Balhae (698–926), also known as Parhae or Bohai was a
multi-ethnic kingdom in
Manchuria and the Korean peninsula.
established by refugees from Goguryeo, one of the Three Kingdoms of
Korea, and Mohe tribes in 698, when the first king, former Goguryeo
general Dae Jo-yeong, defeated the
Tang dynasty at
Balhae's original capital was at Dongmo Mountain in modern Dunhua,
Jilin Province. In 742 it was moved to the Central Capital in Helong,
Jilin. It was moved to the Northern Capital in Ning'an, Heilongjiang
in 755, to the Eastern Capital in Hunchun,
Jilin in 785, and back to
the Northern Capital in 794.
In 926, the
Khitan Liao dynasty
Khitan Liao dynasty conquered
Balhae and established the
autonomous kingdom of Dongdan ruled by the Liao crown prince Yelü
Bei, which was soon absorbed into the Liao, while the southern
parts of its territory, and a series of nobilities led by crown prince
Dae Gwang-hyeon, were absorbed into Goryeo.
Administrative divisions of
Balhae kingdom, with Chinese and Korean
According to a Chinese source, the kingdom had 100,000 households and
a population of about 500,000. Archaeological evidence suggests that
Balhae culture was an amalgamation of Chinese, Korean, and
The historic position of the
Balhae is controversial between Korean
and Chinese historians. Due to its origins as the successor
state of Goguryeo, Korean scholars consider
Balhae as part of the
North–South States Period
North–South States Period of Korean history. While Chinese scholars
argue Bohai is a part of Chinese history. (See Northeast Project of
the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences)
2.2 Expansion and foreign relations
2.3 Fall and legacy
3 Government and culture
4 Language and script
7 See also
10 External links
Balhae was founded in 698 under the name 震, transcribed as Jin and
Zhen in Korean and Chinese romanisations. Jin is the modern Revised
Romanization of Korean 진, the same as the earlier Jin state.
However, the kingdom's name was written as 辰 in Chinese character,
with the reconstructed
Old Chinese pronunciation /*[d]ər/ and the
Middle Chinese pronunciation dzyin; King Go's state wrote its
name as 震, with the
Middle Chinese pronunciation tsyin. The
former state's character referred to the 5th
Earthly Branch of the
Chinese zodiac, a division of the orbit of Jupiter identified with the
dragon. This was associated with a bearing of 120° (between ESE and
SE) but also with the two-hour period between 7 and 9 am, leading
it to be associated with dawn and the direction east.
In 713, the
Tang dynasty bestowed the ruler of Jin with the title of
Head of Bohai Commandery, and in 762 the Tang recognized it as a
kingdom and renamed it "Bohai", or "Balhae" in modern Korean
During the Khitan rebellion against Tang, Dae Jung-sang, a former
Goguryeo official led
Goguryeo rebels, allied with Geolsa Biu,
a leader of the Mohe people, against the Tang in 698. After Dae
Jungsang's death, his son, Dae Jo-yeong, a former Goguryeo
general succeeded his father.
Geolsa Biu died in battle
against the Tang army led by the general Li Kaigu. Dae Jo-yeong
managed to escape Tang territory with the remaining
Goguryeo and Mohe
soldiers. He successfully defeated a pursuing army sent by Wu Zetian
at the Battle of Tianmenling. which enabled him to establish the state
of Jin in the former region of
Yilou as King Go.
Another account of events suggests that there was no rebellion at all,
and the leader of the Sumo Mohe rendered assistance to the Tang by
suppressing Khitan rebels. As a reward the Tang acknowledged the
leader as the local hegemon of a semi-independent state.
Expansion and foreign relations
The second King Mu (r. 719–737), who felt encircled by Tang, Silla
Heishui Mohe along the Amur River, attacked Tang with his navy in
732 and killed a Tang prefect based on the Shandong Peninsula. In
the same time, the king led troops taking land routes to Madushan
(馬都山) in the vincity of the
Shanhai Pass (about 300 kilometres
east of current Beijing) and occupied towns nearby. He also sent a
Japan in 728 to threaten
Silla from the southeast. Balhae
kept diplomatic and commercial contacts with
Japan until the end of
Balhae dispatched envoys to
Japan 34 times, while Japan
sent envoys to
Balhae 13 times. Later, a compromise was forged
between Tang and Balhae, which led Tang diplomatically recognize Mun
of Balhae, who succeeded to his father's throne, as King of Balhae.
