History Files
 

Far East Kingdoms

East Asia

 

Hubaekje (Later Baekje) (Korea)
AD 892 - 936

The Korea of the late classical and early medieval periods was for the most part divided into 'Three Kingdoms', although others also existed. Largely (but not entirely) contained within today's South Korea, a widespread tribal confederation emerged in the last few centuries BC known as the Jin confederacy. In the second century BC this fractured during the confusion surrounding the collapse of Wiman Choson into what are known as the Samhan confederacies.

Out of the Samhan confederacies, the 'Three Kingdoms' of Baekje, Gaya, and Silla emerged. They began as individual city states, or a small polity of states, with attachments to the confederacies before gradually extending their increasing domination over their sister city states until the three kingdoms ruled the entire southern section of the Korean peninsula. The 'Unified Silla' period began when that kingdom conquered the other two. Problems appeared in 780 when the uninspiring King Hyegong suffered a series of rebellions, the last of which saw him killed in the royal palace. After that the throne never seemed to be entirely secure, and the succession never entirely certain. The accession of Queen Jinseong in 887 saw a collapse of public order, with military conscription failing and taxes not being collected.

Yang Gil headed up a rebel force in Silla, with such groups not being at all unusual by this time. His leading general was Gung Ye, reputedly a son of either Heonan or Gyeongmun. He increased his own power to the level that he was able to break away and found his own state in the central Korean peninsula after 898, known to historians as Hugoguryeo. In 892 another breakaway state had already been formed by the name of Hubaekje, under the command of Gyeon Hwon. This was essentially a recreation of the former Baekje kingdom, thereby splitting Unified Silla into the 'Later Three Kingdoms'.

South Korea's flag

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Jane Portal (Matsutaro Shoriki Chair, Art of Asia, Oceania and Africa, Museum of Fine Arts Boston), from the BBC Radio 4 series, A History of the World in 100 Objects, Part 4 Korean Roof Tile - The Silk Road and Beyond (AD 400-700), broadcast on 31 December 2012, from Pacific northeast Asia in prehistory: hunter-fisher-gatherers, farmers, and sociopolitical elites, C Melvin Aikens (WSU Press, 1992), from Pre-Modern East Asia: A Cultural, Social, and Political History, Volume I: To 1800, Patricia Ebrey & Anne Walthall (Cengage Learning, 2013), from A New History of Korea, Lee Ki-baik (1984, supplied by Michael Welles, but excluding Koguryo), from History Of Korea, Roger Tennant (Routledge, 1996), and from External Links: Ancient History Encyclopaedia, and New World Encyclopaedia, and Academic Kids Encyclopaedia, and History of Manchuria, and Kings of Korea (in Korean), and Korea Information - History (Korean Cultural Center NY), and Enacademic.)

892 - 935

Gyeon Hwon

Son of a peasant revolt leader who also revolted against Silla.

898 - 901

Having been buoyed by several nobles submitting directly to him rather than his master, Gung Ye now turns against Yang Gil. He rapidly conquers all opposition to his will in the centre of the Korean peninsula and, in 901, declares the founding of his own kingdom which he names Goryeo (or Hugoguryeo to later historians). Silla is now in a terminal decline.

Map of East Asia AD 915
Later Silla's throne never seemed to be entirely secure, the succession never entirely certain, and the accession of Queen Jinseong in 887 saw a collapse of public order (click or tap on map to view full sized)

905 - 907

Silla loses territory to the to the north-east of Jungnyeong pass in central Korea in 905. Two years later a total of ten fortresses to the south of Ilseon are seized by Hubaekje. King Hyogong of Silla turns to drink and further neglects an already-neglected state. His successor has to fight off incessant attacks by Hugoguryeo and Hubaekje.

918

Becoming increasingly paranoid in his later years, Gung Ye of Hugoguryeo (now Taebong) has already executed one of his wives and two of his three sons (in 915). Now he is overthrown by four of his generals, worried that the king will destroy his own newly-founded state. The generals replace Gung Ye with Wang Geon, essentially installing a new ruling structure and a new dynasty, the Goryeo dynasty.

920

In a union borne of practical need, Gyeongmyeong of Silla joins with Taejo Wang Geon of Goryeo to ward off an attack by Hubaejke. Unfortunately, many of Gyeongmyeong's border commanders subsequently align themselves with Goryeo, further weakening Silla's position.

927

The army of Hubaekje sacks Silla's capital at Gyeongju. King Gyeongae is found enjoying a party at the lavish Poseokjeong pavilion near Namsan in Gyeongju. Rather than surrender he commits suicide. Hubaekje's Gyeon Hwon places Gyeongsun on Silla's throne and returns to his own kingdom.

Taejo Wang Geon of Goryeo
Gyeon Hwon of Hubaekje made perhaps his greatest blunder by setting up a new king of Silla instead of annexing the territory - just eight years later it would be handed over without a fight to this man, Taejo Wang Geon of Goryeo

930 - 934

After nearly forty years of open hostility between the three major Korean kingdoms but without any clear superiority being shown by any side, Hubaekje now suffers a major defeat at the Battle of Gochang (today's Andong). King Gyeon Hwon's forces are unable to recover from the losses they suffer. Instead he makes a desperate attempt to sack the capital of Goryeo at Gaeseong in order to reverse his fortunes but that too ends in defeat.

935

Silla's surviving territory is a shadow of its former greatness. King Gyeongsun abdicates in favour of Taejo Wang Geon, king of Goryeo. Gyeongsun dies in 978, while Silla is fully absorbed into Goryeo.

In the same year, Gyeon Hwon is overthrown in Hubaekje by one of his own sons, Singeom, who had missed out on becoming heir to the throne in favour of his younger brother, Guemgang. With the aid of further brothers, Guemgang is killed and Gyeon Hwon is forced to flee to Goryeo where he is granted welcoming hospitality.

935 - 936

Gyeon Singeom

Son and usurper. Kingdom destroyed. His fate is unknown.

936

Gyeon Hwon assists Taejo Wang Geon of Goryeo in a major attack on Hubaekje. The wounded state is unable to fend off the overwhelming attack and it falls. Gyeon Hwon dies the same year of a medical complaint, while his lands are swallowed up by Goryeo, unifying the bulk of the Korean peninsula.