Publications on Early Korea

Below are listed important publications on Early Korea.



Bangudae: Petroglyph Panels in Ulsan, Korea, in the Context of World Rock Art
Bangudae Petroglyphs Institute, University of Ulsan
Hollym Internaational Corporation, 2013

An English edition of the comprehensive research done on the Bangudae Petroglyphs. The Bangudae Petroglyphs Institute of the University of Ulsan and the Korea Institute, Harvard University co-hosted the First International Symposium on Petroglyphs on April 26 and 27, 2012. At the symposium, held in the US at Cambridge, MA., renowned international researchers of petroglyphs presented papers on the Bangudae petroglyphs and related subjects. The presenters and discussants all acknowledged the significance of opening the international discussion of this important site of East Asian history and prehistoric art. This book is based on the papers presented during the symposium. The chapters of this book consist of the articles by the 2012 Symposium presenters and discussants plus an appendix on the current state of Korean petroglyphs.



The Silla Annals of the Samguk Sagi
Kim Pusik(ed), Trans. Edward J. Shultz, Hugh H.W. Kang
The Academy of Korean Studies Press, 2012

Samguk Sagi (History of the Three Kingdoms) is a history book of 50 volumes of which Bongi, or Main Texts, is regarded as particularly important because it contains records of main historical events arranged in a chronological order including the myths around the foundation, rise and fall of the three early Korean kingdoms, Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla, and the succession of their rulers. The book was compiled by a Goryeo scholar-statesman Kim Bu-sik in 1154, and is regarded as one of the most important source material for the study of the ancient Korean history. As Korea's earliest remaining history book compiled under the patronage of the state, the book had set a good example for the history books that followed it.  This book, The Silla Annals of the Samguk Sagi, is a translation of the Main Text (Bongi) of Silla in the Samguk Sagi (History of the Three Kingdoms) by Professor Edward J. Shultz in The University of Hawaii, a widely admired specialist in the ancient Korean history. The book is based on The Revised and Enlarged Edition of The History of the Three Kingdoms which began to be published in 2010, and hence reflects the results of the latest in-depth researches. It is expected to provide valuable resources for overseas researchers seeking to expand the scope of their study on ancient Korean history. 



The Koguryo Annals of the Samguk Sagi
Kim Pusik(ed), Trans. Edward J. Shultz, Hugh H.W. Kang
The Academy of Korean Studies Press, 2011

Samguk Sagi (History of the Three Kingdoms) is a history book of 50 volumes of which Bongi, or Main Texts, is regarded as particularly important because it contains records of main historical events arranged in a chronological order including the myths around the foundation, rise and fall of the three early Korean kingdoms, Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla, and the succession of their rulers. The book was compiled by a Goryeo scholar-statesman Kim Bu-sik in 1154, and is regarded as one of the most important source material for the study of the ancient Korean history. As Korea's earliest remaining history book compiled under the patronage of the state, the book had set a good example for the history books that followed it. The Main Texts consist of the history of Silla from 57 BCE to 936, which is the longest and most complex part of the book, Goguryeo from 37 BCE to 668, and Baekje 18 BCE to 660, which is the shortest of the three texts. Translation of the Samguk Sagi into English, or in fact any foreign language, has long been regarded as a daunting work because translator(s) would require systematic knowledge of Korean history and culture in addition to expert command of English, Korean and Chinese. That is why we are so pleased to see the publication of The Koguryŏ Annals of the Samguk Sagi following the translation by Professor Edward J. Shultz in The University of Hawaii who is widely admired as a specialist in the ancient Korean history. The book will be followed by The Silla Annals of the Samguk Sagi which is planned to be published later this year. As for the publication of The Koguryŏ Annals before those of Silla and Baekje, Professor Shult wrote that he wanted readers to "better understand the special position the Korean kingdom has in the world history and the influence its traditions and values has upon the identity of modern Korea." He also expects the book to give readers "a closer, clearer look at the history of Goguryeo that played a key role in the historical development of Korea."



