Goguryeo: Notes - Archontology

Goguryeo: Notes

The Foundation of the Kingdom of Goguryeo

The traditional date of the foundation of Goguryeo according to the Samguk Sagi, ch. 13, is the second year of Jiànzhāo (建昭) of the Han Empire corresponding to BC 37. Other sources state that the polity lasted for 708 or 700 or 800 or 900 years, yielding somewhat different dates of foundation.

According to the Chinese official histories, the territories comprising the nucleus of Goguryeo were part of Joseon (historically known as Gojoseon, 古朝鮮|고조선) which was annexed to the Han Empire in BC 108. The Chinese records do not mention any events related to the foundation of Goguryeo in BC 37 or around that year. The Book of Han, ch. 99b, however, provides a description of the revolt of a group of tribes (Gāojùlí|高句驪) during the reign of Wáng Mǎng (王莽) in 12 AD, eventually leading to the establishment of an independent polity. The first ruler of Goguryeo mentioned by name in Chinese annals in 105 AD was Gung [bf. 105-146], known as Daejo/Taejo daewang after his death (Book of the Later Han, ch. 85).

Mythical Founder

In the traditional account as recorded in the Samguk Sagi, Jumong (朱蒙|주몽) is named the founder of Goguryeo and is said to have been a Buyeo prince. On the Gwanggaeto stele (414 AD), a monument erected in memory of Gwanggaeto wang (Damdeok) who ruled Goguryeo in 391-412, as well as the slightly later but badly damaged memorial inscription for an official named Moduru (牟頭婁|모두루), the founder of Goguryeo is called Chumo (鄒牟|추모). He is given a divine origin, and indirectly connected to Buyeo, the neighbor to the north, which Goguryeo had conquered in the later 4th century AD.

This foundation myth is largely copying that of Buyeo as first reported in the 1st-century AD Chinese classic text Lùnhéng (論衡), ch. 9, as well as e.g. in the 3rd-century Wèilüé (魏略) as quoted in the Records of the Three States, ch. 30, and in the Book of the Later Han, ch. 85, except that the original hero was there called Dōngmíng/Dongmyeong (東明|동명). The founder is also spelled Jumong in a longer version of the foundation myth, reported in the Book of Wei, ch. 100, as well as the later official histories of the Chinese Northern States that followed (Book of Zhou, ch. 49; Book of Sui, ch. 81; History of the Northern Dynasties, ch. 94), or is indeed called Dongmyeong (in the Book of Liang, ch. 54). All three forms, Chumo, Jumong and Dongmyeong, appear to be cognates that might mean 'good or virtuous marksman' (glossed as a folk etymology to that effect in the Book of Wei, ch. 100). One might furthermore suspect a connection with the tribal leader (Gāojùlí hóu|高句驪侯) called Zōu/Chu (|), who was killed in the uprising of 12 AD and whose Chinese title Hóu () (in English commonly rendered as 'marquis' or 'lord') is also connected both etymologically and paleographically to archery.

The Samguk Sagi names five kings, including Jumong, who ruled Goguryeo before Gung. The first three of these rulers are also named on the Gwanggaeto stele, although the order of succession might have been different as, for example, provided by the Book of Wei. In any case, the historicity of the early kings of Goguryeo can hardly be proved.

The following table incorporates the basic information found in Korean sources, with the reign lengths computed from the start date given in the Samguk Sagi (traditional) as well as the year indicated by the Book of Han (re-adjusted in italics).

Reign (Samguk Sagi) Personal name (Gwanggaeto stele) Personal name (Samguk Sagi) Posthumous name (Samguk Sagi)
BC 37 - BC 19
12 AD - 30 AD
Chumo (鄒牟|추모) Jumong (朱蒙|주몽),
Chumo (鄒牟|추모),
Junghae (衆解|중해)
Seong wang (聖王|성왕)
BC 19 - 18 AD
30 AD - 66 AD
Yuryu (儒留|유류) Yuri (類利|유리 or 瑠璃|유리 or 琉璃|유리),
Yuryu (孺留|유류)
Myeong wang (明王|명왕)
18 - 44
66 - 92
Juryu (朱留|주류) Muhyul (無恤|무휼) Musin wang (武神王|무신왕),
Juryu wang (朱留王|주류왕)
44 - 48
92 - 96
n/a Saekju (色朱|색주),
Eupju (邑朱|읍주)
Minjung wang (閔中王|민중왕)*
* named after the place of burial
48 - 53
96 - 101
n/a U (|),
Aeru (愛婁|애루)
Mobon wang (慕本王|모본왕)*
* named after the place of burial

Starting with the reign of Gung, the years given in the Samguk Sagi are largely corroborated, at least indirectly, by Chinese official histories and the Nihon Shoki. Considering, however, the suspicious pattern of months of death as given in the Samguk Sagi, the earlier Chinese and Japanese sources have been generally preferred in the record over the dates given in the Samguk Sagi whenever there is disagreement.