[KS] Brick-tombs and Nangnang state
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
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
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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