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Updated March 1st 1999
This page is dedicated to research into the Hwarang organization. It primarily contains information about the following material:
The Translated Stories of Individual Hwarang
(more than 70 persons)
Maitreya Buddha, the Buddha of the Future
Hwarang Do and Hyangga Poetry
A Chronological List of Hwarang
The Hwarang Organization Before and After Silla
Terms Used in Connection with the Hwarang
List of Literature
If you don't know anything about the Hwarang, and want a short introduction, you might want to check out the Hwarang Do History Page on hwarangdo.com before returning. Also, if you are not familiar with the Korean history, especially the Silla dynasty period, you can either jump to a page on the Ancient Korean History or get a full introduction to Korean History here.
Scholars have interpreted the Hwarang organization as everything from a group of fierce warriors who united the Korean peninsula to young gays, male sharmen, boy scouts or an organization for promoting Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism and much more. In modern times Hwarang has been used as the name of the South Korean military academy, supermarkets, drugstores, a high military decoration, the name of hotels, bars and restaurants, a brand of cigarettes, and much, much more.
The number of references in the traditional Korean sources makes it clear that the
Hwarang were real and that they represented an important Silla institution.
The problem is that the references not only span much more than 700 years but they are also scattered throughout the texts. Also, most references does not specifically form a clear picture of what sort of institution the Hwarang were. Often times the references are short, sometimes as part of a biographical sketch only stating that a person was a Hwarang. Read separately they do not form a clear picture of what sort of institution the Hwarang were.
This is, of course, the reason why scholars have (and still are) debating the "true nature" of the Hwarang. Therefore I have tried to collect all the references in one place in order to examine what the references themselves relate. Also I have choosen to bring them in historical order whenever possible. This way it is possible to see the development of the organization.
With time this site will hopefully develop and grow larger with discussions of all aspects of the Hwarang organization. Papers, links, and other contributions to this page are welcome.
My own comments are always in italic so they are not confused with the translations.
Finally a short word on the references themselves. I will not start a lengthy discussion on the validity or accuracy of the sources here. For now it must suffice to note that none of the original Silla texts have survived until today and that therefore all the references are from the Koryo dynasty (AD 918-1392) or later. Of course it's impossible to know how true or accurate the information is because eventhough they are based on much older sources, they were still written long after the events took place. The oldest, Samguk Sagi dates back to 1125 AD, the Haedong Kosung Chon (or Lives of Eminent Korean Monks) was compiled in 1215 and the Samguk Yusa about 70 years later. However, the information which surface from the sources will definitely help clarify the Hwarang organization by comparative analytical studies of the material. I think the information on the Hwarang organization will also show that the material is consistant through out the sources. (Later I hope to bring a link here for a more lengthy discussion on this matter)
Stories of Individual Hwarang
Eleven Hwarang which cannot be placed under a king:
25 Hwarang of the Ch'ónchón-Ri Rock:
Five People who might have been Hwarang:
"Hwarang Do" in the Koryo and Yi Dynasty Sources:
Terms Used in Connection with the Hwarang Organization
Hwarang Do Before 576 A.D.
The World Hwa Rang Do Association
Let us start from the beginning, both Samguk Sagi, Haedong Koson Chon, and Samguk Yusa
tells us clearly how and why the Hwarang organization was created.
The following translation is from Samguk Sagi. The version in Haedong Koson Chon (or Lives of Eminent Korean Monks) is virtually identical with only few different chinese characters.
From Samguk Sagi 4:40, Translation: Peter H. Lee: Sourcebook of Korean Civilization,
vol.I, Columbia University Press, New York, 1993. p.101-102.
"The Wonhwa (Original Flowers) was first presented at court (the first Sóllang) in the thirty-seventh year (576) of King Chinhúng. (The Haedong Kosúng Chón says "the Wónhwa was first chosen as Sóllang", Lee, Peter H.: The Lives of Eminent Korean Monks, The Haedong Kosúng Chón, p.66)
At first the King and his officials were perplexed by the problem of finding a way to
discover the talented people. They wished to have people disport themselves in groups so
that they could observe their behavior and thus elevate the talented among them to
positions of service.
Therefore two beautiful girls, Nammo and Chunjóng were selected, and a group of some three hundred people gathered around them. But the two girls competed with each other. In the end, Chunjóng enticed Nammo to her home and, plying her with wine till she was drunk, threw her into a river. Chunjóng was put to death. The group became discordant and dispersed.
Afterwards, handsome youths were chosen instead. Faces made up and beautifully dressed, they were respected as Hwarang, and men of various sorts gathered around them like clouds.
The youths instructed one another in the Way and in righteousness, entertained one another with songs and music, or went sightseeing to even the most distant mountains and rivers. Much can be learned of a man's character by watching him in these activities. Those who fared well were recommended to the court. Kim Taemun, in his Hwarang Segi (Annals of the Hwarang), remarks: "Henceforth able ministers and loyal subjects are chosen from them, and good generals and brave soldiers are born therefrom."
Ch'oe Ch'iwon (b.857) in his preface to the Nallang Pi (Inscription on the Monument of Knight Nan) says: "There is a wonderful and mysterious way in the country, called P'ungnyu. The origins of the institution are detailed in the history of the Hwarang. In fact it embraces the Three Teachings and transforms myriad men. It is a tenet of the Minister of Crime of Lu (Confucius) that one should be filial to one's parents and loyal to one's sovereign; it is the belief of the Keeper of Archives of Chou (Lao Tzu) that one should be at home in the action of inaction and practice the wordless doctrine; and it is the teaching of the Indian Prince (Buddha) that one should avoid evil and do many good deeds."
Ling-hu Ch'eng of T'ang, moreover, in the Hsing-lo kuo-chi (Record of Silla), states that "The Hwarang were chosen from the handsome sons of the nobles and their faces were made up, and they were dressed up. They were called Hwarang, and were respected and served by their countrymen."
Here the compiler of "Lives of Eminent Korean Monks" adds to the account
in Samguk Sagi:
"This was a way to facilitate the king's government. According to the (Hwarang) Segi, from Wonhwa to the end of Silla there were more than 200 knights, of whom the "Four Knights" were the wisest." (Namsókhaeng (or Namnang), Sullang, Yóngnang, and An Sang)
Translation: Peter H. Lee: The Lives of Eminent Korean Monks, The Haedong Kosung Chon p.68.
Also, in the Haedong Kosung Chon (The Lives of Eminent Korean Monks p.69) it says in
the chapter on King Chinhung:
"The eulogy says: Great is the power of custom over man. Therefore, if the king wants to change the fashion of an age, no one can prevent his success, which follows like the downflow of water. After King Chinhung first worshipped Buddhism and initiated the way of the Hwarang, people gladly followed him and imitated his example. Their excitement was as great as when visiting a treasure house or when going to the spring terrace. The king's aim was to make the people progress toward goodness and justice and to lead them to the Great Way. Emperor Ai (26-7-1B.C.) of the Former Han loved only lust. Pan Ku (32-92) therefore remarked, "The tenderness which seduces man belongs not only to women, but to man as well". This indeed cannot be compared with our story of the Hwarang."
The above story can also be found in Samguk Yusa just before the tale of Maitreya Buddha and thus in ALL three of the oldest sources on
"The surname of King Chinhúng, the twenty-fourth monarch of Silla, was Kim. His given name was Sammaekchong, or Simmaekchong. He ascended the throne in the sixth year, Kyóngsin, of Ta-t'ung (540). In pursuance of the will of his uncle, King Póphúng, he devotedly served the Buddha, erected monasteries, and issued certificates to monks and nuns. Endowed with grace, he respected the hwarang and made beautiful girls Wónhwa. His purport was to select persons of character and teach them filial piety, brotherly love, loyalty, and sincerity - the substance of governing the country.
At the time two Wónhwa, Nammo and Kyojóng (or Chunjóng), were chosen, and their followers numbered three to four hundred. Being jealous of Nammo, Kyojóng invited her to a party, made her drunk with wine, and led her to the banks of the North River, where she struck her dead with a stone and buried her. Unable to find her, Nammo's followers wept sadly and departed. One who knew of the crime then composed a song and had it sung by children. Thus Nammo's group went to the river, found her body in the midstream, and killed Kyojóng. Thereupon the king ordered the wónhwa abolished. After many years, he thought it best for the health of the country to establish the way of the Hwarang and ordered a selection of virtuous youths from good families to be its members. At first, knight Sórwón was made Hwarang (Kuksón) - this is the beginning of the Hwarang institution. Thereafter a monument was erected in Myóngju, and the king had the people refrain from evil and do good, respect their superiors, and be kind to their inferiors. Thus the five constant ways (goodness, righteousness, decorum, wisdom, and fidelity), the six arts (etiquette, music, archery, horsemanship, calligraphy, and mathematics), the three teachers, and the six ministers came into use".
