The Journal of Korean Art and Archaeology

Journal of Korean Art and Archaeology Vol. 9
The Material Culture of the Royal City Identified in the Peripheral Regions of Baekje
Kwon Ohyoung

Seoul National University

Journal of Korean Art & Archaeology 2015, Vol.9 pp.80-92


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ⓒ 2015 National Museum of Korea This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0( which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided that the article is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.


In terms of culture, economy, and politics, the difference between the center and the periphery was significant in ancient times, unlike in modern societies where this gap has been bridged, at least to some extent. The distinction maintained between the individuals of the royal city and those of the local regions can be regarded as a symbolic expression of such difference.

As the ancient Baekje Kingdom (百濟, 18 BCE – 660) grew and various relationships were established between the center and the periphery, individuals or groups from the royal city were dispatched to local regions. A significant amount of “Baekje central-style” ceramic ware has been excavated from mountain fortresses constructed after the respective areas were incorporated into the Baekje territory during the Hanseong Period (漢城時代, 18 BCE – 475), the first phase of Baekje with the capital based in Hanseong, present-day Seoul. By contrast, indigenous types of ceramic ware traditionally used in local regions are predominantly observed in the power bases for the local elite that had acquiesced to Baekje central rule. This indicates that the construction, maintenance, and management of the peripheral mountain fortresses were undertaken by the central Baekje authority, as represented by the wanggyeongin (王京人), or individuals dispatched from the royal city (hereafter “wanggyeongin”) (Jeon Deokjae 2000), who resided mainly in the mountain fortresses and formed the core of the Baekje regional administration.

This situation continued into the Ungjin Period (熊津時代, 475 – 538), the second phase of Baekje with the capital based in Ungjin, presentday Gongju. This paper considers the lives of the wanggyeongin who moved into and resided in the peripheral regions of Baekje by examining material artifacts they left behind. The temporal focus of the study will be the Ungjin Period and Sabi Period (泗沘時代, 538 – 660)—the final phase of Baekje with the capital based in Sabi, present-day Buyeo—since the method of regional control during these periods has received limited academic attention compared to the Hanseong Period. In addition, the spatial focus will be on the Honam (湖南) region (i.e., Jeolla Province). From the Proto-Three Kingdoms Period onward, the eastern region of South Jeolla Province (centered on Yeosu, Suncheon, and Gwangyang) shared many cultural similarities with Byeonhan (弁韓) and then later with the Gaya (加耶) sphere, which lay to the east. Cultural elements of Gaya, particularly those of Aragaya (阿羅加耶), began to be introduced to the region in the fourth century; by the fifth century, the region had been assimilated into Gaya culture to the extent of being acknowledged as part of the Sogaya (小加耶) Confederation. Daegaya (大加耶) based in Goryeong also attempted to bring this region into its sphere of influence. Gaya forces were eventually expelled from the region during the reign of Baekje’s King Muryeong (武寧王, r. 501 – 523) in the early sixth century, when the region became part of the Baekje territory.

It is from this period that Baekje mountain fortresses actively began to be constructed in the eastern region of South Jeolla Province; the locations of these mountain fortresses coincide almost exactly with the core locations of Baekje regional control. In addition, tombs with Baekje grave goods began to appear, indicating rapid assimilation of the region into Baekje society.

Only limited academic discussion has focused on what this assimilation actually entailed. Who was responsible for the construction of the mountain fortresses, which took place in such a concentrated manner over a short period of time? The leaders of local groups that had been incorporated into the Baekje Kingdom, the wanggyeongin who had been dispatched from the Baekje center, or the combined efforts of both? Despite the lack of previous research into this issue, the archaeological material thus far accumulated may help ascertain the actual situation of the time, albeit only partially. This paper identifies the legacy of the wanggyeongin in the Honam region that formed the peripheries of Baekje to examine the process and nature of the assimilation of the region into Baekje society.

