12. The Perils of Ruling: Adalla Isageum

Perhaps the most common form of historical writing in the ancient East Asia was the annals. Daily events in a king’s life were recorded in these annals, from ceremonies performed to any diplomatic or internal affairs conducted, both good and bad. What might surprise a reader who just happened to get a hold of one of these texts is the meticulous recording of the weather.  One might despair at the thought of ancient historians being so obsessed with making small talk, but the records of weather patterns  were very significant, and it is no coincidence that they are noted down alongside political activities.

Kings played an intermediary role connecting heaven and earth. This is not a completely foreign idea, since almost every culture in the world has a notion of a leader who is more than human, or at the very least having some supernatural entity backing them up. Europe had the divine rights of kings idea in its early modern period, for example. What thing that makes this connection to heaven slightly different, however, is that heaven can- and will- withdraw its favors from rulers.

So how do you know that heaven disapproves of the current king? The human world and nature were said to work with one another, each according to their own principles. It’s a well oiled machine, if the affairs of the human world are in disharmony, then nature would start acting strangely as well. A king who behaves immorally or doesn’t rule as he should, then, will be visited with a series of phenomena like floods, eclipses, earthquakes, and unseasonable temperatures.

Opportunists were always waiting for such signs from heaven in order to rally enough support for a coup d’etat, or even outright revolution. Though Myeongnim Dapbu’s decision to oust King Chadae had political motives behind it, the end of Chadae’s rule also coincided with reports of earthquakes and other natural disasters.

Contemporaneously to the revolt against Chadae in 165 CE, another revolt was about to happen down in Gyerim (Silla). There was nothing particularly immoral or tyrannical about the 8th monarch of Silla, Adalla Isageum. His reign started with amnesties and  updating the political and military branches of the country. But nature itself seemed to have gone against the king. He was said to be unnaturally tall for the day and age- about 7 feet- and had disproportionate features. This was omen enough for superstitious people. But what made it worse was that during his reign, frost appeared in the summer, floods destroyed many houses, and a plague of locusts ravaged the countryside. Even the fish were planning their own revolt by jumping out of the water and dying on the shore. This no doubt made the people of Gyerim very uncomfortable. Was heaven angry at them and their ruler?

Solar_eclipse_1999_4_NR (1)
Source: Wikipedia 

In 164, the records talk about a dragon appearing in the capital. Although it’s not sure what really happened, the rumors of the dragon appearing in the capital was enough to encourage some to go against the king. So a year later, a minister named Gilseon, much like Myeongnim Dapbu, started a coup in an attempt to overthrow Adalla. Unlike the fellow conspirator in the north, though, Gilseon failed.

The would-be revolutionary had to escape. He found refuge in a neighboring state, Baekje. Relations between Baekje and Silla had calmed significantly after Talhae’s successor and the king of Baekje signed a treaty. But tensions were to mount again as Gaeru of Baekje granted asylum to the Sillan traitor. Adalla sent a message requesting that  Gilseon be returned. Gaeru refused.

Infuriated, Adalla resorted to the old tactic of laying siege to a fortress. This was not very successful, and the Sillan troops just went back home. The people of Baekje were willing to drop the matter too. It seemed like things were going to go back to normal.

But in 166, King Gaeru died, and his successor, Chogo, was less forgiving. A year after he took the throne, Chogo captured two castles that belonged to Silla. The troops then took a thousand hostages back to Baekje. Adalla Isaegeum probably saw that Chogo was much more bellicose than the king before him, and decided that drastic measures were needed.

Adalla raised an army of twenty thousand soldiers, and personally led eight thousand horsemen. They got to the Han river with the intention of crossing and attacking the Baekje troops. It must be remembered that Silla was a small country at the time, and to have an army of that many soldiers means that Adalla decided to go all out. Not to mention that crossing the Han river was no easy feat. Anyone who has been to Seoul knows that the river is quite large, and in that era there were no bridges to help the troops cross.

 Bridges_over_the_river_Han_(South_Korea)
Source: Wikipedia

 

If Adalla and his troops confronted the Baekje armies, it would not have been an ordinary castle siege. I would have meant an all out war. A war that might’ve resulted in one of the budding three kingdoms being destroyed before reaching full bloom. It was quite a reckless move.

