Ancient Age

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Chinese Characters 古代
Alternative name Three Kingdoms Period , Proto–Three Kingdoms Period , Ancient Times
Field History/Traditional Era
Type Conceptual Term/Conceptual Term (General)
Area Uiseong-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Period Ancient Era/Ancient Era
Writer Yi Hyeonggi
[Definition]
History and culture of Uiseong, North Gyeongsang Province, from antiquities to the North South States Period

[Outline]
During the Samhan (Proto-Three Kingdoms) period, there was a kingdom called Jomun in the vicinities of Uiseong. One can infer the possible location of the kingdom from a variety of sources in today’s Geumseong-myeon, Uiseong County. The kingdom was later absorbed by the Shilla Dynasty during the 2nd century CE.

[Emergence of Samhan Statelets]
According to sections describing the 3rd century Korean peninsula in Sanguozhi (The Records of the Three Kingdoms) of China, the Gyeongsang region at the time was comprised of confederacies of Byeonhan and Jinhan, with 12 statelets in each. In 12th century Samguk Sagi (History of the Three Kingdoms), there appeared more statelets which constantly competed and cooperated with each other. One can say that the ancient societies of Korea grew and gained power through these statelets absorbing adjacent statelets and strengthening state apparatus in the process.

[Samhan Statelets in Uiseong from Written Records]
According to old records, there was an early kingdom called Jomun in Uiseong. In “Geographical Monographs” in Samguk Sagi, there is a mention about Jomun Kingdom that its administrative name during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392 CE) was Munso County or Uiseong Protectorate. Afterward, other sources such as the Goryeosa (History of Goryeo) and Shinjeung Dongguk Yeoji Seungnam (New Revision of the Geographical Survey of Korea) also remarked that Jomun Kingdom was located in Uiseong. Later, Daedong Jiji (Geographical Records of Korea) and local records of Uiseong identify the area surrounding Geumseong-myeon, about 10 kilometers south from Uiseong county seat, as the center of Jomun.

[Formation of Jomun and Its Subsequent Developments]
The prehistoric archaeological sites in Uiseong are concentrated in three areas, in the west where the Nakdonggang River and Wie Stream, a Nakdonggang tributary, meet, in the southeast near the Ssanggye Stream basin, and the Mie Stream area in the north. Dolmens are found in hilly regions along these three waterways, with occasional remnants of fortresses. Given there are more than 100 ancient tombs found side by side with the dolmens, one can surmise that the groups that had the dolmens erected had grown into political powers during the era of statelet formation. Based on what we can gather from written sources, it is likely the elites who left off the tombs and burial mounds in the villages of Tap-ri, Dae-ri, and Hakmi in Geumseong-myeon were those who established Jomun Kingdom, who were most notable political group in Uiseong history.

The most prominent archaeological site vividly showing the existence of Jomun Kingdom is a group of tombs found in Geumseong-myeon. Although there are many tombs and burial mounds scattered around Uiseong, the ones in Geumseong-myeon are much bigger and grander than those elsewhere. For example, there are 16 tombs in Tap-ri village with a diameter of 20 meters or longer. Of these, the largest tomb has an east-west diameter of 41 meters, a north-south diameter of 30 meters, and a height of 8 meters. It is physical evidence enough that the area was the center of Jomun, which is also ascertained by literature sources. At the Tap-ri Tomb, a gilt-bronze crown decorated with three peacock wing-shaped uprights was discovered, which leads us to believe that the tombs in this area were those of the elite class ruling the Uiseong region.

During the late 2nd century CE, Ku Do, leader of a statelet "Saroguk," began expanding toward the upstream area of the Nakdonggang River by conquering Jomun. This was made possible by consolidation of power centered in its capital Guk-eup. This historical event was corroborated by a mention in “Records of Shilla” in Samguk Sagi that “In the second month of the second year of King Beolhyu (r. 184-196 CE) Pajinchan (4th highest title) Ku Do and Ilgilchan (7th highest) Ku Suhye punished Jomun.” At the time, “punishment” might not mean total political subjugation but may be close to enforcement of tributary relationship or securing of strategic bases.

