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Kim Yusin (595–673) was a noble, general, and statesman of the early Korean state of Silla (ca. 300–935). According to Korean sources, he played a vital role in the wars that resulted in Silla’s conquest of the other states on the peninsula by means of an alliance with Tang China (618–907) in the 660s. The biography of Kim Yusin comprises almost three full chapters of the Samguk sagi, and is the largest single biography in the tenchapter section of biographies in the work. Other sections of the Samguk sagi, particularly the basic annals (pon’gi) of Koguryŏ and Paekche, show that Kim Pusik (1075–1151) relied considerably on other sources, such as Chinese dynastic histories and collectanea, or have entries clearly rewritten from the “Basic Annals of Silla” section of the Samguk sagi, which appears to have been compiled first. However, Pusik based his biography of Kim Yusin primarily on a “Yusin stele” and an Account of Conduct compiled by his grandson Kim Changch’ŏng. Although Yusin plays a vital role in Silla’s history of this time period, he is not mentioned in Chinese materials related to the war on the peninsula, although Pusik’s biography suggests that such material existed. Divine marvels pervade Yusin’s biography and they seem to function to support the theme that Silla is a “land of Confucian gentlemen.” The core historical material associated with Kim Yusin, which is comprised of narratives developing his close relationship with his brother-in-law Kim Ch’unch’u (604–661; T’aejong Muyŏl, r. 654–661) and the peninsular war for the “unification of the Three Han states,” is encased in stories of divine marvels, which strongly suggests that the historical memory of Yusin was inseparable from the legends that developed surrounding him by the time the Samguk sagi was compiled.

Kim Yusin (595?673) , Kim Pusik (1075?1151) , Samguk sagi , Shiji , Biography , Hagiography , Historiography

    Kim Yusin 金庾信 (595–673) was a noble, general, and statesman of the early Korean state of Silla 新羅 (ca. 300–935). According to traditional Korean literary sources from the Koryŏ 高麗 period (918–1392), the Samguk sagi 三國史記 (History of the Three Kingdoms, completed in 1145) and the Samguk yusa 三國遺事 (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms, first compiled ca. 1285 by Iryŏn 一然 (1206–1289), and further emended and edited afterwards until achieving its present form by 1512), he played a vital role in the wars that resulted in Silla’s conquest of Paekche 百濟 and Koguryŏ 高句麗 by means of an alliance with Tang 唐 China (618–907) in the 660s. The biography of Kim Yusin in the Samguk sagi comprises three full chapters of the Samguk sagi, and is the largest single biography in the ten-chapter section of biographies in Kim Pusik’s 金富軾 (1075–1151) work.1 Considering that other sections of the Samguk sagi, particularly the basic annals (pon’gi 本紀) of Koguryŏ and Paekche, show that Kim Pusik relied considerably on other sources, such as Chinese dynastic histories and collectanea, or have entries clearly rewritten from the “Basic Annals of Silla” (Silla pon’gi 新羅本紀) section of the Samguk sagi, which appears to have been compiled first, I first place the Samguk sagi and the biography of Kim Yusin in its historical and literary context.2 Then I survey the sources, structure, and presentation of his lengthy biography. Last, in an attempt to uncover its function within the context of the biographical portion of the Samguk sagi, I analyze two themes crafted by Kim Pusik in the biography of Kim Yusin: The role of divine marvels and Heaven and the motif that Silla is a “land of Confucian gentlemen” (kunjaguk 君子國). The core historical material associated with Kim Yusin, which is based on Silla materials associated with Kim Yusin’s close relationship with his brother-inlaw Kim Ch’unch’u 金春秋 (604–661; T’aejong Muyŏl 太宗武烈王 , r. 654–661) and the peninsular war for the “unification of the Three Han states” and the conquest of Paekche and Koguryŏ, is encased in stories of divine marvels, which strongly suggests that the historical memory of Yusin was inseparable from the legends that developed surrounding him by the time the Samguk sagi was compiled. The function of these themes in the biography of Kim Yusin is to demonstrate that Silla possessed the mandate of Heaven, and its conquest of Paekche and Koguryŏ was accomplished by divine protection because Silla was a “land of Confucian gentlemen.” Because detailed accounts of kings Muyŏl and Munmu 文武 (Kim Pŏmmin 金法敏 , r. 661–681) are found in the “Basic Annals of Silla,” the biography of Kim Yusin is of considerable length to emphasize the role of these three great personages in the “Three Han becoming one house” (samhan wiilga 三韓爲一家).

    1On Kim Pusik see Edward J. Shultz, “Kim Pusik kwa Samguk sagi” 金富軾과 三國史記 [Kim Pusik and the Samguk sagi], Han’guksa yŏn’gu 韓國史硏究 73 (1991): 1–20.  2For general works on the Samguk sagi and problems associated with its materials, in English, see John Charles Jamieson, “The Samguk Sagi and the Unification Wars” (Ph.D. diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1969), 11–26; Michael C. Rogers, “National Consciousness in Medieval Korea,” in Papers of the 5th International Conference on Korean Studies, Its Tasks & Perspectives (in Korean), 2 vols. (Sŏngnam, Kyŏnggi Province: Han’guk Chŏngsin Munhwa Yŏn’guwŏn, 1988), 1:152–165; Edward J. Shultz, “An Introduction to the Samguk sagi,” Korean Studies 28 (2004): 1–13; Jonathan W. Best, A History of the Early Korean Kingdom of Paekche: Together with an Annotated Translation of the Paekche Annals of the Samguk Sagi (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Asia Center, 2006), 3–63.


    The section of collected biographies (yŏlchŏn 列傳) in the Samguk sagi, and the “Kim Yusin chŏn” 金庾信傳 (Biography of Kim Yusin) in particular, has been a topic much researched by Korean scholars of both history and literature. Literature scholars have covered the gamut from analyzing Kim Yusin as a shamanic hero to examining his biography for legendary and mythic motifs, and from criticizing it from a Western perspective (viz., describing its strengths and weaknesses from the standpoint of Western literary genres) to looking at it as the basis of or providing antecedents and motifs that influenced the development of the “ancient Korean novel” (kodae sosŏl 古代小說).3 Western scholars, beginning with Frits Vos, have typically analyzed the biography from a historical perspective, recognizing the legendary elements that support something of the personality cult of famous individuals and have problematized the traditional narratives looking for aspects of Kim Pusik’s rhetorical agenda.4

    Historians have typically understood Kim Pusik’s compilation of the Samguk sagi from within the context of the two chief historical events of the early twelfth century during the reign of King Injong 仁宗 (1122–1146). First was the failed attempt by the aristocrat Yi Chagyŏm 李資謙 (d. 1126) to create a new dynasty in Korea with himself as king. Second was the Buddhist monk Myoch’ŏng’s 妙淸 (d. 1135) revolt because the court was controlled by powerful aristocratic families and because he disagreed with the court’s passive policy toward the rise of the Jurchen Jin 金 dynasty (1115–1234) and its advances in the border regions it shared with Koryŏ. Kim Pusik rose to power in Koryŏ politics during the reign of Injong, being an executive in the Ministry of Rites, and was an outspoken opponent to Yi Chagyŏm’s abuses of power and privileges. Yi was a member of the powerful and influential Inju Yi descent group 仁州李氏 that had provided consorts for the Koryŏ royal family since the reign of Hyŏnjong 顯宗 (1009–1031) and whose members enjoyed great influence at court. Although the role Kim played in Yi’s downfall is not explicit in extant materials, after Yi’s death in 1126 Kim became a member of the Security Council and soon advanced to the highest echelons of power in Koryŏ’s government. Myoch’ŏng urged Injong to move the capital from Kaesŏng 開城 to the Western Capital (Sŏgyŏng 西京 , vis. P’yŏngyang 平壤) because Yi Chagyŏm had burned the palace to the ground, because he would be closer to and therefore more involved in responding to the rise of the Jurchen threat in the north, and because he would hopefully be able to escape the control of powerful nobles at court. Although Injong seemed at first to be persuaded to follow Myoch’ŏng’s suggestions, the powerful elites at court, including Kim Pusik dissuaded him. Myoch’ŏng then rebelled, leading his followers to the Western Capital. When the crisis reached its peak, Kim reluctantly and compassionately led the country into war with the rebels and successful put down the revolt. Although there is no specific literary evidence to support this theory, a conventionally accepted view of Kim Pusik’s compilation of the Samguk sagi suggests that he settled down to work on the official history in his free time after the quelling of the Myoch’ŏng revolt, and that the Samguk sagi’s limited and extremely terse treatment of the role of Buddhism in Silla history is evidence of his Confucian disparagement of the religion. Kim was certainly shaped by these events and his prestige was enhanced because he was on the winning side of both of these pivotal affairs, and references to these two events appear in his historical evaluations on at least five occasions (non wal 論曰 ; viz. saron 史論).5

    Let us assume that the received text of the Samguk sagi, the 1512 edition, is an accurate presentation of the Samguksa 三國史 (History of the Three Kingdoms) that Kim Pusik presented to the court on the twenty-second day of the twelfth lunar month of the twenty-third year of Koryŏ king Injong (February 22, 1146).6 Although scholars typically refer to Kim Pusik as the author of the Samguk sagi, he had the help of at least a dozen men, one of the most important being Ch’oe Sanbo 崔山甫 , who appears to have functioned as an intermediary between Kim Pusik’s compilation team and the opinions and concerns of the Koryŏ court.7 Furthermore, Kim Pusik and his team only really seem to have given their undivided attention to work on the Samguk sagi in 1142, after the senior scholarofficial left the world of politics and went into retirement in the third lunar month of 1142 because one of his close associates, Chŏng Sŭmmyŏng 鄭襲明 (d. 1151), who also played a role in the compilation of the Samguk sagi, was impeached by the Censorate in the first lunar month. Many of the men who aided Kim Pusik were successful exam graduates and a few, such as Ch’oe Ubo 崔祐甫 and Hŏ Hongjae 許洪材 , as well as Ch’oe Sŭmmyŏng, were high-ranking officials during Injong’s reign.8 The shared intellectual background and Confucian training of several of the members of Kim’s compilation team is certainly manifest in the historiographical principles exhibited by the text.

    Recent research by Remco Breuker suggests that Koryŏ historiography and the Samguk sagi in particular must be understood within the context of Koryŏ’s quest for identity. He argues that the Confucian characteristics of Koryŏ historiography are often overlooked, and that Koryŏ’s plural descent is made manifest in its historiography. Furthermore, he maintains that the peninsular alignment of Koryŏ historiography and its reliance on continental Sinitic literary models are not antithetical. In other words, Koryŏ historians adopted and adapted Sinitic Confucian historiography to fit peninsular needs. Kim Pusik recognized the complicated historical background of Koryŏ, and attempted to create an official or standard history that balanced facts with morals.9 My research supports Breuker’s findings generally, especially the Confucian orientation of the biography of Kim Yusin. However, I would suggest that Kim Pusik and his team allowed for significant literary license and did not necessary let facts obstruct the telling of a good story with good morals.