Residential culture of the Baekje center

Pillar-wall buildings (壁柱建物)

The dwellings of the Mahan (馬韓)-Baekje sphere of the Proto-Three Kingdoms are represented by two types of pit structures, as categorized by floor shape and entrance structure. The first type of pit dwellings had a pentagonal or hexagonal floor and a separate entrance structure for an access from the side added to the main structure of the house, and predominated in the central region of Korea (i.e., Seoul and Gyeonggi and Gangwon Provinces). The second type were “four-pillar type” (四柱式) houses, which were sunken structures, square in shape, with four pillars; the houses were entered directly from the roof to the house floor below by using a ladder. This type of building was popular in the southwestern region of Korea (i.e., Chungcheong and Jeolla Provinces) (Kim Seungog 2004; Jeong Il 2006).

In the central region of the Korean Peninsula, houses with numerous pillars densely spaced along the side walls have been frequently identified. The pillars were at times found within trenches dug along the walls, which would have facilitated setting up the pillars and the walls that were made of wooden planks, beams, and logs. In this type of house, the pillars that stood in a row—regardless of whether or not there was a trench—acted as walls and supported the weight of the roof.

This type of building developed into the pillarwall structure that newly appeared in the Baekje center. The basic principle of pillar-wall building construction may have emerged during the Hanseong Period or the Proto-Three Kingdoms Period (原三國時代) (Kwon Ohyoung 2013); even so, most dwellings from the Hanseong Period took the form of a sunken structure. As above-ground dwelling floors appeared during the Ungjin Period, pillar-wall buildings became popular in the areas of Gongju, Buyeo, and Iksan, and were subsequently introduced into the Kinki (近畿) region of Japan.

Sites with pillar-wall buildings identified in Gongju include Gong Mountain Fortress (公山城), which is located within the boundaries of the capital city of Ungjin, and the sites of Mt. Jeongji (Fig. 1), Sanseong-dong, and Anyeong-ri. In Buyeo, many such sites have been discovered both inside and outside the boundaries of Sabi, the capital city. In Iksan, pillar-wall buildings have been identified at the sites of Sindong-ri and Sadeok. Given that Iksan paralleled Buyeo in status during the Sabi Period, it is estimated that pillar-wall buildings were concentrated at Baekje capital sites and others of similar status.


Fig. 1. Pillar-wall building at Mt. Jeongji (Photograph by Lee Hansang)

Some researchers consider the presence of a trench to be a requirement for a pillar-wall building (Aoyagi Taisuke 2002). However, a broader, alternative definition of this building type can be proposed as a “single-storied, square or rectangular structure set above ground in which the superstructure is supported solely by walls consisting of densely spaced pillars that are sometimes set within a trench.” According to this definition, structures without trenches can be categorized as Type I pillar-wall buildings and those with trenches as Type II buildings (Kwon Ohyoung and Lee Hyungwon 2006). This is because many examples in which trenches originally were absent have also been identified along with examples in which the trenches were destroyed by the post-depositional process.

Both Type I and Type II buildings were present among the three pillar-wall buildings discovered at 172-2 beonji, Dongnam-ri in Buyeo (Chungnam Institute of History and Culture 2007) (Fig. 2). Type I buildings also occurred at the Mt. Baemae site in Wanju. Some of the buildings of the Nagahara (長原) site in Osaka, Japan, where Baekje immigrants resided en masse, have been identified as Type I pillarwall buildings (Kwon Ohyoung 2008a).


Fig. 2. Pillar-wall building at Dongnam-ri in Buyeo. The Site of Dongnam-ri 172-2 Beonji at the Place Earmarked for Seodong Park in Buyeo (부여 서동공원 조성부지 동남리 172-2번지일원 유적) (Daejeon: Chungnam Institute of History and Culture, 2007, p. 5)

Pillar-wall buildings often feature ondol (traditional underfloor heating) facilities made of stone slabs. Such occurrences have been identified at Mt. Baemae in Wanju as well as at the following sites in Buyeo: the Gunsu-ri locale (Park Soonbal et al. 2003); the area around the East Naseong (東羅城), outer city wall (Chungcheong Institute of Cultural Heritage 2006); and the Jeongdong-ri site. Examples have been found in Japan at sites such as Kankakuji (觀覺寺) in Takatorichō (高取町), Nara Prefecture (Takatorichō Board of Education 2007).