Samguk Yusa. Translation: Peter H. Lee: Sourcebook of Korean Civilization, vol.I, Columbia University Press, New York, 1993. p.90-91.
Samguk Sagi here clearly states that the purpose both for the Wonhwa and for the
Hwarang was to a) disport themselves in groups so that they could observe their behavior
and thus elevate the talented among them to positions of service, b) recommend the
talented to the court so that able ministers and loyal subjects could be chosen from them,
and good generals and brave soldiers born therefrom, and finally as "Lives of Eminent
Korean Monks" adds "This was a way to facilitate the king's government."
Samguk Yusa goes even further, it tells us directly in what the Hwarang was trained, and what they were supposed to do:
"They were taught the five cardinal principles of human relations (kindness, justice, courtesy, intelligence and faith), the six arts (etiquette, music, archery, horsemanship, writing and mathematics), the three scholar occupations (royal tutor, instructor and teacher), and the six ways to serve the government (holy minister, good minister, loyal minister, wise minister, virtuous minister and honest minister)".
"At first, knight Sórwón was made Kuksón - this is the beginning of the Hwarang
institution. Thereafter a monument was erected in Myóngju, and the king had the people
refrain from evil and do good, respect their superiors, and be kind to their inferiors.
Thus the five constant ways (goodness, righteousness, decorum, wisdom, and fidelity), the
six arts (etiquette, music, archery, horsemanship, calligraphy, and mathematics), the
three teachers, and the six ministers came into use".
Samguk Yusa. Translation: Peter H. Lee: Sourcebook of Korean Civilization, vol.I, Columbia University Press, New York, 1993. p.91.
Sadaham was of noble birth, since he was not only a descendant of an earlier ruler,
but belonged to the aristocratic rank known as Chin'gol, the second of the exclusive and
so-called "bone ranks" of Silla.
Samguk Yusa 4:39; 44:417-418.
"Sadaham was fifteen years old when he became a Hwarang under King Chinhung, when he did his followers (Rangdo) numbered more than a thousand, and he was personally interested in all of them.
At that time, (AD 562) (note), the King ordered Isabu to attack one of the northern kingdoms. Sadaham pleaded with the king that he be allowed to lead the first attack. In view of his youth, the king was reluctant but then consented to do so as to demonstrate the bravery of the Hwarang youth, he commissioned Sadaham as a commander. Sadaham then persuaded Isabu to let him and his large band of followers lead off with the attack on the gate of Chóndallyang fortress, Sadaham was the first to breach the gate and so they brought the war to an early conclusion. For his bravery King Chinhung gave him 300 slaves from the defeated army, but Sadaham gave them their liberty and converted every one of them into good subjects. He wished no personal rewards for his deeds. Only after he was pressed by the royal did he accept a reward of land. All of the nation admired this conduct.
Very shortly afterwards, when Sadaham was seventeen, his friend Mugwan-nang died. From early childhood the two young friends had sworn friendship to death, they swore that if one or the other died in battle the other was obliged to commit suicide. Sadaham heard of his friend's death and fell into remorse and mourning. He refused to eat or sleep for seven days, and then died on the seventh."
We see here that the Hwarang movement was not originaly organized to fight, but when Sadaham demonstrated how effective the young aristocratic Hwarang could be in motivating the Silla army to fight this changed. Many of the following stories shows how the Hwarang now started to fight for their country.
Note: In Samguk Sagi and Samguk Yusa the date of the second founding of
Hwarang Do (from the first inception of Wonhwa to the institution of the Hwarang) is given
as the 37th year of King Chinhung (A.D.576). But in the story of Sadaham which takes place
in the 23rd year of Chinhung (A.D.562), Sadaham is already a Hwarang.
The 37th year is the last year of King Chinhung (540-576). That year was therefore a reasonable heading under which to put something that was known to have happened in that reign, but whose exact date was unknown.
The strictly chronological method of the Sagi made it difficult to place such intractable material. The only material put under the same year after the entry about the Wonhwa and the Hwarang is a note about a monk who studied in China "at this time", and the record of the kings death, which would naturally close the account of his reign in the chronological telling of it.
However, please also refer to Hwarang Do Before 576 A.D.
Rutt, Richard: The Flower Boys of Silla, in: Transactions of the Korean Branch of
the Royal Asiatic Society. Vol 38, October 1961 p.29.
"In the book "Tongguk T'onggam", completed in 1484, we find under the 37th year of King Chinhung of Silla an abridged version of the passage already quoted from the Samguk Sagi. It contains most of the part before the quotation from Kim Taemun, with a few minor changes in the characters, but stops short before the mention of statesmen and generals. However under the accession year of the same King Chinhung we find the note that "Silla chose handsome boys of good character and called them pungwólchu, seeking good men to join the groups, to encourage filial and fraternal piety, loyalty and sincerity." And under the 27th year a record of one Paegun only saying that he became a Hwarang at the age of 14 and that he was married. This note on Paegun is also in the "Samguk Sajóryo", a history-book compiled about the same time but using materials dating from a generation earlier then the "Tongguk T'onggam".
The "Taedong Unbu Kunok" an encyclopedic dictionary of Korean matters compiled by Kwón Munhae in 1588, contains articles on Wónhwa, Hwarang, and Kuksón. The first two consists of short quotations from the Samguk Sagi. The third notes that Kuksón is the same as Hwarang. It says again that Paegun became a Kuksón at the age of fourteen but in the reign of King Chinp'yóng (579-632).
During the Silla period Maitreya (Buddha of the Future) worship was very popular and the name Maitreya is often mentioned in connection with Hwarang. The figure of the seated Maitreya Boddhisattva with one leg on top of the other were produced mainly during the last half of the 7th century and with a few exceptions all images were produced during the time when the peninsula of Korea was still divided. For a longer discussion of Maitreya Buddhism in Korea and it's relationship with the Hwarang organization, refer to Lee, Ki-baik: Early Silla Buddhism and the Power of the Aristocracy. p. 161-185 and Lancaster, Lewis: Maitreya in Korea, in: Korea Journal, Vol 29, no. 11, November 1989. p.4-17, where the following introduction is taken:
"The incarnation of Maitreya Bodhisattva would, according to the Mi-le-hsia-sheng
ching: Maitreya- Incarnation-Sutra, appear after fifty six thousand millions of years, and
attain enlightenment under the Yonghwa tree. Living beings would be saved thereby. The
land where the incarnation of Maitreya would appear would be free of hostile rebels, war,
famine and other hindrances.
At this time there is to be a Cakravatin (a ruler whose chariot wheels can go anywhere) who helps the Buddha to achieve his goal. A Cakravatin is said to have a gold, silver, bronze or iron wheeled chariot as his attribute, and is called a golden-wheeled king.
King Chinhung adopted the Buddhist name Póbun ("Dharma Cloud") and thereby sought to be a wheel-turning king (the ideal Buddhist ruler) in the land of Maitreya. He also named his sons Kumnyun (golden wheel) and Tongnyun (bronze wheel) as a symbolic representation of this idea.
One of the purposes of the early recreated Hwarang organization was probably to help establishing the ideal state - the pure land of Maitreya."
After prince Kumnyung became king Chinji (576-579), the relationship between the Hwarang and the belief in Maitreya became even more solidified, as can be seen in the Samguk Yusa:
Samguk Yusa. Translation: Peter H. Lee: Sourcebook of Korean Civilization, vol.I,
Columbia University Press, New York, 1993. p.91-92).
"During the reign of Chinji (576-579), the monk Chinja (or Chóng-ja) of Húngnyun Monastery would make this plea before the image of Maitreya: "O Maitreya, please incarnate yourself as a Hwarang so that I might be near you and serve you!" His kind sincerity and the fervor of his prayers increased day by day. One night he had a dream in which a monk told him, "If you go to Suwón Monastery in Ungch'ón (now Kongju), you will behold Maitreya." The stunned Chinja set out, bowing at every step throughout the whole ten days of his journey. Outside the monastery gate a handsome youth welcomed him with a smile and led him through a small gate into a guest room. Chinja went up, bowed and said, "You don't know me. Why do you treat me so warmly?" "I too am from the capital. I saw you coming, Master, and merely wished to refresh you," replied the youth. Then he went out of the gate and vanished.
Chinja thought this a coincidence and did not marvel at it. He told the monks about his dream and the purpose of his trip, adding, "If you don't mind, I'd like to wait for Maitreya at the last seat." The monks realized that they were being fooled, but sensing Chinja's sincerity, they said, "Go south and you'll find Mount Ch'ón, the traditional abode of the wise, where there have been many responses from the invisible. Why don't you go there?"
So Chinja reached the foot of the mountain, where a mountain god changed into an old man and welcomed him.
"What would you do here?" asked the god.
"I wish to behold Maitreya," Chinja replied.
"You already saw one outside the gate of Súwón Monastery. Why do you seek further?"