A reckless move that paid off. Chogo sued for peace, and a conflict was averted. The ruler whom people feared had lost heaven’s favor managed to safely navigate  two crises. But Baekje and Silla relation would never be the same again. And it wouldn’t take too long before more conflicts would arise. From the other side of the sea, however, Adalla also was engaged in a political relationship with another country. But this time it was more of a diplomatic one. The records show that Silla and the people of “Wa” were regularly sending envoys to each other.

The word Wa was a term that the ancient Chinese sources used to describe the people of the island nation. The original character for Wa 倭 (Wei in Chinese and Wae in Korean) meant something like a person stooping, which could signify humility and the people’s customs of bowing, but it could also mean a dwarf or a petty person. The later scholars in Wa took the latter interpretation, and-in an act of positive appropriation- changed the character of Wa to 和, “harmony, peace.”

The Wa, known to us today as “Japan,” were active in the peninsula for a long time. Usually alternating between  coastal raids,  trade and diplomacy. Jima, sixth ruler of Silla, began a peaceful relationship with Japan and Adalla continued this diplomacy. He forged ties with the legendary Queen Himiko, who sent an envoy to Silla. Himiko, the shamaness queen who is a staple figure in Japanese high and pop culture, was famous enough to be recorded in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean sources. (The problem is that all sources give different dates of her reign, so her identity is still a mystery). Japan would be allied with the different kingdoms and play a role in the conflicts between Baekje and Silla.

When Adalla Isaegeum died, it was the end of an era for Silla. The founder of Silla, Hyeokgeose, was from the Pak (Park) family. The fourth king, Talhae, was from the Seok clan. Kingship went back to the Pak after Talhae passed away. But Adalla would be the last of the Pak rulers. He died with no heirs, and so the Seok family became the sole ruling family from then on.

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Sources and Further Readings For The Three Kingdoms Era

In this blog I aim primarily to focus on the narrative of history. In order to keep this narrative as clear as possible, the more scholarly details of the different sources will sometimes be ignored. For anyone interested in reading more in detail about the scholarship and archaeology of the Three Kingdom era, here are the sources I am drawing from.

 

In English

Annals of the Three Kingdoms: Silla and Koguryo. (Pekche edition out of print) A translation of the Samguk Sagi, written by Kim Pusik, the major source for most of our information on the Three Kingdoms era and where most of the stories come from. Unfortunately, although the annals were written after the Three Kingdoms era, they are the closest thing to a primary source that we have. So some of the accounts need to be taken with a grain of salt.

Samguk Yusa This is a collection of stories gathered by a monk named Iryeon. Iryeon decided to compile this book because he didn’t how like Kim Pusik ignored all the miracles and magical powers in the history of the Three Kingdoms. Suffice to say that most of the stories here are considered legends, although the book does provide information on the more ancient kingdoms like Gojoseon.

A New History of Korea by Ki-Baik Lee  An incredibly comprehensive look at the history of the country.  The book does not focus much on narrative, but is a great source for describing the politics, culture, religion and institutions of the land.  The book is still in university reading lists.

The Land of Scholars by Kang Jae-Eun A look at the history of Confucianism in Korea. A good source to look at the philosophical and ideological debates that shaped the country in the past.

History And Structure of Korean Shamanism A scholarly look at the development of shamanism, and an examination of  the symbolism behind the myths and rites of ancient Korea.

A History of Korea (Palgrave Essential Series) by Kyung Hwang. A great introduction to the history of the peninsula.

Sources of Korean Tradition Volume 1  A collection of translations from various sources, great for going in depth.

Korea Journal An incredibly in-depth collection of articles for just about everything related to Korea. It can take days to look at the whole thing.

The Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch’s Annual Journal Transactions A long running publication with articles on various aspects of history.

 

In Korean

한권으로 읽는왕조실록: 백제 고구려 신라 박영규  The story stands as a commentary on the Samguk Sagi. It compares the stories of the text to other texts of the same era, as well as archaeological evidence. The whole series is five books in total (including Joseon and Goryeo).

우리 역사의 수수께끼 1  2  3  이덕일 A delightful and intriguing series that explores the various mysteries and controversies of history. A great source that chronicles such debates as Gija’s existence.

한국민중사 (volume 1) A book that explores the lives of the people during the early era. Great exploration of the culture and political structure of the earlier kingdoms.

이야기 한국사 The first book on Korean history I’ve read, and the one that’s got me interested in the subject. A great overview.

한국사를 움직인 100인 윤제운  A look at the hundred most influential people in the history of Korea, their lives and accomplishments.

왕의역사 박영현 This book details the lives of the most important kings of every era, giving details into the political situation around them as well as relations with other countries.