    The structure of Kim Pusik’s Samguk sagi is probably more like Sima Tan 司馬談 (d. 110 B.C.E.) and Sima Qian’s 司馬遷 (ca. 145–ca. 86 B.C.E.) Shiji 史記 (Historical Records) than other Korean works in the standard history (chŏngsa, Ch. zhengshi 正史) genre for two principal reasons. First, the Shiji is a universal history that attempts to treat in a comprehensive manner the great sweep of history over the course of hundreds of years and the rise and fall of dynasties, unlike individual dynastic histories, which are more manageable treatments of the rise and fall of one dynasty. Likewise, the Samguk sagi approaches a universal history because it considers with the rise and early interactions between the Three Korean kingdoms of Silla, Koguryŏ, and Paekche. The text also covers the struggle between these kingdoms for ascendency on the Korean peninsula in the fifth and sixth centuries, the conquest and absorption of Paekche and Koguryŏ by the alliance between Silla and Tang China in the seventh century. The Samguk sagi also treats the hegemony of Silla in the late seventh and eighth centuries, the decline of Silla in the ninth century, and the rise and fall of states enemy to Silla founded by rebel subjects prior to the founding of the Koryŏ in the late ninth and early tenth centuries. Thus, this long duration approaches the coverage attempted by Sima Qian.

    Second, Sima Qian drew upon various sources, some relatively reliable and others arguably less so, for both the information contained in his annals as well as his biographies. He presents anecdotal, legendary, and probably oral information along with putatively more reliable documentary information derived from the Classics and other early texts and crafts his narratives in such a manner as to straddle a fence that is difficult to sit astride that divides the two historical and literary domains of objectivity and interpretation. The idea that Chinese standard histories serve a didactic function—and hence are typically viewed as not being “objective” by Western scholars—is well known. However, the very structure of the Shiji enables objectivity not available in a purely annalistic approach to history. By crafting a new five-part structure consisting of “basic annals” (pon’gi, Ch. benji 本紀 , which record royal and imperial reigns), chronological tables (p’yo, Ch. biao 表), treatises (originally , Ch. shu 書 ; and in later works called chi, Ch. zhi 志 , on sacrifices, music, government offices, and so forth), hereditary houses (sega, Ch. shijia 世家 , devoted to the feudal lords and powerful families), and collected biographies (yŏlchŏn, Ch. liezhuan 列傳), Sima Qian was often able to cover the same historical event from the multiple perspectives of the different characters associated with that event so that the diligent reader is provided with a more comprehensive and nuanced picture of history.10

    Living in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, when Sima Qian’s literary structure and form for writing history had reached canonical status, Kim Pusik likewise drew upon many native Korean and Chinese sources of varying reliability. Like Sima Qian he has been lambasted by later scholars who objected to his objectivity as well as his interpretation. Kim follows the basic structure created by Sima Qian and in his Samguk sagi only lacks the section on hereditary houses. One could argue, nevertheless, that such a section is unnecessary because he has three sections of basic annals that cover the genealogies of the ruling families of Silla, Koguryŏ, and Paekche. A more simple reason, however, is probably because the extant material for all three peninsular states was scanty and not enough literary or anecdotal material remained to compose such sections. Furthermore, his biography of Kim Yusin provides crucially needed detail and nuance to several events in Silla’s critically important seventh century that are treated laconically in the “Basic Annals of Silla.”

    One of the drawbacks the textual narrative of the Samguk sagi presents is its very terse and laconic style. Although the biography of Kim Yusin appears to be an exception to this general rule, readers of the basic annals sections are typically faced with little narrative description and only the most basic explication regarding crucial events in the historical development of Silla. Nevertheless, we must bear in mind that in his memorial to Koryŏ king Injong 仁宗 (r. 1122–1146) upon the completion of the Samguk sagi, Kim Pusik lamented the poor condition of the remaining documents and, in his biography of Kim Yusin, he claimed that if it were not for Chinese literary materials he could not have completed the work.11 The extreme lack of detail about such seminal events in Silla history, such as Pidam’s 毘曇 revolt in 647, the Kim Hŭmdol 金欽突 rebellion in 681, King Sinmun’s 神文 (r. 681–691) failed attempt to move the capital to Talgubŏl 達句伐 (Taegu 大邱) in 689, the Kim Chijŏng 金志貞 rebellion of 780 that brought about the regicide of King Hyegong 惠空 (r. 765–780), and the Kim Hŏnch’ang 金憲昌 rebellion of 822 make Kim Pusik’s lament painfully obvious.

    Most of the material in the collected biographies section of the Samguk sagi is original in the sense that it does not repeat information from the basic annals section. Of the roughly eighty biographies, 80 percent of which treat historical personages of Silla, only four are derivative:12 two of Koguryŏ, Ŭlchi Mundŏk 乙支文德 (fl. 590–618)13 and Kaesomun 蓋蘇文 (d. 666);14 one of Paekche, Hŭkch’i Sangji 黑齒常之 (ca. 630–689);15 and one of Silla, Chang Pogo 張保皐 (d. 846).16

    Nevertheless, when seen from its East Asian context, Kim Pusik’s narrative terseness does have relevant literary antecedents: Ouyang Xiu’s 歐陽修 (1007– 1072) Xin Tang shu 新唐書 (New History of the Tang), which was completed in 1060, and Xin Wudai shi 新五代史 (New History of the Five Dynasties), which was published posthumously in 1077. In his historical writing, Ouyang Xiu strove to craft an overarching historical narrative in elegant language, but his focus on writing tersely and concisely came at the expense of detail and description. Ouyang dealt with ancient Chinese history in a succinct manner and sought to emulate the terse style of Confucius’ Chunqiu 春秋 (Spring and Autumn Annals), of whom he reasoned only wrote what he could corroborate. For instance, the basic annals of the Jiu Tang shu 舊唐書 (Old History of the Tang, compiled in 945)—which was deemed inferior by some Chinese scholars in the early Northern Song 北宋 period (960–1127) because it seemed to lack a narrative style and was essentially a cut-and-paste job from Tang-period documents, and thus in need of being rewritten—is approximately 300,000 words (logographs), while the basic annals of the Xin Tang shu is a mere 90,000 words. Although the literary style of Ouyang’s treatment of the Tang was superior, much was lost in the editorial process and, even worse, some faulty and spurious information was presented as historical fact.17

    Not long after its publication, Wu Zhen 吳縝 completed his Xin Tang shu jiumiu 新唐書糾繆 (Corrected Errors in the New History of the Tang) in 1089, in which he describes 460 factual errors in the document. Nevertheless, unlike the Jiu Tang shu, which ignored the reign of the Empress Wu Zetian 武則天 (Wu Zhao 武曌 , 624–705; r. 690–705) and her Zhou 周 dynasty, Ouyang’s Xin Tang shu provided her reign with separate annals that affirmed the legitimacy of her rule, although his historian’s comments about her rule were far from temperate or moderate.18 Thus, despite the criticism and shortcomings of his work, Ouyang’s literary style and way of dealing with the history of antiquity might have influenced Kim Pusik’s treatment of early Korean history more than scholars have hitherto suspected.

    Having served as an emissary to the Northern Song empire twice in the first quarter of the twelfth century, Kim Pusik was well aware of the volatile political atmosphere that had ranged in Song’s factionalized politics since the second half of the eleventh century when Wang Anshi 王安石 (1021–1086) instituted his reformist New Policies between 1068 and 1085. Although the competing faction headed by Sima Guang 司馬光 (1019–1086) repealed many of the reforms during the Yuanyou 元祐 period (1085–1093), once Huizong 徽宗 (r. 1100–1125) ascended the throne he purged the members of the so-called “Yuanyou faction” 元祐黨 , both living and dead, stripped the late Sima Guang of his titles, and proscribed his books, including the Zizhi tongjian 資治通鑑 (Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Government), from 1102 to 1104. Many of the works of the great Song historians and other literary figures were proscribed during the reign of Huizong, which, after the debacle of the Song’s ignominious defeat at the hands of the Jurchens, endeared these writings to the intelligentsia of the succeeding Southern Song period (1127–1279) as being not only representative of superior literary quality but also of the correct approach to interpreting history. Even Song emperor Gaozong 高宗 (r. 1127–1162) admired the Zizhi tongjian and Sima Guang’s literary quality and approach to history.19 The significance of the Zizhi tongjian in contemporary Chinese intellectual society would not have been lost to Kim Pusik, and his reliance on it in the annals sections demonstrates his knowledge of contemporary Sinitic literary culture and its influence on Korean historiography. Pusik cites the Zizhi tongjian at least thirty times in the “Basic Annals of Silla,” thirty-six times in the “Basic Annals of Koguryŏ,” and twice in the collected biographies sections.

    The Sinologist William Nienhauser suggests that biographies (chŏn, Ch. zhuan 傳) appearing in standard Chinese histories may be classified into three normative categories.20 The first category is what might be called the “basic biography” or “basic memoir” (ponjŏn, Ch. benzhuan 本傳). Such a work focuses on one individual and depicts the person in the following manner: a personalized description giving his names, titles, and hometown or native place; anecdotes that elucidate something of his character might also be included. Then would follow an account of this person’s career, which might be rather lengthy, and which is usually presented chronologically. This is then followed by a description of the person’s death and, in some cases, his posterity. Finally, there is an evaluative comment by the historian. Nienhauser suggests that the biography of Han Xin 韓信 , titled “Huaiyin Hou liezhuan” 淮陰侯列傳 (Biography of the Marquis of Huaiyin), chapter 92 of the Shiji, is a good example of this type. The biography of Kim Yusin, which comprises chapters 41 through 43 of the Samguk sagi, is also a good example of a basic biography.

    The second category should be called a “parallel biography” (perhaps something like pyŏnjŏn, Ch. pianzhuan 騈傳). Such a biography combines two or more “basic biographies” of persons in a single chapter. In Chinese materials sometimes this kind of biography is visibly designated in the title, such as “Wei Bao, Peng Yue liezhuan” 魏豹彭越列傳 (Biographies of Wei Bao and Peng Yue), chapter 90 of the Shiji. Other times parallel biographies are not clearly indicated, such as the “Zhang Yi liezhuan” 張儀列傳 (Memoir of Zhang Yi), chapter 90 of the Shiji, which actually contains biographies of three famous persuaders, Zhang Yi, Chen Zhen 陳軫 , and Gongsun Yan 公孫衍 . Assisted by the historian’s comments, the reader is expected to draw parallels from the lives of the individuals treated in the chapter. Although the individual chapters of the collected biographies section of the Samguk sagi do not have individual titles, some chapters seem to have been crafted by Kim Pusik with the general idea of a parallel biography in mind. For example, chapter 50 of the Samguk sagi might well be called “The Memoirs of Kungye and Kyŏnhwŏn” (Kungye Kyŏnhwŏn yŏlchŏn 弓裔甄萱列傳) because it treats the lives of two men who rebelled against Silla rule and established enemy states during the late Silla period.