The stunned Chinja hurriedly returned to the monastery.
After a month, King Chinji heard the story and asked for the facts: "The boy is reported to have said that he was from the capital - and the sage doesn't lie. How is it that he does not visit the city?"
With his followers, Chinja sought the youth in the village and soon caught sight of a handsome youth strolling and amusing himself under a tree northeast of Yóngmyo Monastery. Chinja approached him and said, "You're Maitreya. Where is your home, and what is your name?"
"My name is Miri, but I don't know my surname, because I lost my parents as a child," the youth replied.
Chinja then conducted the youth to the palace in a palanquin. The king respected and loved him and made him Kuksón. He maintained harmony with other youth, and his decorum and elegant teaching were uncommon. He proved to be outstanding in both wisdom and propriety. He taught his Hwarang disciples social etiquette, music and song and also gave them lessons in patriotic behavior, raising the name of Hwarang to its zenith. After seven years of a brilliant career he disappeared into the fairyland of Sin-són (land of the spirits), leaving behind the grieving King and all of the Hwarang.
Although Chinja was sunk in sorrow, he basked in Miri's favor. Continuing his pure transformation of the group, he cultivated the faith with sincerity. We do not know how he died. (...)
Now, the people call the Hwarang "Maitreya Sónhwa" and a mediator is called miri - these are all the vestiges of Chinja".
This story follows immediately after the history of the "creation of the Hwarang" - the story of the two Wónhwa, Nammo and Chunjóng. This too provides us with some information about the Hwarang, for instance: a) Monks could pledge to be servants to Hwarang, b) The Hwarang were taught social etiquette, music, singing and had lessons in patriotic behavior in addition of the training we heard earlier. Also, Koryó-sa says (in 108:2b) in a paragraph on Sóllang "In the nation's customs, the young always learned how to read from Buddhist monks". As we shall later discover, monks are often mentioned together with Hwarang, for instance in the stories of Monk Hyesuk and Hoserang, Chónmil and Munnu-rang and the following story:
Samguk Yusa 5:228. Translation: Peter H. Lee: Sourcebook of Korean Civilization,
vol.I, Columbia University Press, New York, 1993. p.205. Intrepertation: Lee, Peter H.:
Studies in the Saenaennorae: Old Korean Poetry, Instituto Italiano Per Il Medio Ed Estremo
Oriente. Roma 1959. p.55 and 111-112.
"When, during the reign of King Chinp'yong (579-632), three members of the Hwarang, Kóyól-lang, Silch'ó-rang (or Tolch'ó) and Podong-nang were about to make an excursion to the Diamond Mountains, a comet violated Scorpius, a star in one of the twenty-eight lunar mansions. Filled with foreboding, the three were about to abandon their plans.
Then Master Yungch'ón composed a poem (594), whereupon the uncanny comet disappeared and the Japanese troops withdrew, thus turning a misfortune into a blessing. The King was pleased and had the three youths go to the mountains. The song goes:
There is a castle by the Eastern Sea
Where once a mirage used to play.
Japanese Soldiers came,
Torches were burnt in the forest.
When Knights visited this mountain,
The moon marked its westerly course
And a star was about to sweep a path,
Someone said, "Look, there is a comet!"
The moon has already departed.
Now, where shall we look for the long-tailed star?
The first stanza sets the atmosphere of the poem, and the poet is about to recreate for
us the fantastic experience he has had. For this purpose, the images of heavenly bodies
and kindred images are introduced. In the first stanza, it is a mirage which is described
as "the castle where Gandharva plays", and the strange atmosphere is enhanced by
the arrival of Japanese soldiers. "Torches were burnt, rockets were fired" not
to scare away those who came to admire the mirage (and the Diamond Mountains) but to
welcome them to the soil of Silla.
We are told that this poem was written to exorcise the comet. But the poet does not complain of the evil done by the comet, nor does he beg it to disappear from the sky; instead, he praises it.
The second stanza is an indirect method of appeasing the comet, or the evil spirit which was supposed to be responsible for its appearance. Here the comet is "a star with a long broomstick" which sweeps a path for the moon, and not the star that devours the sky and other planets, as tradition has it. The comet is a servant who must sweep the path which the princess (the moon) is to tread. The moon, on the other hand, is lighting her lamp, and lighting it "zealously", to illuminate the world. But you should not be scared by the play of the heavenly bodies, the poet says; it is not appropriate to shout at it saying:
Look, there is a comet.
One should just watch and admire the display. Notice the piling on of "s"'s
in the eight line, which is intended to suggest the swift movement of the comet. When the
moon is risen and stands in the middle of the sky, the duty of the comet is fulfilled and
it will disappear. In the last stanza, a miracle is already achieved, and the poet asks us
where we see the comet, this time referred to as "a long-trained star." It has
already disappeared; and the comet we see now will disappear also. When the poem is
finished, the comet disappears form the sky.
One commentator suggests that this is a patriotic song which eulogizes the blessings of peace. According to his arguments, the celestial and foreign elements - a mirage, the moon, the comet, and Japanese soldiers - and earthly elements - torches, rockets, and the three Knights - are harmonized in the poem to achieve the final purpose: the praise of Silla. Thus here the sun and comet and moon and Japanese soldiers are introduced to enhance the joy of the people in their praise of the Silla kingdom. This commentator, therefore, interprets the poem from a totally different viewpoint, and offers us a possibility of another reading.
Sagi, Samguk Yusa. Samguk Sagi (ha), translated into korean by Yi, Pyong-do, Samguk Sagi:
Wonmun-P'ton, Kug'ok-p'yon, Seoul: Uryu Munhwasa, 1980, p.76, 162 and 225.
Samnang-sa, or Temple of The Three Knights, was built in 597, the 19th year of King Chinp'yóng.
It is impossible to say if the temple was named after Kóyól-lang, Silch'ó-rang, and Podong-nang in the above story about the comet.
A clear indication however, that Samnang-sa could very well have been established in honor of Kóyól-lang, Silch'ó-rang, and Podong-nang, is that in the 9th year of King Hóngang (883) the king, who ruled during the turbulent end of the Silla dynasty, went to the famous temple and had his officials compose poems, like monk Cungch'ón did.
Samguk Yusa, Lives of Eminent Korean Monks
"Wonkwang-Popsa was born in 541(?) and became a monk when he was thirteen years
Wonkwang stayed in China for eleven years, during which he mastered the major Buddhist scriptures as well as the Confucian Classics. During his time in China, the people would gather around him like clouds to listen to his spiritual teaching.
He returned to Korea in 600 and went to his old residence on Samgi Mountain and everybody, young and old alike rejoiced, even the king declared his pious respect.
The master was detached and retiring by nature, but affectionate and loving to all. He always smiled when he spoke and never showed signs of anger. His reports, memorials, memoranda, and correspondence were all composed by himself and were greatly admired by the whole country. Power was bestowed on him so that he might govern the provinces, and he used the opportunity to promote Buddhism, setting an example for future generations.
During his lectures he illustrated his points by quotations from Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu in order to make people understand.
Wonkwang-Popsa died in 640 (?), ninety-nine years old (Samguk Yusa says eighty-four), sitting upright (=meditating) in his residence in Hwangnyong Monastery. He was buried on Samgi Mountain and the burial materials and attending rites were the same as those for a king."
The story of Kwisan and Ch'wihang was originally written in the book Samguk Yóljón
and is quoted in Samguk Sagi, Samguk Yusa and Lives of Eminent Korean Monks:
"In 613 an Assembly of One Hundred Seats was held in the Hwangnyong monastery to expound the scriptures and harvest the fruits of blessing. Wonkwang-Popsa headed the entire group. He used to spend days at Kach'wi monastery, lecturing on the true way.
Two Hwarang, Kwisan and Ch'wihang, from Saryang district, were conferring between themselves about seeking the monk's advice concerning the purification of their minds and the regulation of their conduct. Both feeling that Wonkwang's advice was necessary to teach them proper conduct and mental attitude.
The came to the master's door and, lifting up their robes (Confucian way of showing respect), respectfully said: "We are ignorant and without knowledge. Please give us a maxim which will serve to instruct us for the rest of our lives." The master replied: "There are ten commandments in the Bodhisattva ordination. But, since you are subjects and sons, I fear you cannot practice all of them. Now, here are five commandments for laymen: serve your King with loyalty; tend your parents with filial piety; treat your friends with sincerity; do not retreat in battles; be discriminating about the taking of life. Exercise care in the performance of them." Kwisan said: "We understand your wishes with regard to the first four. But what is the meaning of being discriminating about the taking of life?" The master answered: "Not to kill during the months of spring and summer nor during the six maigre feast days is to choose the time. (The eight, fourteenth, fifteenth, twenty-third, twenty-ninth, and thirtieth days constitute the six monthly fast days. Nothing was eaten after noon. On these days the Four Deva Kings/Guardians (Chatur Mahárádjas) visit the earth and take note of the good and evil actions of mankind). Not to kill domestic animals such as cows, horses, chickens, dogs, and tiny creatures whose meat is less than a mouthful is to choose the creatures. Though you may have the need, you should not kill often. These are the good rules for laymen".