이슬람과 한국문화  이회수 An intriguing look at the relationship between Korea and the Islamic countries, starting from the 7th century.

Naver Encyclopedia  Gigantic collection of articles, some written by prominent professors or historians, covering just about everything you want to know.

 

11. A Revolt in Goguryeo: Myeongnim Dap-Bu

During the reign of King Taejo of Goguryeo, there were five powerful clans. These were the Sono-bu (the former ruling family), Gyeru-bu(current ruling family starting from Taejo),Gyanna-bu, Hwanna-bu and Yeonno-bu. Taejo attempted to centralize his authority by bringing the head of those family under his rule in court. This was largely successful, but also had the side effect of factionalism, a problem that would plague the courts of many dynasties.

Taejo had an incredibly long reign. So long that Taejo’s brother Suseong, was getting annoyed by his sibling’s insistence on staying alive. With the aid of the Sono, Gyanna and Hwanna families, Suseong gathered his own faction to start plotting a revolt bent on overthrowing Taejo. When the king had heard of this, he decided to abdicate the throne to Suseong. The ministers were against this idea, among them one of the highest ranking ministers, Bokjang, who warned his king that disaster would fall upon the descendants of Taejo if the king were to give up his power.

In the year 146, Taejo passed the crown down to his brother, later known as King Chadae. Chadae enacted a brutal purge. Bokjang was one of his first victims. He went to the execution ground with the lament “I only regret that our former King did not take my advice, so that matters have reached this pass… Rather than live in such an age of unrighteousness, I had better die quickly.” People were appalled at the news of the loyal minister’s death.

Next on Chadae’s list were people of the royal family, including Taejo’s sons. Taejo and Chadae’s brother, sensing the situation was getting too dangerous, secluded himself up in the mountains.

People who were ready to join Chade’s revolt were given high positions in court. And, naturally enough, the families that had not supported the king were treated unfavorably. What happened exactly is not entirely certain, but it’s safe to assume that the other families were excluded from power and generally lost a lot of status. One of these clans, the Yeonno, seemed to have been in a particularly bad situation.

From this Yeonno clan a particularly humble person stepped up to the game. Goguryeo had 10 ranks at the time, and this man was close to the bottom in the 9th rank. He had managed to make a name for himself during the reign of Taejo. But now the situation had changed and his position, perhaps even his life, was threatened. The man, whose name was Myeongnim Dap-bu, decided that something had to be done.

Myeongnim Dap-bu stated that he could not bear to see the people suffering under the unjust king. He found some ministers and clan members, who were also facing hardship under Chadae’s reign, and in 165 CE, almost twenty years after Chadae had taken power, Myeongnim Dap-bu organized a coup d’etat. He then assassinated the king. Nobody seemed to have reacted negatively to this event.

In order to avoid a power vacuum cause too many problems, the ministers had to act fast. They sought out the brother who had hidden himself up in the mountains back to court. He then became the king Sindae.

King Sindae’s power came entirely from a revolt that had overthrown his brother, and so he tried to not repeat the same mistakes as the former king. His reign started in a conciliatory tone. He issued an edict that acknowledged his debt to the ministers who called him to powers. “How could I imagine that the people would happily endorse me? Or that many ministers would urge me to accept the throne?” And so, “together with my people. I shall reform myself to bring about a great amnesty throughout the kingdom.”

This amnesty extended to those who had supported the previous king. Chadae’s son, who had already fled after the revolt fearing for his life, was forgiven, and the families who had supported Chadae’s rise to power were largely forgiven.

But Sindae knew that he owed the largest debt to Myeongnim Dap-bu. In fact, Sindae showed so much gratitude to the leader of the revolt that an entirely new position in court was created for Myeongnim Dap-bu. Earlier there was a junior and senior councilor who acted as the highest positions in court. Now Sindae merged the two into one position. The name of the position was Guk-sang which is usually translated in English as ‘Prime Minister.’

The history book that records all this, the Samguk-sagi, gets a little bizarre with the dates at this time. The ages in the text are for the most part fairly consistent, but it seems like in the 2nd century, every major figure starts living to incredibly old ages. Taejo dies at age 119, and Myeongnim Dap-bu is said to have become prime minister at 99 years old. There was either something very good in the water of Goguryeo, or the records have some inconsistencies in them. Suffice to say, Myeongnim Dap-bu was not a young man when he had taken power.