    The third category is the “categorized biographies” or “classified memoirs” (yujŏn, Ch. leizhuan 類傳), which present a set of biographies grouped together around a common theme. A representative example of this type of biography is the famous “Cike liezhuan” 刺客列傳 (Biographies of Assassins), chapter 86 of the Shiji. Such a collection of biographies are, in Nienhauser’s words, “intended to reinforce an archetypical pattern that the historian had in mind, clearly reflected in the chapter title.”21 Categorized biographies differ from basic biographies and parallel biographies in that after the explication of the name and place of origin, which, in Chinese historiography, are formal requirements of all biographies, only one or two anecdotes are provided to show how the individual fits into the category selected for the chapter. Although I tend to agree with scholars like Nienhauser who do not see the collected biographies section of the Shiji conforming to an essentially programmatic categorization of biographical entries, some scholars prefer to conceptualize conventionally set biographical categories by the end of the Tang period (see Appendix 1). Although the collected biographies section of the Samguk sagi text tends to avoid any simple categorization, it can be helpful to conceptualize the structure of the collected biographies in the Samguk sagi in this manner. Considering Kim Pusik as being influenced by a Confucian conception of morality and as following the received Sinitic historiographical tradition of the Northern Song, I roughly categorize the biographical chapters of the Samguk sagi as follows:

    3Yun Yŏngok 尹榮玉, “Samguk sagi yŏlchŏn ko” 三國史記 列傳<金庾信>攷 [A study on “Kim Yusin” in the collected biographies section of the Samguk sagi], Tongyang munhwa 東洋文化 14–15 (1974): 23–41; Kim Yŏlgyu 金烈圭, “Musokchŏk yŏngung ko: Kim Yusin chŏn ŭl chungsim ŭro hayŏ” 巫俗的 英雄攷: 金庾信傳을 中心으로 하여 [A study on the shamanistic hero: Centered on the biography of Kim Yusin], Chindan hakpo 震檀學報 43 (1977): 83–93; Sin Hyŏngsik 申瀅植, “Samguk sagi yŏlchŏn ŭi punsŏk” 三國史記列傳의 分析 [An analysis of the linked biographies section of the History of the Three Kingdoms], Han’guksa nonch’ong 韓國史論叢 3 (December 1978); Sim Chŏngsŏp 沈晶燮, “Samguk sagi yŏlchŏn ŭi munhakchŏk koch’al” 三國史記列傳의 文學的 考察 [A literary study of the collected biographies in the Samguk sagi], Munhak kwa chisŏng 文學과 知性 10, no. 1 (Spring 1979): 180–204; Im Hyŏngt’aek 林熒澤, “Samguk sagi yŏlchŏn ŭi munhaksŏng: Kim Yusin chŏn ŭl chungsim ŭro 『三國史記‧列傳』의 文學性;《金庾信傳》을 중심으로 [The literary nature of the Collected Biographies section of the Samguk sagi: Centered on the Biography of Kim Yusin], Han’guk hanmunhak yŏn’gu 韓國漢文學硏究 12 (September 1989): 9–29; Cho Insŏng 趙仁成, “Samguk mit T’ongil Silla ŭi yŏksa sŏsul” 三國 및 統一新羅의 歷史敍述 [Historical narrative in the Three Kingdoms and Unified Silla], in Han’guk sahaksa ŭi yŏn’gu 韓國史學史의 硏究 [Research on the historiography of Korean history], ed. Han’guksa Yŏn’guhoe 韓國史硏究 (Seoul: Ŭryu Munhwasa, 1985), 9–34; Kim T’aejun 金泰俊, “Kim Yusin chŏn yŏn’gu” 金庾信傳 硏究 [Research on Kim Yusin], Silla munhak ŭi sinyŏn’gu 新羅文學의 新硏究 7 (January 1986): 143–164; Kim Yŏnghwa 金永和, “Kodae sajŏk ŭl t’onghan Kim Yusin sŏrhwa yŏn’gu: Samguk sagi-Samguk yusa sojae chungsim ŭro” 고대사적을 통한 김유신 설화연구—<삼국사기>·<삼국유사>소재 중심으로 [Research on the legends of Kim Yusin through old books: Centered on the Samguk sagi and Samguk yusa], Nonmunjip 논문집 5 (1986); Yi Chŏngjin 이정진, “Samguk sagi yŏlchŏn ŭi kusŏng kwa sŏsulchŏk t’ŭkching” 『三國史記』<列傳>의 構成과 敍述的 特徵 [Structure and narrative characteristics in the “Collected biographies section” of the Samguk sagi], Han’guk ŏnŏ munhak 韓國言語文學 30 (1992): 211–225; An Yŏnghun 安永勳, Kim Yusin chŏn yŏn’gu 김유신전 연구 [Research on the biography of Kim Yusin] (Seoul: Minsogwŏn, 2004), esp. 27–93; Pak Taebok 朴大福, “Kim Yusin yŏlchŏn ŭi ch’ŏn kwannyŏm yŏn’gu” 金庾信 列傳의 天觀念 硏究 [Research on the conception of heaven in the linked biography of Kim Yusin], Ŏmun yŏn’gu 語文硏究 134 (35, no. 2; 2007): 115–140; Silla Sahakhoe 신라사학회, ed., Hŭngmu Taewang Kim Yusin yŏn’gu 흥무대왕 김유신 연구[Research on Great King Hŭngmu, Kim Yusin] (Seoul: Kyŏngin Munhwasa, 2011).  4Fritz Vos, “Kim Yusin, Persönlichkeit und Mythos (1. Teil),” Oriens Extremus 1, no. 1 (July 1954): 29–70; Vos, “Kim Yusin, Persönlichkeit und Mythos (2. Teil),” Oriens Extremus 2, no. 2 (December 1955): 210–236; and Richard D. McBride II, “Hidden Agendas in the Life Writings of Kim Yusin,” Acta Koreana (Taegu) 1 (August 1998): 101–142.  5Shultz, “An Introduction to the Samguk sagi,” 2–4; Shultz, “Kim Pusik kwa Samguk sagi,” 11–12.  6Koryŏsa 高麗史 [History of Koryŏ], 137 rolls, compiled in 1451 by Chŏng Inji 鄭麟趾 (1396– 1478) et al., Photolithographic reprint in 3 vols. (Seoul: Asea Munhwasa, 1972), 17:14b7 (Injong 23/12/imsul).  7Sin Hyŏngsik 申瀅植 , Samguk sagi yŏn’gu 三國史記硏究 [Research on the Samguk sagi] (Seoul: Ilchogak, 1981), 6–10, esp. 7; Chŏng Kubok 鄭求福 , No Chungguk 盧重國 , Sin Tongha 申東河 , Kim T’aesik 金泰植 , and Kwŏn Tŏgyŏng 權悳永 , “Samguk sagi haeje” 삼국사기 해제 [Introduction to the Samguk sagi], in (Kaejŏng chŭngbo) Yŏkchu Samguk sagi (개정증보) 역주 삼국사기 [History of the Three Kingdoms: annotated translation (revised and enlarged)], 5 vols. (Sŏngnam: Han’gukhak Chungang Yŏn’guwŏn, 2012), 2:7–76, esp. 27–31.  8Chŏng, et al, “Samguk sagi haeje,” 18–31.  9Remco E. Breuker, “Writing History in Koryŏ: Some Early Koryŏ Works Reconsidered,” Korean Histories 2, no. 1 (2010): 57–84, esp. 83–84.  10Grant Hardy, “Form and Narrative in Ssu-Ma Ch’ien’s Shih chi,” Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews 14 (December 1992): 1–23.  11Tongmunsŏn 東文選 [Anthology of Korean literature], 130 rolls (kwŏn 券), comp. Sŏ Kŏjŏng 徐居正 (1420–1488), et al., photolithographic reprint in 3 vols. (Seoul: Kyŏnghŭi Ch’ulp’ansa, 1966–1967), 44:12b7–13b6; For an English translation of Kim Pusik’s memorial, see Peter H. Lee, ed., Sources of Korean Tradition, Volume One (New York and Columbia University Press, 1996), 257. For Pusik’s statement about Chinese materials, see Samguk sagi 三國史記 [History of the Three Kingdoms], 50 rolls, by Kim Pusik 金富軾 (1075–1151), completed between 1136–1145; critical apparatus by Chŏng Kubok 鄭求福 , No Chungguk 盧重國 , Sin Tongha 申東河 , Kim T’aesik 金泰植 , and Kwŏn Tŏgyŏng 權悳永 , Kuksa Ch’ongsŏ 國史叢書 [National History Series] (Seoul: Han’guk Chŏngsin Munhwa Yŏn’guwŏn, 1996), 43:420 (Kim Yusin, ha).  12Jamieson, “The Samguk Sagi and the Unification Wars,” 14–15.  13Cf. Sui shu 隋書 [History of the Sui], 85 rolls, comp. Wei Zheng 魏徵 (580–643) et al. between 629 and 636; modern ed. 6 vols. (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1973), 60:1455; roll 61:1466; roll 63:1500–1501; Bei shu 北史 [History of the Northern Dynasties], 100 rolls, comp. Li Yanshou 李延壽 (fl. 618 –676) between 630 and 650; modern ed. 8 vols. (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1974), 23:855–856, roll 73:2536–2537; roll 79:2651–2652.  14Cf. Jiu Tang shu 舊唐書 [Old History of the Tang], 200 rolls; comp. Liu Xu 劉喣 (887–946) et al. between 940 and 945; modern ed. 16 vols. (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1975), 220:6187–6190, 6194–6197; Xin Tang shu 新唐書 [New History of the Tang], 225 rolls; comp. Ouyang Xiu 歐陽修 (1007–1072), Song Qi 宋祁 (998–1061) et al. between 1043 and 1060; modern ed. 20 vols. (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1975), 110:4119–4120, 4123–4124; Samguk sagi 20:205–22:219 (Yŏngnyu 25–Pojang 25).  15Cf. Jiu Tang shu 5:106; roll 37:1369; roll 84:2792, 2805; roll 109:3294–3295; roll 194A:5167; roll 196A:5223–5224; Xin Tang shu 3:75–76; roll 4:84, 86, 89; roll 76:3478; roll 93:3823–3824; roll 106:4052–4053; roll 108:4082–4083, 4088–4089; Taiping guangji 太平廣記 [Expanded tales of the Taiping Era], 500 rolls; comp. Li Fang 李昉 (925–996) in 977 and 978; modern edition ed. Wang Shaoying 汪紹楹 , 5 vols. (Taipei: Wenshizhe Chubanshe, 1985), 143:1024–1025 (Huochi Changzhi 黑齒常之); roll 185:1385 (Pei Xingjian 裴行儉); roll 250:1940 (Zhang Wencheng 張文成).  16Cf. Xin Tang shu 220:6206–6207 (Xinluo).  17For instance, the Xin Tang shu reports, “Silla, a distant offspring of Pyŏnhan, resides in the land of the Lelang [commandery] of the Han period. Crosswise it is 1,000 li and lengthwise 3,000 li. To the east it wards against the [land of the] Tall People, to the southeast Japan, to the west Paekche, and to the north Ko[gu]ryŏ.” Xin Tang shu 220:2602. The “land of the Tall People” is an example of spurious information that entered into the work. No land of Tall People is mentioned in the Jiu Tang shu, see Jiu Tang shu 199A:5334–5339.  18For a brief but insightful treatment of Ouyang Xiu’s historiography, see On Cho Ng, and Q. Edward Wang, Mirroring the Past: The Writing and Use of History in Imperial China (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2005), 136–147.  19See, for instance, Peter K. Bol, “Government, Society and State: On the Political Visions of Ssu-Ma Kuang and Wang an-Shih,” in Ordering the World: Approaches to State and Society in Sung Dynasty China, ed. Robert Hymes and Conrad Schirokauer (Berkeley and Los Angeles, Calif.: University of California Press, 1993), 128–192; Ari Daniel Levine, “Terms of Estrangement: Factional Discourse in the Early Huizong Reign, 1100–1104,” in Emperor Huizong and Late Northern Song China: The Politics of Culture and the Culture of Politics, ed. Patricia Buckley Ebrey and Maggie Bickford (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Asia Center, 2006), 131–171, esp. 149–170.  20William H. Nienhauser, Jr., “Tales of the Chancellor(s): The Grand Scribe’s Unfinished Business,” Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews 25 (December 2003): 99–107, esp. 100–101.  21Nienhauser, “Tales of the Chancellor(s),” 101.


