[KS] Brick-tombs and Nangnang state

Hyung Pai hyungpai at eastasian.ucsb.edu
Sun Jul 23 17:22:44 EDT 2006

Dear Mr. Han,
I apologize ahead for tooting my own horn but I have written a book  
on this subject surrounding the controversy over the existence of the  
Nangnang commandery in the Korean peninsula.
Please refer to : Constructing Korean origins: Archaeology,  
historiography and racial myth in Korean state formation theories  
( Asia Center, Harvard University Press-2000)

The tombs were first discovered in the early 1910s by Japanese  
archaeologists and art historians working for the colonial government  
office antiquities surveys. Torrii Ryuzo and Imanishi Ryu (1912-1913)  
identified them as the site of Nangnang (Lelang commandery/Rakuro in  
Japanese ) from stele, bricks, seals, and lacquerware inscriptions  
excavated from surveys of over two thousand tombs. The commandery  
site  (T'osongni) was identified as the seat of the Nangnang  
commandery by cross- referencing the names on artifacts to the actual  
administrators and Han commandery garrisons that were confirmed in  
the Chinese records of the Hanshu and HouHanshu (2nd B.C.-early 4th  
c. A.D.) .
The tombs have been well preserved because during the colonial period  
the Nangnang tombs were reconstructed for tourism in the 1930s of  
which I have seen postcards of artifacts and maps in Pyongyang  
The wooden chambered tombs and latter Han brick tombs were promoted  
by the Japanese scholars as the most spectacular examples of early  
Han dynastic remains ever found in terms of the kinds of monumental  
architecture, metallurgy, bronze mirrors, jewelery and examples of  
writing. The archaeologists were all young ambitious students trained  
in architecture, art history, archaeology and anthropology at Tokyo  
and Kyoto Imperial universities who were all very proud of their  
achievements in excavating and documenting such well preserved  
remains. The Han remains were promoted in the Japanese and Western  
archaeological and historical literature as the earliest example of a  
full-fledged civilization in Korea that later influenced the rise of  
the Three Kingdoms as well as the Yamato state in Japan.
  All these surveys occurred before there were any Han sites  
excavated "scientifically" in mainland China.
While in Japan, the Imperial Household Agency had banned the  
excavations of any imperial burials ( kobun) so they could control  
all aspects of cultural/artistic/ archaeological heritage linked to  
the emperor myth-making agenda. Consequently, the Korean peninsula  
and later on China and Manchuria were the only places they could  
actually conduct field research with relatively few restrictions and  
definitely more academic freedom.
The fantastic remains found in Silla tombs in the 1920s even inspired  
more archaeologists to come dig in Korea. All these expensive digs  
and preservations activities were jointly funded by the Imperial  
Household, Colonial government education budget as well as local  
governments offices.
Therefore, the Nangnang sites for many decades represented not only  
the peak of Japanese "scientific" archaeology and fieldwork in Korea  
but also  the achievements of colonial cultural policies in building  
public museums and collecting and exhibiting antiquities for the  
education and enlightenment of the citizens. The Nangnang remains  
were exhibited in the P'yongyang Museum in the 1930s as well as the  
Colonial Government Museum in Seoul. There is a Nangnang gallery at  
the National Museum which still has the best conserved artifacts from  
the major tombs such as Sokkamdong, Oyari, Wang -kuang, and Wang-hsu.
In  Post-war North Korea, in re-action to Japanese scholars  
interpretation of Nangnang remains as a Han-derived occupation  
confirming the Stagnant/backward nature of Koreans (Chongch'aeron)  
who were dependent on outside influence, the DPRK historians starting  
in the late 1940s rejected all Pre-war scholarship as "tainted  
imperialists historiography" and argued that all the Han dynastic  
remains ( seals, bronzes, lacquerware etc. ) were all in fact  
"imported" from China and the sites actually belonged to Koguryo  
ancestors. Thus, their "chuch'e" philosophy necessitated that there  
would no "foreign powers" that preceded Koguryo and so they had re- 
write the history of the Nangnang sites and renamed them "Koguryo."
What they are in fact doing is similar to their promotion of the  
fictitious Tangun tomb as being over 5, 000 years old so as to  
fashion up the history of Kochoson as the earliest "purely Korean  
state" in order to prove the "independent evolution" of Korean  
civilization predating that of China or Japan in chronology.
I have tried to make a complex topic make sense in a few sentences.
Please consult my book's bibliography for more information.  
Unfortunately, when I was a graduate student working on this topic,  
as a South Korean national I was not able to visit these tombs sites  
myself so I have no idea how they were reconstructed. If you have any  
photos or pamphlets information to share with me I would appreciate  
your kindness. I am very curious about how they were re-done for the  
current tourist economic ventures.
On Jul 21, 2006, at 3:26 AM, Han, Junhi wrote:

> Dear List members,
> During my last visit to Pyongyang in May 2006, I requested whether  
> I could visit the brick-tombs discovered in around Nangnang earthen  
> wall (Nangnang To’ sung) areas in the 90s. I was therefore able to  
> visit two brick- tombs (earthen mound brick-chambered tomb) dated  
> of Nangnang period. The Tomb No. 1 was in particular impressive by  
> its scale, finely decorated bricks and the beautiful double-arched  
> entrance. In addition, the tombs (at least those we visited) were  
> preserved in a quite good state.
> Scholars in the DPRK say that these tombs are proto-type of the  
> Koguryo tombs, and the area of Nangnang in and around Pyongyang was  
> actually the territory of the Nangnang State which succeeded  
> KoChosun, and not of the Chinese Han Commendery.
> Does any of you there knows about this newly established history on  
> Nangnang in the DPRK? Since when the Nangnang  began to be  
> considered as one of the states succeeding Ko Chosun?   What about  
> the brick-tombs? Are they identical to the Han dynasty’s brick- 
> tombs found in China?  I would be grateful if one of you could  
> guide me to the resource material related to these brick-tombs, or  
> at least provide me with some references.
> Thanking in advance for your kind and precious guidance,
> Best regards
> Han Junhi
> Junhi Han (Ms)
> Cultural Heritage Division
> Asia and Pacific unit
> tel: 33 1 45 68 37 68
> fax:33 1 45 68 55 96
> email: j.han at unesco.org
> visit our home page: www.unesco.org

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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