A New History of Parhae
Northeast Asian History Foundation
Translated by John Duncan
Global Oriental, 2011

The national historical "ownership" of the ancient Northeast Asian kingdom of Parhae (Ch. Bohai; 669-926) has been a controversial issue over the past several decades, with scholars in China, Korea, and even Russia all claiming that Parhae belonged to their nations' history. The authors of the various chapters in this book have exhausted the textual sources and archaeological data on this kingdom in building their argument that Parhae was the succesor to the earlier Korean kingdom of Koguryŏ. In the process, they have shed fresh light on Parhae's political development, ethnic composition, diplomatic and trade relations, and cultural aspects and have provided new insights into the nature of interactions among the states and peoples of Northeast Asia.



Gold Crown of Silla: Treasures from a Brilliant Age
The Korea Foundation
The Korea Foundation, 2011

The gold crowns and ornaments recovered from the Gyeongju royal tombs reflect the historical circumstances of Silla in the fifth and sixth centuries, when its artistic culture flourished. The design motifs and symbols of the crowns express the aspirations and dreams that the royalty felt for the preservation of their kingdom and this style of gold crown is unique to a particular period of Silla. The book introduces the gold crowns and related articles excavated from five royal tombs: the Great Tomb at Hwangnam, Heavenly Horse Tomb, Gold Crown Tomb, Auspicious Phoenix Tomb, and Gold Bell Tomb. The descriptions are accompanied by numerous photographs and related details. In addition, three insightful essays by art history scholars are included, which explain the gold culture of Silla, the significance of Silla gold crowns, and the historical background of Silla s exceptional culture.



Koguryo Tomb Murals in the East Asian Funerary Art
Ah-Rim Park
Jimoondang, 2009







Samguk Yusa: Legends and History of the Three Kingdoms of Ancient Korea
Ilyon, Grafton Mintz, Tae-Hung Ha
Silk Pagoda, 2008

A fascinating work, dating from the late 1200s. This book (Yusa), is not just a story but a collection of histories, anecdotes and memorabilia, covering the origins of Korea's three monarchies--Silla, Paekche and Koguryo, offering an account of the latter nation that differs quite a bit from what you'll read in Chinese history books. Translated by Professor Ha Tae-Hung of Yonsei University, with special help from Grafton Mintz.





Goguryeo: In Search of Its Culture and History
Ho-tae Jeon
Hollym International Corporation, 2008

Goguryeo tomb murals, now a registered UNESCO World Heritage, are an important part of Korea's cultural heritage and an historic record of the kingdom, which was one of the most powerful states in Northeast Asia 2000 years ago. The murals, which were excavated from the late third to seventh centuries in areas of Pyeongyang and Anak in North Korea and Ji'an in China, not only reflect the Goguryeo people's view on the world, the universe, and afterlife but also provide important insights into their daily life. Through this book, readers can comprehend characteristics of Goguryeo culture depicted in the Goguryeo tomb murals: individuality based on diversity, universality with originality, and openness with selectivity.




The Dreams of the Living and Hopes of the Dead: Gogureo Tomb Murals
Ho-Tae Jeon
Seoul National University Press, 2007

Through the analysis of Goguryeo tomb murals, which have been recognized as world-class cultural heritage, this book clarifies that the structure and the contents of Goguryeo tomb murals had a deep connection to Goguryeo's history and its cultural development. The book also makes a detailed organization of the technology used in Goguryeo tomb murals painted from the 3rd to the 7th century, the change of the structure of theme and subject, and regional characteristics. After devoting 25 years of research on this area, the author clarifies that the Goguryeo tomb mural is one of the most important artistic achievements made in East Asia. Not only does it show Goguryeo's view of the afterlife, religion and cosmos, it also provides important insights into a great part of daily life in Goguryeo, The author also explains that the Goguryeo tomb mural was the fruit of Goguryeo culture, and that it is evidence of the cultural exchanges made in East Asia. The evolution of Goguryeo tomb murals should be examined not only for its own sake, but also to illuminate the question of whether a functional relationship exists between a society and its culture. If we examine the evolution of Goguryeo tomb murals under the assumption of mutual influences between society and culture, it is possible to distinguish two approximate periods, although the developmental process of Goguryeo tomb murals is usually divided into three. The first of the two periods referred to in this article corresponds to the first and second stages of the development of Goguryeo tomb murals. In the first period, the 4th and 5th centuries, Goguryeo adopted and assimilated the genre of tomb murals as funeral art. In the second period, the 6th and 7th centuries, Goguryeo adopted the style of tomb art of the Chinese Northern and Southern Dynasties, then predominant in East Asia, and then refashioned the adopted style into a distinct Goguryeo style of tomb murals. The tomb murals of the period from the 4th to the 7th century not only highlight cultural processes, but also illustrate the ways in which the people of Goguryeo adopted, assimilated and recreated certain aspects of foreign culture, and the ways in which the principle of Goguryeoization was realized during this period. They also make it possible for us to surmise about the tendencies of contemporary society. Just as an acquaintance with political and social changes sheds light on the murals, so do the murals help illuminate the society and its beliefs, perceptions, and transformations.