Building 2 from Geomdan Mountain Fortress (檢丹山城) in Suncheon (Fig. 3) likewise can be identified as a Type I pillar-wall building with ondol facilities. In addition, it is highly probable that the building from Gorak Mountain Fortress (鼓樂山城) in Yeosu (麗水) (Choi Inseon et al. 2003; 2004) was also a pillar-wall building. Because pillar-wall structures represent a form of architecture closely associated with the Baekje center, it is possible that the wanggyeongin resided at these two mountain fortresses. As discussed below, the discovery of roof tiles and inkstones at these mountain fortresses cannot be regarded as mere coincidence.


Fig. 3. Building 2 from Geomdan Mountain Fortress in Suncheon. Geomdan Mountain Fortress in Suncheon I (순천 검단산성 I) (Suncheon: Suncheon National University Museum, 2004, p. 104)

Decorated chimney caps (煙家)

From the Proto-Three Kingdoms Period, cooking and heating facilities were installed along the wall opposite the entrance in dwellings in the Yeongseo (嶺西) region of Gangwon Province (i.e., west of Daegwallyeong Pass) and the Seoul-Gyeonggi region. Ventilation of smoke was essential for the efficient working of these facilities. Since the dwellings were sealed off, poor ventilation would have made living conditions within pit dwellings unbearable. An external chimney, usually made of clay or hollowed out logs, was a necessary requirement for ventilation (Fig. 4). Rarely found in the Gaya-Silla (新羅) zone, ceramic chimneys were prevalent within the Mahan (馬韓)-Baekje zone (Kim Kyudong 2002).


Fig. 4. Ceramic chimney from the South Jeolla region. Naju National Museum (Author’s photograph)

A large number of cylindrical ceramic pieces—which would have functioned as oven frames, drains, or chimneys—have been found in the Honam region that formed part of the Baekje territory. Some cylindrical ceramic objects have straight profiles with a constant diameter, but others flare outwards at the base and thus superficially resemble the lower section of a bell. These two types were used in tandem to form a single chimney piece. Many such examples have been discovered at sites in the Mahan-Baekje zone and also in Japan (Fig. 5) (Kinoshita Hataru 2006; Ban Yasushi 2008).


Fig. 5. Ceramic chimney from Takatorichō, Nara Prefecture. Takatorichō Cultural Center (Author’s photograph)

Most chimney pieces recovered from the Hanseong-Period sites and those of the Honam region and the Japanese Archipelago only address a chimney’s functional ventilating requirements and thus lack decorative embellishment. However, some examples from Buyeo—the Baekje capital of the Sabi Period—and Iksan, the status of which was similar to that of Buyeo in the Sabi Period, sport a decorative lotus-bud-shaped element with holes through which smoke could escape (Kim Yongmin 1998; 2002). The discovery of such decorated chimney caps has been limited to the Wanggung-ri site in Iksan and the following sites in Buyeo: Neungsan-ri Temple site (陵山里寺址), Jeongrim Temple site (定林寺址), Buso Mountain Fortress (扶蘇山城), Mt. Hwaji, Gwanbuk-ri, Dongnam-ri, and Ssangbuk-ri (Fig. 6). In fact, this type of artifact is not generally associated with areas outside of the Baekje center. The recent discovery of fragments of a chimney cap at Mongchon Earthen Fortress (夢村土城) in Seoul demonstrates that the use of decorative chimney caps dates as early as to the Hanseong Period.


Fig. 6. Chimney cap from a palace site in Iksan. Wanggung-ri Relics Museum (Author’s photograph)

The original function of the chimney was utilitarian; therefore, decorated chimney caps likely evolved as a means of symbolizing the prestige of a particular household. The general lack of decoratively embellished chimney caps at regional sites other than the Baekje center supports the association of the artifact with the wanggyeongin. Even so, ceramic chimney caps have been found at Geomdan Mountain Fortress in Suncheon (Choi Inseon et al. 2004) and Chilseong-ri in Gwangyang (Fig. 7). The chimney cap from Chilseong-ri was made from fine base clay and fired in a reducing atmosphere, which resulted in its grayish hue. That chimney cap features a baffle that is horizontally set near the center, thus dividing the object into upper and lower sections; it shares similarities in form with examples recovered from Buyeo and Iksan, with minor differences in details. Geomdan Mountain Fortress also yielded the remains of a pillar-wall building with ondol facilities and ink-stones. Since both the pillar-wall building and the chimney cap have a close association with the architectural culture of the Baekje wanggyeongin, the presence of these artifacts in the eastern region of South Jeolla Province, far from the Baekje center, indicates that the wanggyeongin had moved into this region.


