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고구려 (高句麗)

37 BC–668

Royal Emblem

Goguryeo at its height in 476.
Capital Jolbon
(37 BC–3 AD)


Language(s) Goguryeo language
(Part of Old Korean)
Religion Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Korean shamanism
Government Monarchy
 - 37 BCE - 19 BCE Dongmyeong
 - 391 - 413 Gwanggaeto the Great
 - 413 - 491 Jangsu
 - 590 - 618 Yeongyang
Historical era Ancient
 - Establishment 37 BC
 - Introduction of Buddhism 372
 - Campaigns of Gwanggaeto the Great 391 - 413
 - Goguryeo-Sui Wars 598 - 614
 - Goguryeo-Tang Wars 645 - 668
 - Fall of Pyongyang 668
 -  est. 3,500,000 (at the time of its fall at 668 CE) 

Goguryeo or Koguryŏ (Korean pronunciation: [koɡuɾjʌ]) was an ancient Korean kingdom located in present day northern and central parts of the Korean Peninsula, southern Manchuria, and southern Russian Maritime province.

Along with Baekje and Silla, Goguryeo was one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. Goguryeo was an active participant in the power struggle for control of the Korean peninsula as well as associated with the foreign affairs of peer polities in China and Japan.

The Samguk Sagi, a 12th century CE Goryeo text, indicates that Goguryeo was founded in 37 BCE by Jumong, a prince from Buyeo, although there is archaeological and textual evidence that suggests Goguryeo culture was in existence since the 2nd century BCE around the fall of Gojoseon, an earlier kingdom that also occupied southern Manchuria and northern Korea.

Goguryeo was a major regional power in Northeast Asia until it was defeated by a Silla-Tang alliance in 668 CE. After its defeat, its territory was divided among the Tang Dynasty, Unified Silla and Balhae.

The English word "Korea" derives from "Goryeo", which comes from "Goguryeo".




Goguryeo tomb mural.
Korean name
Hangul 고구려
Hanja 高句麗
Revised Romanization Goguryeo
McCune–Reischauer Koguryŏ
Korea unified vertical.svgHistory of Korea

 Jeulmun period
 Mumun period
Gojoseon 2333–108 BC
 Jin state
Proto-Three Kingdoms: 108–57 BC
 Buyeo, Okjeo, Dongye
 Samhan: Ma, Byeon, Jin
Three Kingdoms: 57 BC – 668 AD
 Goguryeo 37 BC – 668 AD
 Baekje 18 BC – 660 AD
 Silla 57 BC – 935 AD
 Gaya 42–562
North-South States: 698–935
 Unified Silla 668–935
 Balhae 698–926
 Later Three Kingdoms 892–935
  Later Goguryeo, Later Baekje, Silla
Goryeo Dynasty 918–1392
Joseon Dynasty 1392–1897
Korean Empire 1897–1910
Japanese rule 1910–1945
 Provisional Gov't 1919–1948
Division of Korea 1945–1948
North, South Korea 1948–present
 Korean War 1950–1953

Korea Portal
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Yan (state)
Han Dynasty | Xiongnu
Donghu | Wiman Joseon
Wuhuan | Sushen | Buyeo | Okjeo
Cao Wei
Jin Dynasty (265-420)
Former Yan
Former Qin
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Northern Yan
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Yuan Dynasty
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Republic of China
Soviet Union
People's Republic of China (Northeast China)
Russia (Russian Far East)
Monarchs of Korea
  1. Dongmyeong 37-19 BCE
  2. Yuri 19 BCE-18 CE
  3. Daemusin 18-44
  4. Minjung 44-48
  5. Mobon 48-53
  6. Taejo 53-146
  7. Chadae 146-165
  8. Sindae 165-179
  9. Gogukcheon 179-197
  10. Sansang 197-227
  11. Dongcheon 227-248
  12. Jungcheon 248-270
  13. Seocheon 270-292
  14. Bongsang 292-300
  15. Micheon 300-331
  16. Gogug-won 331-371
  17. Sosurim 371-384
  18. Gogug-yang 384-391
  19. Gwanggaeto the Great 391-413
  20. Jangsu 413-490
  21. Munja 491-519
  22. Anjang 519-531
  23. An-won 531-545
  24. Yang-won 545-559
  25. Pyeong-won 559-590
  26. Yeong-yang 590-618
  27. Yeong-nyu 618-642
  28. Bojang 642-668

Founding of Goguryeo (c. 37 BCE)

According to the Samguk Sagi and the Samguk Yusa, a prince from the kingdom of Buyeo, named Jumong, fled after a power struggle with other princes of the Buyeo court[1] and founded the Goguryeo state in 37 BCE in a region called Jolbon Buyeo, usually thought to be located in the middle Yalu and T'ung-chia river basin, overlapping the current China-North Korea border. Some scholars believe that Goguryeo may have been founded in the 2nd century BCE.[2] In the geographic monographs of the Han Shu, the word Goguryeo or "高句麗" was first mentioned in 113 BCE as a region under the jurisdiction of the Xuantu commandery.[3] In the Old Book of Tang, it is recorded that Emperor Taizong of Tang refers to Goguryeo's history as being some 900 years old. In 75 BCE, a group of Yemaek tribes (a proto-Goguryeo type people), which may have included Goguryeo, made an incursion into China's Xuantu commandery west from the Amnok River valley.[4]