Domesticating the Dharma, Buddhist Cults and the Hwaŏm Synthesis in Silla Korea
Richard D. McBride, II
University of Hawai'i Press, 2007

Western scholarship has hitherto described the assimilation of Buddhism in Korea in terms of the importation of Sino-Indian and Chinese intellectual schools. This has led to an overemphasis on the scholastic understanding of Buddhism and overlooked evidence of the way Buddhism was practiced “on the ground.” Domesticating the Dharma provides a much-needed corrective to this view by presenting for the first time a descriptive analysis of the cultic practices that defined and shaped the way Buddhists in Silla Korea understood their religion from the sixth to tenth centuries. Critiquing the conventional two-tiered model of “elite” versus “popular” religion, Richard McBride demonstrates how the eminent monks, royalty, and hereditary aristocrats of Silla were the primary proponents of Buddhist cults and that rich and diverse practices spread to the common people because of their influence. Drawing on Buddhist hagiography, traditional narratives, historical anecdotes, and epigraphy, McBride describes the seminal role of the worship of Buddhist deities—in particular the Buddha Śākyamuni, the future buddha Maitreya, and the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara—in the domestication of the religion on the Korean peninsula and the use of imagery from the Maitreya cult to create a symbiosis between the native religious observances of Silla and those being imported from the Chinese cultural sphere. He shows how in turn Buddhist imagery transformed Silla intellectually, geographically, and spatially to represent a Buddha land and sacred locations detailed in the Avatamsaka Sūtra(Huayan jing/Hwaŏm kyŏng) . Emphasizing the importance of the interconnected vision of the universe described in the Avatamsaka Sūtra, McBride depicts the synthesis of Buddhist cults and cultic practices that flourished in Silla Korea with the practice-oriented Hwaŏm tradition from the eight to tenth centuries and its subsequent rise to a uniquely Korean cult of the Divine Assembly described in scripture.



Cover: A History of the Early Korean Kingdom of PaekcheA History of the Early Korean Kingdom of Paekche, together with an annotated translation of The Paekche Annals of the Samguk sagi
Jonathan W. Best
Harvard University Asia Center, 2007

This volume presents two histories of the early Korean kingdom of Paekche (trad. 18 BCE-660 CE). The first, written by Jonathan Best, is based largely on primary sources, both written and archaeological. This initial history of Paekche serves, in part, to introduce the second, an extensively annotated translation of the oldest history of the kingdom, the Paekche Annals (Paekche pon'gi). Written in the chronicle format standard for the traditional official histories of East Asia, the Paekche Annals constitutes one section of the Histories of the Three Kingdoms (Samguk sagi), a comprehensive account of early Korean history compiled under the editorial direction of Kim Pusik (1075-1151). Although these two representations of Paekche history differ markedly, the underlying problem faced by both the twelfth-century and the twenty-first-century historian is essentially the same: fashioning a responsible, encompassing, and reasonably coherent history of the kingdom from meager, and often disparate and fragmentary, evidence.
Included in the volume are 22 appendixes on problems in Paekche history; a concordance of proper names, official titles, omens, and weights and measures; a glossary of geographical names; and six historical maps of the kingdom showing its changing boundaries.



