A Korean Translator in Sheffield Explains Earliest Years of Korea
Our Korean translation Sheffield branch is very proud of our Korean translator, Mrs. Koh who did an excellent job in translating a massive 1000-page instruction manual this year. She describes how it was like in Korea about 2000 years ago.
The beginning of Korea dates back to 2333 B.C., when Dangun, the legendary son of the Heavenly God and a woman from a bear-totem tribe, established the first kingdom. Historians refer to this earliest era of Korean history as the Gojoseon (Ancient Joseon) period. Ancient Korea was characterised by clan communities that combined to form small town-states according to our Korean translator. The town-states gradually united into tribal leagues with complex political structures, which eventually grew into kingdoms. Among various tribal leagues, Goguryeo (37 B.C.- A.D. 668), situated along the middle course of the Amnok River (Yalu), was the first to mature into a kingdom.
Goguryeo’s aggressive troops conquered neighboring tribes one after another, and in 313, they even occupied the Lo-long area in China. Baekje (18 B.C.-A.D. 660), which grew out of a town-state located south of the Hangang River in the vicinity of present-day Seoul, was another confederated kingdom similar to Goguryeo. During the reign of King Geunchogo (r. 346-375), Baekje developed into a centralised and aristocratic state. The Silla Kingdom (57 B.C.-A.D. 935) was located the furthest south on the peninsula, and was initially the weakest and most underdeveloped of the Three Kingdoms. However, because it was geographically removed from Chinese influence, it easily adopted foreign non-Chinese practices and ideas. Its society was markedly class-oriented and later developed the unique Hwarang (Flower of Youth) Corps as well as an advanced Buddhist practice.
By the mid-sixth century, the Silla Kingdom had brought under its control all of the neighboring Gaya Kingdoms, a group of fortified town-states that had developed in the southeastern region of the peninsula from the mid-first century to the mid-sixth century. The Silla also effected a military alliance with Tang China to subjugate the Goguryeo and Baekje Kingdoms. Subsequently, Silla fought against Tang China when the latter exposed its ambition to incorporate the territories of Goguryeo and Baekje.
Silla repelled the Chinese in 676. Then in 698, the former people of Goguryeo who resided in south-central Manchuria established the Kingdom of Balhae, which makes Mrs. Koh, our trusted Korean translator in Korean translation Sheffield branch. Balhae included not only people of Goguryeo, but also a large Malgal population. Our Korean translator in Sheffield is very proud of Balhae because it represented a fierce kingdom near China.
Balhae established a government system centered around five regional capitals, which was modeled after the Goguryeo Kingdom’s administrative structure. Balhae possessed an advanced culture which was rooted in that of Goguryeo. Balhae prosperity reached its height in the first half of the ninth century with the occupation of a vast territory reaching to the Amur river in the north and Kaiyuan in south-central Manchuria to the west. It also established diplomatic ties with Turkey and Japan. Balhae existed until 926, when it was overthrown by the Khitan. Then many of the ruling class, who were mostly Koreans, moved south and joined the newly founded Goryeo Dynasty.
Silla unified the Korean Peninsula in 668 and saw the zenith of their power and prosperity in the mid-eighth century. It attempted to establish an ideal Buddhist country. Bulguksa temple was constructed during the Unified Silla period. However, the state cult of Buddhism began to deteriorate as the nobility indulged in luxury. Also there was conflict among regional leaders who claimed authority over the occupied kingdoms of Goguryeo and Baekje. In 935, the king of Silla formally surrendered to the court of the newly founded Goryeo Dynasty.
Despite frequent foreign invasions, the Korean Peninsula has been ruled by a single government since the Silla unification in 668 while maintaining its political independence and cultural and ethnic heritage. Both the Goryeo (r. 918-1392) and the Joseon (r. 1392-1910) Dynasties consolidated their authority and flourished culturally, while repelling such intruders as the Khitans, Mongols and Japanese. The Goryeo Dynasty was founded by Wang Geon, a general who had served under a rebel prince of the Silla Kingdom. Choosing his native town of Songak (the present-day Gaeseong in North Korea) as the capital, Wang Geon proclaimed the goal of recovering the lost territory of the Goguryeo Kingdom in northeast China. according to our Korean translator in Korean translation Sheffield office.
He named his dynasty Goryeo, from which the modern name Korea is derived. Although the Goryeo Dynasty could not reclaim lost lands, it achieved a sophisticated culture represented by Cheongja or blue-green celadon and flourishing Buddhist tradition. No less significant was the invention of the world’s first movable metal type in 1234, which preceded Gutenberg by two centuries. About that time, Korean skilled artisans also completed the herculean task of carving the entire Buddhist canon on large woodblocks.
These woodblocks, numbering more than 80,000, were intended to invoke the influence of Buddha for the repulsion of the Mongol invaders. Called Tripitaka Koreana, they are now stored at the historic Haeinsa temple.
In its later years, the Goryeo Dynasty was weakened by internal struggles among scholar officials and warriors, and between Confucianists and Buddhists. The Mongol incursions that began in 1231, left Goryeo as a Mongol vassal state for nearly a century despite the courageous resistance from Goryeo’s people.