However, the weight of textual evidence from the Old and New Histories of Tang, the Samguk Sagi, the Nihon Shoki as well as other ancient sources would support a 37 BCE or "middle" 1st century BCE foundation date for Goguryeo.[5] Archaeological evidence would support centralized groups of Yemaek tribes in the 2nd century BCE, but there is no direct evidence that would suggest these Yemaek groups were known as or would identify themselves as Goguryeo. The first mention of Goguryeo as a group type associated with Yemaek tribes would be a reference in the Han Shu that discusses a Goguryo revolt in 12 CE, where they break away from Xuantu influence.[6][7]

At its founding, the Goguryeo people are believed to be a blend of Buyeo and Yemaek people, as leadership from Buyeo may have fled their kingdom and integrated with existing Yemaek chiefdoms.[8] The San Guo Zhi, in the section titled "Accounts of the Eastern Barbarians", states that Buyeo and the Yemaek people were ethnically related and spoke the same language.[9]

Jumong and the foundation myth

The earliest mention of Jumong is in the 4th century C.E. Stele of Great King Gwanggaeto. Jumong is often said to be the Korean transcription of the hanja 朱蒙 (Jumong, 주몽), 鄒牟(Chumo, 추모), or 仲牟 (Jungmo, 중모).

The Stele states that Jumong was the first king and ancestor of Goguryeo and he was the son of the king of Buyeo and a daughter of the river deity Habaek.[10] The Samguk Sagi and Samguk Yusa paints additional detail and names Jumong's mother as Yuhwa. Jumong's biological father was said to be a man named Hae Mosu who is described as a "strong man" and "a heavenly prince."[11] The Samguk Sagi states that Hae Mosu was a sky deity, who had seduced Yuhwa. After the murder attempts of Daeso, the crown prince of Buyeo, Jumong fled Buyeo.[12] The Stele and later Korean sources disagree as to which Buyeo Jumong came from. The Stele says he came from North Buyeo and the Samguk Sagi and Samguk Yusa say he came from East Buyeo. Jumong eventually made it to the Jolbon Buyeo confederacy, where he married So Seo-no, daughter of its ruler. He subsequently became king himself, founding Goguryeo with a small group of his followers from his native country.

A traditional account from the "Annals of Baekje" section in the Samguk Sagi, says that So Seo-no was the daughter of Yeon Ta-bal, a wealthy influential figure in Jolbon[13] and married to Jumong. However, the same source officially states that the king of Jolbon Buyeo gave his daughter to Jumong, who had escaped with his followers from Dongbuyeo, in marriage. She gave her husband, Jumong financial support[14] in founding the new statelet, Goguryeo. After Yuri, son of Jumong and his first wife, Lady Ye, came from Dongbuyeo and succeeded Jumong, she left Goguryeo, taking her two sons Biryu and Onjo south to found their own kingdoms.

Jumong's given surname was Hae (解), the name of the Buyeo rulers. According to the Samguk Yusa, Jumong changed his surname to Ko (高), in conscious reflection of his divine parentage.[15] Jumong is recorded to have conquered the tribal states of Biryu (비류국, 沸流國) in 36 BCE, Haeng-in (행인국, 荇人國) in 33 BCE, and North Okjeo in 28 BCE.[16][17]

Centralization and early expansion (mid 1st century CE)

Proto-Three Kingdoms, c. 001 AD.

Goguryeo developed from a league of various Yemaek tribes to an early state and rapidly expanded its power from their original basin of control in the Hun river drainage. The Goguryeo homeland was said to be mountainous and lacked arable land and could barely feed its own population. Goguryeo was known for being fond of raiding their neighbors so they could expand their resource base. In the time of king Taejo of Goguryeo in 53 CE, five local tribes were reorganized into five centrally ruled districts. Foreign relations and the military were controlled by the king. Aggressive military activities may have allowed Goguryeo to exact tribute from their tribal neighbors and to even dominate them politically and economically.[18]

Taejo conquered the Okjeo tribes of Northeast Korea as well as the Eastern Ye and other tribes in Southeastern Manchuria and Northern Korea. From the increase of resources and manpower that these subjugated tribes gave him, Goguryo attacked Han China's commanderies of Lelang, Xuantu, and Liaodong in the Korean and Liaodong peninsulas, becoming fully independent from the Han commanderies.[19]

Generally, Taejo allowed the conquered tribes to retain their chieftains, but report to governors who were related to Goguryeo's royal line and were expected to provide heavy tribute. Taejo and his successors channeled these increased resources to continuing its expansion to the northwest. New laws regulated peasants and the aristocracy, as tribal leaders continued to be absorbed into the central aristocracy. Royal succession changed from fraternal to patrilineal, strengthening the royal court.[20]

The expanding Goguryeo kingdom entered into direct military contact with the Liaodong commandery. Pressure from Liadong forced Goguryeo to move their capital in the Hun River valley to the Yalu River valley near Mt. Wandu.[21]

Goguryeo-Wei War (244 CE)

