Category: south korea

This is one of twelve guardian figures from the tomb of general Kim Yu-shin. He was instrumental in uniting the three Korean kingdoms by force in the 600s CE under King Muyeol of Silla and King Munmu of Silla. King Muyeol even married Kim’s younger sister and made her queen. Kim Yu-Shin remains today the most famous of the unification wars generals.

As befits his high status and importance, Kim Yu-Shin’s burial was lavish. His tomb was a large earthen mound, as is traditional in Korea, and the mound is surrounded by 12 stone slabs, each with a sign of the oriental warriors carved on it in relief to provide eternal protection for the general within. The warriors are actually anthropomorphic animals, based on the twelve animals of the Eastern zodiac.

This one is the Rabbit, shown in armor, with the billowing garlands of Chinese deities behind him. Though many details are lost he is still holding the long, diamond-shaped shield used by Tang Dynasty soldiers at the time.

Did you know that Mao Zedong had a son? (Mao actually had 10 children, and 4 wives, but that’s another post.) The important son was Mao Anying. He had the vital qualities of being a man, surviving to adulthood, and not having mental health problems. Mao Anying was quietly being groomed, having been sent to the Soviet Union in 1936 for university. But then World War II broke out, and what does every good dictator’s heir need? Military experience!

Mao Anying joined the Soviet Red Army during World War II, serving as an artillery officer in Poland. As an added bonus, he got communist credentials, because China’s communist party was still friendly with the USSR at the time. When World War II ended he joined the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army, as a Russian translator and secretary, and was promptly sent to the new war in Korea. And in 1950 he was killed by an American napalm bomb.

With Mao Anying’s death, any chance of a Mao dynasty also died. China was forced to have a non-hereditary leadership, with the top job being given to who could politic the best.

Mao Anying’s chance death prevented China from becoming like North Korea, which does have a hereditary dynasty. Unfortunately for North Korea, the Kim family’s children were too young to fight in World War II or the Korean War, and all survived to inherit the dynasty.

Koreans invented moveable type made of durable metal in the 1200s CE. The oldest existing book made from moveable metal type is the Jikji a collection of Buddhist teachings, hymns, eulogies, and poetry. It was compiled by a Korean Buddhist monk named Baegun, and printed in 1377.

Korea had two kingdoms from the 700s through the early 900s CE. So it is imaginatively named the “North South States Period.” To the north, much larger than North Korea today, is Balhae and to the south is the surviving state from the earlier Three Kingdoms Period, Silla.

Korea had two kingdoms from the 700s through the early 900s CE. So it is imaginatively named the “North South States Period.” To the north, much larger than North Korea today, is Balhae and to the south is the surviving state from the earlier Three Kingdoms Period, Silla.

Female soldiers in South Korea

via reddit

The domesticated cat may have arrived in Japan, via Korea, during the Nara period – that’s sometime between 710 and 794 CE. They were highly valued for their ability to kill rodents, and slowly became adopted as personal pets as well.

1974, South Korea. Howard Johnson’s first expansion into South Korea. Village “chop house”, outside the gate of a remote US Army fire base. GI’s ate there, the locals had no money. One item on the menu, ramen noodles. Dirt floor 2/3 tables and rats the size of cats. Yum, good eat’n!

via reddit

Kintsugi (“golden joinery”) is a Japanese technique that’s over 500 years old. Rather than throw away broken pottery, or fix it to hide its cracks, the art of kintsugi seeks to acknowledge the history of the object. It is a tangible display of the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi – a belief in the beauty of imperfection.

Kintsugi was sometimes used in other parts of East Asia, such as with this Korean celadon vessel. Courtesy of the Walters Art Museum.