With the help of the prime minister, and thanks to Sindae’s magnanimous stance towards the factions, Goguryeo navigated a coup d’etat and government reform with very few internal difficulties.

Externally, there was a problem that had been harassing Goguryeo since Taejo’s time: the Han Empire. Conflicts arose periodically between the two countries, especially by proxy of one of the commanderies. And in 172, the armies were once again approaching Goguryeo.

 

  z2_cp02080094000

Mural of a Goguryeo warrior. Source

Sindae’s ministers met in order to decide what to do. Most people there agreed that, despite the large numbers that the Han Empire could muster, they had no choice but to face their enemy in battle. Most people nervously agreed. “If we do not go out and fight, they will consider us to be cowrds and will invade repeatedly.”

The Prime Minister had another idea, though. Myeongnim Dap-bu agreed that they had to do something, but also reasoned that it would be impossible for their army to go against such a big number. He suggested another strategy to win the battle, called the “Clear Field Strategy”.

The “Clear Field Strategy”-청야전술 in Korean- was a way of weakening an advancing army before the battle even starts. Since armies needed a lot of food supplies to support their campaign, advancing troops would use the wells and fields of the land around them to keep their supplies up. Myeongnim Dap-bu and his troops were to “clear the fields”- burning any crops and blocking any wells- between the Han army’s camp and the walled fortresses of Goguryeo. The aim was to stop enemy troops from being able to refill their food supply, thereby weakening the enemy before they could even reach their target. A kind of scorched earth tactic.

The Han army was thus unable to reach their target with enough food, and was forced to retreat. At a field in the Manchurian regions named Jwa-won, the army of Myeongnim Dap-bu attacked the retreating Han army and defeated them.

What happened exactly during and after this conflict is unknown. Because Han records make no mention of any battle at Jwa-won. If the battle actually took place, then it must have been inconsequential for the Empire, since, as we shall see later, the Han had much bigger problems to deal with at the end of the 2nd century.

The victory was felt in Goguryeo. And the Clear Field Strategy would become part of Korea’s defensive repertoire in the many battles that the peninsula would face from outside enemies.

Myeongnim Dap-bu died in 179. King Sindae was so distressed to lose his prime minister and confidant that he ordered a seven day mourning period. The new position of Prime Minister, in one form or another, would also play a pivotal role in court politics. And so Myeongnim Dap-bu rose from the lowest ranks in court to completely change the face of his country.

10. Birth of a Kingdom: Taejo of Goguryeo

What was the secret to Goguryeo’s early success? Some people would say that the mountainous land created a robust people that managed to withstand much and strike back with much force. This, combined with strong and intelligent early rulers like Jumong and Daemusin, guaranteed Goguryeo’s dominance of the northern region of the Korean peninsula. Others cite the geography made it easy for the Goguryeo people to grow in power. After all, the other stronger powers of the region- Silla, Gaya and Baekje- competed for space in the much more crowded  south, Goguryeo managed to occupy a vast region with few challenges to its existence. This allowed the budding kingdom to grow without being trampled on.

The stories that come from the early Goguryeo rulers makes the country sound like a Sparta, full of men who were trained from a young age to love warfare and despise culture. That’s not exactly accurate. Even at the early stages, Goguryeo did have a rich culture based on traditional spirit worship and shamanism. Early records of Goguryeo paint a picture of jovial people, who had many festivals involving singing, dancing, and the brewing of alcohol. One of the biggest artistic legacies of the kingdom is the tomb murals. Tombs of important people were filled with paintings of various religious and shamanistic symbols which show a not unskillful degree of artistic ability.

 Ddol-mangM
Source: Wikipedia

But food shortage was still an issue. The land was such that it required a lot of energy to plant crops with little yeild. Conquering lands was all well and good, there still needed to be a more sustainable way of governing. A more centralized reign would help distribute food and organize the people more efficiently, and that was the work of the 6th king of Goguryeo. The posthumous name given to the king is telling. His title “Taejo” means “Great Ancestor” and is generally given to the first or second kings of a dynasty. This seems to indicate that he is credited with making Goguryeo a well functioning state.

With the unexpected death of Daemusin, power passed on to his brother. That king only lasted 4 years before passing away, and the next king in line was Mobon. Mobon is a very contradictory figure, for although we hear of him distributing food to people in need, we also hear of him being a tyranical leader. He did not last long either, and was assassinated 5 years into his reign. Mobon’s crown prince was also denied the throne. So who next? The ministers looked at Mobon’s brother, Jaesa. The man declined, stating his old age as the reason why he could not rule. However, Jaesa did suggest his son. And so, with his mother as regent, King Taejo took the throne at 7 years old, where he would stay for an impressive (and disputed) 94 years.