    What are the sources of the biography of Kim Yusin and how is the biography related to the “Basic Annals of Silla” and other sources? Before we launch into this topic, some background would be apropos. During China’s medieval period (ca. 317–907), the writing of biographies in East Asia entered a new phase of creative development, which must be seen as concomitant with the social, philosophical, religious, and literary changes that swept across East Asia during the Northern and Southern Dynasties period with the adoption and adaptation of Buddhism. Scholars have suggested that the individuality of man, not categories or types, was particularly noteworthy, and that uniqueness of character was more prized than conventional virtue. During this time period, many types of biographies were produced. Although many were still called “biographies” or “memoirs” (chŏn, Ch. zhuan 傳), many other designations made their appearance, such as “narration” (, Ch. xu 敍), “words and deeds” (ŏnhaeng, Ch. yanxing 言行), “family traditions” (kajŏn, Ch. jiazhuan 家傳), “account of conduct” (haengjang, Ch. xingzhuang 行状), and “basic affairs” (ponsa, Ch. benshi 本事). The most widely used title, which was probably an invention of the medieval period, is “separate biography” (pyŏlchŏn, Ch. Biezhuan 別傳). Because so many “separate biographies” and “accounts of conduct” exist from the Chinese medieval period, there has been much scholarly debate on the meanings of the terms. Scholars once thought that “separate biographies” meant “other biographies,” so when a person already had a biography in a dynastic history, another biography about him would be called a “separate biography” that was somehow less approved and less accurate. However, the opposite is probably the case because the compilers of dynastic histories often copied passages verbatim from extant “separate biographies.”22

    This also appears to be the case in early Korea. Several separate biographies and accounts of conduct existed by the middle of the Koryŏ period;23 however, “accounts of conduct” were typically compiled by the offspring, kin, or disciples of a famous individual and were used by officially-commissioned literati to compose the funerary inscription (pimun 碑文). Those accounts of conduct that actually survived to the founding of the succeeding dynasty could have been used in the compilation of the person’s official biography contained in the dynastic history. For instance, from the inscription on the funerary stele of Ŭich’ŏn 義天 (1055–1011), which was also composed by Kim Pusik, we know that the Chief Saṃgha Overseer (tosŭngt’ong 都僧統) Chingŏm,24 who was Ŭich’ŏn’s nephew, and other disciples, organized a detailed account of conduct, and submitted a memorial to the throne requesting that a funerary stele be erected for Ŭich’ŏn. The Koryŏ king then gave Kim Pusik the account of conduct and charged him with the responsibility of composing the official stele inscription.25

    Kim Pusik’s primary sources for his biography of Kim Yusin date from this medieval period, and consist of a stele and an account of conduct that may have been the source for the stele inscription. Pusik cites the now-lost “Yusin pi” 庾信碑 (Stele of Kim Yusin) twice in the first chapter of the biography as his source for the statement that Yusin’s ancestor, Kim Suro 金首露 (trad., 42–199 C . E .), founder of the Karak 駕洛 kingdom, was “the heir of Xuanyuan 軒轅 (viz. the Yellow Emperor) and the eldest son of Shaohao 少昊 ,” and the source for a variant written form of the name of his father, Kim Sŏhyŏn 金舒玄 : sop’an 蘇判 (rank 3) Kim Soyŏn 金逍衍.26 At the end of the “Basic Annals of Paekche” (Paekche pon’gi 百濟本紀), Pusik alludes to this same anecdote about Shaohao and, in an interlinear note, reports, “This tradition appears in the text of the ‘Kim Yusin pi’ 金庾信碑 (Stele of Kim Yusin) composed by the Erudite of the School for the Sons of State (kukcha paksa 國子博士) Sŏl Insŏn 薛因宣 of Silla.”27 Sŏl Insŏn, who was probably a head-rank-six elite because his surname was the same as other head-rank-six elites such as Sŏl Kyedu 薛罽頭 (fl. 621) and Sŏl Ch’ong 薛聰 (ca. 660–730), is otherwise unknown. Jonathan Best suggests that he might have been a Silla official during the late seventh century, although I speculate that he might have lived even as late as the mid-to-late eighth century, if the stele was based on an account of conduct.28 The title School for the Sons of State (kukcha[hak] 國子[學]) is apparently anachronistic, because it is not otherwise found in the Samguk sagi. It is a Tang and Koryŏ term applied retrospectively to Silla’s State Academy (kukhak 國學), which was first instituted in 682 and which was renamed the Directorate of Education (taehakkam 大學監) during the reign of King Kyŏngdŏk 景德 (r. 742–765).29

    Pusik’s brief comments about the account of conduct are very instructive regarding the way scholars who enjoyed the favor of the court and the responsibility for crafting historical narratives interpreted unofficial biographies: “Yusin’s great-grandson, Gentleman of the Chancellery (chipsarang 執事郞) of Silla, Changch’ŏng 長淸 , wrote Yusin’s Account of Conduct (haengnonk 行錄), in tell rolls, while he traversed the mundane world. So many were the fomented words that it had to be cut and reduced. I chose those things which were worth writing and made them his biography.”30

    Thus, one of the two key primary sources for Kim Yusin’s biography is Kim Changch’ŏng’s Account of Conduct of Kim Yusin, which was originally comprised of ten rolls or chapters. Kim Changch’ŏng probably lived in the eighth century, considering that Yusin’s legitimate grandson Yunjang 允 中 served in the government of King Sŏngdŏk 聖德 (r. 702–737) and became a taeach’an (rank 5).31 Kim Pusik said that the account of conduct was too wordy, so he selected only those things that were “worth writing”—does he mean worth remembering or preserving, or were not too fanciful?—and made them his biography. Here one may speculate about the possible influence of Ouyang Xiu on Kim Pusik’s work. How much of Kim Changch’ŏng’s work is preserved in Kim Pusik’s biography? Considering that the parallel prose style (pyŏllyŏmun, Ch. pianliwen 騈儷文) was popular and dominant in Tang China until at least the ninth century, Kim Yusin’s original Account of Conduct was probably written in this style. However, because the biography of Kim Yusin is written primarily in the “old style” prose (komun, Ch. guwen 古文) that was championed by Han Yu 韓愈 (768–824) and other literary figures in the late Tang period and early Song period, Kim Pusik probably completely rewrote or at least highly edited Kim Changch’ŏng work.

    Granted that Kim Pusik had access to limited materials for his history of the Three Kingdoms, he was concerned about conflicting sources.32 He appears to have been influenced by the model of Sima Guang’s Kaoyi 考異 (Examination of Divergences), which accompanied his massive Zizhi tongjian and explained the reasons for his editorial choices when his sources conflicted. Rather than creating a separate text, however, Kim Pusik included the evidence in interlinear notes. Including such variant evidence in a “standard history” was not common and appears to be an innovation. Although John Jamieson concludes that such citations are more an exception than the rule, Kim Pusik does cite the Zizhi tongjian more than sixty times. Although we know too little about the twelfth century context in Koryŏ and the actual sources available to Pusik, this appears to be something of a methodological advance and is worthy of some praise.33

    Kim Pusik’s historical evaluation (non wal 論曰 ; viz. saron 史論) makes a confusing statement regarding sources for Kim Yusin’s biography: “Although he [Yusin] had the wisdom and cunning of Ŭlchi Mundŏk and the fealty and courage of Chang Pogo, if it were not for the Chinese books, then he would have disappeared without a trace and we would not have heard of him.”34 What Chinese books could Pusik be referring to? No extant Chinese sources from the Tang period or the Song period mention Kim Yusin by name. In fact, Kim Yusin’s role and the putative honors bestowed on him by the Chinese court are completely missing from extant Chinese materials. Some scholars have speculated that the sketchy nature of both of the Tang dynastic histories regarding the aftermath of their allied conquests of Paekche and Koguryŏ reflects Chinese embarrassment at their inability to subdue the peoples of the peninsula and integrate them into the Tang imperial order.35 Nevertheless, Kim Yusin’s name must have been known to Chinese military leaders of the time because the Tongmunsŏn 東文選 (Anthology of Korean Literature), first compiled by Sŏ Kŏjŏng 徐居正 (1420–1488) in 1478, preserves a letter written in response to the Tang Area Commander-in-chief Xue Rengui 薛仁貴 , which refers to Kim Yusin as the Area Commander-in-chief of Yangha Circuit (Yanghado ch’onggwan 兩河道摠管) in the context of discussing how best to attack the Koguryŏ capital of P’yongyang.36 Significantly, however, Yusin is never mentioned as having this title in his biography in the Samguk sagi. Perhaps Pusik had access to letters from Chinese leaders that are no longer extant, but Yusin is completely absent from the sources frequently cited by Pusik in the “Basic Annals of Silla,” such as the Cefu yuangui 冊府元龜 (Outstanding Models from the Storehouse of Literature), which was edited by Wang Qinruo 王欽若 and others and first completed in 1013, and Sima Guang’s Zizhi tongjian.

    In this context, another question that needs to be addressed is: How is Kim Yusin’s biography related to the “Basic Annals of Silla” and other sources? The simple answer is that although Kim Yusin’s biography takes place during the same time period as the most detailed reigns recorded in the “Basic Annals of Silla,” those of kings Taejong Muyŏl and Munmu, it presents different information that provides nuance to the annalistic narrative.37 In other words, Kim Yusin’s biography does not repeat much information already presented in the annals. One reason the reigns of Muyŏl and Munmu are so detailed is because the “Basic Annals” include more detailed discussions of the conquest of Paekche, the subjugation of Koguryŏ, and correspondence between the Tang Chinese and Silla courts. The texts of these missives and letters were probably edited by Kim Pusik to conform to the literary style of the Samguk sagi. Kim Yusin’s biography supplements the annals by providing anecdotal material that supports the Silla conquest and shows that Heaven (ch’ŏn, Ch. tian 天) was closely involved in the life of Kim Yusin and the establishment of the expanded Silla state.

