Korean History Studies in Japan
The 2008 Shigaku Zasshi Historiography Review: Korean Ancient History
An exhibition in 2007 of a reliquary holding a relic of the Buddha excavated at the Wanghŭngsa temple site was held at the Puyŏ Museum. Together with mokkan wooden strips uncovered at Sangbuk-ni, Puyŏ, these were new discoveries in Paekche history. The importance of these new sources for the study of ancient history, a field for which written documents are few, goes without saying. However, at the same time, what history those findings depict must be asked.
That the frame of current historiography is built upon the premise of the modern nation-state has been noted frequently in these historiography reviews. As can be seen too in the debate between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Korea over Koguryŏ and Parhae, overcoming the single-country view of history remains an important issue. Furuhata Tōru writes that in order for the national territory and the populace to be treated as a single entity, in the case of the genealogies of Koguryŏ and other countries in which transmission did not follow only one line, claimants to that history seek exclusive possession. Confrontation then results. He notes that it is important to consider the standpoint(s) of the other successor(s) to the history and to develop a common way of thinking which considers the multiple origins of the history. (1)
As an effort toward a new historical image, Yi Sŏngsi advocates border studies. He considers Koguryŏ, which was in a border area, as having fulfilled the role of transmitting Chinese civilization to various peoples in East Asia. (2) Also, Suzuki Yasutami focuses on cultures and people, such as border faiths, the horizontal chamber tombs in the Yŏngsan River region, and other features of societies that crossed borders. (3) Hashimoto Shigeru discusses the difficulties and possibilities of moving toward common understandings based upon international joint fieldwork. (4)
In addition, regarding the establishment of the region called “East Asia,” according to Yi Sŏngsi, the region was conceived from the actual understanding in the 1950s and 1960s of the issue of “Japanese history,” and Nishijima Sadao did not have a prolematique that would overcome the single-country history. For that reason Yi Sŏngsi is proposing that it is necessary to depart from the issues that envelop contemporary East Asia and re-conceive an East Asia that responds to historical issues. (5)
Together with this type of approach, newly-found historical sources should be studied through positivistic research.
As a book that takes up all of Korean history, Chōsen no rekishi, edited by Tanaka Toshiaki, devotes a large number of pages to pre-history artifacts, and also shows the effort of including columns and other features. However, the section on ancient history is focused on political history, and the findings of archaeology as well as cultural history, relations with the Japanese archipelago, and other topics are barely touched upon. (6)
In an article that takes up a wide region, Isahaya Naoto argues that technological changes and changes in function spread through the Three Yan, Koguryŏ, and Silla in a very short time. He considers it possible to construct a chronology that covers all of Northeast Asia through equestrian goods. (7) Chang Yunjŏng sees not only the differences among the state areas of each of Silla, Kaya, and Paekche, he also sees regional consolidation on both the eastern side and the western side of the Naktong River and elsewhere. Further, he argues that transmission to the Japanese archipelago was extremely complicated as each region in the southeast peninsula conducted separate interactions. (8)
Regarding Old Chosŏn, Yagi Takeshi follows the process through which the misunderstandings of people that are based upon transmissions of entangled information become legitimizing discourses of monarchical rule as they are passed down as truth. He notes that in the background of the formation of the transmission relating that Old Chosŏn’s territory extended to Liaodong and Liaoxi are the presence in the peninsula of people who moved there after the Mongol invasion and the phenomenon of the movement of place names together with the movement of people. (9)
Regarding Koguryŏ history, Inoue Naoki sees in the background of the beginning of Koguryŏ foreign relations not only the confrontation with Silla that has heretofore been forwarded, but also the difficult international situation in which its relations with Northern Qi were deteriorating. (10) Regarding the Koguryŏ envoy who accompanied the Paekche envoy to Japan as recorded in the Keitai annals in Nihon shoki, Sŏ Pogyŏng indicates that Paekche and Koguryŏ engaged in friendly relations albeit for a short period of ten years, and that the entries in the Keitai annals are reliable. (11) Monta Seiichi suggests that the roof tiles excavated near burial mounds, based upon the text “tiles produced for the purpose of covering graves,” were directly covering the grave mound. He speculates that, at the time, this was solely a Koguryŏ custom for protecting the mound from wind and rain, and after the transmission of Buddhism the text’s phrase came to indicate a pagoda. (12) Sakaguchi Yūmiko argues that images of the interred that show the individual holding a deer’s tail reflect the culture of the sinified Murong Xianbi, and that the people buried in the Tŏkhŭng-ni burial mounds too were of that culture. (13)