Kwisan and his friend pledged to adhered to them without ever breaking them. Which they did without fail. In 602, a large number of Paekche troops invaded Silla and surrounded Amak Fortress. Kwisan and Ch'wihang fought under General Muun, Kwisan's father. In the middle of the battle, General Muun ran into an ambush and fell from his horse, Kwisan rushed to his father's rescue, killing a great number of the pursuing enemy soldiers and crying out to his followers: "Now is the time to follow the commandment not to retreat in battles." Kwisan gave his horse to his father and fought beside Ch'wihang. Finally, both of them died on the battlefield, "bleeding from a thousand wounds."
Because of their valour King Chinp'yóng granted Kwisan the posthumous title of Naema (rank 11), and Ch'wihang was granted the title of Taesa (rank 12)".
"In 1934 (or 1940), a stone
tablet, also known as the Imsin Sógi Sók was found on the hill behind the site of the
Sókchang monastery, near Kyongju, and is now preserved in the Kyóngju national museum.
The inscription, consisting of seventy-four logographs in five lines (18, 16, 14, 16, and 10 respectively) and written in Hyangch'al, reads in part: "On the sixteenth day of the sixth month of the year imsin, we two solemnly swear by heaven to conduct ourselves with perfect loyalty and not to commit any fault for a span of three years. We swear that if we act contrary to this oath we will sin gravely against Heaven. Especially when the country is unstable we swear to translate this oath into practice. Previously, on the twenty-second day of the seventh month of the year Sinmi, we pledged ourselves to master the Book of Songs, the Book of Documents, the Rites, and the Tso chuan in the like period of three years."
The identity of the two is unknown, but they might have been Kwisan and Ch'wihang. The Japanese scholar Suematsu dates the tablet to 732, while Yi Pyóng-do, because of the use of the Hyangch'al system and the contents of the oath, puts it before 676, the year of the unification of the Three Kingdoms.
A valuable record of contemporary facts, the tablet refers to such matters as the development of the Hyangch'al, the growth of the Hwarang, and the daily life of the upper class in Silla. The tablet is also unique in that it records a private oath rather than one of a public nature".
Of the books the Hwarang (?) previously pledged themselves to master in three years (The Book of Songs, the Book of Documents, the Book of Rites, and the Tso chuan) are the first three part of the Five Confucian Classics and the last one belongs to the Thirteen Confucian Classics.
Samguk Sagi. Own translation : Samguk Sagi (ha), translated into korean by Yi, Pyong-do, Samguk Sagi: Wonmun-P'ton, Kug'ok-p'yon, Seoul: Uryu Munhwasa, 1980, p.381.
"Kóngun was son of Taesa (rank) Kumun and became Sain ("Palace Officer"). In the 44. year (627 AD) there was a great frost in the 8.month which destroyed all kinds of grain and in spring the following year a great starvation started. The situation was so bad that people had to sell their children in order to eat.
At that time there were several Sain's from the palace who conspired to steal grain from the storage and share it between themselves. Only Kóngun would not accept any grain. The Sain said: "Everybody have accepted grain, only you have refused. What is the reason for this? If you think it is too little, you can take more." Kóngun smiled and said, "I am a student of the Hwarang Kunnang and we practice to improve ourselves by Pungwól. Actually, these petty ilicit matters are of small importance and not of justice (oui). So even if I would benefit 1000 pieces of gold, it would not change my heart." At that time the Ich'an's (high rank) son became a Hwarang, which is why Kóngun spoke like this.
When Kónhun left the palace in order to go to Kunnang, the Sain's secretly confered. They felt that if they didn't kill Kóngun he would certainly speak and reveal them, so they finally called him to the palace. Kóngun knew of their plans to kill him so he said goodbye to Kunnang and said, "After today we will not meet again". The Knight didn't know why he spoke like that but Kóngun wouldn't tell him. Only after he had asked him repeatedly did he give a short summery of the situation. The Knight understood fully but tested Kóngun and said, "Why don't you tell it to the Chief Palace Officer?". Kóngun said, "I don't have the heart to do so. For me to be afraid to die and then let so many people in trouble is not right." "In that case, why not run away?" Kógun ansvered, "That too is not good. I am straight (honest) and they are crooked. It is not for a man/gentleman to run away". And in the end he went to the palace.
Several of the Sain served him alcohol and apologized for their conduct while they secretly mixed poisonous drugs in his glass. Eventhough Kógun knew of it, he had to drink it and died.
The gentleman says that Kógun did not die because of what he did but it can be compared to "A Great Mountain and a Goosedown" person.
Samguk Sagi contains a full three volumes of biografical stories of the distuinguished Silla General, much more than on anyone else.
See Vos, Frits: Kim Yusin, Persönlichkeit und Mythos: Ein Beitrag zur Kenntnis der Altkoreanischen Geschichte, Oriens Extremus 1 (1954) p.29-70 and 2 (1955) p.210-236 for a full translation of all material of Kim Yushin from both the Sagi and Yusa (in German).
Kim Yusin was 15 when he became a Hwarang and 18 when he became Master of the sword
and a Kuksón. By the time of his death he was one of the most powerful men in Korea and
was buried like a king.
He was born in 595, and became the leader of a Hwarang group called Yonghwa-Hyangdo "Band of the Dragon Flower Tree" (= the Nagavrksa tree; the Bodhi tree under which Maitreya Buddha would rise and teach his learning).
In 611 AD under King Chinp'yóng, when Kim Yusin was seventeen, he saw Koguryó, Paekche and Magal troops closing in on Silla's territory. He was enraged and deeply shaken. Wanting to free Silla from the enemy invaders, he entered a stone grotto on Chung'ak Mountain (Pu'ak - Middle Peak) alone.
After fasting he swore an oath to heaven: "The hostile countries are without moral. They are like wolves and tigers, therefor they disturb our frontiers, plunders and hardly a year is left in peace. I am but one insignificant subject devoid of special talents or strength, but I am determined to put an end to this disorder. If only heaven would look down and help me fulfil my goals.
He had stayed in the grotto for four days when suddenly an old man, dressed in coarse garments came to him and said: "This place is filled with poisonous snakes and wild beasts. It is a terrible place. Why have you come here and stay be yourself, my noble youth?"
Kim Yusin answered: "Where did you come from, wise old man? May I ask your venerable name?" The old man spoke: "I have no residence, I come and go in harmony with my wishes. My name is Nansung".
Hearing this Kim Yusin knew that this was no ordinary man. He bowed twice and spoke to him with awe: "I am a subject of Silla. When I see the enemies of my country, my heart is pained and my heart is filled with aching, that is why I am here. My hope is to discover some solution. Humbly I beg you, wise old man, take pity on my earnest sincerity and teach me your magic knowledge." The old man was silent and did not speak. Kim Yusin implored him again and again, shredding tears all the while.
After six or seven days the old man finally spoke: "Even though you are young, you are of determined to unify the Three Kingdoms, this certainly indicate a strong character." Then he taught him his secret methods and said. "Be careful not to pass on this method carelessly. If you use it for improper purposes you will suffer great misfortune. Once he was finished speaking, he left. Kim Yusin followed him for about two miles but then lost sight of him, and could not find him anywhere. Over the mountains was only a light - radiating brilliantly like the five colours (in all colours).
In 612 the neighbouring invaders advanced still further. Kim Yusin - even more resolute - grabbed his precious doubled-edged sword, and entered alone into a deep grotto on Mt. Inbak. Burning incense and calling out to heaven, he swore the oath he had sworn before at Chung'ak, praying further that "the Heavenly Gods, send down a light and let a spirit decend into my precious sword!" On the night of the third day, the two asterisms of "Barrens" (in Aquarius and Equuleus) and Horn (Spica) shown their light into the sword, till it started to quiver tremulously .
The Middle Peak Cave in which Kim
Yusin prayed for Silla's unification of the Three Kingdoms is presumed to be the Sinsón
cave temple located on Tansók Mountain in Sómyón, Wólsóng Country.
The Sinsón-sa cave temple is a natural grotto whose wooden upper structure with a tile roof has been lost. Shaped in a form, the grotto has 10 large and small statues carved in relief on the eastern, southern, and northern walls.
The standing Buddha and two standing Bodhisattvas, all carved on the innermost three walls, presumed to be a statue of Maitreya. On the northern wall, farther inside, is a half-seated Maitreya carved in relief.
Samguk Yusa: "Kim Yusin was making plans day and night to conquer Koguryó
and Paekche. And one night, when Yusin was about the age of eighteen, a Koguryó spy who
had mingled with the Hwarang for many years tried to lure Kim Yusin into a trap. The spy
whispered secretly that they should spy on the enemy and they set out together.
