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Far East Kingdoms

East Asia


Dongbuyeo / Galsa Buyeo (Korea)

The Korea of the late classical and early medieval periods was for the most part divided into 'Three Kingdoms', although others also existed. The largest of the three, Koguryo, actually lay on the southern edges of one of those others: the state of Buyeo (or Puyo, Puyŏ, or Fuyu in earlier twentieth century works, prior to more recent retranslations of many Chinese and East Asian names).

Records concerning its creation, though, seem muddled. What is largely given by modern sources as the foundation story for Buyeo actually concerns the foundation of neighbouring Dongbuyeo, while Buyeo appears to arise, vanish, and reappear again as if from nowhere.

However, less certain - possibly legendary - records state that it was Hae Mo-su who founded Buyeo, presumably forging one or more previously tribal entities into a kingdom. He may not even have existed, however, seeming to be a later creation.

His 'son', Hae Buru, moved his people to the east in 86 BC, creating what was or soon became a 'division' of Buyeo known as Dongbuyeo, or 'eastern Buyeo' which would survive until AD 22. This was largely located in areas of modern Ryangang and Hamgyong provinces in North Korea. After that, the earlier state was often referred to as 'Bukbuyeo', or 'Northern Buyeo', in order to differentiate it.

To complicate matters further, once the state of Dongbuyeo had been destroyed in AD 22, another splinter or surviving pocket emerged almost immediately in the form of Galsa Buyeo (or sometimes simply as Galsa, suggesting a tribe or tribal region which was temporarily dominated by Dongbuyeo). This managed to struggle on until AD 68 when it was conquered by Koguryo.

There seems to be a lull in proceedings of perhaps half a century before it becomes clear that a state - a fresh one or a continuance is unclear - by the name of Buyeo still exists in the territory to the immediate north of Koguryo, pretty much where the original state had been founded.

Whatever the confusions of its history, Buyeo and its various divisions serves as a bridge between the semi-legendary state of Gojoseon and the fully-historical three kingdoms of Korea. The state grew out of tribal beginnings in what today is Manchuria in the far north-eastern corner of China, much of which was home to early Korean tribes in this period.

It emerged in the late second century BC along with several other small tribal states at the northern extremes of modern Korea, Koguryo being one of these. The names of the ruling dangun (in effect, king) which are shown below are in their twentieth century forms first, followed by more recently revised interpretations.

South Korea's flag

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Michael Welles, from A New History of Korea, Lee Ki-baik (1984), from Pacific northeast Asia in prehistory: hunter-fisher-gatherers, farmers, and sociopolitical elites, C Melvin Aikens (WSU Press, 1992), from Military Culture in Imperial China, Nicola Di Cosmo & Robin D S Yates (Harvard University Press, 2009), from Records of the Three Kingdoms, Chen Shou (third century text which covers the period AD 184-220 and which combines individual histories of the three kingdoms), from The Origins of Northern China's Ethnicities, Zhu Xueyuan (Beijing 2004), from A History of Korea, Charles Roger Tennant (Routledge, 1996), from Samguk Yusa: Legends and History of the Three Kingdoms of Ancient Korea (Book 1), Il-yeon (Translated by Tae-Hung Ha and Grafton K Mintz, Silk Pagoda, 2006), and from External Links: Three Kingdoms (Encyclopaedia Britannica), and Zizhi Tongjian: Comprehensive mirror to aid in government (ChinaKnowledge.de), and Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom (UNESCO), and Encyclopaedia Britannica, and The Koguryo Controversy, National Identity, and Sino-Korean Relations Today, Peter Hays Gries (available as a PDF via ResearchGate), and New World Encyclopaedia, and Academic Kids Encyclopaedia.)

86 - 48 BC

Hae Puru / Hae Buru

Fled Buyeo to found Dongbuyeo (86 BC). Died in old age.

86 BC

At some point in his reign of Buyeo (Bukbuyeo) - possibly at the beginning - Hae Buru apparently follows the recommendations of one of his ministers and leads his immediate followers and numbers of Buyeo's common folk to the settlement (referred to as a city) of Gaseopwon.

