[KS] Koguryo ruins

Hyung Pai hyungpai at eastasian.ucsb.edu
Sat Jan 3 14:40:44 EST 2004

Dear members,

I am writing to point out a very important aspect of Koguryo 
historiography and archaeology that has not been raised in the recent 
postings. The fascination with Koguryo’s ethnic origins dates back to 
the late Meiji era when the Tokyo Anthropological Society sent Torii 
Ryuzo to conduct fieldwork abroad in Manchuria in 1895 following the 
Sino-Japanese war. Thus, the Kwanggaet’o wang stele, the remains of 
mural tombs and fortresses were first claimed by Japanese ancient 
historians, anthropologists, and archaeologists as  part of their 
“imperial conquest”  and “racial/cultural lineage.”   Thus, the 
re-discovery of Japan’s antiquity in North-east Asia was directly 
linked to territorial expansion in Manchuria and  the annexation of the 
Korean peninsula.  The founders of Toyo (East Asian studies) like 
Shiratori Kurakichi, Ikeuchi Hiroshi, and Sekino Tadashi ( The  Tokyo 
University trained architect  who first mapped and drew Koguryo tomb 
architecture and mural art. There are hundreds of original drawings, 
photographs, and mural reproductions of Koguryo tombs mounted on huge 
silk scrolls and rice paper now all part of the Tokyo University 
Architecture department archives) conducted the first “ethn-historical” 
analysis of  Koguryo texts in the Weizhi, Koguryo myths (Tongmyung 
wang), its nomadic ? cultural heritage, and the monumental nature of 
its art and architecture..
Thus, the spectacular ruins and the preservation quality of Koguryo’s 
tomb certainly appealed to the Meiji era Japanese scholars’ who were 
actively  searching for an archaeological precedent resembling  a 
dynamic full-fledge conquest state in North-east Asia that could be 
presented as material evidence for a  civilization worthy to be 
ancestral to a “proto-Japanese” warrior conquest state. Consequently, 
it is no historical accident that the archaeological sites formerly 
located at the center of Japan’s 20th century Manchurian puppet state 
remain the subject of controversy as well as objects for looting since 
in the post –War period, nationalistic historians in all three states 
involved PRC, DPRK and ROK have  re-claimed Koguryo’s past for their 
own political agenda and nation building schemes.
Unfortunately, the drawback of achieving super national heritage status 
is then as is now were more tourists, more development, more 
destructions, and more smuggling as is still evident today. .Unless, 
the three countries where the Koguryo sites overlap in territorial and 
legitimacy claims, work together on a regional level, we cannot stop 
the looting since it is now a supply and demand economy even in that 
part of the world (for example, most of the customers for the black 
market in Koguryo remains are wealthy South Korean collectors).  
Ideally, we need to take a more systematic approach, maybe an 
international committee of concerned scholars and specialists with the 
help of UNESCO officials or conservation/research groups (such as the 
Getty Institute) to deal with the problem of these irresistible ruins 
or there will be none left for the future generations.

On Jan 2, 2004, at 2:31 AM, Ruediger Frank wrote:

> Dear list members,
> a good friend has passed a Russian document on the Koguryo issue to me 
> that might be of interest to you. The statement is fairly strong, both 
> in terms of rhetoric and of the level at which it was issued. It 
> specifically mentiones Korea, but addresses the Chinese way to deal 
> with history in a more general way, too. We should probably not see 
> the Koguryo issue only as an isolated single case, but rather in the 
> context of similar attempts vis-à-vis Russia, Mongolia and other 
> states.
> Anyway, here is a short summary, with all my due apologies for the 
> unpolished translation:
> On December 22nd, 2003, there was a press conference at the 
> International Center for Korean Studies of Moscow State University. 
> The director of the Center, M.N. Pak, and the head of the Korea and 
> Mongolia Department at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Y. Vanin, 
> addressed Russian and foreign journalists. At the end of the press 
> conference, they issued a statement, with 3 major points:
> (1) Koguryo was founded by tribes that were the ancestors of today's 
> Koreans. It is assumed by some that since the historical monuments of 
> that time are located in today's China, that makes the founders of 
> Koguryo one of the smaller nations of the Chinese empire. However, the 
> Chinese state was created during a long period of time by integrating 
> other, non-Chinese people. The mentioned approach excludes the 
> possibility of the existence of independent peoples on the territory 
> of present day China.
> (2) Ignoring the independent and autonomous history of these people, 
> among them the Koreans, cannot be of much help to keep and develop a 
> relationship of good neighborhood and friendship between the people of 
> Korea and China in the 21st century.
> (3) The Russian academics (names follow), specializing on Korean 
> history, suggest that this non-historic treatment of the history of 
> the early Korean state of Koguryo will be reconsidered in the PRC.
> With best wishes for 2004,
> Ruediger
> ***********************
> Ruediger FRANK
> Humboldt-University Berlin
> Korea Institute
> Fon: +49-30-55 99 878
> Fax: +49-30-2093-6666
> e-mail: ruediger.frank at rz.hu-berlin.de
> Web: http://www2.hu-berlin.de/korea
> ***********************
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Hyung Il Pai
Associate Professor
East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies,
HSSB Building, University of California, Santa Barbara CA 93106
Fax: 805) 893-3011, Phone: 805) 893-2245
Email: Hyungpai at eastasian.ucsb.edu
Dept. Web-site -http://www.eastasian.ucsb.edu/
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