One day as they paused on a mountain top, two girls appeared from the forest and followed after Kim Yusin. When they arrived at a village to rest for the night, a third girl appeared, and all three, in the most engaging manner, presented delicious cakes for Kim Yusin to eat. He was transported with joy and immediately fell in love with the three of them.
"My beautiful ladies," he said, "You are three laughing flowers and I am a humming bee. Will you suffer me to suck honey from your golden hearts the whole night?"
"Yes," they replied coyly, "we understand. Come to the forest with us and there we shall have our pleasure in beds of fragrant flowers, unseen and unheard by the other boy."
So Kim Yusin went into the forest with the three girls, but as soon as they arrived the girls changed into noble goddesses. "We are no laughing flowers or nymphs," they told Kim Yusin,"but three goddesses who guard the three sacred mountains. We have come to warn you that you are being lured by an enemy spy. Be on your guard!
Farewell!" And with these words the three goddesses rose into the sky and flew away.
Kim Yusin prostrated himself before the departing goddesses and then returned to the sleeping spy. Early next morning Kim Yusin woke him and said, "Look. We started on our long journey to a foreign country in such a hurry that I forgot my purse and left it at home. Let's go back and get it before going any farther." The Koguryó spy suspected nothing, and they returned to Kyongju. Here Kim Yusin immediately had him arrested and bound on hand and foot. After confessing, Kim Yusin had the spy executed and thanked the three goddesses who had saved his life".
In an early battle against Koguryó (629AD), Kim Yusin was fighting under his father,
Sóhyún, who was the leader of the army. Silla was fighting to conquer Nangbi Castle but
at the battle the troops suffered one defeat after another. The numerous deaths caused a
breakdown in the spirit to the point that none would fight on. Kim Yusin, who at this time
were commander for a medium sized garrison, went before his father and as he took of his
helmet he said:
"They've defeated us. But throughout my life I have guided by loyalty and filial piety. In the face of battle one must be courageous. Now, I have heard that if you shake a coat by its collar, the fur will hang straight. And that, if you lift up the headrope, the whole fishing net will open and it can be thrown far and wide. Let me become the collar and the border ropes."
Then he jumped to his horse, drew his sword and leapt over a trench and fought his way into the enemy's ranks where he beheaded the general. He came back holding the head up high ans as the Silla troops saw this they struck out in attack to take advantage of his victory. The number of cut-off heads were more than five thousand and more than a thousand men were taken alive. Everybody in the besieged city, too frightened to resits, came out in surrender.
In 645 Kim Yusin became leader of
the Silla army and won a big victory over Paekche. On his way back to Silla he received
information that another big Paekche army was ready to attack. Without even visiting his
wife and children he mounted his horse, marched against the enemy army and send it off
He went to the palace and made his report but before he had time to go home, he again received an urgent message that Paekche troops were closing in. Again Kim Yusin did not go home. He trained his troops, improved their weapons and went out to meet the enemy. On their way they passed Kim Yusin's house and his family and servants were waiting for him outside the gate. Yusin passed the gate without looking back. After about fifty steps he stopped his horse and ordered a soldier to get water from the well in his house. He drank it and said: "The water in my house still has its old taste." Then the soldiers said: "When our leader is like this how then can we be sad to be parted from our meat and our bread?" When they reached the boarder and the people from Paekche saw the Silla army, they dared not go on and withdrew. The Queen heard this and rejoiced, Kim Yusin received a title and a large reward.
Kim Yusin had very strong ties to the royal family. For example, his sister became
married to the future king, Kim Yusin's close friend and blood brother, Kim Ch'un Ch'u,
because of him. He accomplished this, by one day they were playing ball, stepping on a
ribbon that were trailing from Ch'un Ch'u's jacket.
Kim Yusin took him home with him and called his sister to sew on the ribbon again. She blushed deeply all the while and Ch'un Ch'u fell in love with her right away. From then on he visited her "day and night".
Somewhat later Kim Yusin discovered that his sister was pregnant, he was furious and began preparations to have her burned to death as a "an example to all immoral women." Ch'un Ch'u leaped on his horse and galloped quickly to Yusin's house - and a few days later he and Yusin's sister were formally married. After Yusin's wife died he married Ch'un Ch'u's sister, tying them even closer.
(In 654 Kim Ch'un Ch'u were elevated to the throne and were known as King Muryol. It was during his reign that he and Kim Yusin united the peninsula to one country for the first time ever.)
In 642 Paekche concurred parts of Silla, Ch'un Ch'u was furious and wanted to go to
Koguryó to ask for troops, to get revenge. When Ch'un Ch'u was ready to leave, he said to
"I form together with you a body, we are the arms and legs of our fatherland. If I now go there, and thereby receive hardship, would you not care for this?"
Kim Yusin answered: "If you go, but do not return, then the hoofs of my horse will surely trot on the courts of Koguryó and Paekche. If not so, I would be ashamed to face my people". Ch'un Ch'u rejoiced. He and Kim Yusin bitting each other in the finger and smearing their mouths with blood, swore to be blood-brothers. Ch'un Ch'u said: "After sixty days I will be back. If it takes longer before I am here, then we will not meet again". After this they parted.
When Ch'un Ch'u came to Koguryó, the King saw that he was no ordinary man and put him in jail for later execution.
But when he had not returned after sixty days, Kim Yusin choose and trained 3000 brave men in Silla. He said to them: "I have heard, that it is the disposition of a hero to put his life in danger and forget his body in difficulties. If a man is ready to give himself up to death, then he is worth one hundred men; if one hundred men are ready to give themselves up to death, then they are worth one thousand men; if one thousand men are ready to give themselves up to death, then they are worth ten thousand men. In this case, it is possible, through faith, to march straight through the world. Now an able statesman from our country has been made prisoner by another country". The troops answered: "Even if you send us on an expedition in which we only would have a very small chance of surviving, how would we dare not to follow your commands?"
But before the Queen had time to decide on a date for Kim Yusin to leave, the King of Koguryó found out (through a spy) what Silla was planning and released Ch'un Ch'u.
In the Japanese book "Nihongi" (one of the oldest Japanese books, A.D.
697) there is a paragraph for the year 647 which says:
"Silla sent Kim Chhyun-chhyu, a Superior Minister, of the rank of Greater Ason, and others to accompany the Hakase, Takamuko no Kuromaro, of Shótoko rank, and Oshikuma, Nakatomi no Muraji, of middle Shósen rank (All are Japanese ranks), and bring a present to the Emperor of a peacock and a parrot. Chhyun-cchyu was made a hostage. He was a handsome man, who talked and smiled agreeably".
There is no mention as to when and how Kim Ch'un Chu was released but he became King Muryól in 654, I have not been able to find any other mention of this incident in the Korean sources. Aston, W.G.: Nihongi, Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to A.D. 697, Charles E. Tuttle company, Tokyo, 1972.
Kim Yusin was a very wise and courageous general. At one time he was leading his troops through the mountains. It was freezing cold, men and horses were exhausted and fell again and again. Kim Yusin uncovered his shoulders, seized his whip and spurred his horse on. As the troops saw this they hurried on so much that the sweat started to pour. They dared not speak of the cold again.
For the last battle against Paekche, T'ang China sent 122,711 crack troops under the
command of "Left Tiger Guard General Su Ting-fang". They were going to fight
together with 50,000 hand picked warriors under the command of General Kim Yusin.
The two commanders was planning a coordinated attack when a fierce bird started to circle around the head of General Su. A fortune teller said it was a sure omen of his sure dead in the coming battle. The T'ang General trembled from head to foot and was about to order his men to turn back. But Kim Yusin unsheathed his long sword, struck the swooping bird dead, and laid it at the General's feet, saying "A small grotesque bird cannot interfere with our great expedition against a bad king."
In summer, the sixth month of 660AD the Great King (T'aejong) and the Crown Prince
Pómmin moved out with a huge army to attack Paekche, setting camp at Namch'ón. At the
same time, Kim Inmun, who had gone to T'ang requesting troop support, came along with the
T'ang Great Generals Su Ting-fang and Liu Po-ying at the head of one hundrede trirty
thousand troops, crossing the sea and landing at Tóngmul Island. They had first sent an
attendant Munch'ón on ahead to announce their arrival; and with recipt of this news, the
king ordered the Crown Prince, Generals Yusin, Chinju, Ch'ónjon, and others to take a
hundred large vessels laden with troops to meet them. The Crown Prince met General Su
Ting-fang, and Su Ting-fang said to him, "I'll go by the sea route and you, prince,
go by land. We will meet at the walls of Sabi, Paekche's capital, on the tenth of the
seventh month." When the Crown Prince reported this the Great King led his generals
and warriors to an encampment at Sara. General Su Ting-fang and Kim Inmun came into
Ibólp'o by sea but ran aground and were unable to proceed because of thick costal mud.
