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Copyright all right reserved 2008 Cho Duck Hyun


  Entering Yiseoguk _ Choi Won Oh 2008/08/31

Entering Yiseoguk


Choi Won Oh (Professror, Mokpo  National University)


1. Prologue


Journal on the Discovery Iron Artifacts in the image of a  Dog in the Korean Peninsula


March 2000 Gurim Village, in Gunseo township, at Yeongnam  country, South Jeolla province July 1995 Bomun Danji, in Sinpyeong-dong, at  Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang province(officially announced in February 2002)

March 2002 Baekgok-ri, in Hwayang, at Chengdo country,  North Gyeongsang province


Scores of iron artifacts in the image of a dog have been  recently found in the southern part of the Korean peninsula. Majoring in orally  transmitted literature, and interested in archaeology, I was enthralled by the  continuous discovery which subjected considerable excitement in myself for many  days. Those found in Bomun Danji in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang province and  those found in Baekgok mountain fortress in Cheongdo country, particularly drew  attention as they dated earlier than those found in Gurim village, and as they  presented finer iron refining technology. In addition, those from Baekgok  mountain fortress, the former capital of Yiseoguk, appeared to antedate those  from Bomun Danji, corroborating the historical record in the History of the  Three Kingdoms and the Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms that described the  fall of Yiseoguk to Silla during the 14th year of King Yuri of Silla. Thereby,  I began to consider that the splendid iron culture of Yiseoguk was probably  absorbed to Silla. Thus, I was completely consumed bythe iron dog artifacts of  Yiseoguk.


2. Capturing the Signal


Two years passed since the iron dog artifacts unearthed  in Gurim village excited the world of Korean archaeolohy, history, and art  history. Amid the excitement, I awaited the further discovery of iron dog  artifacts, but the opportunity did not arise.

  On a rainy winter day, I went to visit a friend in  Artsonje Museum. Walking with my friend on a path between the Hilton Hotel in  front of Artsonje Museum and Bomun lake, I discovered an amazing fact  concerning the woods formed in a hollow pit. According to my friend, Hilton  Hotel owned the site and had tried to build a new wing in 1995, but the project  came to a halt due to the excavation of ancient iron artefacts. As the identity  of the iron artefacts was not resolved, the excavation continued on in secret.


After awhile, just as I had expacted, Yeongnam University  Museum Excavation Team announced the mass-revelation of iron dog artifacts.  This event occurred two years after the excavation of the iron dog artifacts in  Yeongnam. However, the artefacts from Bomun Danji were so much more refined  than those from Yeongnam that they did not appear to antedate those from Gurim  village. Yet, scholars dated the artefacts to A.D 50, three centuries earlier  than Gurim artefacts. A.D 50 was a period when Silla was fast expanding itself  as a kingdom. Then I bagan to ask myself, whether Silla possess such fine iron  refining technology at that time? And why Silla buried scores of such iron dog  artifacts?


3. Discovery One - The Image of a  Protector


When should I begin to find the key to the problem? I  must try to solve the first thing that comes across my mind, the core of the  issue. Then, I could not but notice the dog. That is, the question why the dog  was chosen above all other animals. When this issue is solved, the relationship  between the dog and the people that produced and buried the iron artifacts  could be explained.


Dogs have frequently appeared as the origin of a people  in legends related to the nomadic tribes in north China. For example, the  father north barbarians is known to be the dog. In Shamanism, the dog is  responsible for the safe journey of the dead spirits to the other world. Thus,  the dead are often tied to dog sleighs and sent away. In addition, dogs which  once symbolized the ancestors of a people, settled to become the protector of  the dead spirits of posterity. However, the dog's protection prevented the dead  spirits from coming out and disorientating the real world, and thereby also  guarded the living.

  When the nomadic tribes moved into the Korean peninsula(or  other parts) and settled down, the dog must have been further emphasized for  its protective role. The importance must have been stressed not on hunting, but  more on protection and safety. However, it was probably rather difficult for  the dog to keep the border of a vast settlement. Thus, Silla appears to have  buried iron dog was developed artificially in 1970s. Though little remains  today, a mountain fortress against Japanese piracy originally stood in this  region during Silla as the passage was often attacked by Japanese pirates who  came through Gampo.


4. Discovery Two - The Secret of  Iron Refining


The region called Gaya has long been famous for its iron  production. Thus, when equiped with advanced iron technology, the region could  not only develop considerable military strength, but also enjoy high cultural  benefits. It is quite obvious that high cultural life was appreciated. During  this period, iron refining technology bacame the foremost issue in obtaining  supremacy.