The third Emperor Mun (r. 737–793) expanded its territory into the
Amur valley in the north and the
Liaodong Peninsula in the west.
During his reign, a trade route with Silla, called "Sillado"
(신라도, 新羅道), was established. Emperor Mun moved the capital
Balhae several times. He also established Sanggyeong, the permanent
Lake Jingpo in the south of today's
around 755; stabilizing and strengthening central rule over various
ethnic tribes in his realm, which was expanded temporarily. He also
authorized the creation of the Jujagam (胄子監), the national
academy, based on the national academy of Tang. Although China
recognized him as a king,
Balhae itself referred to him as the son of
heaven and an emperor.
The tenth King Seon reign (r. 818–830),
Balhae controlled northern
Manchuria and now
Primorsky Krai of Russia. King
Seon led campaigns that resulted in the absorbing of many northern
Mohe tribes and southwest Little
Goguryeo kingdom, which was located
in the Liaodong Peninsula, was absorbed into Balhae. Its strength was
Silla was forced to build a northern wall in 721 as well as
maintain active defences along the common border. In the middle of the
Balhae completed its local system, which was composed of
five capitals, 15 prefectures and 62 counties.
Fall and legacy
Balhae at the National Museum of Korea.
Following the reign of King Seon (830), there is no surviving written
records of Balhae. Some scholars believe that the 946 eruption of
Paektu Mountain may have caused a national level catastrophe leading
to its final fall to the Khitan Liao Dynasty, while other historians
believe that ethnic conflicts between the ruling
underclass Mohe weakened the state. The
Khitans were centered in
Liaoning and Inner Mongolia, which overlaps Balhae's purported
territories in the west. A Khitan invasion took the capital of Balhae
after a 25-day siege in 926. After defeating Balhae, the Khitans
established a puppet state, the Dongdan Kingdom, which was annexed by
Liao in 936. Some
Balhae aristocrats were forced to move to Liaoyang,
but Balhae's eastern territory remained politically independent.
Goryeosa records the arrival of tens of thousands of Balhae
households, led by a general escaping from the
Khitans in 925, one
year before the final collapse of the kingdom. The rest of the Balhae
people were assimilated into the Khitan polity as well as the Jurchens
who would revolt against the
Khitans later in the century. Some
descendants of the
Balhae emigre in
Goryeo changed their family name
to Tae (태, 太) while Crown Prince
Dae Gwang-hyeon was given the
family name Wang (왕, 王), the royal family name of the Goryeo
Balhae was the last state in Korean history to hold any
significant territory in Manchuria, although later Korean dynasties
would continue to regard themselves as successors of
Khitans themselves eventually succumbed to the Jurchen people, the
descendants of the Mohe, who founded the Jin dynasty. Jurchen
proclamations emphasized the common descent of the
Balhae and Jurchen
people from the seven Wuji(勿吉) tribes, and proclaimed "Jurchen and
Balhae are from the same family". The fourth, fifth and seventh
emperors of Jin were mothered by
Balhae consorts. The 13th century
census of Northern
China by the Mongols distinguished
other ethnic groups such as Goryeo, Khitan and Jurchen.
After the fall of
Balhae and its last king in 926, it was renamed
Dongdan by its new Khitan rulers. Restoration movements by
Balhae people established Later Balhae, which was later
renamed to Jeongan.
Dae Gwang-hyeon, the last crown prince, and much of the ruling class
Balhae sought refuge in Goryeo, where they were granted land and
the crown prince included in the royal household by Wang Geon, thus
unifying the two successor nations of Goguryeo.
Government and culture
See also: List of
Balhae's population was composed of former
Goguryeo peoples and
Mohe people in Manchuria. According to Lee ki-baik, the Mohe
made up the working class which served the
Goguryeo ruling class.
As such while the Mohe dominated common society, their influence was
mainly restricted to providing labor. Nevertheless, there were
instances of Mohe moving upward into the
Balhae elite, however few,
such as the followers of Geolsa Biu, who supported the establishment
of Balhae. They were limited to the title of "Suryeong", or "chief",
which is derived from
Goguryeo language and played a part in the
After its founding,
Balhae actively imported the culture and political
system of the
Tang dynasty and the Chinese reciprocated through an
Balhae describing it as the "flourishing land of the
East." The bureaucracy of
Balhae was modeled after the Three
Departments and Six Ministries and used Chinese characters to write
their native language for administrative purposes. Balhae's
aristocrats and nobility traveled to the Tang capital of
Chang'an on a
regular basis as ambassadors and students, many of whom went on to
pass the Imperial examinations. Unlike Tang government, the Balhae
"taenaesang" or the "great minister of the court" was superior to the
other two chancelleries (the left and the right) and its system of
five capitals originates from Goguryeo's administrative structure.