Willow rush mats were spread permitting the armies to land, and T'ang and Silla joined in
attack on Paekche. They destroyed her. Throughout that campain, it was Yusin's merit that
was greatest, and when the emperor of T'ang heard of it, he sent an emissary to praise and
compliment him. General Su Ting-fang said to Yusin, Inmun, and Yangdo, "My command
allows me to exercise authority as conditions dictate, so I will now present to you as
maintenance lands all of Paekche's territory that have been acuired, this as reward for
your merit. How would that be?"
Yusin answered, "You came with Heavenly Troops, Great General, to help realie our unworthy prince's wish to avenge our small nation, and from our unworthy prince on down to all officials and people throughout the nation there is endless rejoicing. How could it be just for the three of us alone to enrich ourselves by accepting such a gift?" They did not accept it.
Once they had defeated Paekche, the men of T'ang camped on the Sabi hills and secretly planned to invade Silla. When the Silla king learned of it, he summoned all officials together to discuss a strategy. Lord Tami put forward his opinion, saying: "Have our people disguise themselves as Paekche men - wear Paekche clothes and act as if they are going to rebel. The men of T'ang will surely strike at them, then we can use this as an excuse to fight and achieve our goal." Yusin said, "That idea is worth using. Let us follow that plan." But the king said, "The T'ang army has destroyed our enemy for us. If we turn about and fight them, would we have heaven's protection?" Yusin answered, "A dog fears his master, but if the master steps on its paw, the dog bites him. Why shouldn't one save himself when endangered? I beg that the Great King grant permission." But the men of T'ang, learning of Silla's preparedness through spies, took Paekche king, ninety-three officials, and twenty thousand soldiers as prisoners, and on the third day of the ninth month set sail from Sabi to return to T'ang. A group including General Liu Jen-yüan was left behind to occupy the territory.
After Su Ting-fang had presented the prisoners, the Son of Heaven expressed words of commendation and indebtedness and the said, "Why diden't you follow through with an attack on Silla?" Su Ting-fang said, "The Silla sovereign is humane and loves his people, his officers serve their nation with loyalty, and those below serve those above as if they were their fathers or elder brothers. Even though it is a samell country, one can't plot against them."
In 668 the T'ang emperor appointed State Duke of Ying, Li Chi, to marshal a force to
attack Koguryó. King Munmu was thus requested also to send troops to support the Chinese
soldiers. He appointed Húmsun and Inmun to serve as generals. Húmsun said to the King:
"If we do not march out together with Yusin I fear we might regret it." The King
responded, "You three are the treasures of our country. If all three goes into enemy
territory and something happens that prevents your return, what would then happen to the
country? So when I now want to keep Kim Yusin here to protect our country, it will be as
if there is a great hidden wall and we need not fear." Húmsun was Kim Yusin's
younger brother and Inmun was his sisters son (The sister who was married to Kim Ch'un
Ch'u, (King Muryól)) therefore they served him with awe and dared not go against his
wishes. So they said to him: "We, who are incapable, are about to go with the Great
King to an unknown country. What should we do?"
He answered: "The generals serves as shields and walls of the nation, they are the claws and the fangs of his prince. It is in the middle arrows and stones (on the battlefield) that he determines victory or defeat. Only when he arrange himself upwards to the Way of Heaven, downwards to the geography, and of the minds of men before him can he command success. Our nation survives today because of its loyalty and trust, while Paekche at this time by simply striking with our uprightness at their deviousness, but how infinitely more secure we are with the support of the august power of the Great State's brilliant Son of Heaven! Go now and strive your utmost. Don't fail your charge."
The two men bowed and Said, "Your instructions have been respectfully recieved and will be carried into practice. We dare not slip or weaken."
So Silla finally conquered Koguryó in 668 with the assistance of T'ang China, but T'ang again revealed her ambition to put the Korean peninsula under her control and again stationed troops in the former territory of Paekche. Silla had no choice but to engage the Chinese in battle and "The brave Silla soldiers, inspired by the Hwarang spirit, hurled back the invaders" (?) (Translation: Samguk Yusa by Ha and Mintz) and finally, in the sixteenth year of King Munmu's reign (676) Silla succeeded in driving the Chinese out, unifying the peninsula.
In Korea the great King Munmu spoke to his officials: "Kim Yusin's grandfather was
the minister-president Muruók, he was a general and led a counter attack on Paekche.
Being victorious he captured the King as well as four ministers and many soldiers. This
way stopping their campaign. His father, Sóhyón, when he was chief commander, fought
Paekche many times and fought against their storm attacks so they would not violate our
territory. Yusin has now carried on the work of his grandfather and his father. He is a
servant of the state -a general on the outside, a statesman on the inside. His merits are
enormous. If we did not support ourselves on his family, then the rise or fall of the
country be uncertain. How should his position and reward be like?" The officials
said: "Is true as Your Majesty says."
Then the King gave him the title of Great Minister-President (note) and gave him a fief of five hundred families. Furthermore Kim Yusin received the right to enter the palace at any time, and his subordinates each received a title.
Note:Sink'ú-ibulch'ihan. The highest office in Silla was Ibulch'ihan or Minister president. Kim Yusin had received this title from King T'aejong Taewang (Muryól) already in 660 because of his service in the destruction of Paekche.
In 673, the 13th year of King
Munmu, in the Summer in the 6. month "everybody" saw many tenth's of men in
armour and with weapons in their hands walking crying out of Kim Yusin's House, - suddenly
they were nowhere to see. When Kim Yusin heard this he said: "That was surely my
secret guardian soldiers who - feeling that my luck has run out - has left; I will
die!" Ten days later he lay sick in bed. The great King visited him personally. Kim
Yusin spoke: "I would like to strain the power of my arms and legs to the limit, to
serve my master, but the illness of your insignificant subject means that I from now on
can no longer see your face." The great King said crying: "We need ministers as
the fish needs the water. If your death is unavoidable, how then shall it be with the
In spring, on the first day of the seventh month Kim Yusin died in the main room in his house - seventy nine years old! An incredible age for anyone this time in history.
The King payed for his funeral - one thousand rolls of coloured silk and two thousand sacks of rice. Further, he ordered people to guard the tomb on Kúmsanwon.
From King Húngdók (826-836) Kim Yusin was later awarded the posthumous title of "Great King Húngmu" (Húngmu Taewang - great king promoting the warlike).
Samguk Yusa 4:89-91. Translation: Peter H. Lee: Sourcebook of Korean Civilization,
vol.I, Columbia University Press, New York, 1993. p.192-193.
The Monk Hyesuk was formerly a member of the Hwarang Hoserang's group, "one of the most renowned of the Hwarang of Silla".
When Knight Hose "removed his name from the Yellow Book" (retired), Hyesuk returned to Chóksón village (in the mountains) for twenty years.
One day Lord Kudam, a Hwarang came riding to hunt in the suburb of Monk Hyesuk's hermitage. Hyesuk went out, held the lord's reins, and asked him if he might join him in the hunt. The lord agreed. Doffing his robe, Hyesuk ran this way and that side by side with the lord, who was pleased. The two then sat down to rest and roast game of which Hyesuk partook without aversion. "I have some delicious meat. May I serve it to you?" asked Hyesuk in front of the lord.
"Very Well," replied the lord.
Rejecting a plea from onlookers, Hyesuk sliced a piece of flesh from his thigh and placed it on a tray, while his clothes dripped with blood.
"What are you doing?" the astonished lord asked.
Hyesuk replied, "I thought you a benevolent man whose compassion reached to other living things. Thus I followed you. Now I see that you indulge in butchering other living beings for your own pleasure. This can hardly be the way of a benevolent gentleman. You are not my kind." With these words, the master rose from his seat and departed.
Ashamed, the lord looked at Hyesuk's plate, which was still filled with meat. Marveling, he returned and told the story to the court. King Chinp'yóng (579-632) sent a messenger to welcome the monk. Hyesuk purposely "lay down on a woman's bed", and the (King's) messenger, thinking it unclean, turned back. But before he had gone seven or eight li he encountered Hyesuk. When asked where he had been, the master replied, "I have been officiating at the seven-day abstinence offering in the capital. Now I am on my way home." The messenger reported the story, had a person locate the house of the patron, and found that the monk had indeed been there.
Shortly thereafter, Hyesuk died, and the villagers buried him to the east of Yi county. At the time a fellow villager, who was coming down from the west of the hill, met Hyesuk on the way and asked him where he was going. "I have lived here for a long time; now I would like to tour other places." After going about half a li further, he mounted a cloud and vanished. Upon reaching the east of the hill, the traveler told the story to the mourners and dug up the grave, which yielded only one of Hyesuk's sandals.
