Goguryeo's Conquerer: Gwanggaeto the Great

Monday, February 5, 2024

Sejong the Great is probably a king that you are very familiar with if you've already started or looked into the history of the Korean language. Besides this very well-known king, did you know that King Gwanggaeto (광개토대왕) was the only other king in Korean history to have been given the title 'the Great' after his name?

Who is King Gwanggaeto?

Born in 374AD as Prince Damdeok, he was crowned Emporer Yeongnak at the age of 17 making him the 19th king of Goguryeo. His official posthumous title was Gukgangsang Gwanggaeto Gyeonghotawang. In the Samguk Sagi (a history record of the Three Kingdoms), his name was shortened to King Gwanggaeto which is used officially in modern times and means "a king who has greatly expanded his territory".

King Gwanggaeto was known to be the greatest conquerer due to his aggressive military advances to gain territory. As soon as he ascended to the throne, he led 40,000 soldiers to attack Baekje, their biggest enemy down south, which resulted in Baekje's surrender. He conquered land in northeast China, namely Liaodong to the west and Manchuria to the north. In Silla, where the Japanese invaded, the king sent 50,000 expeditionary troops to repel and conquer them.

In all of Korea's history, Gwanggaeto the Great expanded his territory the greatest and therefore thus named a great conquerer.

He died at the age of 38 in 413AD and his tomb is believed to be located in Jian, northeast China, which was the capital of Goguryeo at the time. 

King Gwanggaeto's Tomb

Image courtesy to Wikipedia

The Korean pyramid tomb here is believed to either belong to King Gwanggaeto or his son, King Jangsu. This style tomb is called Gulsikdolbang Tomb (굴식 돌방무덤) and it is a typical royal tomb during Goguryeo times.

Some time ago when my firstborn was learning about this style of Goguryeo tomb, his teacher had the students create a gulsikdolbang tomb with legos. I thought it was a great exercise for the kids to remember this special Goguryeo-style tomb.

Gwanggaeto Stele: A Memorial Dedication 

In 2012, a memorial stele was discovered in Jian where is it believed King Gwanggaeto lies. The stele was erected by Gwanggaeto's son, King Jansu. Along with inscriptions of the myth of how Goguryeo was established, King Gwanggaeto's battles and successful conquests are listed on the stele.

Something else that I stumbled upon while researching King Gwanggaeto's memorial stele is that less than two weeks ago, the National Museum of Korea revealed a digital reproduction of the Gwanggaeto Stele. Standing at 7.5 meters, it is on display at the museum for history lovers to see. 

Image Courtesy to YONHAP NEWS
Pictures of my kids, before and after putting this King Gwanggaeto puzzle together.

Korean American kids with a King Gwanggaeto puzzle

If you are interested in purchasing this or other famous historical figure puzzles, visit ikoree.com.




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