The chaos following the fall of the Han Dynasty, the former Han commanderies had broken free of control and were ruled by various independent warlords. Surrounded by these commanderies, who were governed by aggressive warlords, Goguryeo moved to improve relations with the newly created Wei Dynasty of China and sent tribute in 220 CE. In 238 CE, Goguryeo entered into a formal alliance with the Wei to destroy the Liaodong commandery. When Liaodong was finally conquered by Wei, cooperation between Wei and Goguryeo fell apart and Goguryeo attacked the western edges of Liaodong, which incited a Wei counterattack in 244. On this occasion, Wei reached and destroyed the Goguryeo capital at Mt. Hwando. It is said that the king of Goguryeo, with his army destroyed, fled alone and sought refuge with the Okjeo tribes in the east.[22]

Revival and further expansion (300 to 390 CE)

The Wei armies thought they had destroyed Goguryeo and soon left the area. However, in only 70 years, Goguryeo rebuilt their capital at Mt. Wandu and again began to raid Liaodong, Lelang and Xuantu commandaries. As Goguryeo extended its reach into the Liaodong peninsula, the last Chinese commandery at Lelang was conquered and absorbed by Micheon of Goguryeo in 313, bringing the northern part of the Korean peninsula into the fold.[23] From that point on, until the 7th century C.E., territorial control of the peninsula would be contested primarily by the Three Kingdoms of Korea.

The expansion met temporary setbacks when in 342, Former Yan, a Chinese Sixteen Kingdoms state of Xianbei ethnicity, (some Goguryeo royal family members were seized by Former Yan, and one of them, Gao Yun, briefly ruled Former Yan's successor state Northern Yan from 407 to 409) attacked Goguryeo’s capital, then at Mt. Wandu, and in 371, King Geunchogo of Baekje sacked one of Goguryeo’s largest cities, Pyongyang, and killed King Gogukwon of Goguryeo in battle.[17]

Turning to domestic stability and the unification of various conquered tribes, Sosurim of Goguryeo proclaimed new laws, embraced Buddhism as the national religion in 372, and established a national educational institute called the Taehak (태학, 太學).[24] Due to the defeats that Goguryeo had suffered under Former Yan and Baekje, Sosurim had also instituted military reforms.[25]

Zenith of Goguryeo's Power (391 to 531 CE)

Goguryeo at its height in 476 CE.
Sphere of Influece of Goguryo at the period of Jangsu
Red line = Sphere of Influence
black line = national border

Gwanggaeto the Great (R. 391 - 412 CE) was a highly energetic monarch that is remembered for his rapid military expansion of the realm.[25]

Gwanggaeto's exploits have been recorded on a huge memorial stele located near present day Jilin in southern Manchuria, that was erected by his son, Jangsu. Gwanggaetto is said to have conquered 64 walled cities and 1,400 villages from one campaign against Buyeo alone, destroyed Later Yan and annexed Buyeo and Mohe tribes to the north, subjugated Baekje, contributed to the dissolution of the Gaya confederacy, defeated Wa incursion into the peninsula and turned Silla into a protectorate through the Goguryeo–Yamato War. In doing so, he brought about a loose unification of the Korean peninsula that lasted about 50 years. By the end of his reign, Goguryeo had achieved undisputed control of southern Manchuria, and the northern and central regions of the Korean Peninsula.[26]

During this period, Goguryeo territory included three fourths of the Korean peninsula, including today's Seoul, and much of southern Manchuria and the southeastern end of Russian maritime province. Gwanggaeto instituted the reign name of "Yeongnak", thus signifying his belief that he was equal with the major Chinese dynasties.[27]

Jangsu, ascending to the throne in 413, moved the capital to Pyongyang in 427, which is evidence to the intensifying rivalries between it and the other two peninsular kingdoms of Baekje and Silla to its south. Jangsu, like his father, continued Goguryeo's territorial expansion into Manchuria and reached the Eastern Songhua River. During the reign of Munja, Goguryeo completely annexed Buyeo, signifying Goguryeo's furthest ever expansion north, while continuing its strong influence over the kingdoms of Silla and Baekje, and Malgal and Khitan tribes. Goguryeo expanded its sphere of influence to eastern Mongolia to conquest Jiduwu (지두우, 地豆于) at the period of Jangsu.

Internal strife (531 to 551 CE)

Goguryeo reached its zenith in the 6th century. After this, it began a steady decline. Anjang was assassinated, and succeeded by his brother Anwon, during whose reign aristocratic factionalism increased. A political schism deepened as two factions advocated different princes for succession, until the eight-year-old Yang-won was finally crowned. But the power struggle was never resolved definitively, as renegade magistrates with private armies appointed de facto rulers of their areas of control.

Taking advantage of Goguryeo's internal struggle, a nomadic group called the Tuchueh attacked Goguryeo's northern castles in the 550s and conquered some of Goguryeo's northern lands. Weakening Goguryeo even more, as civil war continued among feudal lords over royal succession, Baekje and Silla allied to attack Goguryeo from the south in 551.

Conflicts of the late 6th and 7th centuries CE

In the late 6th and early 7th centuries, Goguryeo was often in conflict with the Sui and Tang Dynasties of China. Its relations with Baekje and Silla were complex and alternated between alliances and enmity. A neighbor in the northeast were the Eastern Göktürk, a khanate in northwestern China and near Mongolia, was a nominal ally with Goguryeo.