Hyesuk's monastery is to the north of Angang county, where he lived. There also stands a stupa".
Hyesuk knew that Kudam was a Hwarang and thought that he therefore must be "a benevolent man whose compassion reach to other living things. Thus I followed you. Now I see that you indulge in butchering other living beings for your own pleasure. This can hardly be the way of a benevolent gentleman." This must obviously have been characteristic for a Hwarang
Samguk Yusa by Ilyón, Translated by Tae-Hung Ha and Grafton K. Mintz. Yonsei
University Press. Seoul, 1972. p.106-108.
Chukchirang was known as one of the bravest of the Hwarang. He rendered meritorious service under general Kim Yusin in the unification of the peninsula, and he served as a minister under four sovereigns - Queen Chindók, King Muyól, King Munmu and King Sinmun. Here is his story:
"Lord Suljong, a Silla nobleman, had been appointed governor of Sakju and was proceeding to his new post. Because of an armed revolt on the East Coast, he was guarded by a long train of cavalrymen. When they reached the mountain called Chukchiryóng, they found a strong youth guarding the pass against the rebels. The governor praised the youth for his patriotism and wished he had a son like him.
A month after his arrival at his post, Suljong-gong and his wife both had a dream in which they saw this same man, in the flower of his youth, enter their bedroom. They immediately sent a servant to inquire after the youth, and learned that he had died a few days before. The governor ascertained from the servant that the day of the youth's death was the same of that of his dream. He therefore told his wife that the youth might be reborn as their son. He sent out soldiers to bury the youth on the northern crest of Chukchiryóng and had a stone image of Maitreya (the Buddha of the Future) erected before the grave. Later the governor's wife gave birth to a boy, whom they named Chukchi.
The boy grew into a strong man and joined the Hwarang. He soon became famous. And people thought that he was an incarnation of Maitreya Buddha.
Many years later, during the reign of King Hyoso (692-702), there was a young man called Siro or Tugosil who was a follower of the noble Hwarang ("enrolled in the Yellow Book of P'ungnyu"). Siro attended Chukchi-rang every day in order to receive physical and mental training as a loyal and patriotic Silla soldier. But one morning he did not report to his master as usual, and nobody knew where he was.
When Siro had not appeared for ten days, Chukchirang asked his mother about her son's whereabouts. The old woman replied that her son had been appointed warehouse keeper of Pusan Fortress by order of Iksón-Agan - an army commander - and that he had been called away so suddenly that he had not had time to report to his Hwarang chief. Chukchirang said, "If your son had gone on private business there would be no need to call him back, but since he went on official business I must go and give him a treat."
He took a basket of cakes and a bottle of wine with him and departed with his servants and 137 youthful Hwarang in stately procession. After arriving at Pusan Fortress he asked the gatekeeper where he might find Siro, and was told that the young man was working on Iksón's farm as usual. Chukchirang entertained Iksón with the cakes and wine and requested that he grant Siro a leave of absence. This Iksón flatly refused. (Iksón was using his position to obtain forced labor for his own private purposes).
Just at this time Kan-Jin, an official courier, was delivering to the castle thirty bags of rise which he had collected as ground rents. He admired Chukchirang for his Hwarang Virtues and devotion to his subordinates, and despised Iksón's corruption and stubbornness.
He therefore offered Iksón the whole load of rice if he would release Siro. But it was not until he had added the gift of a fine saddle and harness that the covetous fortress commander would allow the kidnapped youth to go home.
Hearing this news, the royal officer who supervised the Hwarang (the Hwaju) sent out a company of soldiers to arrest Iksón, only to find that he had gone into hiding. So they arrested his eldest son and forced him to take a bath (to wash away his fathers guilt) in a pond on the palace grounds in the midwinter cold, this causing him to freeze to death.
When this strange affair of a father's sin and his son's punishment was reported to the throne, the King issued a decree expelling all natives of Moryang-pu from government office in perpetuity and forbidding them to enter Buddhist temples even though they were monks. At the same time, the children of Kan-jin (the official courier) were awarded the hereditary office of village chief wherever they happened to reside".
The story takes place under King Hyoso (692-702) and Chukchirang served as state minister under Queen Chindók (647-654), King Muryól (654-661), King Munmu (661-681), and King Sinmun (681-692). Taemara-rang himself joined in a campain against Paekche as early as the eight moon of the year 649. He distinguished himself on many occations, and if we recon that he was in his twenties in 649, he must have been at least over sixty by the time of King Hyoso (692-702). When Siro was saved by him, Taemara was already an old man, but he still belonged to the Hwarang. This can also be seen from the fact that Siro wrote an eight line Hyangga poem to praise Chukchirang (aka Taemara). In this poem Siro speaks of Chukchirang's face which now has "deep furrows".
Ode to Knight Taemara by Siro (692-702)
All men sorrow and lament
Over the spring that is past;
Your face once fair and bright,
Where has it gone with deep furrows?
I must gimpse you, sir,
If I can, for an awesome moment.
My fervent mind cannot rest at night,
Far off here in the mugwort-covered swamps.
"In the first stanza of this poem, the poet compares the spring to his master.
Spring which comes and goes every year seems transient; but it is not so, for the world of
nature is a world of cyclic change and the spring that goes away this year will return
next year. Thus spring appears fresh and unchanged whenever it returns. We human beings
are not so. We are born to die, and once dead, we never return again. The period of our
springtime in life, which corresponds to the seasonal spring, is only once and for all.
The fair and bright face of the Knight is no more to be seen; he starts to wear
"furrows deep". The poet thus achieves a contrast between the world of nature
and that of man. The knowledge that we will never have our spring again overwhelms the
poet and necessarily the tone of his poem.
Since the poet cannot see his youthful master in this world again, he says he would like to see him once again even for "an awesome moment". The phrase "awesome moment" is ambiguous, and its interpretation in the context depends largely on the interpretation of the first stanza. Knight Taemara is either dead or still alive. This ambiguity arises from the fourth line of the first stanza, which could also mean: how could you wish to have such furrows? But this ambiguity does not change the inner organization of the poem itself. If he is dead, the contrast is between the world of nature (spring) and that of man (death). But if he is still alive, it is the contrast rather between the season of spring and the spring-time in one's life. Thus in the first case, "awesome moment" must be taken to mean "a moment after death"; in the second case, it merely says in an elaborate way that he is anxious to see him again "even for a moment." The last two lines achieve the culmination of his intense admiration for his master: until he sees him again even for a moment, he cannot enjoy peace of mind. His anxiety for him will torment him "even in the mugwort-covered swamps", meaning he will not forget him under whatever hardship or in whatever predicaments".
Hyangga poem: Lee, Peter H.: Anthology of Korean Literature From Early Times to the Nineteenth Century, University of Hawaii Press. Honolulu 1981. p.18. Hyangga interpretation: Lee, Peter H.: Studies in the Saenaennorae: Old Korean Poetry, Instituto Italiano Per Il Medio Ed Estremo Oriente. Roma 1959. p. 106-107.
Some scholars have speculated that the Hwarang organization was a youth organization that people left when they got older (they translate Hwarang into flower boys) but this story clearly shows that the Hwarang were not "little boys". Also if Siro could have been appointed warehouse keeper of Pusan Fortress by order of Iksón-Agan, then he would hardly have been a child. Anyway, in sixth century Korea, a person who was 14 or even 16 years old would hardly be called a child.
Samguk Sagi 47:437-438.
Translation: Peter H. Lee: Sourcebook of Korean Civilization, vol.I, Columbia University
Press, New York, 1993. p.105-106.
"Kim Húmun was the eight-generation descendant of King Naemul (356-402); his father was Talbok, chapch'an (Rank 3). Whenever his comrades in Hwarang Munno's group mentioned the undying fame of a comrade who had perished in battle, Kim Húmun would shed tears of indignation, proclaiming the valor of the fallen comrade, and spur himself on thereby. Monk Chónmil, one of the group, said, "Kim would not return alive if he were to go to the enemy lines."
In the sixth year of Yung-hui (655 AD), King Muyól, angered by encroachments on the Silla frontier by Paekche and Koguryó, planned a retaliation and sent troops under Kim Húmun as Commander of the Nang Bannermen (Nangdang taegam). Battered by the wind, washed by the rain, Kim Húmun shared the joys and sorrows of his men. Arriving in Paekche territory, he pitched camp below Yangsan before attacking Choch'ón Fortress. Under cover of night Paekche people rushed to the Silla side and the at dawn climbed the ramparts. Startled, Silla's soldiers were thrown into confusion. Taking advantage of disorder, the Paekche soldiers made a sudden raid, sending a shower of arrows.
Astride his horse and with his lance in hand, Kim Húmun sat waiting for the enemy. Taesa Chónji advised, "Now that the enemy has started out in darkness we cannot see even an inch ahead. Even if you die in action, on one will know of it. Moreover, you are of nobility and a royal son-in-law. If you die at the hand of the enemy, it will be Paekche's pride but our disgrace."
