行) reached Sillan territory via land, using Mohe forces in Manchuria that had submitted to Tang, with the intent of occupying territory in Silla. However, the Tang forces were defeated by a Sillan army at the Maeso fortress, in or near present-day Yeoncheon.
Afterwards in 676, the Tang government moved the Protectorate General to Pacify the East to Longdong. Although the Tang forces lost the conquered territories south of Taedong River, Silla could not regain the former Goguryeo territories to the north of Taedong River, which had fallen into Tang dominion. The Tang empire had taken control of Longdong Peninsula, while Silla controlled the Korean Peninsula. However, in 698, Dae Jo-yeong, a former Goguryeo general, led a rebellion consisting of Goguryeo-Mohe forces, defeating the Tang dynasty at the Battle of Tianmenling, and established Balhae as a successor to Goguryeo. Balhae would retake most of the former Goguryeo territory, and expand its empire into the northeast. Relations between Tang and Silla ceased until the early 8th century. Following a revolt of the Eastern Turks in 679 AD, Emperor Gaozong abandoned his plans to invade the Korean Peninsula.
Despite having been enemies of the Tang, a number of officials and commanders of Goguryeo were admitted into the administration and military of the Tang (such as the brothers Yeon Namsaeng and Yeon Namsan, the sons of the late Yeon Gaesomun). Such leaders and officials, as well as their descendants (one notable example of whom was Go Seonji), were assigned to Tang officialdom and provided the dynasty with some capable generals and administrators.
After this conflict, subsequent Korean states (including the administration of Unified Silla) would choose a path of cooperation with the Chinese in order to guarantee their independence and avoid invasions of conquest from China. This strategy proved successful in avoiding assimilation by Chinese powers.
- (in Korean) 나당전쟁
- Ebrey, Walthall & Palais 2006, 107.
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- Kim 2005, 41.
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