Goguryeo's loss of the Han River Valley

In 551 CE, Baekje and Silla entered into an alliance to attack Goguryeo and conquer the Han River valley, an important strategic area close to the center of the peninsula and a very rich agricultural region. After Baekje exhausted themselves with a series of costly assaults on Goguryeo fortifications, Silla troops, arriving on the pretense of offering assistance, attacked and took possession of the entire Han River valley in 553. Incensed by this betrayal, Baekje's King Seong in the following year launched a retaliatory strike against Silla's western border but was captured and killed.

The war, along the middle of the Korean peninsula, had very important consequences. It effectively made Baekje the weakest player on the Korean peninsula and gave Silla an important resource and population rich area as a base for expansion. Conversely, it denied Goguryeo the use of the area, which weakened the empire. It also gave Silla direct access to the Yellow Sea, opening up trade and diplomatic access to the Chinese dynasties and accelerating Silla's process of Sinification. Thus, Silla could rely less on Goguryeo for elements of civilization and could get culture and technology directly from China. This increasing tilt of Silla to China would result in an alliance that would prove disastrous for Goguryeo in the late 7th century.

Goguryeo-Sui Wars

Goguryeo's expansion conflicted with the Sui Dynasty and increased tensions. Goguryeo military offensives in the Liaoxi region provoked the Sui and resulted in the first of the Goguryeo-Sui Wars in 598. In this campaign, as with those that followed in 612, 613, and 614, Sui was unsuccessful in overrunning Goguryeo, but did gain minor concessions and promises of submission that were never fulfilled. The 613 and 614 campaigns were aborted after launch—the 613 campaign was terminated when the Sui general Yang Xuangan rebelled against Emperor Yang of Sui, while the 614 campaign was terminated after Goguryeo offered surrender and returned Husi Zheng (斛斯政), a defecting Sui general who had fled to Goguryeo, Emperor Yang later had Husi executed. Emperor Yang planned another attack on Goguryeo in 615, but due to Sui's deteroriating internal state he was never able to launch it. Sui was weakened due to rebellions against Emperor Yang's rule. They could not attack further because the soldiers in the Sui heartland would not send logistical support.

One of Sui's most disastrous campaigns to itself was in 612, in which Sui, according to the History of the Sui Dynasty, mobilized 30 Division armies, about 1,133,800 combat troops. Pinned along Goguryeo's line of fortifications on the Liao river, a detachment of 9 Division armies, about 305,000 troops, bypassed the main defensive lines and headed towards the Goguryeo capital of Pyongyang to link up with Sui naval forces which contained reinforcements and supplies. However, Goguryeo was able to defeat the Sui navy, thus when the Sui's 9 Division armies finally reached Pyongyang, they didn't have the supplies for a lengthy siege. Sui troops retreated but General Eulji Mundeok led the Goguryeo troops to victory by luring them into an ambush outside of Pyongyang. At the Battle of Salsu River, Goguryeo soldiers released water from a dam, which split the Sui army and cut off their escape route. Of the original 305,000 soldiers, only 2,700 escaped to Sui China.

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 also exhausted Goguryeo's strength and its power declined.

Goguryeo-Tang War and Tang-Silla alliance

Goguryeo was attacked by Tang Taizong. The campaign was unsuccessful for the Chinese, failing to capture strategic points in numerous attacks.[17]

The Tang forged an alliance with Goguryeo's rival Silla after defeating Goguryeo's western ally, the Göktürks. This, combined with Goguryeo's increasing political instability following the 642 murder of King Yeongnyu at the hands of the military general Yeon Gaesomun, increased tensions between Tang and Goguryeo, as Yeon took an increasingly provocative stance against Tang.

In 645, Tang's emperor, Taizong, launched another attack against Goguryeo. Tang was able to defeat Goguryeo's network of defenses, but had difficulties at the last link in the defense chain at Ansi Fortress. Although Korean historical sources admit that the name of the resourceful commander who lead the defense of Ansi has been lost to history, Korean oral tradition attributes a Yang Manchun as the general in charge. In the end, Tang Taizong was not able to capture Ansi, and the Tang army withdrew after suffering large losses during the siege of Ansi and running out of food supplies. After Tang Taizong's death in 649, Tang armies were again sent to conquer Goguryeo in 661 and 662, but could not overcome the successful defense lead by Yeon Gaesomun and was not able to conquer Goguryeo, although the Tang attacks inflicted substantial losses.[28][29]


Goguryeo's ally in the southwest, Baekje, fell to the Silla-Tang alliance in 660; the victorious allies continued their assault on Goguryeo for the next eight years. Meanwhile, in 666 (though dates vary from 664-666), Yeon Gaesomun died and civil war ensued among his three sons.[30]

Following the defection of Yeon Namsaeng, the son of Yeon Gaesomun and the surrender of numerous cities in northern Goguryeo, the Tang army bypassed the Liaodong region and captured Pyongyang, the capital of Goguryeo, while Yeon Jeong-to, the Younger brother of Yeon Gaesomun, surrendered his forces to the Silla general Kim Yushin, who was advancing from the south. In November 668 Bojang, the last king of Goguryeo, surrendered to Tang Gaozong.

Silla-Tang eventually vanquished the weary empire, which had been suffering from a series of famines and internal strife. Goguryeo finally fell in 668.[30] Goguryeo's last king Bojang was captured and taken into exile by the Tang forces.

