Monday, September 21, 2009

Balhae Kingdom

This is another one of those interesting stories of one culture turning up in another culture area. In this case, we're in Russia, examining a Korean find. Interestingly enough the find is contested by China who has claimed the site part of its own history. To that end there are stories on their considerations of the site here and here
Basic background on the Balhae Kingdom from Wikipedia:

The blue area is the suggested reach of the Gojoseon Kingdom (forerunner of the Balhae Kingdom), though the actual boundaries are not known at this time. The finds discussed here do show that it stretched into Southeast Russia, as well as China and both Koreas.
Balhae (698 – 926)(Bohai in Chinese, Пархэ also Бохай in Russian) was an ancient Korean kingdom established after the fall of Goguryeo. After Goguryeo's capital and southern territories fell to Unified SillaDae Jo-young, a former Goguryeo general, whose father was Dae Jung-sang, established Jin (, Zhen in Chinese), later called Balhae. It was a successor state to Goguryeo.

Balhae occupied southern parts of Manchuria (Northeast China) and Primorsky Krai, and the northern part of the Korean peninsula. It was defeated by the Khitans in 926, and most of its northern territories were absorbed into the Liao Dynasty while the southern parts were absorbed into Goryeo.

The largest "ondol" heating system dating from the Balhae Kingdom has been unearthed in a nearly intact state in Russia's Maritime Province, confirming the kingdom to have been a Korean settlement.

Ondol, literally "warm stone", is an under-floor heating system where flues carry hot gases below the living space. They were a distinct feature of Korean dwellings and are not found in the remains of Chinese, Khitan or Jurchen homes.

The discovery proves not only that Balhae was a successor state to the ancient Korean kingdom of Koguryo, but also defeats the logic of China's recent "Northeast Project", which says Koguryo and Balhae were simply autonomous Chinese frontier districts.

The Koguryo Research Foundation and Russia's Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnology of the People of the Far East, which are conducting joint excavations at a site in the Russian town of Kraskino, announced Thursday they confirmed remains of ondol pipes 14.8 m in length presumed to be from the 10th century, toward the end of the Balhae period.

The trace of the U-shaped ondol pipe which points toward the southwest, is 3.7 m. wide to the west, 6.4 meters to the north and 4.7 meters to the east, and is 1-1.3 m wide. Prof. Evgenia Gelman of Far-Eastern State Technical University, who unearthed the remains, said the discovery clearly showed Balhae to have been a successor state to Koguryo.

A castle-sized mound of the Balhae Kingdom has been unearthed in Primorsky Kray, Russia. The ruins confirm that Balhae (698-926) stretched even to the 45th to 46th parallels and was the indisputable successor to Koguryo (37 B.C.-668 A.D.).

The National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage made the announcement Thursday. From Sept. 3 until Oct. 2 in cooperation with the history, archeology and folklore research center at the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the NRICH excavated the ruins of Pyeongji Castle in the Koksharovka-1 area of the Chuguevskiy rayon district east of Lake Xingkai in the Russian Far East. "In this area, we unearthed lots of relics and large building sites furnished with the 'ondol' floor heating system typical of Balhae," the NRICH said.

The Koksharovka-1 area in the upper reaches of the Ussuri River is 1,645 m long and measures 160,000 sq. m. The castle is well preserved, with the highest point in the ruins being 6 m and the widest point in the castle wall 10 to 14 m. The NRICH said the castle "is decisive evidence refuting the claim of some Russian scholars that Balhae's northernmost border was south of Primorsky Kray."

Chosun Ilbo. 2005. "Heating System Confirms Ancient Kingdom was Korean". The Chosun Ilbo (English Addition). August 25, 2005. Available online:

Chosun Ilbo. 2008. "Balhae Castle Unearthed". The Chosun Ilbo (English Addition). October 17, 2008. Available online:

Picture: Janggoon, Gubook. 2004. "Korean History in a Nutshell". Post #3. China History Forum.
Taken from

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