  King Norye, the third king of Silla was attacked by  Yiseoguk, but Silla's victory over the attack deliverd the mastery of the  advanced iron refining technology to Silla. Though small in size, Yiseoguk's  attack on Silla had been possible through the advanced iron technology from China.  Thus, the annexation of Yiseoguk strengthened Silla's position to develop into  an advanced kingdom.

  Reflecting the historical circumstance, the delicate iron refining  technology presented in the artifacts excavated from Bomun Danji were made  possible 엳 새 the small, advanced kingdom of Yiseoguk.


5. Entering Yiseoguk


Although the iron dog artifacts excavated from Bommun  Danji in Gyeongju appear to have been unveild, they were not yet adequate and  were farfetched from entering Yiseoguk, by Seurim, a native of Chengdo. During  the time when the first iron dog artefacts were uncovered in Bomun Danji at  Gyeoungju around 1995, the post heard of the rumor that prevailed throughout  the southwest, concerning the mysterious forms. Thereupon, the poet became aware  of the history of Yiseoguk in his native Chengdo, and published the volume,  giving shape to Yiseoguk. Thus, I could not but rely on his poetic imagination  as I realized that it could convey the truth of life.

  Meanwhile, after publically presenting the iron dog  artifacts in Bomun Danji, Yeungnam University Museum Excavation Team concluded  that the artifacts could also be buried in other areas around Gyeoungju and  conducted several field surveys. At last, in the pavilion site of Kim Ilson's  descendent, within the Baekgok earth fortress in Baekgok-ri, at Hwayang town,  Cheongdo county the former capital of Yiseoguk, scores of iron dog artifacts  were excavated. It was a moment of truth for poetic imagination.

  However, I bacame aware of another fact. That the iron  dog artifacts that were excavated in Gurim village in Yeongnam, dating much  later than those uncoverd in Yiseoguk, displayed inferior iron refining  technology. What did this mean? It obviously implied that Yiseoguk possessed  advanced iron refining technology. Then, what made this possible? In order to  resolve these issue, I listened to the elderly as they explained the geography  of the region. By confirning the map, I was able to arrive at a conclusion.

  Though small in size, Yiseoguk had established the most  powerful military strength in the southwest of Gyeongsang province. It was made  possible by the monopoly of the advanced iron refining technology from the  north, and establishment of the experts who understood the technology. The  strategic importance of the region Yiseoguk vulnerable to its neighbors. Thus,  it appears that Yiseoguk produced iron dog artifacts employing its superior  iron refining technology, and buried them in strategic points, praying for  protection. Just as the dogs had formerly protected the ancestors in the plains  against the cold wind! Chung-san mountain marked the shaped like a running dog  where the king of Yiguk met a tragic end, and where Silla annexed Yiseoguk,  Silla was ironically defeated by Goryeo forces much later on. Today the region  is used as a training ground for the reserved forces, yet I feel that I can  vaguely hear the sonorous voices of the Yiseoguk soldiers from the distant  past.


6. Yiseoguk and Chengdo


The people of Cheongdo all look like warriors. The men and  the women are tall and large alike. Could it be because they resemble the  people of Yiseoguk? Or are the people of Yiseoguk still remaining here? The  intuitive masculine and military culture originates from the nomadic people of  the north. Perhaps it could be related to the people of Balhae.

  The cold charisma of the iron artefacts! The descendents  of Yiseoguk appear to have domesticated the former protective role of the dog  into a loyal animal. Stories of royal dogs who died saving the master, though  also found in other regions, abound particularly in the southwest. In addition,  the tomb of the faithful dog is designated as folk material 105 of the North  Gyeongsang province. From the mid 17th century to the mid 18th century, many  writings or paintings of faithful dogs were employed by the officials,  emphasizing rigid hierarchy. At a time when order was crumbling, much effort  was needed in order not to become worthless men, no better than beasts.


7. Epilogue


Cheongdo, now famous for bull fights, offers much more.  During spring one can see peach blossoms and apple blossoms. During autumn, one  can see persimmons everywhere. Commonly found by the roads, fields, homes, and  mountains, the persimmons enthrall the viewers. And amidst our enthrallment, we  go from Gyeongju to Cheongdo, and enter Yiseoguk.


* The text is completely fictional. Historical facts were borrowed for a  more convincing tale. Thus, the text is a kind of 'imaginary history'.



     


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