Silla thus unified most of the Korean peninsula in 668, but the kingdom's reliance on China's Tang Dynasty had its price. Tang set up the Protectorate General to Pacify the East, or Andong protectorate, governed by Xue Rengui, but faced increasing problems ruling the former inhabitants of Goguryeo, as well as Silla's resistance to Tang's remaining presence on the Korean Peninsula. Silla had to forcibly resist the imposition of Chinese rule over the entire peninsula, but their own strength did not extend beyond the Taedong River.

In 677, Tang crowned Bojang "King of Joseon" and put him in charge of the Liaodong commandery of the Protectorate General to Pacify the East. However, King Bojang continued to ferment rebellions against Tang in an attempt to revive Goguryeo, organizing Goguryeo refugees and allying with the Mohe tribes. He was eventually exiled to Szechuan in 681, and died the following year.

Revival movements

After the fall of Goguryeo in 668, many Goguryeo people rebelled against the Tang and Silla by starting Goguryeo revival movements. Among these were Geom Mojam, Dae Jung-sang, and several famous generals. The Tang Dynasty tried but failed to establish several commanderies to rule over the area.

The Protectorate General to Pacify the East was installed by the Tang government to rule and keep control over the former territories of the fallen Goguryeo. It was first put under the control of Tang General Xue Rengui, but was later replaced by King Bojang due the negative responses of the Goguryeo people. Bojang was sent into exile for assisting Goguryeo revival movements, but was succeeded by his descendants. Go Jang's descendants declared independence from the Tang during the time at which An Shi Rebellion and Yi Jeonggi's rebellion in Shandong, China.[31][32] The Protectorate General to Pacify the East was renamed "Lesser Goguryeo" until its eventual absorption into Balhae under the reign of King Seon of Balhae.

Geom Mojam and Anseung rose briefly at Hanseong, but failed, when Anseung surrendered to Silla. Go Anseung ordered the assassination of Geom Mojam, and defected to Silla, where he was given a small amount of land to rule over. There, Anseung established the Kingdom of Bodeok, incited a rebellion, which was promptly crushed by King Sinmun. Anseung was then forced to reside in the Silla capital, given a Silla bride and had to adopt the Silla Royal surname of "Kim."

Dae Jung-sang and his son Dae Joyeong, both former Goguryeo generals, regained most of Goguryeo's northern land after its downfall in 668, established the kingdom Great Jin, which was renamed to Balhae after the death of Dae Jung-sang. To the south of Balhae, Silla controlled the Korean peninsula south of the Taedong River, and Manchuria(present-day northeastern China) was conquered by Balhae. Balhae considered itself (particularly in diplomatic correspondence with Japan) the successor state to Goguryeo.

In the early 10th century, Gung-ye, a rebel general, established Taebong, later renamed to Hu-Goguryeo ("Later Goguryeo"), which briefly rose in rebellion against Silla. Taebong also considered itself to be a successor of Goguryeo, as did Goryeo, the state that replaced Silla to rule the unified Korean peninsula.


Goguryeo at territorial prime and modern political boundaries

The unified military of Goguryeo was actually a conglomerate of combined local garrisons and private militia. military positions were hereditary, and there is no evidence of uniform structure or chain of command. A centralized military command structure was not instituted until the Goryeo Dynasty. Most likely in times of war manpower was hastily conscripted from local populace, and a standing army of Goguryeo of about 50,000 remained extant at any time.

A Tang treatise of 668 records a total of 675,000 displaced personnel and 176 military garrisons after the surrender of King Bojang.

Every man in Goguryeo was required to serve in the military, or could avoid conscription by paying extra grain tax.

Archeological finds over Guonei and in the tombs of neighboring kingdoms found spiked iron bronze sandals about 11 cm long. They were probably used for military applications. similar copies were also found in Japanese imperial tombs of the Kofun era.

Military Equipment

The main projectile weapon used in Goguryeo was the bow. The bows were modified to be more composite and increase throwing ability on par with crossbows. To a lesser extent, stone-throwing machines and crossbows were also used. Polearms, used against the cavalry and in open order, were mostly spears. Two types of swords were used by Goguryeo warriors. The first was a shorter double-edged variant mostly used for throwing. The other was longer single-edged sword with minimal hilt and ring pommel, of obvious eastern han influence. The helmets were similar to helmets used by Central Asian peoples, decorated with wings, leathers and horsetails. The shield was the main protection, which covered most of the soldier's body. These calvalry were called Gaemamusa (개마무사, 鎧馬武士).


The most common form of the Goguryeo fortress was one made in the shape of the moon, located between a river and its tributary. Ditches and ground walls between the shores formed an extra defense line. The walls were made from huge stone blocks fixed with clay, and even Chinese artillery had difficulty to break through them. Walls were surrounded by a ditch to prevent an underground attack, and equipped with guard towers. All fortresses had sources of water and enough equipment for a protracted siege. If rivers and mountains were absent, extra defense lines were added.

For more information on fortification, see Cheolli Jangseong (천리장성).

Military Organization

Two hunts per year, led by the king himself, maneuvers exercises, hunt-maneuvers and parades were conducted to give the Goguryeo soldier a high level of individual training.

