[KS] Koguryo part of China?

Kirk Larsen kwlarsen at gwu.edu
Fri Jan 2 14:25:58 EST 2004

One quick comment concerning this very interesting and enlightening thread:

The notion of continuity between Koguryo, Parhae, and later elements of the "pastoral/agricultural northern continuum" represented by the Khitan, Jurchen, and Manchu was explicitly invoked by at least some Korean historians and/or nation-building intellectuals in the late 19th century. However, they apparently did not see this as negating the claims to the Koreanness of these territories and peoples.  Andre Schmid, in his _Korea Between Empires_ notes that one Kim Kyo-h^on argued that:

"the period after 1644 was designated the Chosôn-Qing period, or alternatively, the Southern Chosôn and Northern Qing. In short, these two dynasties represented for Kim the northern and southern branches of the same minjok, establishing separate, coexisting regimes" (Schmid, Korea Between Empires, 196).

I doubt that many in Beijing would take to the notion that the Qing was a "Korean" dynasty. I wholeheartedly agree with the notion that imposing present-day political and cultural sensibilities back on to peoples and places of the past is fraught with difficulty. But the reality is that people will likely to continue to do so as long as national identity is a significant determinant of political borders. As Ernest Renan once said, "getting its history wrong is part of being a nation." 

Happy New Year to all!

Kirk Larsen

----- Original Message -----
From: jamieson <jamieson at netvigator.com>
Date: Friday, January 2, 2004 8:28 pm
Subject: RE: [KS] Koguryo part of China?