Balhae society was stratified into a rigid class system similar to
other Korean kingdoms. Elites tended to belong to large extended
aristocratic family lines designated by surnames. The commoners in
comparison had no surnames at all, and upward social mobility was
virtually impossible as class and status were codified into a caste
Balhae had five capitals, fifteen provinces, and sixty-three
counties. Archaeologists studying the layout of Balhae's cities
have concluded that they shared features common with cities in
Goguryeo, indicating that
Balhae had retained cultural similarities
with Goguryeo. However the capital of Sanggyong was organized in
the way of Tang's capital of Chang'an. Residential sectors were laid
out on either side of the palace surrounded by a rectangular wall.
Language and script
Shoku Nihongi implies that the
Balhae language and
share a close relationship: a student sent from
Japan for an
interpreter training in the Japanese language assisted a diplomatic
Balhae in communicating during the Japanese court
audience. Linguistic analysis of Korean loanwords in the Khitan
language also indicate the possibility that the
Balhae elite spoke the
Balhae script comes from the remains of roof tiles used in
Balhae architecture, where 370 letters were found. 135 of the
letters were found to be Chinese characters. However, 151 of the
letters were unidentifiable as any known script. Korean scholars
believe these unidentifiable letters are part of a unique Balhae
script like the
Idu script of Silla. On the other hand, Chinese
scholars dismissed them as miswritten Chinese characters.
Korean scholars have generally regarded
Balhae as an extension of or
successor to the Korean
Goguryeo kingdom (37 B.C. - 668 A.D.) ever
since the publication of
Jewang ungi in the 1290s. The 18th
century, during the Joseon, was a period in which Korean scholars
began a renewed interest in Balhae. The Qing and
negotiated and demarcated the Sino-Korean border along the Yalu and
Tumen rivers in 1712. Jang Ji-yeon (1762–1836), journalist, writer
of nationalist tracts, and organizer of nationalist societies,
published articles arguing that had
Joseon officials considered Balhae
as part of their historical territory, they would not have been as
eager to "give up" lands north of the rivers.
Yu Deuk-gong in his
18th-century work Balhaego, an investigation of Balhae, argued that
Balhae should be included as part of Korean history, and that doing so
would justify territorial claims on Manchuria. Korean historian Shin
Chae-ho, writing about
Jiandao in the early 20th century, bemoaned
that for centuries, Korean people in their "hearts and eyes considered
only the land south of the
Yalu River as their home" and that "half of
our ancestor Dangun's ancient lands have been lost for over nine
hundred years." Sin criticized Kim Busik, author of the Samguk Sagi,
Balhae from his historical work and claiming that Silla
had achieved unification of Korea. Inspired by ideas of Social
Darwinism, Sin wrote:
How intimate is the connection between Korea and Manchuria? When the
Korean race obtains Manchuria, the Korean race is strong and
prosperous. When another race obtains Manchuria, the Korean race is
inferior and recedes. Moreover, when in the possession of another
race, if that race is the northern race, then Korea enters that
northern race's sphere of power. If an eastern race obtains Manchuria,
then Korea enters that race's sphere of power. Alas! This is an iron
rule that has not changed for four thousand years.
Silla nor the later
Goryeo wrote an official history for
Balhae, and some modern scholars argue that had they done so, Koreans
might have had a stronger claim to Balhae's history and territory.