Fig. 7. Chimney cap from Chilseong-ri in Gwangyang. Suncheon National University Museum (Author’s photograph)

Roof tiles

Roof tiles were typically used in Baekje architecture during the Hanseong Period, but their use was limited to the capital city—as represented by the sites of Pungnap Earthen Fortress (風納土城), Mongchon Earthen Fortress, and the Seokchon-dong Burial Ground—as well as to the core settlements of the local regions. Roof tiles have yet to be found at mountain fortresses dating to the Hanseong Period. However, large numbers of roof tiles were used for the construction of mountain fortresses and buildings in strategic regional locales in the Chungcheong and Jeolla regions during the Ungjin and Sabi Periods. Some of those roof tiles bear imprints of chessboard-patterned mats that were woven with plant fibers, including reeds (Fig. 8). It appears that such mats were used to line the molds for the roof tiles instead of the more typical hemp cloth used at other sites (Song Mijin 2004). It is likely that a shortage of hemp cloth led to the use of mats for lining the roof-tile molds, a distinct possibility as large numbers of roof tiles were required in a relative short period of time for the construction of the mountain fortresses.


Fig. 8. The inner surface of a concave roof tile from Gorak Mountain Fortress in Yeosu. Suncheon National University Museum (Author’s photograph)

Sites with cloth-impressed roof tiles and sites with mat-impressed roof tiles are both present in the eastern region of South Jeolla Province. Interestingly, roof tiles with stamped inscriptions also appear with high frequency in this region (Fig. 9). Roof tiles of this type have been found at such sites as Seonwondong Earthen Fortress (仙源洞土城) and Gorak Mountain Fortress in Yeosu, Buram Mountain Fortress (佛岩山城) in Gwangyang, and Seongam Mountain Fortress (城岩山城) in Suncheon (Choi Inseon 2002; Choi Inseon et al. 2002).


Fig. 9. Roof tiles with stamped inscriptions from the eastern region of South Jeolla Province. Suncheon National University Museum (Author’s photograph)

A comprehensive study of the Baekje roof tiles with stamped inscriptions (Ko Jeongryong 2007) shows that of the 3,2241 catalogued roof tiles with stamped inscriptions, the majority come from Buso Mountain Fortress in Buyeo (424) as well as the Wanggung-ri Site (448) and Mireuk Temple Site (1,605) in Iksan. As for the regional distribution of roof tiles with stamped inscriptions, seventeen come from Gongju (0.5%), 1,021 from Buyeo (31.7%), and 2,086 from Iksan (64.7%). Only 100 roof tiles with stamped inscriptions (3.1%) come from other Baekje areas, with 11 from Baengnyeong Mountain Fortress (栢嶺山城) in Geumsan (Fig. 10) and 73 from Gorak Mountain Fortress, representing a marked majority.


Fig. 10. Roof tiles with stamped inscriptions from Baengnyeong Mountain Fortress in Geumsan. Buyeo National Museum (Author’s photograph)

Roof tiles with stamped inscriptions discovered in Gongju, Buyeo, and Iksan were artifacts of the Baekje center. Notably, the majority of the 100 roof tiles with stamped inscriptions from sites not included in the above three locations come from Gorak Mountain Fortress. The eleven roof tiles with stamped inscriptions from Baengnyeong Mountain Fortress have previously been attributed to craftspeople dispatched from the Baekje center (Kang Jongwon and Choi Byeonghwa 2007, 180); roof tiles with stamped inscriptions found at kilns throughout Buyeo (Ko Jeongryong 2007, 73-74) attest to the validity of this opinion.

