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Far East Kingdoms

East Asia


Jin Confederacy (Iron Age) (Korea)
4th Century BC - 2nd Century BC

The Korean peninsula in East Asia rarely witnessed occupation by a single unified state, Before the later first millennium AD it was regularly fragmented into several warring kingdoms which often fought one another for domination. Territory which was occupied by Korean states before the first few centuries AD stretched farther to the north than does North Korea does today.

The possible nucleus of Korean cultural and national identity was being formed in those areas which lie immediately to the north of today's northernmost Korean border. Chinese and steppe barbarian pressure in the last century BC and first two centuries AD forced the Korean states to refocus farther southwards, firmly establishing Korean culture in the peninsula.

In that north, the state of Wiman Choson was formed out of the collapse of the semi-legendary state of Old Choson. It was the eventual break-up of this legendary state which gave rise to better-attested early historical kingdoms in Korea (albeit with some of them still occupying plenty of territory to the north of today's Koreas). By the first century BC Wiman Choson itself ceased to exist. Its remaining territory had fractured during a period of intense regional instability into a series of tribal coalition states.

To its south, largely (but not entirely) contained within today's South Korea, a widespread tribal confederation had already formed, possibly as early as the fourth century BC. Not particularly accounted in early Korea's legendary period which focussed primarily on the far north but a late part of the peninsula's Mumun pottery period, the Jin Confederacy formed out of several more minor tribal confederations or primitive states.

A definitive capital or chief settlement is unknown, while name can also be translated into English as 'Chin', a variation which was more likely to be used in twentieth century texts. Mentions in Chinese texts of the Gaeguk or Gaemaguk (the 'kingdom of armoured horses') could refer to the Jin, certainly possible in this period, if unproven. However, there was also a small state by the name of Gaema-guk along the River Amnok in AD 26 which was conquered by Koguryo.

That this confederacy of smaller states existed is not questioned. What is questioned - and remains unknown - is how it was organised internally, what level of centralised control existed. It managed to fend of Wiman Choson and send embassies to the Han Chinese, so there would certainly seem to have been some level of consensus when it came to external affairs.

Wiman Choson, though, largely prevented any extended contact between Han and Jin courts, which probably also kept iron weapons out of Jin hands, other than in those of the ruling warrior elite. The Jin confederacy was superseded by the Samhan confederacies.

South Korea's flag

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information 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), from Records of the Three Kingdoms, Chen Shou (third century text which covers the period AD 184-220 and which combines individual histories of China's 'Three Kingdoms'), from History of the Later Han, Fan Ye (fifth century compilation of older texts which covers the history of the Later Han dynasty of China), 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.)

194 BC

The state of Gojoseon selects this moment to rebel against Han rule. The weakness of Liu Ying (Emperor Hui) in the face of his mother's domination has quickly become apparent. The Koreans regain their independence, but Gojoseon itself is fragmenting.

General Wiman seizes the throne from Chun Wang to form a new dynasty of rulers in a new capital under the title of Wiman Chosen. Chun Wang is reputed to flee to the Jin Confederacy in the south.

Map of Early Han (Western) China c.200 BC
The Han conquest of Qin China had to wait until the great Qin emperor himself was dead and it still took a year of fighting to destroy the Qin armies. Then the victors spent four more years and a civil war deciding that the Han would command the succeeding dynasty and reunite the fractured state (click or tap on map to view full sized)

300s - 100s BC

The Jin confederacy's fate is unclear. Either it concentrates its territory into the Jinhan confederacy, perhaps in response to attacks from the north, or splinters into all three confederacies of the Samhan.

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