> Colleagues:
> The question above began with the assumption that the Chinese were 
> heistingKoguryo from Korea's past, and if UNESCO endorsed the 
> theft in the process
> of registering frescoed Koguryo murals (in China's northeast) as World
> Heritage sites it would be "difficult to undo the damage".  Two 
> specialistshave responded by dressing down Chinese claims to 
> Koguryo, Mark Byington
> saying they were "weak and defensive" and that conversely "Koguryo 
> has long
> been embedded in what WE (upper case letters mine) see as Korean
> historiography".  Gari Ledyard echoes Mark Byington, getting a bit 
> morespecific about the long embedding when he says "from the time 
> of the Later
> Three Kingdoms (890-935), Koguryo has always been historiographically
> treated in Korea as one of the ancestral states of the Korean 
> historicaltradition."  He goes on to tell us that "everyone has to 
> acknowledge that
> they (Koguryo sites) are a very important part of the cultural and
> historical patrimony of the Korean people".
> A third specialist, Andrei Lankov, got to the germane issue here 
> in my view
> when he said that "while Chinese attempts to claim the Koguryo 
> heritage are
> unfounded, the similar Korean claims are also not without serious 
> flaws."The objective historian cannot discount one set of claims 
> without critically
> examining the counter-claims.  Many relevant questions come to 
> mind.  The
> "long embedding", for one, has to be put in the context of a 
> tradition that
> "historiographically" claims it began in the 3rd millennium BC.  
> Relatively,in that span, the embedding isn't long at all.  When 
> did the
> historiographical tradition genuinely begin, and if it were in the 
> LaterThree Kingdoms, why then?   It has been forcefully argued 
> that southern
> expansion at that time (Silla-based), meeting the coalescence of 
> foreignforces to the north (Khitan), not only defined borders but 
> sensitized a need
> for more defined national identity.  The implications of this are 
> clear, and
> would include the usefulness of conjoining as heritage the three 
> largeststates that had existed in whole or part within 
> contemporaneous national
> boundaries, superimposing culture onto territory.  Is the 
> conjoining of the
> three, Koguryo, Silla and Paekche, a product of that time?   Our 
> earliestpreserved Korean version of their institutionalization as 
> a unit is from the
> 12th c. AD  "History of the Three Kingdoms" (Samguk sagi), a weak and
> largely second hand work.  How did the Chinese prototypes, 
> historiographical(Shiji, Sanguo zhi, etc.) and political 
> philosophical (notions of
> legitimacy) that so influenced its author and, in the case of the 
> former, he
> so heavily cut and pasted from, prescribe the "three kingdoms" format?
> Equally plausible, and defensible, is the argument that Koguryo 
> was part of
> a coherent pastoral/agricultural northern continuum that inhabited 
> what is
> today China's Three Northeastern Provinces.  It gradually moved 
> into the
> present Korean peninsula from the north, then southward to the 
> Taedong River
> basin before again migrating northward upon its mid-7th c. defeat, 
> meldingwith the Sumo Mohe peoples in populating the Kingdom of 
> Bohai.  The peculiar
> coherence of that territory is one that gave rise serially, following
> Koguryo and Bohai, to more powerful and expansionist groupings, 
> the Khitan,
> Jurchen, Mongols and Manchus who encroached on China and Korea, in 
> part or
> in whole, throughout the entire last millennium.  Andrei Lankov's 
> points as
> to Koguryo's dissimilarity with the Korean peninsula's early 
> southern states
> interlaces with this argument.
> In any event, Chinese scholars are far from unanimous in 
> supporting a
> cultural claim to Koguryo.  Following the Cultural Revolution and 
> as soon as
> open expression became more possible in the early 80's, historians 
> such as
> Xue Hong, now deceased, former Dean of the College of Letters at
> Northeastern Normal University, lampooned the line that (1) 
> foreign groups
> in Chinese territory were "minorities" and (2) China had existed 
> as an
> entity composed of numerous minorities since time immemorial.  He, 
> and many
> like him, wrote thoughtfully and powerfully on such matters.   In 
> strikingimbalance, their Korean counterpart is rare.  Certainly in 
> North Korea there
> is unanimity of interpretation regarding early Korea and the 
> position of
> Koguryo, and excepting Korean scholars abroad (Hugh Kang, Hyung Il 
> Pai as
> examples) the south is little different.
> Koguryo was of course a part of what is now Korea, and important 
> to its
> history.  It was also a part of what is now China, and important 
> to its
> history.  The issue is one of careful analysis of what that part 
> signified,avoidance of distortion caused by the assumption that 
> culture, heritage and
> history are one in the same with territory, and avoidance of the 
> "backwardprojection into ancient times" that Gari Ledyard points 
> to.  Patrimony is
> not sacrosanct, and is often a much younger construct than meets 
> the eye.
> At the same time, it must be acknowledged that the nationalist 
> "Koguryo as a
> Chinese minority" voice is influential in China, politically if 
> not in other
> spheres.  It is important that the UNESCO authorities be aware of 
> disparateviews.  The Korean Studies group would be an 
> authoritative voice to help
> make them aware.
> John C. Jamieson
> Shanghai
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Koreanstudies-bounces at koreaweb.ws
> [Koreanstudies-bounces at koreaweb.ws]On Behalf Of Gari Keith Ledyard
> Sent: Thursday, January 01, 2004 2:46 PM
> To: Korean Studies Discussion List
> Subject: Re: [KS] Koguryo part of China?
>        Mark Byington throws a lot of very useful commentary on the
> question of the alleged Chineseness of Koguryo generally and 
> Koguryo-
> related cultural properties in China in particular.  When I made a 
> tour of
> Korean Studies centers in Liaoning and Jilin provinces in the fall of
> 1986, I heard aggressively articulated views that Koguryo was 
> simply a