    22Shih-Hsiang Chen, “Review Article: An Innovation in Chinese Biographical Writing,” The Far Eastern Quarterly 13, no. 1 (November 1953): 49–62, esp. 51–52.  23“Separate biographies” are mentioned five times in the Samguk yusa. Iryŏn refers to a separate biography to provide details regarding the amount of gold used to make the sixteen-foot image of Śākyamuni that was placed in Hwangnyong Monastery 皇龍寺 . I use the Taishō shinshū dai zōkyō 大正新修大藏經 [Taishō edition of the Buddhist canon], ed. Takakasu Junjirō 高楠順次郎 , et al., 100 vols. (Tokyo: Taishō Issaikyō Kankōkai, 1924–1932[–1935]) (hereafter T) edition of the Samguk yusa 3, T 2039, 49.990a23. A separate biography also provides the details regarding Puryeryang 夫禮郎 and the magical lute and flute (kŭm chŏk 琴笛), which suggests it might have been a separate biography of the hwarang Puryerang; see Samguk yusa 3, T 2039, 49.992c19, 993a15. Finally, a separate biography, probably of noble monk Chajang 慈藏 (d. ca. 655), provides the details for Iryŏn’s account of “Fifty-thousand Dharma bodies on Mt. Odae” (Odaesan oman chinsin 臺山五萬真身); see Samguk yusa 3, T 2039, 49.998c7–8, c10. There was an Account of Conduct of Master Wŏnhyo (Hyosa haengjang 曉師行狀) as well as a Basic Biography of Ŭisang (ponjŏn 本傳), which were composed by Ch’oe Ch’iwŏn; see Samguk yusa 4, T 2039, 49.1006a19, a28, c6. There was also an account of conduct of Poyang 寶壤 ; see Samguk yusa 4, T 2039, 49.1003c27. Kyunyŏ had access to an account of conduct of Zhiyan as well as a Pusŏk chonja chŏn 浮石尊者傳 [The life of the Reverend Pusŏk]. The Pusŏk chonja chŏn was a biography on the life of Ŭisang composed by Ch’oe Ch’iwon 崔致遠 (857–d. after 908). Although the full text has not been preserved, a part of the contents seem be found in the “The Basic Biography by Marquis Ch’oe” (Ch’oe hu ponjŏn 崔侯本傳) that appears in the “Ŭisang Transmits the Teaching” (Ŭisang chŏn’gyo 義湘傳敎) section in chapter four of the Samguk yusa 三國遺事 [Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms]. Because the biography is also listed in Ŭich’ŏn’s Sinp’yŏn chejong kyojang ch’ongnok 新編諸宗敎藏總錄 [Newly revised catalog of the canon of all the doctrinal teachings], see Han’guk Pulgyo chŏnsŏ 韓國佛教全書 [Complete works of Korean Buddhism], 12 vols. (Seoul: Tongguk Taehakkyo Ch’ulpansa, 1979[– 2000]) (hereafter HPC), 4.682b, we know that it circulated at that time. Ch’oe Ch’iwon, who had a profound and deep affinity with Buddhism even while being a Confucian scholar, wrote works related to Buddhism, such as the Stele Inscriptions on the Four Mountains (Sasan pimyŏng 四山碑銘), records (ki 記), vow-texts (wŏn’gi 願記), and eulogies (ch’an 讚), as well as biographies of Buddhist monks, such as Sŏk Sunŭng chŏn 釋順應傳 [The life of Sŏk Sunŭng], Sŏk Ijŏng chŏn 釋利貞傳 [The life of Sŏk Ijŏng], Pusŏk chonja chŏn, and Pŏpchang hwasang chŏn 法藏和尙傳 [The life of the Upādhyāya Fazang]. Among these, the Pŏpchang hwasang chŏn was written in 904, after Ch’oe Ch’iwon went into retirement at Haein Monastery. The Pusŏk chonja chŏn seems to have been written before the Pŏpchang hwasang chŏn; see Ilsŭng pŏpkye to wŏnt’ong ki 一乘法界圖圓通記 1, HPC 4.1a17–18, b13–14. The Sŏk Ijŏng chŏn appears to have endured to the early Chosŏn period. See also Sinjŭng Tongguk yŏji sŭngnam 新增東國輿地勝覽 [Augmented survey of Korean geography], 55 rolls, originally Tongguk yŏji sŭngnam 新增東國輿地勝覽 [Survey of Korean geography], 50 rolls, compiled by No Sasin 廬思愼 (1427–98) et al., between 1445–1481; revised by Kim Chongjik 金宗直 et al. in 1530–1531; photolithographic reprint (Seoul: Myŏngmundang, 1959; rpt. 1981), 29:26a6 (Kyŏngsangdo 慶尙道 , Koryŏnghyŏn 高靈縣).  24Chingŏm 澄嚴 (State Preceptor Wŏnmyŏng 圓明 , 1090–1141) was the fourth son of Sukchong, Chinggil 澄吉 , who received the tonsure at Hŭngwang Monastery from his uncle Ŭich’ŏn at the tender age of eight se and later received the full monastic precepts at Puril Monastery. Like Ŭich’ŏn he was raised to the rank of Saṃgha overseer at the young age of sixteen se—being called Saṃgha Overseer Pokse (Pokse sŭngt’ong 福世僧統)—and became the chief Saṃgha overseer of the five teachings (ogyo tosŭngt’ong 五敎都僧統) in 1122. Chingŏm was closely affiliated with both the Hwaŏm and Ch’ŏnt’ae traditions and a funerary epitaph for him is preserved at Hŭngwang Monastery. See “Hŭngwangsa Wŏnmyŏng kuksa myoji” 興王寺圓明國師墓誌 , in Chōsen kinseki sōran 朝鮮金石聰覽 [Comprehensive collection of Korean epigraphy]; modern compilation ed. Chōsen Sōtōkufu 朝鮮聰督府 [Japanese Colonial Administration of Korea], 2 vols. (Keijō (Seoul): Chōsen Sōtōkufu, 1919), 1.342–344.  25Taegak kuksa oejip 12, HPC 4.590c4–7.  26Samguk sagi 41:404 (Kim Yusin, sang).  27Samguk sagi 28:268 (non).  28Best, A History of the Early Korean Kingdom of Paekche, 414 n. 120.  29Samguk sagi 38:380–381 (t’aehak).  30Samguk sagi 43:420 (Kim Yusin, ha).  31Samguk sagi 43:419 (Kim Yusin, ha). For a discussion of Kim Changch’ŏng intended for a more popular audience, see Yi Kibaek 李基白 , “Kim Taemun kwa Kim Changch’ŏng” 金大問과 金長淸 [Kim Taemun and Kim Changch’ŏng], Han’guksa simin kangjwa 韓國史市民講座 1 (1987): 92–115.  32See, for instance, Samguk sagi 41:407 (Kim Yusin, sang).  33Jamieson, “The Samguk Sagi and the Unification Wars,” 12–13.  34Samguk sagi 43:420 (Kim Yusin, ha).  35Jamieson, “The Samguk Sagi and the Unification Wars,” 68–78; Jamieson, “Collapse of the T’ang Silla Alliance: Chinese and Korean Accounts Compared,” in “Nothing Concealed”: Essays in Honor of Liu-Yü-yün, ed. Frederic Wakeman, Jr. (Taipei: Ch’eng-wen ch’u-pan-she, 1970), 81–94.  36“Tap Tang Sŏl ch’onggwan In’gwi sŏ” 答唐薛揔管仁貴書 , in Tongmunsŏn 57.  37For a brief treatment of information about Kim Yusin in the basic annals of Silla, see An Yŏnghun, Kim Yusin chŏn yŏn’gu, 39–48.


    The biography of Kim Yusin is a typical example of a “basic biography,” an account that follows the career of an individual from his ancestry to his descendants. In Chinese historiographical materials, such biographies usually follow an individual throughout his professional career in government and report all of his official titles. Although this is also true for the case of Kim Yusin’s biography, Kim Pusik emphasizes the divine marvels that attend his birth, his service as a hwarang 花郞 (flower boy) when he was a youth, and strange occurrences at his grave after his death (see Appendix 2 for a detailed outline of the biography). In some sense, the narrative of Kim Yusin’s adult service in Silla’s military and government are encased in anecdotes and narratives attesting to his close connection to and understanding of Heaven and the will of Heaven. Pak Taebok previously analyzed the concept of Heaven as it appears in the biography of Kim Yusin. He surveyed the concept of Heaven from the perspectives of myth, history, and ethics. Pak suggests that the divine marvels that attended Yusin’s life attest to the idea that Yusin’s actions were ordained by Heaven.38 Building on Pak’s results, I believe that we can find evidence of a more pervasive theme crafted by Kim Pusik into the biography of Kim Yusin: the divine marvels that attended the life of Kim Yusin, combined with the language and knowledge of the Chinese classics that are placed in the mouths of Yusin and other figures in his life, are confirmation that Silla is a “land of Confucian gentlemen.”

    38Pak Taebok, “Kim Yusin yŏlchŏn ŭi ch’ŏn kwannyŏm yŏn’gu,” 119.


    First, we will examine the narratives surrounding Yusin’s birth. As mentioned previously, Pusik cites the “Yusin’s stele” as the source for his statement about Yusin’s being a descendent of Kim Suro, who himself was the heir of the Yellow Emperor (Huangdi 黃帝 , trad. r. 2697–2597 B.C.E.) through his eldest son Shaohao Jintian 少昊金天 (Kor. Soho Kŭmch’ŏn, trad. r. 2597–2513 B.C.E.). Shaohao is a figure from the legendary period of Chinese history, a descendent of the Yellow Emperor whose given name was Ji 擊 (Kor. Kyŏk) and, because he became king due to his “golden virtue” (jinde 金德), he was called Jintian shi 金天氏 (Kor. Kŭmch’ŏn ssi; Master Golden Heaven).39 This anecdote suggests something about how Korean elites claimed legitimacy for their descent groups by linking them to the Sinitic mythology of high antiquity. This anecdote functions doubly to explain the reason for Kim’s being the surname of the royal family of the Karak state of Kŭmgwan Kaya 金官伽倻 and suggests the close connection between Kim Yusin and Heaven.

    The story of the elopement of Yusin’s parents, Kim Sŏhyŏn and Kim Manmyŏng 金萬明 , further develops the theme of divine marvels attending the life of Yusin. Sŏhyŏn and Manmyŏng fell in love at first sight and had intimate relations without the approval of her father Sukhŏlchong 肅訖宗 , who was the son of the kalmunwang 葛文王 Ipchong 立宗 . Because Sŏhyŏn was appointed governor of Manno Commandery 萬弩郡, present-day Chinch’ŏn County in North Ch’ungch’ŏng Province, she sought to go there with him. Her father despised her for disobedience and put her in guarded solitary confinement. However, suddenly thunder shook the room, the guards were frightened away, and Manmyŏng escaped and caught up with her lover. Thus, Heaven enabled Yusin’s parents to be reunited. Furthermore, Heaven granted dreams to Sŏhyŏn and Manmyŏng prior to Yusin’s conception. Sŏhyŏn dreamed that the two stars Mars and Saturn both descended during the night of the kyŏngjin day 庚 辰 . Manmyŏng dreamt she saw a boy-child, wearing a metal breastplate and riding a cloud, enter into the hall of their house. The armored boy “sought her out and she became pregnant. Twenty months later she gave birth to Yusin.”40 Like the Chinese sages of antiquity, the prolonged length of Yusin’s gestation period is a sign of his exceptional nature. The sage-king Yao 堯 , for instance, was born after a fourteen-month gestation period, which suggests that Yusin will be the equal of, if not superior to, the sage-rulers of Chinese antiquity.

