[KS] Counting reign years in Koryŏ

Best, Jonathan jbest at wesleyan.edu
Mon Jan 9 08:59:08 EST 2017

To all, the happiest New Years greetings possible under the circumstances—

I also have a question regarding Koryŏ period records. I've often wondered why in the Sagi and the Yusa reign years are counted differently than they are in either early Chinese or Japanese sources: i.e., if a ruler ascended the throne in, say, the 7th month of the year QQQ following the death of his/her predecessor in the same year, the QQQ year is designated as BOTH the last year of the predecessor's reign, say the 15th year of the predecessor's reign AND the 1st year of the successor's reign. In Chinese and Japanese sources the QQQ year would only be designated as the last year of the predecessor's reign. My guess was that this anomaly had something to do with the employment of Chinese nien-hao in Korea (Silla at least) from the mid 7th century onwards.

But then I happened to read in Tai-jin Kim's still useful classic, A Bibliographic Guide to Traditional Korean Sources (p.112): "In the days of Koryŏ, the first year of an era began with the year of coronation. This can be proved with epitaphs and other records of the time." (Bold added).

Is it known—or are there theories—why in Koryŏ this anomalous way of dating the year of a reign was used? Can some one direct me to an epitaph where it is employed?

Thanks in advance for any help provided,


"It's harder to write fiction than nonfiction. Fiction has to make sense." — Tom Clancy

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