The Battle of Hakusukinoe (白村江の戦い)

The Battle of Hakusukinoe (also known as the Battle of Hakusonko) was a battle that took place between the allied forces comprised of Wakoku (later to be named Japan) and the surviving people of Kudara against Silla-Tang allied forces on August 663 in Hakusonko (the current outskirts of South Korea) on the Korean Peninsula. The Silla-Tang allied forces emerged as victors. This military campaign took place in the midst of the major transformation of power relationships in East Asia caused by the rise of the super power of the Tang Dynasty in mainland China, and although there were no territorial concessions made from Wakoku (Japan), the event had enough impact to cause substantial changes in Wakoku's defense system as well as its political system.

In practice, Hakusonko is pronounced 'Hakusukinoe' using the Japanese 'kun' reading as opposed to the Chinese 'on' reading.
In China and Korea, it is written as '白江.'
The reading of 'Hakusuki' was picked up by the Japanese from hearing the Kudara people pronounce '白村,' which was the area name at that time in the Kudara language.


From the 6th century to the 7th century, the Korean Peninsula was comprised of the three kingdoms of Koguryo, Kudara, and Silla, but Silla was constantly under pressure from the other two kingdoms. It is written in "The Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan) that Wakoku wielded influence over the southern part of the peninsula through the region then known as Mimana. Similarly, even on the mainland side, 'Mimana' appears at the very beginning of the Article of year 400 of the Gwanggaeto Stele, and from "Sungshu" (Book of the Sung Dynasty), 'Byeonjin' disappears, and 'Mimana' appears in the Article of year 438, and lastly, in the Article of year 451, the two countries of 'Mimana, Gaya' are written down together. The same pattern continues in subsequent years and since the two countries are written down together in "Nanseijo," (Book of Southern Qi) as well, it is clear that Wakoku maintained close relations with Mimana and Gaya. However, this area was weakened as a result of its cession of territories to Kudara by the local rulers, and through the invasion of Silla; in 562 (although it is thought to have been earlier than this), they were destroyed by Silla.

On the other hand, the Sui Dynasty, which was founded in 581, unified mainland China, but their failure to achieve any results even after conducting four large scale expeditions to Kyoguryo during the reign of Yo Ken (Yang Jian) and Yo-dai (Emperor Yang) served as a major cause of its decline and finally its demise when Yo-dai was assassinated in 618. The Tang Dynasty, which was founded in the same year, went on to attack Kyoguryo three times (644 - 648) during the periods ruled by Taiso (Tang) and Gao Zong (Tang) after brining the nation under control in 628, but following the same fate as the Sui Dynasty, they failed.

Silla sought help from the Tang Dynasty when it came under attack from Kudara in 627. Their assistance could not be secured as they were in the midst of a civil war, but the Tang Dynasty and Silla grew close as Koguryo and Kudara turned hostile towards them when the Tang Dynasty sent an expeditionary force to Koguryo. Afterwards, Kim Chunchu (later to become King Taejong Muyeol), who gained a lot of power under Princess Sondoku (632 - 647), proactively adopted the Tang Dynasty system, and when he took the throne as King Taejong (654 - 661) in 654, their kingdoms grew even closer.

The news of their overtures traveled to Wakoku as well, and although Wakoku was in the midst of the Taika Reforms, they grew alarmed. In 651, the Minister of the Left Kose no Tokuda counseled Prince Naka no Oe (later to become Emperor Tenchi), who was the actual head of state at the time, to send a punitive force to Silla, but this plan was not adopted.

In 660, the Tang Dynasty mobilized their army as Silla requested their assistance, and in the same year Kudara was destroyed by the allied forces of Tang and Silla. The Tang Dynasty put the old territories of Kudara under the county and prefecture system, but an uprising by the surviving members of Kudara soon took place.

The Progress of the Battle

In 660, after Kudara was destroyed by the Silla-Tang allied forces, Fukushin KISHITSU and Joshi KOKUSHI led the surviving members of Kudara to take up arms for Kudara's restoration, and sought help from Wakoku to enthrone the King of Kudara, Prince Fuyo Hosho, who was residing there at the time. After the war, this resulted in a temporary strengthening of Wakoku's influence over Kudara, but assistance from Kudara's old ally Wakoku was indispensible for their restoration.

Prince Naka no Oe, who was the head of state of Wakoku, approved their request, and in 661 Empress Saimei departed with the expeditionary force from Naniwa to Kyushu, but she met an untimely death at Kuni no Tsu (there a theory that she was assassinated). The Prince did not take the throne, but assumed imperial affairs, and appointed Echi no Hata no Miyatsuko (in charge of ship building) as the commander by fully backing him. The Wakoku force divided up into three groups and landed on the Korean Peninsula.

The first party was comprised of approximately 10,000 soldiers. There were approximately 170 ships. The commander was ABE no Hirafu. The advanced group protected King Hosho. The advance group departed in May 661.