    Kim Pusik explains the significance of Yusin’s name by placing a random detail from the Li ji 禮記 (Record of Rites) in the mouth of Kim Sŏhyŏn. Sŏhyŏn apparently wanted to name his son after the name of the day he saw Mars and Saturn descend, but because the Record of Rites says, “Do not name people according to the solar and lunar positions,”41 he reportedly replaced the kyŏng 庚 character with yu 庾 because they resemble each other, and the chin 辰 logograph with sin 信 because they sound similar.

    After the well-known anecdote regarding Yusin’s going to Chungak 中岳 (Central Peak), his encounter with the being Nansŭng 難勝 (Difficult to Conquer), and his receiving a secret ritual procedure (pibŏp 秘法),42 Kim Pusik alludes to two other anecdotes regarding gifts from Heaven. Perhaps because these accounts are parallel in idea to the foregoing story of Yusin’s going to Chungak to pray for help against the invasions and depredations of Koguryŏ and Paekche, Pusik merely alludes to Yusin’s obtaining a precious sword and entering into the Yŏlbak Mountains 咽薄山 (sometimes read Inbak).

    Legends that persisted into or circulated in the late Koryŏ and early Chosŏn period may preserve something more of stories about the precious sword and his experiences in the Yŏlbak Mountains that might have been further developed in Kim Changch’ŏng’s Account of Conduct. Although Kim Pusik refers to a precious sword, the Sinjŭng Tongguk yŏji sŭngnam 新增東國輿地勝覽 (Augmented Survey of Korean Geography, first compiled between 1445 and 1481, and revised 1530– 1531) refers to a divine sword.

    Some scholars have conflated the story of Yusin’s receiving a method or technique to benefit his country on Chungak with his receiving a precious sword or a divine sword on Mt. Tansŏk.47 However, pre-modern writers did not seem to have a problem distinguishing three different locations associated with Yusin’s praying for instructions and techniques and receiving special swords. Although the Samguk sagi does not preserve the location where Yusin received his divine sword, Mt. Tansŏk, it does refer to the place where he took it Mt. Yŏlbak, and prayed for more instructions from Heaven, which Kim Pusik described above. The received recension of the Sinjŭng Tongguk yŏji sŭngnam alludes to this story as follows:

    Uncanny celestial phenomena and marvels attended the death of Yusin as well. In the spring of 673, the biography reports that a bewitching star appeared and the earth quaked. Silla king Munmu was worried about it, but Yusin came before the king and said, “The present transmutation is that misfortune will befall me, your old minister. It is not a calamity of the state or royal clan. Your majesty, I beg thee not to be worried.” The king was still anxious and commanded the authorities to “chant and exorcise his brooding heart.” In summer, the sixth month, people thought they saw scores of men dressed in armor and bearing weapons depart from Yusin’s house weeping. They seemed to be there and then suddenly disappeared. When Yusin heard it, he said, “These must certainly be the occult forces (ŭmbyŏng 陰兵) that have been protecting me. Seeing that my good fortune is exhausted they were, for that reason, departing. I will be dying soon!” About ten days later he contracted an illness while sleeping.49 Yusin passed away later that summer.

    At the conclusion of Kim Yusin’s biography, before Kim Pusik’s historical evaluation, Pusik presents one final supernatural narrative:

    In this way, the entire biography of Kim Yusin and his descendants is encased by divine marvels. Although the Samguk sagi does not specify the reason or reasons for the supernatural disturbances, the Samguk yusa provides a much more detailed narrative explaining the significance of the whirlwind and suggests a reason for the unease of Yusin’s earth-dwelling spirit: The whirlwind was the ghost of Yusin leading his patrol of spirit warriors. The spirit of Yusin entered the tomb of Silla king Mich’u to complain that one of his descendants was executed guiltlessly in 771 and that the Silla court had forgotten his accomplishments, and to submit a request for his spirit to move to another place. The ghost of King Mich’u, however, rejected his request three times, and the ghost of Kim Yusin returned to his tomb. The Silla king then approved a gift of thirty plots to be given to Ch’wisŏn Monastery.51

    39Shangshu xu 尙書 序 : 6b, in Chongkan Songben Shisanjing zhushu: fu jiaokan ji 重刋宋本十三經注疏: 附校勘記 (Shanghai: Jinzhang tushuguan, 1932).  40Samguk sagi 41:404 (Kim Yusin, sang).  41Li ji 禮記 , “Qu li shang pien” 曲禮 上篇 . The passage reports that according to the appropriate method for choosing names, people should not be named for (1) the names of states (guoming 國名), (2) the solar and lunar positions (ri yue ming 日月名), (3) the names of ailments one would keep to oneself or sexually transmitted diseases (yinzhi ming 隱疾名), and (4) the names of mountains and rivers (shan chuan ming 山川名).  42This anecdote is rife with interpretive possibilities and connections to Buddhism, the cult of Maitreya, and other aspects of Buddhist cosmology. For some more detailed analysis, which is beyond the scope of this paper, see Pak Taebok, “Kim Yusin yŏlchŏn ŭi ch’ŏn kwannyŏm yŏn’gu,” 124–128; and Richard D. McBride II, “Silla Buddhism and the Hwarang,” Korean Studies 34 (2010): 54–89, esp. 61–63.  43The twenty-ninth year of the Kŏnbok 建福 reign period is generally believed to correspond to the renshen 壬申 year, the eight year of the Daye 大業 reign period of the Sui dynasty. This year corresponds to February 7, 612–January 26, 613. See Xue Zhongsan 薛仲三 , Liangqiannian Zhong-Xi li duizhao biao 兩千年中西曆對照表 [A Sino-Western calendar for two thousand years], revised edition (Beijing: Shangwu yinshuguan chuban, 1957; rpt, Taipei: Xuehai chubanshe, 1993), 123.  44The celestial official (ch’ŏn’gwan, Ch. Tianguan 天官) refers to a great star among stars. In Sima Guan’s Shiji, a note in drawing information from the Suoyin 索 隱 says that in the celestial patterns there are five officials (wuguan 五官), and “official” (guan 官) refers to an “official of an asterism” (xingguan 星官). This is called the celestial official (tian’guan) in the sense that it is like an official rank (guanwei 官位) in the sense of the exalted and abased among people. See Shiji 27:1289 (Tianguan shu 天官書). Another theory on the meaning of celestial official was proposed by Yi Pyŏngdo 李丙燾 , who alluded to the three official gods (sanguanshen 三官神) in Daoism: the official of heaven (tian’guan), the official of earth (diguan 地官), and the official of water (shuiguan 水官). See Yi, trans., Kugyŏk Samguk sagi 國譯三國史記 [Annotated translation of the History of the Three Kingdoms] (Seoul: Ŭryu Munhwasa, 1977), 617.  45Samguk sagi 41:405 (Kim Yusin, sang).  46Sinjŭng Tongguk yŏji sŭngnam 21:7b2–4 (Kyŏngsangdo, Kyŏngjubu, Tansŏksan 斷石山).  47On the theory that Chungak is Mt. Tansŏk see Chŏng Yŏngho 鄭永鎬 , “Kim Yusin ŭi Paekche kongyangno yŏn’gu” 金庾信의 百濟攻略路 硏究 [Research on Kim Yusin’s roads for invading Paekche], Sahakchi 史學誌 6 (1972): 31–32; and Kim Sanggi 金庠基 , “Hwarang kwa Mirŭk sinang e taehayŏ” 花郞과 彌勒信仰에 對하여 [On the hwarang and the Maitreya cult], in Yi Hongjik Paksa hoegap kinyŏm Han’guk sahak nonch’ ong 李弘植博士甲回紀念韓國史學論叢 [Festschrift on Korean history in commemoration of the sixtieth birthday of Dr. Yi Hongjik], comp. Yi Hongjik Paksa Hoegap Kinyŏm Munjip Kanhaeng Wiwŏnhoe 李弘植博士甲回紀念文集干行委員會 [Committee for the publication of festschrift in commemoration of the sixtieth birthday of Dr. Yi Hongjik] (Seoul: Sin’gu Munhwasa, 1969), 3–12, esp. 7–9.  48Sinjŭng Tongguk yŏji sŭngnam 21:7b5–6 (Kyŏngsangdo, Kyŏngjubu, Yŏlbaksan 咽薄山).  49Samguk sagi 43:417 (Kim Yusin, ha).  50Samguk sagi 43:419–420 (Kim Yusin, ha).  51Samguk yusa 1, T 2039, 49.966b14–29 (Mich’uwang Chugyŏpkun); for a translation and discussion see McBride, “Hidden Agendas in the Life Writings of Kim Yusin,” 133–135.


    In a number of anecdotes, Kim Pusik portrays Silla as a “land of Confucian gentlemen” by having Kim Yusin act in ways reminiscent of great sages in Chinese legend. For instance, Kim Yusin became a sop’an (rank 3) and a generalissimo (sang changgun 上將軍) in 644, and was ordered to attack seven Paekche fortresses, which he overcame magnificently. While he was returning home from his victories, Paekche executed a counteroffensive and attacked Silla’s Maerip’o Fortress 買利浦城 . Queen Sŏndŏk 善德 (r. 632–647) commissioned Yusin as General of Sang Region (Sangju changgun 上州將軍) and commanded him to put down the invasion. Then, reminiscent of the legendary Chinese ruler Yu the Great (Da Yu 大禹 , ca. 2200–2100 B.C.E.), who passed by the gate of his home at least three times and did not stop to visit his family when he travelled around the Central Plain in northern China for thirteen years fixing dikes and draining off water after the great flood,52 Pusik says that Yusin “did not even see his wife or his son.” He soon thereafter executed a counter-strike on the Paekche forces and made them flee.

    In the third lunar month (April 2–30, 645), Pusik reports that Yusin received another urgent command from Queen Sŏndŏk. He had not yet even returned home when it was hastily announced that Paekche soldiers had invaded again and set up camp in Silla territory. The queen implored Yusin to not lament over the hardness of his labors and quell the invasion. Now Pusik’s narrative seems to borrow more directly from the stories about Yu the Great:

    Although Yusin is training troops for battle in the Silla capital, passing by his own house daily, like Yu the Great who travelled all around the Chinese realm fixing problems associated with the flood, he did not enter and enjoy the comforts of his own home, but like his attendants suffered the same hardships. Like Yu, he only drank some water and ate a little gruel, acknowledging that all was all right at his home—endearing his underlings, who were suffering from the same separation from home, to him in the process. In this way, Pusik shows Yusin to be a sage lord in this key time in Silla’s history.