> "minority people" (shaosu minzu) within the Chinese dynasty of the 
> time(Han, Western Jin, Tuoba Wei, Sui, and Tang being cited as 
> applicablecases).
>        This represented a backwards projection into ancient times 
> of a
> present-day PRC political institution, attributing to the past 
> ideas and
> concepts that either did not exist anciently or would have to be
> considered within quite different contexts.  Even according to 
> China's own
> dynastic histories Koguryo was almost always in a state of war 
> with four
> of those Chinese dynasties, and Tuoba Wei, in the context of its 
> time (the
> period of north-south division in China) Tuoba Wei was hardly a 
> Chinesedynasty if one recognized that the Chinese legitimacy 
> succession(zhengtong) passed through the southern dynasties, not 
> the northern ones.
> The only case of protracted tributary status on the part of 
> Koguryo was
> indeed the Tuoba Wei dynasty.  The Han and Tang dynasties made 
> efforts to
> subject Koguryo to tributary status, but those episodes were 
> relativelyshort; constant Chinese-Koguryo warfare was the more 
> general rule if you
> credit the Chinese dynastic histories.  One also has to 
> acknowledge that
> for long periods in China's past up into the Ming dynasty, China had
> little or no political control over what is now the Dongbei area.  
> It was
> the Ming dynasty which built the existing version of the Great 
> Wall, and
> the area protected by it certainly did not include any Koguryo 
> historicalremains.
>        On the other hand, from the time of the Later Three 
> Kingdoms (Hu
> Samguk, ca. 890-935), Koguryo has always been historiographically 
> treatedin Korea as one of the ancestral states of the Korean 
> historicaltradition.  Such organized history as Koguryo has has 
> been of Korean
> authorship, even if a large part of the source material used for 
> Koguryoin the <Samguk sagi> was extracted from Chinese sources by 
> its author, Kim
> Pusik, who indeed evidenced considerable critical judgment in 
> selectinghis materials.
>        I remember in 1986 visiting the historical museum of Jilin
> Province in its capital, Changchun, and being struck by the fact 
> that all
> Koguryo-related exhibits (and there were many of them) were marked 
> on the
> exhibition label with a terminal date no later than 427 AD.  Since 
> Koguryoexisted as a state until 668, this left a considerable gap 
> in coverage.
> What about all those last 241 years?  The curator explained to me 
> that in
> 427, the capital of Koguryo had been removed from its old center at
> Kungnaesong (modern Jilin Prov., Ji'anxian, on the northern bank 
> of the
> Yalu River) to P'yongyang in Korea, and so "it was no longer 
> Chinese."  I
> wonder what he is saying now, and if those labels have changed???
> Ironically, the only source from which the curator could have 
> gotten the
> date of 427 was from the <Samguk sagi>!  You won't find it even 
> reflected,let alone stated, in any Chinese hsitorical source.
>        It would be a nice project for North-South cooperation for 
> Seouland P'yongyang to jointly press the Korean case on UNESCO 
> through their
> respective representatives at the UN.  That probably won't happen 
> though,because right now the north has to keep disagreements with 
> China to a
> minimum, and South Korea probably feels that it cannot afford to 
> endangerits economic ties with its No. 1 trading partner.  China 
> has them both
> over a barrel.  But as Mark says, it is in fact a good thing that the
> Koguryo sites in China's Dongbei area be designated as important world
> cultural properties recognized by the UN though UNESCO.  But 
> UNESCO should
> be urged to recognize some of the major Koguryo sites in the DPRK 
> alongwith those north of Yalu.  Everyone has to acknowledge that 
> some Koguryo
> sites are on Chinese territory, but everyone also has to 
> acknowledge that
> they are a very important part of the cultural and historical 
> patrimony of
> the Korean people.
>        But if my memories of my discussions with Chinese scholars in
> Dongbei are accurate, this is not an admission that China is ready to
> make.  In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the origin of China's
> application doesn't come not from Beijing but from Dongbei regional
> pressures.  During my conversation in 1986 with the scholars in 
> Changchun,I suggested that if they went and talked to anybody in 
> Seoul or P'yongyang
> about China's Koguryo remains, they would be told that, even 
> though they
> are in what is now China, those remains are part of a Korean 
> heritage and
> and are prominent elements in modern Korean identity, north and south.
> To this one of the Chinese scholars said that they were an 
> important part
> of HIS identity too.  When I expressed doubt that the average 
> Chinese in
> say, Beijing or Shanghai or Xi'an, would consider them part of his
> identity as a Chinese, the scholar said in so many words and with 
> what I
> felt to be utter sincerity, "I'm not talking about my identity as a
> Chinese!  I'm talking about my DONGBEI identity."  And indeed, at that
> time and I'm sure at most times, there was and has been considerable
> regional pressure on the national government in competition for 
> nationalresource allocations to get more favorable treatment for 
> Dongbei.  And if
> Dongbei self-respect requires better maintenance for those Koguryo
> cultural properties--and it's certain they need it--that would be 
> whollyunderstandable.
> Gari Ledyard
> On Thu, 1 Jan 2004, Mark Byington wrote:
> > Dear List,
> >
> > The official Chinese position regarding the proper historical 
> place of
> > Koguryo is a natural outcome of current Chinese views of how an 
> early> "Chinese nation" might have existed in antiquity. This view 
> is a direct
> > projection of the current conception of the multiethnic PRC 
> state backward
> > in time. In other words, the way minority nationalities are 
> conceived of
> > as forming part of a greater Chinese nation today has been 
> imposed on the
> > China of the remote past, to make "tributaries" and client 
> states appear