The second party was comprised of 27,000 soldiers
It was the main military force. The group was led by three commanders: KAMITSUKENO no Wakugo; KOSENOKAMISAKI no Omi Osa; and ABE no Hikita Hirafu. The main force departed in March 662.

The third party was comprised of approximately 10,000 soldiers. The party was commanded by IOHARA no Kimi.

Wakoku's military strategy was first to bring home King Hosho to strengthen the Kudara restoration force, then, after crushing the Silla force, to wait for the arrival of the reinforcements to fight against the Tang forces.

Although there was an incident where King Hosho killed Fukushin in 663, by gaining the assistance of the Wakoku army, the allied forces of Wakoku and Kudara successfully drove out the Silla forces that invaded southern Kudara.

Against Kudara's come back, the Tang Dynasty deployed 7000 additional sea warriors led by Liu Rengui. The Silla-Tang allied forces decided to wipe out the allied forces of Wakoku and Kudara in one blow by simultaneously advancing via land and sea. The land forces were commanded by the Tang generals Sonjinshi and Ryujingen as well as by Silla's Kimhobin (King Munmu). Ryujinki, Toso and the former Kudara Prince Fuyo Ryu led approximately 170 boats of sea warriors down the Ungjin River and merged with the land forces to attack the Wakoku military from both flanks.

Due to the Fukushin Incident, the arrival of the allied forces of Wakoku and Kudara at Hakusonko was delayed by 10 days. Subsequently, they charged the mouth of the river of Hakusonko where the Silla-Tang allied forces were situated and conducted sea warfare. It is said that the Wakoku forces were organized as three parties and attacked their enemies four times, but incurred heavy losses due to the time differences in making fire attacks and from the fall of the tide. At the same time, the Silla-Tang allied forces beat the land forces of Wakoku and Kudara, resulting in the demise of the Kudara restoration force. Out of the 1000 Wakoku ships that were gathered in Hakusonko, approximately 400 were burnt down and Chikushi no Kimi Sachiyama was taken as hostage by the Tang forces.

The Wakoku sea warriors who lost heavily at the Battle of Hakusukinoe saved those Wakoku soldiers who were fighting in other areas as well as the surviving members of Kudara who were hoping to defect, and had difficulty returning to Japan while being pursued by the Tang sea warriors. There is a theory that some of the Tang sea warriors reached Japan and invaded the country.

At that time, the Tang Dynasty was conquering many territories in various places, and at this point the sphere of Tang's reach of power was the largest in the history of China. The Joshin tribe comprised the main force of Tang's sea warriors in the Battle of Hakusukinoe.

The Post-War Period

Emperor Tenchi prepared for reprisal and invasion from the Tang and Silla forces, and built mizuki castles (castles on lakes or marshes for defensive reasons) in the local government capital in Northern Kyushu, installed defensive structures in the old mountain castles in each area of West Japan, and posted soldiers on the sea line of Northern Kyushu.

In 665, Ryutokuko, who was a Junior Fifth Ranking (Lower Grade) official of Gishu and the head of state of Shiba, came to Wakoku as an envoy to process post-war matters and left after three months. In order to send Ryutokuko back to Tang, Wakoku dispatched MORI no Oishi and others as the Japanese envoy to the Tang Dynasty. It is said that the team of envoy made a pledge to become vassals of the Tang Dynasty in Gao Zong (Tang territory) during the Taizan Hozen ceremony (a ceremony thanking for the peace and harmony to the heavens by the king).

On this occasion (there are two competing theories suggesting 665 and 671 as the time of occurrence), it is said that the 2000 strong army of the Tang Dynasty advanced to Wakoku. There are numerous points of views regarding what took place during the processing of post-war matters, but at any rate, it is certain that Wakoku accepted the peace accord.

In February 665, due to the meritorious deeds of the First Ranking official Fukushin KISHITSU of Kudara, the rank of Shokinge was conferred to his relative Shushi KISHITSU; he was sent to Gamo County, Omi Province in 669.

In 667, Emperor Tenchi transferred the capital from Naniwa to Otsu-kyo on the inland side, and completed construction of the defensive lines. It is written in "The Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan) that in 667, Ryujingan, who was the Tang general stationed in Kudara, ordered the Ungjin governor-general capital (one of the 5 governor-general offices created by the Tang Dynasty in Kudara after the occupation) to send the Japanese hostages to the Chikushi governor-general capital.

In 669, Emperor Tenchi dispatched KAWACHI no Kujira and others as a team of envoy to the Tang Dynasty. It is thought that he was trying to strengthen relationships with the Tang Dynasty. Tanra, a territory that was under the influence of Kudara, also sent an envoy to the Tang Dynasty, and it is speculated that Wakoku and Kudara was involved in this matter at some level.