There were five armies in the capital, mostly cavalry that were personally led by the king, numbering approximately 12,500. Military units varied in number from 21,000 to 36,000 soldiers, were located in the provinces, and were led by the governors. Military colonies near the boundaries consisted mostly of soldiers and peasants. There were also private armies held by aristocrats. This system allowed Goguryeo to maintain and utilize an army of 50,000 without added expense, and 300,000 through large mobilization in special cases.

Goguryeo units were divided according to major weapons: spearmen, axemen, archers composed of those on foot and horseback, and heavy cavalry that included armored and heavy spear divisions. Other groups like the catapult units, wall-climbers, and storm units were part of the special units and were added to the common. The advantage of this functional division is highly specialized combat units, while the disadvantage is that it was impossible for one unit to make complex, tactical actions.

Military Strategy

The military formation had the general and his staff with guards in the middle of the army. The archers were defended by axemen. In front of the general were the main infantry forces, and on the flanks were rows of heavy cavalry ready to counterattack in case of a flank attack by the enemy. In the very front and rear was the light cavalry, used for intelligence, pursuit, and for weakening the enemy's strike. Around the main troops were small groups of heavy cavalrymen and infantry. Each unit was prepared to defend the other by providing mutual support.

Goguryeo implemented a strategy of active defense based on cities. Besides the walled cities and fortified camps, this active defense system used small units of light cavalry to continuously harass the enemy, de-blockade units and strong reserves, consisting of the best soldiers, to strike hard at the end.

Goguryeo also employed military intelligence and special tactics as an important part of the strategy. Goguryeo was good at disinformation, such as sending only stone spearheads as tribute to the Chinese court when they were in the Iron Age. Goguryeo had developed its system of espionage. One of the most famous spies, Baekseok, mentioned in the Samguk yusa, was able to infiltrate the Hwarangs of Silla.


Goguryeo King Crown

The culture of Goguryeo was shaped by its climate, religion, and the tense society that people dealt with due to the numerous wars Goguryeo waged. Not much is known about Goguryeo culture, as many records have been lost.


The inhabitants of Goguryeo wore a predecessor of the modern hanbok, just as the other cultures of the three kingdoms. There are murals and artifacts that depict dancers wearing elaborate white dresses.

Festivals and pastimes

A mural of a three-legged bird in a Goguryeo tomb.

Common pastimes among Goguryeo people were drinking, singing, or dancing. Games such as wrestling attracted curious spectators.

Every October, the Dongmaeng Festival was held. The Dongmaeng Festival was practiced to worship the gods. The ceremonies were followed by huge celebratory feasts, games, and other activities. Often, the king performed rites to his ancestors.

Hunting was a male activity and also served as an appropriate means to train young men for the military. Hunting parties rode on horses and hunted deer and other game with bows-and-arrows. Archery contests also occurred. Horse riding was popular and Goguryeo developed strong military skills, as the cavalry was strong.


A Goguryeo tomb mural.

Goguryeo people worshipped ancestors and considered them to be supernatural.[33] Jumong, the founder of Goguryeo, was worshipped and respected among the people. At the annual Dongmaeng Festival, a religious rite was performed for Jumong, ancestors, and gods.

Mythical beasts and animals were also considered to be sacred in Goguryeo. The phoenix and dragon were both worshipped upon, while the Samjogo, the three-legged crow that represented the sun, was considered the most powerful of the three. Paintings of mythical beasts exist in Goguryeo king tombs today.

They also believed in the 'Sasin', who were 4 mythical animals. Chungryong (blue dragon) guarded the east, baek-ho(white tiger) guarded the west, jujak (red phoenix (bird)) guarded the south, and hyunmu (black turtle (sometimes with snakes for a tail)) guarded the north.

Buddhism was first introduced to Goguryeo in 372.[34] The government recognized and encouraged the teachings of Buddhism and many monasteries and shrines were created during Goguryeo's rule, making Goguryeo the first kingdom in the region to adopt Buddhism. However, Buddhism was much more popular in Silla and Baekje, which Goguryeo passed Buddhism to.[34]

Cultural linkage

Ssireum depicted on Goguryeo mural

Goguryeo art, preserved largely in tomb paintings, is noted for the vigour of its imagery. Finely detailed art can be seen in Goguryeo tombs and other murals. Many of the art pieces has an original style of painting.

Cultural legacies of Goguryeo may be found in modern Korean culture, for example, Ssireum[35] prototype Taekwondo,[36][37] Korean dance, ondol, Goguryeo's floor heating system, and hanbok.(Brown 2006, p. 18)


Remains of walled towns, fortresses, palaces, tombs, and artifacts have been found in North Korea and Manchuria, including ancient paintings in a Goguryeo tomb complex in Pyongyang. Some ruins are also still visible in present-day China, for example at Wǔ Nǚ Shān, suspected to be the site of Jolbon fortress, near Huanren in Liaoning province on the present border with North Korea. Ji'an is also home to a large collection of Goguryeo era tombs, including what Chinese scholars consider to be the tombs of kings Gwanggaeto and his son Jangsu, as well as perhaps the best-known Goguryeo artifact, the Gwanggaeto Stele, which is one of the primary sources for pre-fifth century Goguryeo history.

World Heritage Site

UNESCO added Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom in present-day China and Complex of Goguryeo Tombs in present-day North Korea to the World Heritage Sites in 2004.