Roof tiles with stamped inscriptions found at peripheral sites likely were fired at kilns located in the Baekje center, or involved craftspeople of the Baekje center in their production. The presence of numerous roof tiles with stamped inscriptions at sites in the eastern South Jeolla region (e.g., Gorak Mountain Fortress in Yeosu) indicates that the central authority and craftspeople of the Baekje center were involved in the construction of the mountain fortresses of this region. Those craftspeople probably would have been dispatched to the peripheral regions of Baekje territory by the central authority.

Aristocratic high culture

Green-glazed ceramics

The ruling elite of Baekje imported a significant amount of Chinese ceramics during the Hanseong Period. This group consisted of the aristocracy and royalty of the Baekje center as well as leaders of such local communities as Suchon-ri in Gongju and Beobcheon-ri in Wonju. The use of Chinese ceramics as grave goods in the tombs of the leaders of the regional elite (e.g., Ipjeom-ri Tomb 1 in Iksan; Yongwon-ri Stone Chamber Tomb in Cheonan; Bongdeok-ri Tomb 1 in Gochang) as well as in the Tomb of King Muryeong indicates that Chinese ceramics continued to be greatly appreciated by both the royalty of the Baekje center and the highest echelons of local society during the Ungjin Period.

Baekje craftspeople attempted to produce localized versions of imported Chinese ceramics, which resulted in the continuous appearance of new ceramic types that emulated the type and form of Chinese ceramic and bronze vessels. For example, the lid with jewel-shaped knob, tripod, and pedestal dish (高杯) soared to popularity during the Hanseong Period, and the long-necked bottle (Park Soonbal 2006) and pedestal bowl (臺附碗) (which imitated bronze or stoneware examples) grew in popularity during the Ungjin Period. The pedestal bowl replaced the tripod and pedestal dish—the representative vessel types of the Hanseong Period—became a key vessel type in the subsequent period. Pedestal bowls with lids adorned with jewel-shaped (or lotus-bud-shaped) knobs were widely used as tableware by Baekje royalty and aristocracy, along with other vessel types, such as jars with high crests attached along the entire circumference of the vessel shoulder (Kim Jongman 2007).

The continuous efforts to replicate the quality of Chinese celadon resulted in Baekje green-glazed wares, which were produced during the Sabi Period and used almost exclusively in Buyeo. Examples of green-glazed wares found at sites outside of Buyeo are limited to Bogam-ri Tomb 1 in Naju (Fig. 11), Geomdan Mountain Fortress in Suncheon, and Gorak Mountain Fortress in Yeosu (Fig. 12).


Fig. 11. Green-glazed cup and saucer from the Bogam-ri Burial Ground. Jeonnam National University Museum (Author’s photograph)


Fig. 12. Green-glazed cup from Gorak Mountain Fortress in Yeosu. Suncheon National University Museum (Author’s photograph)

The green-glazed cup and saucer and the lidded containers from Bogam-ri Tomb 1 (Yim Youngjin et al. 1999) imitate the form and function of the silver cup and bronze saucer from the Tomb of King Muryeong (Fig. 13), with the addition of linear decoration that suggests the appearance of a bronze vessel. Relics from Bogam-ri are believed to have been produced at the Baekje center and presented to an individual of the local community, since it is unlikely that regional workshops suddenly were able to produce the technically sophisticated green-glazed wares. Very few local craftspeople would have had the opportunity directly to observe and copy the tea set consisting of the green-glazed cup and saucer and the lidded containers. The inscription of a reversed Buddhist swastika on the cup and saucer also supports this likelihood. The presence of a stone headrest at Bogam-ri Tomb 1 is another element shared with the Tomb of King Muryeong, where wooden headrests were found. The discovery of a headrest and green-glazed vessels at this tomb on the periphery of Baekje attests to the strong association of this region with the Baekje center.


Fig. 13. Silver cup and saucer from the Tomb of King Muryeong. Gongju National Museum (Author’s photograph)

As discussed below, the green-glazed ware from Geomdan Mountain Fortress takes the form of an inkstone. At Gorak Mountain Fortress, a green-glazed pedestal bowl was recovered from Water Reservoir 1 (Choi Inseon et al. 2003); the gentle curves of the foot and the lines that appear directly below the bowl’s mouth and just above its foot demonstrate that this vessel was made in imitation of a bronze vessel. As with the green-glazed ware from Bogam-ri Tomb 1, the inkstone and pedestal bowl must have been produced at the Baekje center and carried to these mountain fortresses.