Why was succession so complicated? There is a lot of controversy regarding Mobon’s reign, a controversy that started with King Yuri. Jumong’s family name and the name of his dynasty was ‘Go,’ and yet when Yuri took power, he changed the king’s name to ‘Hae.’ This is one of the reasons why some historians consider Yuri a usurper, since ‘Hae’ was the royal family name of the Buyeo kings. After Mobon’s death, though, Jaesa’s family switched back to ‘Go.’ Why the change of names? Was it really an issue of usurpation? It’s still a mystery.

Taejo’s rule saw even more expansion of Goguryeo’s territory. Taking the throne in 53 CE, he started absorbing neighboring states under his authority, starting with Eastern Okje in the year 56. In the next twenty years, a handful of states were now under Goguryeo control. The expansion went all the way down to the Salsu river, which shall have great significance to Korea at a later date. All this expansion is a great accomplishment for any kingdom, but Taejo went a step further to consolidate all the land and powers. He installed a bureaucratic system which would be followed by successive Korean kingdoms.

Local clans had always played a role in the politics of the court, and Taejo used them to centralize his rule. He re-organized the kingdom into five districts- North, South, East, West and Center- and had five local clans rule these districts. Taejo put himself in the center of this system, and now the court managed to keep a close eye on the aristocracy and the people. More than that, he also established a tributary relationship with other smaller tribes. Although the smaller states were under the rule of Goguryeo, they were left to their own devices as long as they paid tribute. In a sense, Goguryeo had become a small empire. No wonder Taejo is the ‘Great Ancestor’ of Goguryeo.

And so Taejo enjoyed a long rule. Incredulously long, since if we were to believe the claim that he had reigned for 94 years, that means he would have died at the age of 118. Some revision of the dating has placed Taejo’s reign at 68 years. This is still quite a long time for a monarch to stay in power,  a rule even longer than that of Queen Victoria’s.

It was a little too long for some people’s liking. By the (alleged) 80th year, Taejo’s brother Susong was already plotting. For the following years he and other potential contenders to the throne went on hunting trips, where they argued about what to do with this king that simply refuses to die. Susong bid his time, eliminating those contenders, while finally in the last year of Taejo’s reign, the younger brother had had enough.

Susong went on a hunting trip with his attendants, announcing that “His Majesty is old but he still does not die. But since I too am growing older; I cannot wait. All I wish is that you, my followers, would plan something for me.”

The king heard of this plan of rebellion. This could’ve been the beginning of a conflict between the two brothers, but Taejo made a decision which surprised his court. He decided to abdicate the throne and let his brother become king. The court tries to dissuade him. How could a rebel be given the throne so easily? Taejo tried to reassure them, but a councilor named Bokjang tried to reason with the king.

“Susong has a hard, ungracious disposition;” Bokjang said “If today he accepts Your Majesty’s abdication, then tomorrow he may harm Your Majesty’s descendants. Your Majesty perceives only that You are being kind to an ungracious younger brother and do not realize that You are bequeathing trouble to Your innocent descendants. I wish Your Majesty would think earnestly about this.” A perfectly logical plea, but Taejo would not change his mind.

Although well accomplished, Taejo might have been a little too rash in his decision to give kingship to Susong. As the minister had feared, trouble certainly was about to be bequeathed to the people.

9. Dawn Across The Rooster Forest: Talhae Isageum

Goguryeo saw an increase in strength under the reign of King Daemusin and by the middle to late period of the first century CE, was already established in the peninsula as a power. Their influence resided in the north, where they were largely unchallenged by the other two, southern, kingdoms of Baekje and Silla. The latter two were also starting their expansion, and, since they bordered one another, it was inevitable that the two powers would clash.

The second king of Baekje after the death of Onjo was Daru. This king is presented as a ruler who cared for his subjects. When the country was facing famine, he banned the fermenting of grains and distributed the would’ve-been alcohol to the people instead. Back then as now, the lack of alcohol was quite a big deal. Aside from internal issues, Daru also had to contend with the other tribes and nomads surrounding the area. This was settled with a combination of wars and diplomacy. There were also troubles brewing from the struggling Mahan. The king needed help, and so he sent an envoy to the king of Silla, Talhae.