The modern English name "Korea" derives from the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), which itself took one of the various names which Goguryeo had used in diplomatic language with its neighbours. Goguryeo is also referred to as Goryeo after 520 AD in Chinese and Japanese historical and diplomatic sources.[38][39]


Detail of a rubbing of the Gwanggaeto Stele (414 AD), one of the few surviving records made by Goguryeo, written in Classical Chinese.

There have been some academic attempts to reconstruct the Goguryeo words based on the fragments of toponyms, recorded in the Samguk Sagi, of the areas once possessed by Goguryeo. However, the reliability of the toponyms as linguistic evidence is still in dispute.[3] Some linguists propose the so-called "Buyeo languages" family that includes the languages of Buyeo, Goguryeo, Baekje, and Old Japanese. Chinese records suggest that the languages of Goguryeo, Buyeo, East Okjeo, and Gojoseon were similar, while Goguryeo language differed significantly from that of Malgal (Mohe).[40][41][42]

Modern politics

Goguryeo has been conventionally viewed as one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, and given its role as an external and outside influence on China (having acted only as a competitor state to Chinese dynasties, never actually ruled the whole of China, or established a Chinese dynasty such as the Ming, Qing, or Tang), this is an appropriate perspective. The Chinese government's attempted characterization of Goguryeo as a possible regional Chinese power in recent times has spawned heated disputes with both North Korea and South Korea, as well as most scholars of history, [43] [44] [45] [46], including Chinese scholars, [47] who regard Goguryeo as an independent Korean state. At heart of the Goguryeo controversy is whether Goguryeo was a part of the greater Chinese nation, or an independent Korean kingdom.

The Chinese government's attempted revision of Goguryeo history, in an attempt to recharacterize it as a Chinese provincial state rather than an independent Korean kingdom, has received international criticism for making a flawed and politically motivated rewriting of history.[citation needed] Some Chinese historians, particularly revisionists working for the Chinese government, have been accused of conceiving of ancient China in terms of the territorial bounds of the modern Chinese state, which, he claimed, is a view unsupported by historical evidence.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ 'Mark E. Byington, "A History of the Puyo State, its History and Legacy" 2003 PhD dissertation for the department of East Asian History, Harvard University, p. 234'
  2. ^ 'Daniel Kane, postdoctoral student, Korean History Department, University of Hawaii, personal web site http://www2.hawaii.edu/~dkane/Puyo.htm
  3. ^ 'Christopher I. Beckwith, "Koguryo, The Language Of Japan's Continental Relatives", 2004 Brill Academic Publishers, page 33'
  4. ^ 'Mark E. Byington, "A History of the Puyo State, it's History and Legacy", p. 194'
  5. ^ See, e.g., Samguk Sagi, vol. 13.[1]
  6. ^ 'Mark E. Byington, "A History of the Puyo State, it's History and Legacy", p. 233'
  7. ^ 《三国史记》:“三十三年 春正月 立王子无恤为太子 委以军国之事 秋八月 王命乌伊・摩离 领兵二万 西伐梁貊 灭其国 进兵袭取汉高句丽县”
  8. ^ Rhee, Song nai (1992) Secondary State Formation: The Case of Koguryo State. In Pacific Northeast Asia in Prehistory: Hunter-fisher-gatherers, Farmers, and Sociopolitical Elites, edited by C. Melvin Aikens and Song Nai Rhee, pp. 191-196. WSU Press, Pullman ISBN 0-87422-092-0.
  9. ^ De Bary, Theodore and Peter H. Lee, "Sources of Korean Tradition", p. 7-11
  10. ^ De Bary, Theodore and Peter H. Lee, Editors, "Sources of Korean Tradition", p. 24-25
  11. ^ Ilyon, "Samguk Yusa", Yonsei University Press, p. 45
  12. ^ Ilyon, "Samguk Yusa", p. 46
  13. ^ > Encyclopedia of Korean Culture (Korean)
  14. ^ Doosan Encyclopedia Online (Korean)
  15. ^ Ilyon, "Samguk Yusa", p. 46-47
  16. ^ 《三国史记》:“六年 秋八月 神雀集宫庭 冬十月 王命乌伊扶芬奴 伐太白山东南人国 取其地为城邑。十年 秋九月 鸾集于王台 冬十一月 王命扶尉 伐北沃沮灭之 以其地为城邑”
  17. ^ a b c (MyGoguryeo Unknown year)
  18. ^ 'Gina L. Barnes', "State Formation in Korea", 2001 Curzon Press, page 22'
  19. ^ 'Ki-Baik Lee', "A New History of Korea", 1984 Harvard University Press, page 24'
  20. ^ 'Ki-Baik Lee', "A New History of Korea", 1984 Harvard University Press, page 36'
  21. ^ 'Gina L. Barnes', "State Formation in Korea", 2001 Curzon Press, page 22-23'
  22. ^ 'Gina L. Barnes', "State Formation in Korea", 2001 Curzon Press, page 23'
  23. ^ 'Ki-Baik Lee', "A New History of Korea", 1984 Harvard University Press, page 20
  24. ^ 'Ki-Baik Lee', "A New History of Korea", 1984 Harvard University Press, page 38
  25. ^ a b 'William E. Henthorn', "A History of Korea", 1971 Macmillan Publishing Co., page 34
  26. ^ De Bary, Theodore and Peter H. Lee, "Sources of Korean Tradition", p. 25-26
  27. ^ 'Ki-Baik Lee', "A New History of Korea", 1984 Harvard University Press, page 36
  28. ^ Zizhi Tongjian, vols. 198, 199, 200, 201
  29. ^ Samguk Sagi, vol. 22.[2]
  30. ^ a b (Byington 2004b)
  31. ^ 《資治通鑑·唐紀四十一》
  32. ^ 《資治通鑑·唐紀四十三》
  33. ^ The Pride History of Korea
  34. ^ a b (ScienceView Unknown year)
  35. ^ History of Ssireum, Korea Ssireum Research Institute
  36. ^ Historical Background Of Taekwondo Korea Taekwondo Association
  37. ^ The Origin of Taekwondo, The World Taewondo Federation
  38. ^ ‘고구려’와 ‘고려’는 같은 나라였다
  39. ^ 고구려란 이름
  40. ^ Fan Ye, Book of the Later Han, volume 85; the Dongyi Liezhuan
  41. ^ Wei Shou, Book of Wei, volume 100; the Liezhuan 88, the Wuji
  42. ^ Li Dashi, History of Northern Dynasties, volume 94; the Liezhuan 82, the Wuji
  43. ^ Bae, Young-dae; Min-a Lee (2004-09-16). "Korea finds some allies in Goguryeo history spat". Joongang Ilbo. http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2470382. Retrieved 2007-03-06. 
  44. ^ China shock for South Korea By Bruce Klingner. Asia Times
  45. ^ "About the Korea Institute". Korea Institute. http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~korea/about.html. Retrieved 2007-05-28. 
  46. ^ "Korean-Russian academia jointly respond to Northeast Project" (in Korean). Naver. 2006-10-31. http://news.naver.com/news/read.php?mode=LSD&office_id=078&article_id=0000026912&section_id=117&menu_id=117. Retrieved 2007-03-06. 
  47. ^ "Chinese Scholar Slams Co-opting Korean History". Chosun Ilbo. 2006-09-13. http://english.chosun.com/w21data/html/news/200609/200609130027.html. Retrieved 2007-03-06. 