Bogam-ri Tomb 1 is located at the Bogam-ri Burial Ground, which was a cemetery for the highest-ranking local leaders of the Yeongsan River region in the sixth century. Given that the Baekje central government’s direct rule over this region commenced upon the completion of tomb construction at this burial ground, the green-glazed ware from this tomb reflects the strong influence of the Baekje center in this region. The same holds true for the green-glazed pedestal bowl from Gorak Mountain Fortress. Such artifacts, along with roof tiles with stamped inscriptions, make it possible to assume the presence of individuals of high political status from the Baekje center.

Chamber pots

Tiger-shaped ceramic chamber pots used by men are generally termed hoja (虎子, Ch. huzi). The production and practice of placing tiger-shaped chamber pots within tombs as grave goods first began during China’s Spring and Autumn Period (春秋時代, 771 – 476 BCE) and Warring States Period (戰國時代, 475 – 221 BCE) (Fig. 14), but it was during the Wei (魏, 220 – 265), Jin (晉, 265 – 420), and Northern and Southern Dynasties (南北朝, 420 – 589) that tiger-shaped chamber pots became popular.


Fig. 14. Tiger-shaped chamber pot from a Spring and Autumn Period tomb in Jingjiang, Jiangsu Province. Bronzeware. Jinjiang Museum (Author’s photograph)

A Chinese tiger-shaped chamber pot has yet to be discovered through proper excavation from a Baekje site, but the example from the collection of the National Museum of Korea deserves special attention. This celadon-glazed, tiger-shaped chamber pot, said to have come from Gaesong (開城), is believed to date to the Western Jin (西晉, 265 – 316) or early Eastern Jin (東晉, 317 – 420) Period, based on the color of the glaze and the form of the pot (Eun Hwasoo 1998). This indicates that, at the latest, Chinese tiger-shaped chamber pots were introduced to Baekje during the first half of the fourth century CE. Baekje imitations of the Chinese imported celadon tiger-shaped chamber pots may have been produced later, but material evidence dating to the Hanseong and Ungjin Periods has yet to be discovered. The numerous discoveries of Baekje-produced tiger-shaped chamber pots from sites in Buyeo and Iksan dating to the Sabi Period demonstrate that this ceramic type had become firmly rooted in Baekje society in these periods (Kwon Ohyoung 2008b).

The tiger-shaped chamber pot from Gunsu-ri in Buyeo (Seo Seonghun 1979) is similar in form to Chinese examples in that it features a short-legged tiger with a wide-open mouth (Fig. 15) and a handle that extends from the head to the middle of the back. The characteristically Baekje features of this tiger-shaped chamber pot are the tiger’s straight, unflexed front legs and the slight turn of its head to the left; these elements do not appear in Chinese examples. Simplified versions of the tiger-shaped chamber pot, which claim only the form of the body, the legs and a handle, have been found at such sites as Gwanbuk-ri in Buyeo and Gorak Mountain Fortress in Yeosu. It is likely that Chinese celadon tiger-shaped chamber pots inspired these simple male chamber pots, as in the case of the Gunsu-ri example. A female chamber pot, with a flat base, wide oval mouth, and band-shaped handles, was also discovered at the Gunsu-ri site. A chamber pot of a similar shape but with additional features that enhanced its function was recovered from the Wanggung-ri site in Iksan (Fig. 16).


Fig. 15. Tiger-shaped chamber pot from Gunsu-ri in Buyeo. Earthenware. Buyeo National Museum (Author’s photograph)


Fig. 16. Female chamber pot from Wanggung-ri in Iksan. Wanggung-ri Site Museum (Author’s photograph)

It is unlikely that commoners would have used such chamber pots; rather, the use of male and female chamber pots surely was a feature of aristocratic high culture as well as an important indicator of the extent of urbanization. In ancient societies, toilet facilities would have been limited to palaces, administrative offices, and temples. The only extant example of Three Kingdoms-Period toilet facilities came from the Wanggung-ri site; therefore, it can be ascertained that the use of toilet facilities and chamber pots was limited to members of the highest echelons of society, even among the wanggyeongin.