Kim Húmun answered, "Once a man has resolved to die for his country, it matters little whether his fate is known or not. How could I seek only fame?"
Kim Húmun stood firmly rooted. The attendant holding his reins begged him to move back, but Kim Húmun brandished his sword and engaged the enemy. He killed several of them before he died. Taegam Yep'a and Sogam Chóktúk also died in action.
Hearing of the heroic death of Kim Húmun, Pogi tangju Poyongna said, "Although he was of noble origin and was powerful and lamented by people, Kim Húmun maintained his integrity to the end and died. As for me, no good will come of my living and no harm will come of my dying." He rushed to the enemy lines and died after killing several of the foe.
King Muyól lamented the deaths of these men and posthumously conferred the rank of ilgilch'an (Rank 7) on Kim Húmun and Yep'a and that of taenaema (Rank 10) on Poyongna and Chóktúk. The Silla people mourned their death in the "Song of Yangsan."
The compiler of Samguk Sagi adds to his account of this story a quotation from the foundation of Hwarang, including the quotation from Kim Tae-mun about generals and statesmen. And adds that this is an example of what Kim Tae-mun meant. He says that by the third generation of Hwarang there were more than two hundred of them and all their names and great deeds are recorded in their biographies.
One of the most famous stories of Hwarang warriors is the martyrdom of Kwanch'ang,
the son of General P'umil, who died in the wars of unification.
Samguk Sagi 47:437. Translation: Peter H. Lee: Sourcebook of Korean Civilization, vol.I, Columbia University Press, New York, 1993. p.104-105.
"Kwanch'ang (or Kwanjang) was the son of General P'umil of Silla. His appearance was elegant and he became a Hwarang as a youth and was on intimate terms with others. At the age of sixteen he was already accomplished in horseback riding and archery. A certain commander (taegam) recommended him to King Muyól (654-661).
When, in the fifth year of Hsien-ching, kyongsin (660), the king sent troops and, together with a Tang general, attacked Paekche, he made Kwanch'ang an adjunct general. When the two armies met on the plain of Hwangsan (now Nonsan), P'umil said to his son, "You are young, but you have spirit. Now is the time to render brilliant service and rise to wealth and honor. You must show dauntless courage."
"I shall," Kwanch'ang replied, mounting his horse and couching his lance. He galloped into the enemy line killing several of the foe. Outnumbered, he was taken a prisoner and brought to the Paekche general, Kyebaek. Kyebaek had Kwanch'ang's helmet removed. Kyebaek was greatly moved by the youth and valor of his captive and could not bring himself to kill him. He said with a sigh, "Silla has marvelous knights. Even a youth is like this - how much stronger must their soldiers be?" He then let Kwanch'ang return alive.
Upon returning, Kwanch'ang remarked, "Earlier when I attacked the enemy's position I could not behead the enemy general, nor capture their standard. This is my greatest regret. In my second attack I will be sure to succeed." He scooped up water from a well and drank; he then rushed upon the enemy line and fought desperately. Kyebaek caught him alive, beheaded him, and sent back the head, tied to the saddle of his horse.
General P'umil took his son's head and, wiping the blood with his sleeve, said, "He saved his honor. Now that he has died for the King's cause, I have no regrets."
The three armies were moved by this and strengthened their resolve. Beating drums and shouting war cries, they charged the enemy lines and utterly routed the Paekche forces. King Muyól conferred the posthumous title of kúpch'an (Rank 9) on Kwanch'ang and had him buried with full rites. Toward funeral expenses the king sent thirty rolls each of Chinese silk and cotton and one hundred sacks of grain.
"In order to praise his heroism and loyalty, the people initiated this dance
lamenting the premature death of the knight. This dance seems to have been popular in the
Koryo and Yi dynasties. The Chungbo munhon pigo ("Korean Encyclopaedia") from
1770 (and 1908) adds that the sword dance was performed together with the Ch'óyong dance
in later times."
Lee, Peter H. (I, Hak-su): Korean Literature: Topics and Themes, The University of Arizona Press, Tucson, 1965. p.83-84.
This is probably the reason why this dance and accompanying hyangga poem is sometimes wrongly included in the Hwarang material (see for instance Rutt, Richard: The Flower Boys of Silla, in: Transactions of the Korean Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. Vol 38, October 1961 p.51-52).
Samguk Yusa. Translation Tae-hung Ha and Mintz, Samguk Yusa, Legends and History of
the Three Kingdoms of Ancient Korea, Yonsei University Press, Seoul, 1972. p.92
"At the battle of Hwang-san (now Yonsan) between Silla and Paekche, two Hwarang named Changch'un-nang and P'arang were killed.
When King Muryól attacked Paekche in a later battle, the two warriors appeared to him in a dream and said, "We offered our lives for king and country in a former battle. Though we are now only pale ghosts, we wish to join Your Majesty's army to defend the fatherland forever, but, being overshadowed by Su Ting-fang, the T'ang general, we have to follow behind him all the time. We beg you to give us a small unit of crack troops so that we may attack the enemy and fight for a swift victory."
The King was deeply moved by their patriotic spirit even in death. He ordered a memorial service to be held with a solemn Buddhist rite and erected Chang-úi Temple in Puk-Hansanju (near modern Seoul) to the memory of their gallant souls".
Samguk Sagi vol. 47. Own
translation: Samguk Sagi (ha), translated into korean by Yi, Pyong-do, Samguk Sagi:
Wonmun-P'ton, Kug'ok-p'yon, Seoul: Uryu Munhwasa, 1980, p.366-367.
"Kim Yóngyun was the son of Pae'gun and grandchild of the famous Silla general Kim Humch'un.
Kim Yóngyun became a Hwarang during King Chinp'yóng (579-632). His benevolence (in) and virtue was deep and his integrity was so thick that he easily won the hearts of many people. During the reign of King Munmu (661-681) he became prime minister and filled the office with honor.
In the 7. year of King Muyól (660 AD) the king of T'ang China, King Kao Chung (650-684), ordered the great chinese general Su Ting-Fang to conquer Paekche. General Humch'un received the kings order went out together with 50.000 specially chosen soldiers, among them was also Kim Yusin.
When they, in the 7. month, arrived at the field of Hwangsan (now Yónsan) they meet the famous Paekche general Kyebaek. The battle did not go well for Silla so general Humchún called his son Pae'gun to him and said, "To a person who serve his king, loyalty and sincerity is most important, and to a son filial piety (hyo do) is the most important. When one meets danger, then to let go of one's life, is both complete loyalty and complete filial piety". Pae'gun said, "That is true" and then he went into the middle of the rebel forces stronghold where it was almost certain he would be killed. There he fought hard until he died.
Kim Yóngyun was thus born and raised in a family which had been famous for
generations. He was known as a man with good and strong morals. During King Sinmun
(681-692) a bad robber from Koguryo was hiding in the city of Podók and was rebelling.
The king ordered that he be stopped.
When Yóngyun was about to leave he told all the people who had gathered, "When I leave this time I cannot give ill fame to my clan and my friends".
The troops traveled until they were 7 li to the south of Podók, they lined up the soldiers and waited.
Somebody said, "These people can be compared to a swallow under the heaven (difficult to catch). When these bad characters are like a swallow who wants to build its nest on top of the heaven blanket (sky) and the fish who plays in the soup pot (i.e. it's impossible for the rebels to get away). Eventhough one fights 10.000 times and then are killed he'll have but one day left to live. Like the old saying goes: one should not run after an exhausted thief. But just step back a little and wait until the opponent is extremely exhausted and then attack. Then the swords blade will not be stained with blood and it is possible to capture them alive."
Several of the generals thought that the speech sounded plausible and considered to retreat for a while. But Yóngyun alone would not retreat and wanted to fight right away. Someone from the group said, "How to save the lives of many of our generals and how to save the group from death? That which he said earlier I consider true, later we'll find a convenient opportunity to win the battle. But if only you advances at once, wouldn't that be wrong?" Yóngyun said, "To get close in a battle array is not courage. The Book of Rites says: To advance and not retreat, that is the only honorable action for a common soldier. Since a man of spirit/a great man can decide to face any action by his own free will, surely there is no need to follow other people." Then he rushed towards the enemy soldiers where he fought until he died.
When the king heard the story he became very sad and said while the tears ran, "He had nighter father nor son. I praise his loyalty and high principles". Later he posthumously awarded him with ranks and further gave him many generous rewards".
At the end of a chapter in the original Samguk Yusa there is a note where the compiler adds that the popular opinion that Ansang was a member of the band of the Hwarang Chunyóng-rang is unprovable. It was known that Chinjae, Pónhwang and others belonged to Chunyóng's group, but it was not possible to tell them all.
Richard Rutt: The Flower Boys of Silla, p.41
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