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  • The History and Archaeology of the Koguryŏ Kingdom ed. by Mark E. Byington
  • HyunSook Kang
The History and Archaeology of the Koguryŏ Kingdom. Edited by Mark E. Byington. Early Korea Project Occasional Series. Cambridge, MA: Korea Institute, Harvard University, 2016. 520 pp., 188 illustrations, 37 maps. Distributed by University of Hawai‘i Press. Paperback US $50. ISBN 9780988692855.

The History and Archaeology of the Koguryŏ Kingdom was published in 2016 as part of the Early Korea Project at the Korea Institute of Harvard University. Edited by Mark E. Byington, the book is a collection of papers on the history and archaeology of Koguryŏ by researchers from Korea, China, Japan, the United States, and France. The papers contained in this book were originally presented at a conference on the “History and Archaeology of the Koguryŏ Kingdom” held in 2005. The conference was organized to provide an opportunity for Koguryŏ specialists from various countries to share their research results at a time when the historical dispute between Korea and China over the ancient kingdom was reaching a new level of acrimony.

The dispute over Koguryŏ touches upon the highly sensitive issue of the national identity of Korea. Korean people consider themselves descendants of the Koguryŏ people and believe that their country is the historical successor to the ancient kingdom. They were therefore stunned and shocked by the Chinese claim that Koguryŏ is part of Chinese history. This historical dispute between Korea and China in which both sides see Koguryŏ as part of their own histories is the result of misguided reasoning whereby the ancient kingdom is understood based on its present-day territory and the ethnicity of the present-day population therein. It is crucially important not to lose sight of the fact that Koguryŏ was an “ancient” state when attempting to understand this kingdom both at the micro and macro levels.

This book, compiled in cognizance of the dangers of such a perspective focused on the present, contains two types of material. One type is basic source material, reliable textual and archaeological sources that can assist historians in the English-speaking world in conducting research on Koguryŏ. The other type is the results of research from various fields, from the history and archaeology of Koguryŏ to tomb art and architecture. Research results are divided into four categories: history, archaeology, tombs and funerary art, and historiography.

Part 1, devoted to history, is organized so as to facilitate an understanding of how Koguryŏ was formed as a polity within East Asia’s regional sphere and its political and cultural relationships with surrounding areas against the historical backdrop of the overall region. The first paper by Mark E. Byington explains the formation of Koguryŏ as a state in relation to the Xuantu Commandery, a province of Han Dynasty China. Based on a critical review of written sources and archaeological evidence found in Liaoning Province, China, the author discusses the organization and location of this Han commandery and its subsequent relocation. In writing this paper on the emergence of Koguryŏ, the author was wary of uncritically citing information from primary sources.

The next paper by Yeo Hokyu deals with Koguryŏ’s external policy within the rapidly changing regional order in East Asia of the fourth century. The paper discusses how the ancient kingdom established relations with various Chinese dynasties, including the Former Yan, Later Zhao, and Eastern Jin, in the early fourth century. This period saw the collapse of the Han Chinese dynasty-centered regional order, which gave way to the era of the Sixteen Barbarian States. During the same time, Koguryŏ established diplomatic ties with Baekje and Silla in the southern Korean peninsula, thereby building its own independent sphere of influence. In arguing that the creation of an independent sphere of influence led to the establishment of a Koguryŏ-centered worldview, this paper is [End Page 316] helpful for understanding the political and social status of Koguryŏ within the East Asian region of the fourth and fifth centuries.

The third paper by Lee Sungsi is a comprehensive discussion of the political and cultural influences of Koguryŏ and other East Asian states. The author describes the political, social, and cultural influences of Kogury...


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