> > as though they formed part of a greater Chinese nation and were, 
> by the
> > way, quite conscious of their role as such. This  view of the 
> past has
> > been prominent most especially since the 1980s. The 1982 PRC 
> constitution> and the Minority Region Autonomy Law of 1984 
> codified the place of ethnic
> > minorities within the greater China, and many Chinese historians of
> > premodern periods have even invoked the exact phrases used in 
> these very
> > modern documents to describe the early and premodern state. 
> Since the
> > northern part of Koguryo territories are now within PRC borders, 
> Koguryo> was therefore a minority nationality of ancient China. So 
> are all the
> > other peoples who once lived in what is now the PRC, and for the 
> most part
> > nobody today cares to expend much time and energy arguing 
> against this
> > view. But since Koguryo territories spanned both sides of the 
> Yalu, and
> > since Koguryo has long been embedded in what we see as Korean
> > historiography, it presents a problem. And the historians in 
> China know
> > this.
> >
> > I would disagree with the article Sem cited when it speaks of 
> the relative
> > quiescence of historians in the Koreas regarding the Chinese 
> position.> North Korean archaeologists butted heads with Chinese 
> counterparts in the
> > 1960s over interpretations of Parhae's place in history, and a North
> > Korean complaint (more of an accusation, really) at an academic 
> conference> in China in 1993 prompted a very defensive reaction on 
> the part of Chinese
> > historians, who had previously not been so insistent (or at 
> least vocal)
> > on Koguryo's having been a "Chinese" state. South Koreans have 
> not been
> > silent either, though I suspect that tourists (including academics)
> > visiting Koguryo archaeological sites in China have caused more 
> general> aggravation to museum officials than have any academic 
> exchanges. I
> > suspect that most South Korean scholars who try to get work done 
> in China
> > are sensitive enough to know not to complain too loudly, lest 
> the doors of
> > access to sites and data in China be closed for good (a real 
> possibility,> some restrictive measures having been in place for 
> almost a decade now,
> > a direct result of a perceived South Korean encroachment on China's
> > proprietary rights to Koguryo's material remains in China).
> >
> > The Chinese argument for Koguryo's Chinese-ness is a pretty 
> flimsy one.
> > The two main arguments are, 1) that the Koguryo state grew out 
> of the Han
> > Chinese commandery of Xuantu (i.e., out of Chinese territory), 
> and 2) that
> > Koguryo kings acknowledged their places as "minority 
> nationalities" of
> > China by accepting investiture from Chinese emperors. The 
> problems with
> > this are obvious. There are even weaker arguments than this: for 
> example,> more Koguryo refugees wound up in Tang China than in 
> Silla after 668,
> > therefore Koguryo was more Chinese than Korean - this argument 
> comes from
> > a prominent historian in Shenyang. The weaknesses of the 
> arguments are
> > well known to the Chinese historians who promote them (and not all
> > historians in China support the "official" position, by the way, 
> but there
> > are two or three very vocal ones who do). The fact that the two core
> > arguments listed above could also be made to apply to Paekche  
> (and even
> > to Silla, with a little extra twisting of the source materials) 
> is also a
> > troubling matter to the Chinese historians I described above, 
> who want to
> > make clear that Paekche was NOT a Chinese state.
> >
> > The gist of my long-winded statement above is that the Chinese 
> argument> regarding Koguryo is weak and defensive, but it accords 
> with current
> > practice in the PRC in making ancient "tributaries" out to be 
> "minority> nationalities" of a very vaguely defined greater 
> Chinese nation of the
> > remote past. I do not believe the Chinese position toward 
> Koguryo is an
> > especially sinister one, but is rather one that must exist in 
> order to
> > fall into line with current Chinese views of the Chinese past, 
> which can
> > be traced ultimately, I think, to concerns about territorial 
> security of
> > the present. I would certainly hope that the UNESCO treatment 
> will avoid
> > the pitfall that exists here. But my understanding (which could be
> > mistaken) is that UNESCO did not exactly have an easy time 
> getting the
> > Chinese to accept the registration of the Koguryo murals. And I 
> am quite
> > certain that any hesitation on the Chinese side would have been 
> due to the
> > uncomfortable matter of Koreans' views toward Koguryo and to 
> potential> (and already voiced) challenges to the Chinese 
> position. Any UNESCO
> > dealings with China would have had to take these sensitivities into
> > account, and I suspect that some "glossing over" of the "who 
> owns Koguryo"
> > question would have been necessary. I would certainly like to 
> hear more on
> > this from anyone who was involved.
> >
> > Personally, I think the registration of the murals in China is 
> likely to
> > be a good thing, especially if it affords some measure of 
> protection to
> > the tombs and assists in their preservation. I know of at least 
> three> successful mural robberies in Ji'an in the past decade (the 
> last one
> > followed by some thirty convictions, I'm told), and some of the 
> loudest> complaints I have heard in South Korea regarding the 
> Chinese treatment of
> > Koguryo is the apparent Chinese inability (or unwillingness) to 
> provide> adequate protection for the murals. Although the mural 
> tombs in Ji'an
> > (with one exception) are officially sealed to offset 
> deterioration of the
> > murals, tourist groups to Ji'an, most usually from South Korea, 
> regularly> gain access to the tombs by making "donations" to the 
> appropriate persons,
> > which further damages the murals. Hopefully, the UNESCO World 
> Heritage> registration of the mural tombs will do some good in 
> this regard?
> >
> > Best wishes to all for the New Year,
> >
> > Mark Byington

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