Overlooked Historical Records of the Three Korean Kingdoms
Ilyeon, Translated by Kim Dal-Yong
DongSongSa, 2006

Overlooked Historical Records of the Three Korean Kingdoms deals mainly with materials related to the foundation of various old Korean kingdoms, to the factual history of the Silla Kingdom, and to the lives of famous Korean Buddhist monks. This book not only presents various myths and legends that reveal the phases of Korean ancestors' old social life, economy, culture, and thoughts, but also furnishes ample data on their traditional manners and customs, whose traces are still found in modern Korean culture. The author particularly highlights the special roots and quality of the Korean race, as distinguished from those of the Chinese people, by inheriting Korean ancestors' sense of the presence of the past and explaining the birth myths and historical events of all the known Korean kingdoms. The author also attempts to examine Buddhism's influence on Korean culture, uncover the religiously-conditioned behavior and thinking of the Korean people, and clarify their cultural personality and identity. The book considers the great quantity of Buddhist narratives, anecdotes on primitive beliefs, and folktales, explores the religious consciousness of the Korean people, and studies their archetypal mindsets.



Korean Social Archaeology: Early Villages
Sarah M. Nelson
Jimoondang, 2004

This book is a compilation of the papers about Korean Neolithic written by Professor Nelson over the course of her career in East Asian archaeology. The first section deals with plant and animal domestication in Korea. The second part concerns ways to identify the functions of artifacts. The next papers discuss tribes, lineages, the division of labor, and gender. Comparisons of Korean Neolithic with sites elsewhere in Asia help to place Korean sites in their regional setting. The book ends with some thoughts about Korean archaeology in the past and the future of Korean.




Transmitting the Forms of Divinity: Early Buddhist Art from Korea and Japan
Hiromitsu Washizuka, Kang woo-Bang, Tanabe Saburosuke, Kim Lena, Washizuka Hiromitsu
Harry N. Abrams, 2003

Comparing Korean and Japanese Buddhist art, this volume explores the cultural, ideological and artistic exchange between the two countries during the 6th-9th centuries, when Buddhism took hold throughout northeast Asia. Buddhist sculptures in gilt bronze, wood and stone are the main focus of this work, which contains essays by Korean, Japanese and American scholars.





Cover of State Formation in KoreaState Formation in Korea: Historical and Archaeological Perspectives
Gina L. Barnes
Routledge, 2000

This volume brings together for the first time a significant body of Professor Barnes' scholarly writing on early Korean state formation, integrated so that successive topics form a coherent overview of the problems and solutions in peninsular state formation. Gina Barnes' writings differ from the majority of other articles on this subject in being anthropological rather than cultural or historical in nature, and they define the field for the English-language reader.





Cover of Constructing Korean OriginsConstructing "Korean" Origins: A Critical Review of Archaeology, Historiography, and Racial Myth in Korean State-Formation Theories
Hyung Il Pai
Harvard University Asia Center, 2000

In this wide-ranging study, Hyung Il Pai examines how archaeological finds from throughout Northeast Asia have been used in Korea to construct a myth of state formation. This myth emphasizes the ancient development of a pure Korean race that created a civilization rivaling those of China and Japan and a unified state controlling a wide area in Asia. Through a new analysis of the archaeological data, Pai shows that the Korean state was in fact formed much later and that it reflected diverse influences from throughout Northern Asia, particularly the material culture of Han China. Her deconstruction of the uses of the archaeological finds by nationalistic historians reveals how they have been utilized to legitimate Korean nationalism and a particular form of national identity.




Korea: Art and Archaeology
Jane Portal
British Museum Press, 2000

The geographical location of the Korean peninsula, which lies at the eastern edge of Asia between China, Russia and Japan, has been crucial to its history and culture. Divided into several states or kingdoms from early times suffering invasion and occupation from China, Manchuria, Mongolia and Japan, Korea nevertheless remained a unified country from the 7th to the 20th century. Buddhism, introduced to Korea from China during the Three Kingdoms period, was to become the dominant religion throughout the succeeding dynasties, reaching its height of wealth and influence in the Koryo (1392-1910), but both traditions continued to be represented, making the art and archaeology of Korea particularly rich and diverse.