  • Byeon, Tae-seop (1999), 韓國史通論(Outline of Korean history), 4th ed., Unknown Publisher, ISBN 89-445-9101-6 

[Note: The work "Sasse, Werner. 1976. Das Glossar Kogury o˙-pang o˙n im Kyerim-yusa" cited in this article actually is "Werner Sasse, Das Glossar Koryo-pangon im Kyerim-yusa" :-)]

  • Sun, Jinji (2004a), Dongbei minzu yuanliu (The Ethnic Origin of the Northeast), Heilongjiang Renmin Chubanshe 
  • Sun, Jinji (1986), Zhongguo Gaogoulishi yanjiu kaifang fanrong de liunian (Six Years of Opening and Prosperity of Koguryo History Research), Heilongjiang Renmin Chubanshe 
  • Sun, Jinji (2004b), Renmin jiaoyu chubanshe lishixi (History Department of People’s Education Press), Zhongguo lishi (Chinese History) II, Heilongjiang Renmin Chubanshe 
  • Rhee, Song nai (1992) Secondary State Formation: The Case of Koguryo State. In Pacific Northeast Asia in Prehistory: Hunter-fisher-gatherers, Farmers, and Sociopolitical Elites, edited by C. Melvin Aikens and Song Nai Rhee, pp. 191–196. WSU Press, Pullman ISBN 0-87422-092-0.
  • Asmolov, V. Konstantin. (1992). The System of Military Activity of Koguryo, Korea Journal, v. 32.2, 103–116, 1992.
  • Jeon Ho-tae Goguryeo: In Search of Its Culture and History. Hollym.

External links

Simple English

Goguryeo is a dynasty of ancient Korea which was begun by Jumong(주몽朱蒙) in 37 BC. It was started in the area near the Dongga river (동가강佟佳江) which is a branch Abrok River(압록강). [1]


The Birth and Expansion of Goguryeo

The birth myth of the nation is that Jumong was born out of an egg and brought up by King Gumwa(금와왕) of East Buyeo(동부여). The name, Jumong, means a person good at archery. As the name shows, he was good at archery and because of his ability, Prince Daeso(대소왕자) envied him. So, Jumong felt death threats and decided to escape from East Buyeo with three friends of his. He went to Jolbon Buyeo(졸본부여) and married Sosuno(소서노) who was the princess of the nation. Jumong suceeded to the king and changed the nation's name to Goguryeo after his surname.

Since the first king, King Dongmyeong(동명성왕), Goguryeo had been invated by several woes such as Han Dynasty), and Xianbei. But, by 11th king's ruling, Gogurye had succeeded in taking control over Liaoong). Until the 24th king's period, it had had its prime time, expanding the range of the nation and driving away all the attacks from ouside. The famous king, King Gwanggaeto the Great(광개토대왕), was between the periods.

The Destroy of Goguryeo

However, when it was under the control of 27th king, Youngryou(영류왕), Goguryeo acted likt it submited to Tang Dynasty, so the king was killed by Yoen Gaesomoon(연개소문) and the new king, Bojang,(보장왕) succeeded. After Yoen Gaesomoon died, the people did not cooperate with the nation well and while its control got weak, it was annihilated by the allied forces of Silla(신라) and Tang.


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