The whole area of Geumseong-myeon is a wide basin surrounded by mountains, with the Taebaek mountain range in the east and its branches effectively isolating the area from other population centers such as Andong and Yeongju in the north and Yeongcheon in the south by tens of kilometers. This is how Jomun Kingdom could develop itself into an independent power center without being subject to external invasion. Especially given that the style of tombs in the area is quite distinct from any other in the southeast, albeit with similarities to Shilla tombs as can be seen in the tomb of Jomun King Kyeongdeok and others in the area, such an inference seems more plausible.

Although there is little doubt that Uiseong is the very location of Jomun Kingdom with its capital Geumseong-myeon, the boundary of the kingdom’s zone of influence may differ depending on time period. In truth, it is not clear exact when Jomun collapsed politically. Through extant written records, one can see that a county seat was created in Sabeolju, today’s Sangju, in the second month of the twelfth year of King Beopheung (525 CE). Taking into account the fact that Shilla strengthened control of areas around Uiseong, Jomun by that time must have completely been under the sway of Shilla power.

After being defeated by Shilla, Jomun Kingdom must have been transformed into a county of Jomun. This is a plausible inference because it was Shilla’s general practice to name a newly created administrative unit after that of the former kingdom existed in the area, such as in the case of Geumgwan Gaya (today’s Gimhae, South Gyeongsang Province) and Dae-Gaya (Goryeong, North Gyeongsang Province). The Jomun Fortress, built in the ninth month of the 13th year of King Munmu (673 CE), may have come from the name Jomun County. This is supported by a mention in Kim Jeong-Ho’s Daedong Jiji (1864), “Jomun Kingdom fell and became Jomun County.”

By the 6th century in the first month of the 15th year of King Jijeung (514 CE), Shilla established a minor capital in Ashi, near today’s Angye Myeon, Uiseong County. We know this because the village’s previous name had been Ashi-hye Prefecture. The whole area in Angye Myeon where the Ashi minor capital was created was far from the center of Uiseong at the time. The real reason Ashi was designated as a minor capital may have to do with the fact that there was no powerful local political force in the area to resist central control. For this reason, Shilla rulers chose Ashi as a minor capital and filled it with their own people from Gyeongju and the south. Possibly it was because the ruling elites in the center wanted to take full control of the area while avoiding conflict with local notables. In addition, the area was considered strategically important to expand farther north beyond the Sobaek mountain range along Sangju and Yeongju. To wit, Shilla established the Ashi minor capital in order to make it a steppingstone to move toward the northeast while keeping the powerful local clans in check by allowing their own people in the capital and surrounding areas to settle in.

[Uiseong during Unified Shilla Era]
In the 12th month of the 16th year of King Gyeongdeok (757 CE) during the Unified Shilla era, the whole country went through a through administrative reform by which the land was divided into nine provinces with names of counties and prefectures changed into Chinese style. At the time, Jomun County became part of Sangju with its name modified into Munso County. Munso Country was again divided into four prefectures: Jinbo (today’s Jinbo Myeon, Cheongsong County), Bi-ok (Bi-an Myeon, Uiseong County), Anhyeon (Angye Myeon), and Danmil (Danmil Myeon, Uiseong County). Other prefectures such as Da-in (today’s Da-in Myeon, Uiseong County) became a prefecture directly under Sangju while Ilgye (Oksan Myeon, Uiseong County) and Gogu (Danchon Myeon, Uiseong County) belonging under the jurisdiction of Gochang County (today’s Andong). Although there is little doubt that the center of Uiseong during the Goryeo Dynasty was Uiseong county seat, the center of gravity until the Unified Shilla era had been Geumseong-myeon and its vicinities. There is no way for us to know exactly when the center shifted to Uiseong county seat, but it is possible to suppose that it occurred when the county’s name changed to Munso from Jomun.

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