Kokushi Joshi (黒歯常之)

Joshi KOKUSHI (date of birth unknown - January 14, 690) was a Baekje general. He led the anti-Tang movement to revive Baekje after the downfall of the kingdom. He surrendered to the Tang Dynasty, however, after realizing that the revival of Baekje would not be achieved, and later he greatly contributed to Tang as a Tang Dynasty general.

As a Baekje General
He was a Baekje general in charge of Futatsu-gun County who also had a position called Tatsusotsu (Second Rank). In August 660, when King Uija of Baekje surrendered to the Tang Dynasty and thus the Baekje kingdom fell, Kokushi and his troops surrendered to the Tang General of the Left Military Guard, So Teiho.

After the surrender, however, discipline in the Tang army became corrupted and Kokushi could not stand to see men, women, and children left behind in Baekje to be killed or raped. Joshi KOKUSHI called together the army he used to lead and took up arms against Tang at the Ninsonzan Castle. Former army soldiers of Baekje gathered together in response to Kokushi's call, and the number of soldiers swelled up to 30 thousand in no time.

A Tang general named So Teiho sent an army to encircle the Ninsonzan Castle. Joshi KOKUSHI with his best-picked troops daringly attempted a surprise raid on the besieging Tang army and defeated them. The Tang army suffered a crushing defeat and retreated. The Kokushi army followed the retreating Tang army, and captured more than 200 fortresses to regain their former territory.

So Teiho, upon realizing the situation, went up to the front line to have a showdown with Joshi KOKUSHI. Although So Teiho was a leading Tang Dynasty general who was well versed in tactics at the time, he could not defeat Joshi KOKUSHI. However, after So Teiho took command of the front line, corrupted discipline in the Tang army receded and they gradually started regaining the fortresses captured by Joshi KOKUSHI.

Joshi KOKUSHI, together with another general Shojo Shataku, continued to put up resistance in a critical fort and joined his forces with an anti-Tang Baekje general, Fukushin Fuyo (Fukushin Kishitsu), at Fukushin's foothold Suru-jo Castle.

In 603, the former Baekje army that was working on the Baekje revival thought they would need a leader for the movement and requested Wakoku (Japan) to send back the Baekje Prince, Buyeo Pung (Hosho FUYO), who had been sent there as a hostage. In response to their request, Wakoku sent more than 5000 soldiers and military advisers. However, Buyeo Pung (Hosho FUYO), who had lived in peace and abundance in Japan, was not apparently qualified as a king, as he was ill-fitted to live in tense circumstances including holing up in a castle at a battlefield.

Since Buyeo Pung (Hosho FUYO) had been sent to Wakoku as a consequence of losing a political strife in Baekje, generals of the Baekje revival army and people left behind in Baekje had contempt for him. Also, as Buyeo Pung (Hosho FUYO), himself, harbored hard feelings as he had been sent to Japan as a hostage, the Baekje revival movement did not turn out as people expected.

Joshi KOKUSHI and Fukushin Fuyo (Fukushin Kishitsu) had misgivings about the insensitivity of Buyeo Pung (Hosho FUYO), speculating he might not understand what it was like to live in a wartime regime, as Buyeo Pung complained about the rugged geographical condition of the Suru-jo Castle and pushed forward a plan to move their footing to the Hi-jo Castle in favor of a flat land with scenic views. Military advisors of the Wa (Japan) army, including HATA no Takutsu, claimed that if they moved to the Hi-jo Castle that was closer to the enemy camp and surrounded by flatland with no barriers, the revival army with fewer soldiers than the enemy would have no prospect of winning.

Joshi KOKUSHI agreed to the claim, but Fukushin Fuyo (Fukushin Kishitsu) did not, in consideration for feelings of Buyeo Pung (Hosho FUYO). As a result, Buyeo Pung (Hosho FUYO) enforced the plan to move to the Hi-jo Castle. However, as the Tang army was approaching them, they had to retreat to the Suru-jo Castle precipitately, which led to lose many of their soldiers.

Since around this time, Fukushin Fuyo (Fukushin Kishitsu) and Buyeo Pung (Hosho FUYO), who were the leading members of the Baekje revival forces, attracted criticism from the forces. Fukushin Fuyo (Fukushin Kishitsu) and Buyeo Pung (Hosho FUYO) gradually grew an aversion to each other, resulting in Fukushin Fuyo (Fukushin Kishitsu) being executed by Buyeo Pung (Hosho FUYO).

