Monday, November 22, 2010

Gaya Kingdom

The little town where I teach, Hamchang, isn't even a real city. It's designated as an eup, which I think is more like a village or a hamlet. Anyway, it's definitely not a city, which is shi. It's a tiny little town, this Hamchang. I don't even live here, I just teach here. But from the roof of my school, I noticed something out of place, something that belies this area's past.

This is the tomb of King Taejo, the founder of Goryeong Gaya, one of the city states of the Gaya Confederacy. I confess that before coming here I didn't know that there ever was a Gaya Confederacy. As far as I knew, this was always Shilla territory. Shilla was one of the three kingdoms that vowed for domination of the Korean peninsula in the first half of the first millennium. But while Shilla was growing to the east, the Gaya Confederacy fluorished right here.

The city state eventually fell to the Shilla kingdom, as did all of Gaya. Later, during the Joseon era, this tomb was discovered and statues put up to honor the king. I think the chair is a recent addition.

The burial mound has a few other shrine buildings around it which are obviously used by the locals for things other than worship. This one had persimmon slices drying on a mat, and an old metal desk parked inexplicably in the back. Oddly enough, there was English signage, as well as Japanese. It's said that Gaya metal-smithing was particularly advanced, and items were sold to Yamato in Japan.

Pretty cool that something so important is right in my backyard.

You can see more pictures from this excursion at Facebook.

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