The Rise of Civilization in East Asia: The Archaeology of China, Korea and Japan
Gina L. Barnes
Thames & Hudson, 1993

The growing political influence and economic might of the East Asian countries - China, Korea and Japan - makes a thorough knowledge of them essential. But if we are to understand these societies, we need to look beyond recent times to the history of the region. For civilization in East Asia is nearly 4,000 years old, and its origins lie deep in the prehistoric past. This book is a synthesis of East Asian archaeology and early history. Drawing on new evidence, it charts the developments that culminated in the emergence of the region as a coherent entity, with a shared religion (Buddhism), state philosophy (Confucianism) and bureaucratic structure. The narrative begins over a million years ago, when early humans first colonized the Far East, and continues through the growth of fishing and farming societies at the end of the Ice Age to the rise of social elites during the Bronze Age, and the emergence of civilization in Shang, Zhou and Han China. Korea and Japan, though greatly influenced by the immense mainland empire, took their own paths towards civilization, first apparent in early states - Korea's Koguryo, Shilla and Paekche and Japan's Yamato - that emerged in the 4th century AD. Copious photographs and drawings - from vibrant Jomon ceramics to the first Chinese Emperor's terracotta army - complement the text.



Pacific Northeast Asia in Prehistory: Hunter-Fisher-Gatherers, Farmers, and Sociopolitical Elites
C. Melvin Aikens and Song Nai Rhee
Washington State University Press, 1993

This volume brings together the richest body of data and viewpoints ever assembled on northeast Asia's prehistory. Its scope covers the wide range of cultural change and development from the Paleolithic stone industries through the formation of advanced states. Extensively illustrated, Pacific Northeast Asia in Prehistory is truly international in authorship, with contributions by Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Canadian, and American experts.





The Archaeology of Korea
Sarah Milledge Nelson
Cambridge University Press, 1993

The Archaeology of Korea surveys Korean prehistory from the earliest paleolithic settlers, perhaps half a million years ago, through the formation of the Three Kingdoms and on to the creation of United Silla in AD 668, when the peninsula was largely united for the first time. The author treats the development of state-level societies and their relationship to polities in Japan and China, and the development of a Korean ethnic identity. Emphasizing the particular features of the region, the author dispels the notion that the culture and traditions of Korea are pale imitations of those of its neighbors, China and Japan.




The Bronze Age in Korea: A Historical Archaeological Outline
Maurizio Riotto
Italian School of East Asian Studies, 1989

An outline of Korean archaeology based on an extensive overview of Korean, Japanese and Western sources. A useful introduction to a complex field of research, and accessible to non-specialists. 






Art and Archaeology of Ancient Korea
Won-yong Kim
Taekwang Publishing Co., 1986

A collection of articles on Korean art and archaeology published in the 1960s, 70s and early 80s.







A Study of the Yongsan River Valley Culture: The Rise of Chiefdom Society and State in Ancient Korea
Mong-Lyong Choi
Dong Song Sa, 1984

The Yongsan River, located in Chonnam Province in the southwestern portion of the Korean peninsula has, since ancient times, formed a vast arable valley along its banks. This dissertation uses a wide array of methods to analyze archaeological material discovered by the author since 1972, in the Yongsan River Valley region, to develop a model of culture stages based on cultural traits and chronology. It also attempts to isolate evidence of the political evolution, social organization, and trade system of the dolmen society.





The Prehistory of Korea

Jeong-hak Kim
University of Hawai'i Press, 1978

Korean archaeology has a history dating back over many decades. During the Japanese occupation, the later historical periods were particularly favored, but since the mid-1950s prehistoric archaeology has developed swiftly, although the results have been largely unknown outside of Korea. Professor Kim describes Korea's past from the Paleolithic Period to the Bronze Age, presenting detailed information from numerous Korean excavations. In addition to describing the sites and artifacts, he has made stylistic and typological groupings and used these to establish a chronology. Kim reveals that clear similarities exist between Korean artifact assemblages and those from Siberia and Japan. Of particular interest are the abundant Korean bronze artifacts of indigenous manufacture, presented in detail for the first time. These change our knowledge of Asian prehistory and ancient history.



Reference Books on Early Korea


Dictionary of Korean Art and Archaeology
Roderick Whitfield (Editor in Chief)
Hollym, 2004

352 pp. 110mm X 182mm, Softcover.
ISBN: 1-56591-201-2

This publication seeks to promote a broader understanding of Korean culture and arts among foreigners with an interest in Korea's cultural legacy, and support scholarly research by providing English definitions and explanations of terminology used for cultural artifacts. The 2,824 entries in this dictionary are classified into four major categories: archeology, architecture, art history and folklore. They are listed in Korean alphabetical order, without classification of fields.

See more information at Hollym's website