This is located near the Sea of Japan (otherwise referred to as the East Korean Sea). He seemingly re-founds the state of Buyeo when he names it Dongbuyeo, meaning 'eastern Buyeo'.

Map of East Asia c.100-37 BC
The fall of Wiman Choson spawned the state of Buyeo which proved to be the founding point for Dongbuyeo, Galsa Buyeo, and Koguryo (possibly to be identified with Jolbon Buyeo), which would unify the whole of northern Korea and the Korean territories in today's Manchuria (click or tap on map to view full sized)

It seems harder to find mention of a reason for this migration, but it is due to a dynastic squabble with Go Dumak for control of Bukbuyeo, which the latter wins. Hae Buru's migration is in fact a flight by the defeated party. He later submits to Go Dumak to avoid further conflict.

48 - 7 BC

Kŭmwa Wang / Hae Geumwa

Son. Father of Koguryo's Chu-mong.

37 BC

The traditional date at which Koguryo transitions from what would appear to be a tribal state into a formal kingdom is 37 BC. It is founded by Chu-mong and claims a level of continuity from Buyeo itself, seeing as Chu-mong is a prince of Buyeo's royal court who is forced to flee following a power struggle (his brothers resent his presence and conspire to expel him).

The kingdom he subsequently founds has territory which abuts the southern borders of Buyeo. Apparently, Go Museo of Buyeo even authorises the founding of Koguryo two years after ascending his throne. This would seem to be too early for the official founding date of Koguryo, but it would serve to account for at least part of its preceding existence as a tribal state.

Koguryo kingdom graves and cities
Now located in north-eastern China, the archaeological remains have been detected of three cities and forty tombs from the Koguryo kingdom which was extinguished in AD 668

7 BC - AD 22

Hae Daeso

Son. Helped expel Chu-mong. Killed by Koguryo.

AD 22

Daeso is responsible for starting a feud with Koguryo, by attacking its second ruler, Yuri. There is the unconfirmed possibility of Yuri being a usurper, which would certainly provide good reason for an attack.

However, things go badly for Dongbuyeo. Following several battles and increasing losses, Daeso is killed by Koguryo's third ruler, Daemusin, who is busy expanding the new kingdom's borders in all directions. Dongbuyeo is annexed to the kingdom, never to rise again. Instead it is governed (at least initially) by a younger son of Daemusin of Koguryo.

A small survivor state remains under the command of one Hae Dodu, possibly a son of Hae Daeso. It is known as Galsa Buyeo and it survives until AD 68. Little appears to be recorded of it, and it may be little more than a tribal state.

22 - 68

Hae Dodu

Son? Ruler of Galsa Buyeo. Conquered by Koguryo.


Buyeo (perhaps, or could it be Galsa Buyeo?) accepts vassal status from the Late Han, an advantageous move as it offers any small state a level of protection against external enemies.

Defence from Koguryo is probably the most important issue for the moment, but the nomadic Xianbei are also starting to become a serious threat to the state's west, ranging across the northern borders of China beyond the Great Wall.

68 - 285

Taejodae of Koguryo continues the work of previous kings in expanding the kingdom's borders in all directions. In AD 56 he conquers the eastern Okjeo tribal state, while other fall subsequently: Galsa in 68, the Jona in 72, and the Juna in 74.

Map of East Asia AD 100
Late Han China continued to pressure the Korean states, especially to the north of the Korean peninsula, with Buyo seemingly accepting Han vassal status in AD 49 (click or tap on map to view full sized)

A major Xianbei invasion of Buyeo in 285 virtually cripples it. Led by Muron Hui, the invasion forces the royal court to relocate to the Korean tribal state of Okjeo where it attempts to refound the former splinter sub-state of Dongbuyeo, although this area is now dominated by and largely integrated into Koguryo. Nothing seems to come of this, although Dongbuyeo could be the location of the rump Buyeo state which survives until 494.

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