Old Book of Tang
Old Book of Tang says that "
Dae Jo-yeong of the Balhae-Mohe, was
originally from a division of Goguryeo"
In the West,
Balhae is generally characterized as a successor of
Goguryeo that traded with
China and Japan, and its name is thus
romanized from Korean. Alternate romanizations such as
"Parhae", from Korean, or "Bohai", in the pinyin format, are also
common in English. While it is seen as a
conglomeration of peoples from
Manchuria and Korea, there has been
much debate on the ethnicity of Balhae's elite class. Koreans
Dae Jo-yeong was of Goguryeo
ethnicity while others sometimes characterize him as an ethnic Mohe
China also considers
Balhae as part of
the history of its ethnic Manchus. Chinese historians have
Balhae as its own distinct
Balhae ethnic group, which
consisted mostly of Mohe people. The
New Book of Tang states that the
Balhae "was originally the Sumo Mohe, began to ally themselves with
Goguryeo, and took the surname Dae." (Dae is 大 in Chinese, Wade
Giles : Ta ; Pinyin :
Da)(渤海，本粟末靺鞨附高丽者，姓大氏.), The Samguk
Sagi and the
Tang dynasty Tongdian stated that
Balhae was originally
Sumo Mohe. The
Ruijū Kokushi says that Mohe tribes founded Balhae
and made up the majority of Balhae. Historically, the Jurchens
(later renamed the Manchus), considered themselves as sharing ancestry
with the Mohe. According to the
History of Jin (金史), the history
of the Jurchen Jin Dynasty (1115–1234), Jin founder Wanyan Aguda
once sent an edict to
Balhae claiming that "the
Jurchens and Balhae
were originally of the same family"
(女直渤海本同一家). An earlier, opposing view comes
from Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai, who said in 1963 that Korean
people have lived in the northeastern region of
China since ancient
times and excavated relics prove that
Balhae is a branch of ancient
Korea. The former Chinese premier's remarks have been made public
through a document entitled “Premier Zhou Enlai's Dialogue on
Sino-Korean Relations.“ Finnish linguist
Juha Janhunen believes
that it was likely that a "Tungusic-speaking elite" ruled
Balhae, describing them as "protohistorical Manchurian states" and
that part of their population was Tungusic, and that the area of
Manchuria was the origin of
Tungusic peoples and inhabited
continuously by them since ancient times, and Janhunen rejected
opposing theories of
Goguryeo and Balhae's ethnic composition.
A dragon head artifact from
Balhae at the National Museum of Korea.
According to news articles citing a recent US report,
Balhae to be a province of the Tang Dynasty. This view is
linked to the Northeast Project of the Chinese Academy of Social
Sciences conducted by the Chinese Academy of Social Science. Balhae
often paid tribute to China, and an heir who lacks this sanction was
China 知國務 ("State Affairs Leader"), not king; also,
China considered every king simultaneously the Prefect of Holhan/Huhan
The (people of) Chien-chou and Mao-lin [YLSL always reads Mao-lien]
are the descendants of the family Ta of Po-hai. They love to be
sedentary and sow, and they are skilled in spinning and weaving. As
for food, clothing and utensils, they are the same as (those used by)
the Chinese. (Those living) south of the
Ch'ang-pai mountain are apt
to be soothed and governed.
Translation from Sino-J̌ürčed relations during the Yung-Lo period,
1403-1424 by Henry Serruys
The People's Republic of
China is accused of limiting Korean
archaeologists access to historical sites located within
Jilin. Starting from 1994, increasing numbers of South Korean tourists
began to visit archaeological sites in
China and often engaged in
nationalistic displays. This was aggravated by a series of tomb
robberies and vandalism at several of these archaeological sites
between 1995 and 2000. South Korean archeologist Song Ki-ho, a
noted professor at
Seoul National University
Seoul National University who has published several
papers criticizing the Chinese government's interpretation of Balhae's
history, made several visits to
China in the 1990s, 2000, 2003, and
2004, examining several historical sites and museums. However, he
found himself restricted by limitations on note-taking and photography
and was even ejected from several sites by museum employees.
North Korea has restricted independent archaeologists from its
historical sites, many of which may be Balhae-related, since at least
the early 1960s. Foreign scholars have criticized political bias in
North Korean historiography, and have accused North Korean scholars of
reconstructing or even fabricating historical sites. Scholars from
South and North Korea,
Japan assert that
independent in its relations with the Tang Dynasty. Most Russian
archaeologists and scholars describe
Balhae as a kingdom of displaced
Goguryeo people. They do admit that
Balhae had a strong
Chinese and Central Asian influence. In relations with Japan,
Balhae referred to itself as Goguryeo, and
Japan welcomed this as a
kind of restoration of its former friendly relationship with
Balhae features in the Korean film Shadowless Sword, about the last
prince of Balhae, and Korean TV drama Dae Jo Yeong, which aired from
September 16, 2006 to December 23, 2007, about its founder.
Ancient Tombs at Longtou Mountain
History of Korea
List of Korea-related topics
List of Provinces of Balhae
List of rulers of Balhae
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Stearns, Peter N (ed.). Encyclopedia of World History (6 ed.). The
Houghton Mifflin Company/ Bartleby.com. the state of Parhae (or Bohai
(in Korean) Han's Palhae of Korea 한규철의 발해사 연구실