Interestingly, a chamber pot was excavated at Gorak Mountain Fortress in Yeosu, which is not included among the locations of high status where the discoveries of chamber pots are typically concentrated (Fig. 17). This indicates that wanggyeongin of high standing resided there or at least wanggyeongin culture had been transplanted there. The leg-shaped fragment excavated from Geomdan Mountain Fortress in Suncheon, which likely came from a tiger-shaped chamber pot, also supports this possibility.


Fig. 17. Tiger-shaped chamber pots from Gorak Mountain Fortress in Yeosu. Suncheon National University Museum (Author’s photograph)

The existence of intellectual-bureaucrats

Inkstones, brushes, wooden tablets, and documents are concrete evidence of literacy, and reflect the presence of literate bureaucrats and the creation of administrative documents (Yoon Seontae 2007). The discovery of a Chinese celadon-glazed inkstone at Mongchon Earthen Fortress in Seoul (Kim Wonyong et al. 1987) demonstrates that the use of inkstones in Baekje dates at least to the Hanseong Period. Numerous inkstones were recovered from Gong Mountain Fortress in Gongju (Ahn Seungjoo and Lee Namseok 1987); most date to the Sabi Period, but it is highly likely that one tripod of the Chinese Southern Dynasties style dates as early as to the Ungjin Period (Yamamoto Takafumi 2006).

In contrast to the inkstones of the Hanseong and Ungjin Periods, which are either imports from the Eastern Jin or Southern Dynasties or are imitations of Chinese examples, inkstones of the Sabi Period feature a distinctively Baekje flavor, which indicates that the inkstone had become firmly established as an element of the Baekje ceramic repertory. In the Sabi Period, a variety of inkstone forms coexisted, including simple inkstones without legs, inkstones with multiple legs, and footed inkstones. Among inkstones with multiple legs, those with teardrop-shaped legs (水滴硯) and those with animal leg-shaped legs (獸足硯), also termed cabriole legs, were made in imitation of Chinese celadon-glazed inkstones from the Sui (隋, 581 – 618) and Tang Dynasties (唐, 618 – 907) (Figs. 18 and 19). However, the ceramic inkstone with animal leg-shaped legs from Mt. Geumseong in Buyeo features a distinctively Baekje style.


Fig. 18. Celadon inkstone with animal leg-shaped legs of the Sui Dynasty. Jiangxi Provincial Museum (Author’s photograph)


Fig. 19. Celadon inkstone with animal leg-shaped legs of the Tang Dynasty Fired at the Hongzhou Kiln. Jiangxi Provincial Museum (Author’s photograph)

Discoveries of inkstones in Baekje territory have been limited to capital cities (present-day Seoul, Gongju, and Buyeo) and Iksan; therefore, the inkstone from the Naju area is of interest, as Naju was a key foothold for the indigenous local elite in the Yeongsan River region. Excavations conducted in the Bogam-ri area, where the sixth-century tombs of the highest-ranking leaders of the local community are concentrated, revealed the presence of a ceramic inkstone with multiple legs similar to that from Buyeo. In addition, three inkstones were discovered at the Nang-dong site located in close proximity to Bogam-ri; one inkstone was recovered from the District Ga artifact layer and the other two came from the District Na artifact layer (Choi Seongrak et al. 2006). Found in close proximity around Bogam-ri, these four inkstones indicate the presence of a bureaucratic group that produced administrative documents associated with governmental control of local regions. The inkstones are evidence of officials deployed from the Baekje center or of a literate class within the local society that maintained links with the Baekje center.

Other finds from this area, including the iron production facilities, wooden tablets, and ceramic vessel inscribed with “官內用” (meaning “for use within official buildings”) together suggest that this area, where the tombs of the leaders of the indigenous local community had been concentrated, was subsequently transformed into an administrative center for regional control. It is very possible that this process was accompanied by the migration of the wanggyeongin into this region.

Another site in the Honam region that yielded inkstones is Geomdan Mountain Fortress in Sunchon, where four inkstones were discovered. One inkstone with a short foot was discovered at the North Gate, and one with legs was found within the water reservoir. Building 2 and Building 3 (a pit structure) each yielded a single inkstone with a flat base. The example from Building 3 is in fragmentary condition, making it difficult to identify its original shape.