At that time Saro (for the sake of convenience the country will be referred to as Silla, though it did not adopt the title until centuries later) was undergoing some internal changes. Hyeokgeose’s eldest son became the second king of Silla in 4CE, the same time that Daemusin would’ve been born.

Around the time of his reign, there was a man making his way up in the court. He was born in a land said to be close to the Japanese islands, and was abandoned as a baby. This was sadly something very common in the ancient world, where there were no institutions like orphanages to take care of abandoned children. The Spartans, for example, took the offspring they considered weak and unhealthy and left them to die. Not all of these children died, though, as some babies were sometimes picked up by people of other city-states and raised as their own.

This is what happened to Talhae. Left to drift upon the sea, his box landed on the coast not far from Gyeonggju, where he was found by a fisherman and raised in the Korean peninsula. He was named Talhae and given the family name of Seok.

By the way, the baby was abandoned because he was born from an egg. I promise this shall be the last monarch to enter this world in such an omlettic manner.

Details are sketchy after that, but it seems like his adopted family raised ranks in court. And Seok Talhae ended up marrying King Namhae’s sister. Talhae was so well liked that when it came time to pick a successor, Namhae favored Talhae over the king’s own son.

At first Talhae refused, saying that the son of Namhae, Yuri (not to be confused with Yuri the second king of Goguryeo. Before you complain about all the similar names, think about how many Frederics and Charleses populate the history books of Europe) was the rightful heir. Talhae’s solution to the issue of succession was unique, if not downright bizarre. He said that the wisest should rule the land. Reasonable enough. But, he continued, it is said that wise people are those with the most teeth. So he brought a tteok, a Korean rice cake, and both he and Yuri bit into it. Yuri’s side of the rice cake showed more teeth marks and he was established as king. From then on the title of king in Silla was ‘Isageum’ which meant ‘many teeth,’ somehow signifying wisdom.

Korean.food-teok-01 A kind of Tteok. Source: Wikipedia

The issue wouldn’t go away so easily. After Yuri passed away, Talhae, now presumably an old man, was asked to take the throne again. He accepted this time.

When Daru sent his envoy to Talhae, the latter king for unknown reasons ignored the mission. Baekje was not too happy with this and in the year 64, the first battle between the three kingdoms began.

Since the kingdoms at that time were basically a series of walled cities. Raids and attacks followed a logic that is familiar to anyone who has played strategy games. Each country had a series of fortified castles and fortresses, and the attacking country would want to take over these fortresses in order to establish its dominance over the land. It was never so simple though, since the country could take back their lost castles if they win another battle. As a result, borders were constantly expanding and contracting.

And that is was happened in this case. The first war between the two kingdoms involved Baekje conquering a Sillan fortress. The two powers seemed to have been equally matched at the time, since Silla managed to defeat the Baekje troops at another battle, and reclaimed some of their fortresses back. The two countries went on in this way for at least 2 years during the reign of Talhae and Daru.

But Silla had another problem to contend with: Gaya. The new confederacy flexed its military might, thanks to its land rich in iron, by attacking Silla. With both Baekje and Gaya on its heels, Silla’s beginning was a not very auspicious. Unlike Goguryeo’s early triumphs, Silla’s very existence was on shaky grounds. It had many enemies around it and had to stand in constant vigilance. And although Baekje and Silla signed a peace treaty a little after Talhae and Daru’s death, the two countries were in each others’ sights.

As mentioned earlier, Silla was undergoing some transformation during this time. First of all, the line of succession was now divided. Instead of the Pak clan being the sole rulers of the kingdom, kingship could go either from the Pak or Seok family. Silla had a third family that would become the sole rulers. The founder of that family was born during Talhae’s time.

Deep in a forest west of Gyeongju, the king heard a rooster crowing. It kept going on for a long while, and it was suspicious enough for the king to send someone to investigate. They found that the source of the sound was a white rooster standing over a golden box. Inside the box was a boy. Perhaps the boy’s circumstances reminded Talhae of his own birth, and so the king showed sympathy for this abandoned child. Talhae took the boy to court and named him Alji. Because of the box he was discovered in, Alji was given the family name meaning gold, the Chinese character , pronounced ‘Kim.’ Kim Alji was thus the ancestral founder of the ever ubiquitous Kim family. And from Talhae’s reign until the time when Silla was finally given the name ‘Silla,’ Saro was known as Gyerim, the rooster forest.

kyerim