    In 647, the last year in the reign of Queen Sŏndŏk, the Senior Grandee (sangdaedŭng 上大等) Pidam 毗曇 and Yŏmjong 廉宗 instigated a revolt against the authority of Queen Sŏndŏk. The rebels occupied Myŏnghwal Fortress 明活城 , in the southeast of the Kyŏngju plain, and made it their headquarters, while the queen’s loyal advisors managed the affairs of state from the palace at Wŏl Fortress 月城 .54 The rebellion was unresolved after ten days of engagements, but in the middle of the night, a large star fell upon Wŏl Fortress. Pidam and his retinue interpreted this as an inauspicious omen for those loyal to the queen, and claimed that her defeat was imminent. Yusin was the chief general among those loyal to Queen Sŏndŏk. Pusik’s narrative portrays Yusin as a master of Confucian, moralistic spin-doctoring, unraveling and clarifying the true significance of portents, and arguing that human virtue triumphs over portents. Pusik shows Yusin to be a master of Chinese history, able to assuage the fears of the queen, by speaking the following:

    In short, whether a state endures or falls is not because auspicious omens or inauspicious omens. The success of kings and countries depends on human virtue. The implication intended by Pusik is that Silla under Queen Sŏndŏk and her successors will prevail because the queen is virtuous. Nonetheless, Yusin uses the superstitious beliefs of the common people and soldiers to subvert the popular interpretation of the omen: he made a pair of effigies, loaded them on kites, lit them on fire, and let them fly. Then he had his followers spread the rumor that the fallen star had returned to heaven, causing the rebel forces to doubt their earlier view.

    Furthermore, Yusin drew upon both Sinitic and nomadic ritual to further cement his control over the interpretation of heavenly signs: “as a symbolic ritual, a white horse was sacrificed on the spot of land where the star fell.”60 This is the only known reference to a white horse sacrifice in Silla history, and is therefore somewhat suspicious. The “Ulchin Pongp’yŏng pi” 蔚珍鳳坪碑 (Pongp’yŏng stele at Ulchin) records the proceedings of an assembly of Silla nobles to decide the fate of subordinated local peoples who had attempted to rebel against Silla rule. After the decision was rendered, representatives of Silla’s six regions sacrificed a spotted cow, brewed barley, and served it to the great men.61

    White horses were sacrificed in a ritual context in China prior to and well into the Han dynasty. For instance, Liu Bang 劉邦 (Han Gaozu 漢高祖 , r. 206–195 B.C.E.) had his merit subjects who received fiefs swear an oath, sanctified by smearing their lips with the blood of a white horse (baimaming 白馬盟), that only individuals of the Liu surname would receive the rank-title of “king” (wang 王). Several records of white horse sacrifices are reported in the Shiji, and the sacrifice of white horses (baimaji 白馬祭) continued in the Chinese Southern Dynasties.62 C. P. Fitzgerald opined that the sacrifice of a white horse was a Turkish custom used to seal treaties.63 In later Northeast Asian history, the sacrifice of a white horse and/or a black ox was used in oath-making.64 In two important Yuan 元 period (1260–1368) blood covenants, a white horse was sacrificed to heaven and a black ox was sacrificed to earth. “One covenant was led by the Maitreyist rebel leader Liu Futong and the other by Zhu Yuanzhang, who later founded the Ming dynasty. In 1448, the Fujian rebel leader Deng Maoqi sacrificed a white horse at the outset of his rebellion and smeared (sha) its blood, to conclude a covenant with the local people. . . The horse was both a sacrifice to Heaven and well-known as the preferred means of transport for messengers to and from Heaven.”65 There are also Indian and Buddhist traditions of horse sacrifice that may have had some influence on the reception of this practice in Central and East Asia.66 Whether Yusin is emulating Chinese custom or demonstrating a proto-Mongolian custom preserved among the people of Silla from early times is immaterial. Both show the use of ritual to formally bind Heaven to preservation of the Silla state. Regardless of true origin of the ritual tradition Yusin followed in sacrificing a white horse, Pusik places language in Yusin’s mouth that strongly supports a Sinitic interpretation of the white horse sacrifice:

    Pusik portrays Yusin as having a clear understanding of proper Confucian political etiquette, and an intuitive understanding of the culture of the Sinitic world. Pusik presents Yusin as a master of political rhetoric and Confucian moralism.

    Remembering that the name Kim Yusin is not found in any extant Chinese source dealing with the state of Silla from either the Tang dynasty or the Song dynasty, after presenting another anecdote about Yusin’s encouraging soldiers to valorous behavior in the face of certain defeat, Pusik presents, for the first time, the idea that Silla is a land of Confucian gentlemen in an anecdote about the famous Tang emperor Taizong 唐太宗 (r. 627–649). He situates the brief anecdote with the background of Kim Ch’unch’u’s failed attempt to solicit military assistance from Koguryŏ in 642, and his subsequent trip to Tang China to request assistance from Tang in 648, in the aftermath of Taizong’s failed attempts to subdue Koguryŏ by invasion in 645 and 647. The significant political result of Kim Ch’unch’u’s diplomatic mission in 648 was Silla’s surrendering of its own reign-era titles and its official adoption of the Tang calendar and Tang court dress: symbolic gestures denoting its acceptance of Tang suzerainty.68 Pusik puts the following exchange as conversation between Tang Taizong and Kim Ch’unch’u, the future T’aejong of Silla, when the latter begged the Tang emperor for soldiers:

    In other words, in Pusik’s crafting of the conversation between Tang Taizong and Kim Ch’unch’u, the presence of someone of Yusin’s caliber in Silla causes him to recognize that Silla is a land of Confucian gentlemen. This anecdote is probably an anachronistic literary concoction by Kim Pusik because there is no known Chinese source that has Taizong speak either of Kim Yusin or call Silla a land of gentlemen. In the Chinese Xin Tang shu, Silla is said to be a land of Confucian gentlemen by a Tang official during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong 玄宗 (r. 712–756), but the context is completely different:

    Thus, in Chinese sources, Xing Shu, the Vice Minister of the Court of State Ceremonial during the reign of Xuanzong, is credited with suggesting that Silla might be called “a country of gentlemen” (junzi guo 君子國) because Silla came to the aid of Tang against Parhae and its nobles are familiar with the Confucian classics. Although Kim Pusik may merely be following Kim Changch’ŏng’s Account of Conduct, he would certainly have known that such statements were not found in official Chinese sources.

    This is, however, not the only time that the image of a “land of Confucian gentlemen” is invoked in Kim Yusin’s biography. The context this time is the aftermath of the Silla-Tang conquest of Paekche and the sack of the capital Sabi 泗沘 . The Samguk sagi strongly suggests that Silla operated in the alliance with the understanding that an earlier agreement between Kim Ch’unch’u (King Muyŏl) and Li Shimin 李世民 (Tang Taizong) would be followed. Silla would control the land south of the Taedong River 大同江 , and Tang would administer the land north after the joint conquest of Koguryŏ.71 Therefore, Silla became concerned when Tang did not evacuate its troops after taking Sabi in the late summer of 660 and secretly schemed to invade Silla. One minister opined that to ascertain the intents of the men of Tang Silla should disguise some troops in Paekche clothing and feign to be insurgents. Yusin was in favor of this plan, but King Muyŏl questioned the morality of attacking their allies, worrying that Heaven would not assist them if they did. Yusin explained Silla’s relationship with Tang as that of a dog loyal to its master, but cautioned, “A dog is scared of its master, and yet if the master steps on its legs it will bite him.”72

    The narrative of Kim Yusin’s biography continues with the men of Tang spying and knowing that Silla had been making some kind of preparations. The Tang forces took the captured Paekche king, ninety-three ministers and officers, and 20,000 soldiers, and on the third day of the ninth month [October 12, 660], they boarded boats at Sabi and returned to Tang China. They left behind Vice Commandant (langjiang 浪將) Liu Renyuan 劉仁願 and others to protect the camp. The Commander-in-chief Su Dingfang had returned to the Tang capital to deliver the prisoners. Tang emperor Gaozong 唐高宗 (r. 649–683) consoled him, “Why did you not follow (my orders) and attack Silla?” Dingfang said, “As for Silla, its lord is benevolent and loves the people. Its ministers are loyal in serving the state and the underlings serve their superiors like fathers and elder brothers. Although [Silla] is small it is not right to plot against it.”73

    Here, the context implies that Gaozong had previously ordered General Su Dingfang to attack and subjugate Silla after the conquest of Paekche. However, Su Dingfang explains to Gaozong that he disobeyed the emperor’s orders because Silla is in all respects a model Confucian state, its ruler is humane and cares for the people, the ministers of state are loyal, and the subordinate strata of people serve their social superiors as they would their fathers and elder brothers. This entire exchange is very different than what is found in the Jiu Tang shu, which merely reports that Gaozong “reprimanded and pardoned him [Dingfang]” (ze er you zhi 責 而 宥 之) after he had presented the prisoners of the Paekche court to the emperor.74

    The last chapter of the biography of Kim Yusin also reports that in 668 Tang emperor Gaozong dispatched the Duke of Yingguo 英國公 , Li Ze 李勣 (583– 669), to conquer Koguryŏ with the assistance of Silla. The allies were successful and Yusin was raised to the rank of t’aedae sŏbalhan 太大舒發翰 (honorary rank higher than rank 1), he was awarded a prebendal fief (sigŏp 食邑) of five hundred households, and other rewards and honors. Gaozong dispatched emissaries to proclaim peace, he sent support troops to assist in mopping up actions, and awarded his generals with gold and silk. Moreover, he gave a command to write a letter of praise to Yusin. The missive putatively decreed that Yusin was to enter the emperor’s court; but Yusin did not act according to it. The imperial decree was reportedly passed down in his family, but it was unfortunately lost when it came down to his fifth generation descendent.75

    Thus, according to the biography, Kim Yusin was to have received high honors from the Tang emperor and report to the imperial court, but he declined and remained a loyal subject of Silla to the end of his days. Yusin’s not accepting the Tang emperor’s invitation to attend him can also be understood as an illustration of the Confucian concept of serving one’s lord with loyalty (ch’ung 忠) or “not serving two masters.”76 Pusik also crafted a suitably appropriate exchange between Yusin and Munmu at the end of his life. When King Munmu came to visit him on his death bed, Yusin is shown to be formally humble, lamenting that he had been unable to measure up to his predecessors. He thanked the king for using him and entrusting him with important tasks without second thought so that he could accumulate a modicum of merit. Yusin then claims, “The Three Han [States] (Samhan 三韓) have become one house and the people are of one heart (lit. “are without two hearts”). Although we have not yet achieved [an era of] Great Peace (t’aep’yŏng 太平) we can also justly call it a small respite (sogang 小康).”77 Then, Pusik has Yusin provide King Munmu with sage advice, encouraging him to:

    Thus, Pusik crafts the narrative presentation of Kim Yusin so that he provides the sage advice necessary for Silla to thrive, to unite the Three Han into one house, and to cause Silla to continue to be regarded as a “land of Confucian gentlemen.”