On the other side, on the Korean Peninsula, the Silla-Tang allied forces started to attack Koguryo in 666, and they successfully destroyed it in 668 at the second attempt. Fuyo Hosho of Kudara, who lost his kingdom in the Battle of Hakusukinoe, defected to Koguryo, but was captured and imprisoned.

After the war, the Tang Dynasty occupied the former territories of Kudara and Koguryo and put political pressure on Silla as well, but this did not continue for long. Silla assisted the surviving retainers of what was formerly Koguryo, and they organized an uprising against Tang in 669. While the Tang forces were trying to quell the uprising, the Silla forces invaded the former Kudara territories in 670 and drove the Tang forces out. In the meantime, the Silla forces sent an envoy to the Tang Dynasty seeking a settlement, and dealt with the Tang Dynasty by a two-pronged strategy of force and negotiation. As a result of several battles, Silla became a vassal under the Tang Dynasty again, and the two parties reached a reconciliation by Tang giving the territory south of Seisenko River. The Tang forces retreated in 675 and Silla brought the Peninsula under unification.

During that time in Wakoku (671), Emperor Tenchi met an untimely death (although he may have died of illness, in "Fuso Ryakki" [A Brief History of Japan] it is said that he may have been assassinated based on the account that he went missing during a hunting trip in the mountains). His son Prince Otomo (Emperor Kobun) and his brother Prince Oama then clashed against each other. In the following year of 672, the Jinshin War, which was the largest battle fought in ancient times, took place.

Prince Oama emerged as the victor, and was enthroned as Emperor Tenmu (year of birth unknown - 686). Emperor Tenmu, backed by military force, established an autocratic regime, and pushed forward with a new nation-building plan. Emperor Tenmu did not send any envoys to the Tang Dynasty, but instead envoys from Silla paid visits to the Imperial Court. Furthermore, envoys from Wakoku to Silla were sent frequently, totaling 14 times during the reign of Tenmu. It is thought that this was one of their strategies to counteract external pressure from the Tang Dynasty.

However, fearing that Silla would invade Wakoku due to the momentum gained in unifying the Korean Peninsula, Wakoku kept reinforcing their defensive measures along the sea coast, and although there was exchange between the two countries, their relations deteriorated after the enthronement of Emperor Jito.

Regarding domestic administration, even after Emperor Tenmu's death Emperor Jito continued with his predecessor's policies, and Wakoku (the Yamato Cabinet) transformed into the nation called 'Japan.'
When the framework of 'Japan' neared completion in the 8th century, Emperor Monmu restarted sending envoys to the Tang Dynasty, and tried to restore their relations by dispatching AWATA no Mahito as the envoy.

On the other side, in 698, a group of the surviving members of Koguryo founded the Bokkai Kingdom in North Eastern China. Although the Bokkai Kingdom and Silla continued to clash in the subsequent years, Silla was still a vassal under the Tang Dynasty. In the midst of deteriorating relations between Japan and Silla, Japan deepened their ties with Bokkai by sending a team of envoys.

The Impact

Wakoku took in numerous Kudara refugees after its fall, but at the same time hostility between Wakoku and Tang-Silla escalated. As a result, the national polity was organized under a sense of urgency, and the creation of the Ritsuyo Codes were pushed forward at a mesmerizing pace. For example, during the reign of Emperor Tenchi, a group of ordinances called the Omi Administrative Codes were created, and during the time of Emperor Tenmu, the legal codes of the ancient Japanese state, considered to be the first Ritsutyo Codes, were formulated.

Furthermore, as a result of the implementation of the Taiho Ritsuryo Codes in 701, the name of the country was changed from Wakoku to Japan, symbolizing the completion of the new state. It is believed that their loss at the Battle of Hakusukinoe fostered a sense of danger for Wakoku, which resulted in the building of a new nation called Japan.

One of the family members of Kudara's king, the younger brother of Fuyo Hosho, Zenko, was given the clan title of Kudara no Konikishi from the Imperial Court and served under it. Subsequently, Kyofuku Kudara no Konikishi was conferred Junior Third Rank for his meritorious deeds, which included discovery of a gold mine in Michi Province, and his contribution towards building the statue of Birushana Buddha in Todai-ji Temple.

Heresy and Popular Belief

According to Takehiko YOSHIDA's theory on the Kyushu Dynasty, the forces that fought in the Battle of Hakusukinoe were not from the Kinai region (the five capital provinces surrounding the ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto) of the Yamato Kingdom (Japan), but instead belonged to the Kyushu Dynasty (Wa) stationed in the Dazaifu (the local government of Kyushu). However, this theory has been ignored by the academic circles of ancient Japanese history, who claim that, 'This theory is not at the level of being evaluated or examined,' and it has not gone through the basic methodology necessary for historical science such as the cross examination of historical documents. There are no academic theses that support the theory of the Kyushu Dynasty among the academic journals that conduct peer review, and in general any claims regarding the theory of the Kyushu Dynasty, or anything related to that matter, have not been deemed to be academic theories with any scientific proof.

[Original Japanese]