Building 2 belongs to the category of Type I pillar-wall building defined above. The discovery of inkstones at this building site is especially significant because pillar-wall buildings have a close association with the Baekje center. The legs are missing from the green-glazed inkstone recovered from the water reservoir (Fig. 20); even so, the remaining fragments suggest that the inkstone originally had legs of either teardrop or animal-leg form. The pillar-wall building and the green-glazed inkstone from Geomdan Mountain Fortress (Suncheon), along with the roof tiles with stamped inscriptions and the green-glazed pedestal bowl from Gorak Mountain Fortress (Yeosu), are decisive evidence of the presence of the wanggyeongin in these regions. In particular, the green-glazed ceramics from these mountain fortresses are believed to have been used by the wanggyeongin, since artifacts of this type from the eastern region of South Jeolla Province were always discovered in conjunction with other elements that represent the culture of the Baekje center. By contrast, the green-glazed cup and saucer and the lidded containers from the Bogam-ri Burial Ground are believed to have been buried with a member of the indigenous elite.


Fig. 20. Inkstone fragment from Geomdan Mountain Fortress in Suncheon (Suncheon National University Museum)


This paper examines the material culture of the wanggyeongin through the artifacts excavated from the local regions of Baekje. The evidence consisting of architecture (e.g., pillar-wall buildings, chimney caps, and roof tiles with stamped inscriptions), daily life items (e.g., green-glazed ware and chamber pots), and inkstones used by a literate class is admittedly piecemeal; however, as a whole, it provides valuable insight into the nature of the wanggyeongin who moved to the local regions of Baekje as well as the direct transplantation of the culture of the Baekje center to these local regions. The sudden appearance of artifacts associated with aristocratic high culture (usually observed in Buyeo or Iksan) in the area of Bogam-ri in Naju (the last foothold of the indigenous local groups) or the frontline defense areas of Yeosu, Suncheon, and Gwangyang can be explained by assuming that the wanggyeongin, who had first-hand experience of the aristocratic culture of the Baekje center, had settled in theses local regions.

From the perspective of the Baekje center, it must have been of a key importance to have the local elite responsible for the construction of the Bogam-ri Burial Ground submit to the system of direct control by the Baekje center, since this group represented the greatest local power of the Naju area as well as the entire Yeongsan River region. The wooden tablets, inkstones, green-glazed ware, and ceramic vessels with inscriptions recovered from sites at Bogam-ri and Nang-dong can be understood as by-products of the efforts of the Baekje center to bring this indigenous local group under its control.

From the Proto-Three Kingdoms Period, the eastern region of South Jeolla Province shared many cultural similarities with Byeonhan in the east, and from the fifth century, it became a part of the Sogaya Confederation that was later politically influenced by Daegaya. It is only in the early sixth century that Baekje was able to completely eradicate the influence of Daegaya and absorb this region into Baekje territory. Therefore, the eastern region of South Jeolla Province represented the front line of defense for the Baekje center against Gaya and Silla. Due to such strategic importance, the construction of defensive mountain fortresses unseen in the Yeongsan River region, took place at an extremely fast pace over a short period of time. Cooperation from the leaders of local indigenous communities would have been essential for the construction of mountain fortresses as well as for the regional defense; consequently, the wanggyeongin and craftspeople may have been dispatched by the Baekje center to ensure such cooperation. Unfortunately, it is not easy to prove this possibility based on archaeological evidence from burials.

Baekje tombs discovered thus far in the eastern region of South Jeolla Province mostly consist of stone-lined burials with horizontal entrances. As in the case of mountain fortresses of this region, roof tiles with mat patterns on their inner surfaces were found in coffin platforms of certain tombs in Gwangyang and Suncheon. This means that typical tombs of the Baekje central style have yet to be identified in this region. Investigating the possible existence of such tombs in the region remains a task for future research.



The number increases somewhat with the inclusion of excavated finds from the route connecting Jungang Road and Baekgang Road located in the environs of Dongnam-ri in Buyeo and those from Seongmi Mountain Fortress (城嵋山城) in Imsil.

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