    52For these famous stories about Yu the Great going back and forth throughout China for thirteen years and his passing by the gate of his house three times and not going in, see Shangshu 尙書 , “Xia shu” 夏書 , “Yugong” 禹貢 , 6:77b, in Chongkan Songben Shisanjing zhushu: fu jiaokan ji 重刋宋本十三經注疏: 附校勘記 (Shanghai: Jinzhang tushuguan, 1932); also see Shiji 2:52 (Xia benji).  53Samguk sagi 41:407 (Kim Yusin, sang).  54The received text of the Samguk sagi uses the term Wŏlsŏng 月城 here and elsewhere. In modern Korea, this place is more commonly called Panwŏlsŏng 半月城 (Half-Moon Fortress).  55Scarlet sparrows (chŏkchak 赤雀) here refer to the Sinitic phoenix or more precisely the fenghuang (ponghwang 鳳凰). In the note to “Wenwang xu” 文王序 in the “Daya bian” 大雅篇 in the Shijing 詩經 , scarlet sparrows are said to be “phoenix’s chicks.” See Shijing 16:531a–533b (Daya bian, “Wenwang xu”), in Chongkan Songben Shisanjing zhushu: fu jiaokan ji.  56The capture of the kirin (hoek rin 獲麟): The kirin 麒麟 (Ch. jilin) is a mythical beast of gentleness and benevolence often mistakenly translated as a unicorn, which is said to appear as an auspicious omen during the reign of a sage-king. The Spring and Autumn Annals (Chunqiu 春秋) reports that in the spring of the fourteenth year of Duke Ai of the state of Lu 魯哀公 , “[The duke] hunted in the west and captured a jilin” ( 西狩獲麟). Confucius sighed that the fortunes of the Zhou dynasty (zhouyun 周運) had deteriorated, and here he put down his brush and ended the Spring and Autumn Annals. See, for instance, Chunqiu Zuoshizhuan 春秋左氏傳 , 59:1030a (Aigong 40), Chongkan Songben Shisanjing zhushu: fu jiaokan ji.  57The cry of the male pheasant (ch’igu 雉雊) is believed to be the harbinger or warning of inauspiciousness and was hence thought to be bad luck. The “Gaozong Rongri bian” 高宗 肜日篇 in the Shu jing 書經 says, “The pheasant sat on the ear of one of the tripods and crowed” ( 雉 至鼎耳而鳴). See Shu jing, 10:142b–143a (Gaozong Rongri bian), in Chongkan Songben Shisanjing zhushu: fu jiaokan ji.  58The dragon’s combat (yongt’u 龍鬪) refers to an event in the state of Zheng 鄭國 during the Spring and Autumn period. When there as a flood in Zheng, dragons were seen to be fighting in the You Pond 洧淵 outside of the Gate of Time (Shimen 時門). When the people of the state asked if they could catch them and tie them up, Zi Chan 子産 did not give permission, saying, “When we fight, dragons do not even cast a glance at us; so when dragons fight should we get involved?” See Chunqiu Zuoshizhuan 春秋左氏傳 , 48:846a (Shaogong 昭公 19), in Chongkan Songben Shisanjing zhushu: fu jiaokan ji.  59Samguk sagi 41:407–408 (Kim Yusin, sang).  60Samguk sagi 41:408 (Kim Yusin, sang).  61For a discussion, see Ch’oe Kwangsik 崔光植 , Kodae Han’guk ŭi kukka wa chesa 고대한국의 국가와 제사 [The ancient Korean state and its rituals] (Seoul: Han’gilsa, 1994), 260–263. In a conversation with the author at the University of California, Los Angeles, in Los Angeles, California, August 23, 1995, Ch’oe speculated that the white horse sacrifice is an import from China because the Pongp’yŏng stele only shows that oxen were sacrificed. He also speculated that it might have been indicative of Silla’s tributary status to Tang or as some way of currying cosmic favor of the Son of Heaven in the eyes of the public.  62Shiji 9:400 (Lu taihou benji); see K. E. Brashier, Ancestral Memory in Early China (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2011), 110. See also Shiji 12:478, n. 5 (Xiaowu 孝武 1); Shiji 30:1497 (Wu Taibo shijia 吳太伯世家) ; Hou Han shu 後漢書 80:2417 (Yuan Shao Liu Biao 袁 紹 劉 表); Sanguo zhi 三國志 30:206 (Donger Yuan Liu zhuan 董二袁 劉 傳); Liang shu 梁書 22:354 (Shixing wangdan 始 興 王 憺); Nan shi 南史 70:1301 (Shixing wangdan).  63See Fitzgerald, Son of Heaven (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1933), 140.  64The Khitans sacrificed a black ox and a white horse to heaven many times. See, for instance, Liao shi 遼史 1:8 (Taizu 7/5); Liao shi 2:21 (Taizu Tianzan 天贊 4); Liao shi 2:22 (Taizu Tianxian 天顯 1); Liao shi 6:78 (Muwang Yelu Jing, Yingli 應曆 13); Liao shi 8:91–92 (Jingzong Yelu Xian, Baoning 保寧 3).  65Barend J. ter Haar, Ritual and Mythology of the Chinese Triads: Creating an Identity (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 1998), 197.  66On the horse sacrifice (aśvamedha) in the Indian context see Wendy Doniger, The Hindus: An Alternative History (New York: Penguin, 2009), 192–193, 234–235, 274–275, 400–402, and passim. The indigenous Chinese Buddhist sūtra, Guanding jing 灌頂經 (Book of Consecration), mentions the religious activities of shamans that delude the gullible. Among several other offerings, the sacrifice of a white ox and white horse as a means of clearing one’s trespass against a mountain god, a tree-spirit, or asterism is mentioned. See Guanding jing 1, T 1333, 21.499a13–17. Michel Strickmann interprets this passage as a mutual Daoist and Buddhist reaction to indigenous practice in fifth-century Jiangnan, China. See Michel Strickmann, “The Consecration Sūtra: A Buddhist Book of Spells,” in Chinese Buddhist Apocrypha, ed. Robert E. Buswell, Jr. (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990), 75–118, esp. 97.  67Samguk sagi 41:408 (Kim Yusin, sang).  68Samguk sagi 5:64 (Chindŏk 2).  69Samguk sagi 41:408 (Kim Yusin, sang).  70Xin Tang shu 220:6204–6205 (Xinluo).  71Samguk sagi 7:87–88 (Munmu 11/7/26); see Noh Tae Don (No T’aedon) 盧泰敦 , Samguk t’ongil chŏnjaengsa 삼국통일전쟁사 [The unification war of the Three Kingdoms], Sŏul Taehakkyo Kyujanggak Han’gukhak Yŏn’guwŏn Yŏn’guch’ongsŏ [Korean Studies Research Monograph Collection of the Kyujanggak at Seoul National University] 30 (Seoul: Sŏul Taehakkyo Ch’ulp’anbu, 2009), 135–146, esp. 141.  72Samguk sagi 42:412 (Kim Yusin, chung).  73Samguk sagi 42:412 (Kim Yusin, chung).  74Jiu Tang shu 4:81 (Gaozong Xianqing 顯慶 5).  75Samguk sagi 43:417 (Kim Yusin, ha).  76See Lunyu (Analects) 1:8, 7:24, 13:29, and others.  77Samguk sagi 43:417 (Kim Yusin, ha).  78Samguk sagi 43:417–418 (Kim Yusin, ha).


    Kim Yusin is one of the most important figures in Silla history, and his threechapter biography in the Samguk sagi, plays a seminal role in the great Koryŏ scholar and statesman Kim Pusik’s rhetorical reification of Silla as the first peninsular kingdom to “unify the Three Han states into one family.” The structure of the Samguk sagi as a whole suggests that Kim Pusik was greatly influenced by Sima Qian’s Shiji because he attempts to treat the three Korean kingdoms of Silla, Koguryŏ, and Paekche in a comprehensive manner, from their origins through Silla’s conquest, and the emergence of enemy states called Later Paekche and Koryŏ in the late ninth century and tenth century, and because he drew upon various kinds of historically reliable and less-reliable sources for both the information in the annals portion and collected biographies. Because the extant Korean epigraphy and historiographical materials available to Kim Pusik in the twelfth century were limited, he utilized Chinese dynastic histories and other Sinitic literature to the fullest extent, particularly in the annals portions. However, 80 percent of the material in the collected biographies section is original in the sense that it cannot be traced to earlier Chinese materials or to information already contained in the annals sections of the Samguk sagi. Kim Pusik’s narrative is terse, and although that conciseness is typically understood as a function of the scarcity of source material, it is also possible that he was influenced by the famed Northern Song historian Ouyang Xiu, who focused on writing tersely and concisely as a matter of style. Kim Pusik’s concern about conflicting sources and variant readings also demonstrates that he was influenced by Sima Guang, the greatest of the Northern Song historians.

    Kim Pusik’s collected biographies section contains examples of the three types of biographies found in standard Chinese histories: the basic biography, the parallel biography, and the categorized biography. The biography of Kim Yusin is a good example of the basic biography type. Pusik refers to two sources for Kim Yusin’s biography: a stele of Kim Yusin, which was composed by the Silla literatus Sŏl Insŏn, who was probably a head-rank-six elite who lived in the eighth century, and an Account of Conduct that was composed by Kim Yusin’s grandson Kim Changch’ŏng, who also probably lived in the eighth century. Kim Pusik drew most of his material from this account of conduct, originally ten rolls in length, and he appears to have edited it stylistically as well as for content. Although Yusin plays a vital role in Silla’s history of this time period, he is not mentioned in Chinese materials related to the war on the peninsula, although Pusik’s biography suggests that such material existed.

    Divine marvels pervade Kim Yusin’s biography, which is essentially a collection of anecdotes and narratives, but they are particularly clustered at the beginning of Yusin’s life and at the end. His ancestry, his parents’ conception dreams, and his prolonged gestation period of twenty months bear witness that Kim Yusin would be no ordinary Silla noble. Because Yusin had a seminal role to play in “unifying the Three Han into one house,” he enjoyed special occult protection and possessed special paraphernalia, such as a precious sword or divine sword, that were symbolic of the protection he received from Heaven along with secret ritual procedures and military strategies. Marvelous events surrounded his death, and his biography closes with a strange spectacle suggesting that Yusin’s spirit guarded Silla in everlasting vigil. These marvels accentuate the principal or essential theme of the Kim Pusik’s biography of Kim Yusin: that Silla is a “land of Confucian gentlemen.” Silla is shown to be a land of Confucian gentlemen because Kim Yusin’s father knows the Record of Rites, Yusin channels the sage-king Yu the Great in his sacrifice of the comfort of his home and family, and Yusin shows himself a master of Confucian moralistic rhetoric as well as the malleability of the interpretation of omens and the symbolic value of Sinitic horse sacrifice.

    Although Kim Pusik has Tang emperor Taizong call Silla “a land of Confucian gentlemen,” this statement was probably first crafted by either Kim Changch’ŏng or Kim Pusik. Regardless, Kim Pusik cultivated this view by fashioning dialogue that portrayed Silla as possessing the qualities of a culturally advanced state ruled by a sage-king. Thus, the core historical material associated with Kim Yusin, which is comprised of narratives developing his close relationship with his brother-in-law Kim Ch’unch’u (King T’aejong Muyŏl) and the peninsular war for the “unification of the Three Han states,” is encased in stories of divine marvels that strongly suggests that the historical memory of Yusin was inseparable from the legends that developed surrounding him by the time the Samguk sagi was compiled.

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