Paekche history is charged with energy through the stunning excavation findings in Puyŏ and Iksan. Chŏng Chayŏng and Yang Chonghyŏn have organized the findings of recent years and discussed their historical significance. (14, 15) Also, regarding the relics excavated from the stone base of the wooden pagoda at Wanghŭngsa that was mentioned in the introduction above, there are three articles in issue number 136 of Higashi Ajia no kodai bunka. First, Yi Hansang believes that the date 577 is clear from the written text accompanying the reliquary holding a relic of the Buddha. And from the similarities of many objects in this site with artifacts excavated from the tomb of King Muryŏng, he appraises these objects as fundamental materials that demonstrate the metal crafts of the Sabi period. (16) And as many of the relics resemble artifacts excavated at Asuka-dera, Suzuki Yasutami (17) and Tanaka Fumio (18) suggest that the technology behind the construction of Asuka-dera and the rites that accompanied the temple’s construction, and Buddhist teachings were introduced from Paekche. Although the internationality and localness of Asuka-dera have been noted, we now know of the influence of Paekche culture. In the future, while building upon these findings, it will be necessary to consider issues based upon Paekche politics and society. Tsuji Hideto’s edited volume Kudara to Wakoku treats the relationship between royal authority and local society in Paekche and in Wa, and international interactions. (19)
Regarding Silla history, Yamada Takafumi and Higa Erika have written articles based upon findings from excavations in Kyŏngju in recent years. (20, 21) Yoshida Ai sees in the Silla depicted in Hwarang segi a society that vigorously used the logic of maternal lineage. But from the late sixth century she sees a process of change by which the theory of paternal lineage began to become privileged. She concludes that Hwarang segi cannot be a modern text and was written by Kim Taemun during that period. (22) Mokkan wooden strips examined by Ichi Hiroki have heretofore been considered as “ch’ŏp,” or texts presented to a superior. But he infers from a comparison with the text forms of Japanese and Chinese wooden strips that these were documents requesting the issuance of a ch’ŏp. (23) Hamada Kōsaku, having laid out the historiography and issues under debate, divides the dispatch of Silla embassies to Tang China into five periods and arranges the sources. (24, 25) Future research can be expected to make clear the influences upon Silla’s politics, society, and culture. Yoshii Hideo considers written texts on roof tiles not to indicate the site of production but rather to mean the location of the request. Artisan groups that responded to demand by producing requested items existed in the ninth and tenth centuries. (26)
Regarding Parhae history, Furuhata Tōru considers the reason for Tang China’s raising the Parhae kunwang to king through the investiture of 762 to have been as an encouragement as Tang anticipated assistance in the suppression of the An Shi rebellion, and as conferring a bureaucratic post upon the enthronement of Emperor Daizong. (27) On the other hand, Parhae took the posture of quietly observing the situation and not making any movements, and the sixth Parhae embassy to Japan informed that government that it would not participate in Silla’s planned invasion. Regarding interactions between Parhae and Japan, Hamada Kumiko believes that although Japan reduced the number of Parhae embassies to Japan by instituting a schedule in 824, Parhae did not always follow that schedule because of the occasional necessity of trade and other reasons. In Japan, too, the government permitted foreign embassies to visit the capital as a means of exhibiting the authority of the ruler. (28) In another publication, Hamada Kumiko depicts concrete conditions during the visits of Parhae embassies as recorded in poetry written in Chinese. (29) In issue number 107 Ajia yūgaku takes up the theme of medieval archaeology in Northeast Asia. Regarding Parhae, Kojima Yoshitaka organizes the distribution of ruins based upon each waterway, and also introduces representative sites. (30)
Translated by Kenneth R. Robinson
(Shigaku zasshi vol. 118 no. 5 (2009:5), 247-249. Translated and uploaded with the permission of the Shigakkai.)