Afterwards, at the news of an attack made by the Wa army that was sent to aid the Baekje revival forces, Buyeo Pung (Hosho FUYO) gave up on holing up in the castle and left there claiming to join the Wa army. As the Wa army assumed that Buyeo Pung (Hosho FUYO) was still remaining at the Suru-jo Castle, they tried to rescue him and recklessly carried out a plan of breaking through enemy lines at the Battle of Hakusukinoe, but they were defeated by the Tang army.

However, Buyeo Pung (Hosho FUYO) had already retreated before that moment. Thus, the Baekje revival movement ended up in disappointing failure. Joshi KOKUSHI, who was defending the Suru-jo Castle, lost hope in prospects of the Baekje revival movement and withdrew from the movement, following Tang's advice to surrender. When Joshi KOKUSHI surrendered, the Tang Dynasty appreciated his talent in tactics and had him serve as a general for the Tang Dynasty.

As a Tang Dynasty General
In 678, Tang appointed him to be the General of the Left Guard of Tang, recognizing his resourcefulness and abilities to lead troops, and had him join the conquest of Toban. As he joined under the authority of commander-in-chief Ri Keigen, who served as Chushorei (imperial edict), superintendent general for the Toga section, repression delegate to the Xihe region, and governor-general of Zenshu, he advanced against Toban, together with the commander of the Ekishu region, Ri Koitsu, and governor-general of the Zenshu region, Taku Oho, and defeated Toban at Ryushi (present-day Southeast district, Qinghai Province). However, the battle reached a deadlock in face of a large enemy army sent by Toban, and despite Ri Keigen's direction to attack the Toban army, they were soundly defeated and Sinrei Ryu died in the battle. Ri Keigen moved his troops to a station in Shofurei, but they were eventually enveloped by vast forces of Toban. In order to break through the situation, he led a suicide squad consisting of best-picked 500 soldiers to make a night raid in the dark on the besieging Toban camp. The Toban army had a fatal blow by the attack, resulting in falling back to regroup their forces. Ri Keigen took advantage of this opportunity to have his forces retreat.

In 679, they intercepted invading Toban forces.

In 680, Toban again sent a vast army of 30,000 soldiers to make inroads into Kogen and camped at Ryohigawa. Ri Keigen attacked Toban at Kogawa, but had a counterattack of Toban, resulting in a crashing defeat. Joshi KOKUSHI, who was awarded the post of the General of the Left Military Guard and the Vice Commander of the Kogen section as a reward for his contributions in former years, again made a night attack on the Toban camp with his best-picked elite 3,000 cavalrymen and made the enemy retreat. He was appointed commander-in-chief of the Kogen region as a reward for these contributions and worked hard to guard boarders, develop colonies, and construct fortresses. Toban attempted to invade again in the same year, but Joshi KOKUSHI held them off at Ryohigawa.

In 681, the commander-in-chief of the Kogen region Joshi KOKUSHI defeated Ron Sanba of Toban at Ryohigawa and returned with the enemy's food and livestock.

The Tang Dynasty valued Joshi KOKUSHI's contributions in repulsing the Toban army multiple times and his other achievements including the development of colonies, and they graced him with the title of Enkokuko (The Lord of the En region).

While seven years of Joshi KOKUSHI's services to the Tang army, Toban was so afraid of him that they would not dare to invade the frontier.

In 684, when Empress Sokuten ascended the throne, the governor of Bishu, Ri Keigyo, was relegated to the Sima (Great Officer) of the Ryusyu region by the Empress. Ri Keigyo trapped the Secretary of the Yoshu region Chin Keishi into being arrested and killed in order to gain his military power. He then called himself the governor-general of Yoshu and raised insurrection under the name of the Tang revival. The Sima of the Soshu region Ri Kofuku endorsed the objective of reviving the Tang, and the movement became formidably powerful. Empress Sokuten appointed the great general of 左玉鈐衛 Ri Koitsu to be superintendent general for the Yoshu section and told him to suppress the movement with 300 thousand soldiers. The family name of Ri Keigyo had originally been Jo and was then changed to Ri due to contributions of his ancestors, but Empress Sokuten had his name changed back to Jo Keigyo. However, since Ri Koitsu could not suppress the insurrection aroused by Jo Keigyo, Empress Sokuten appointed Joshi KOKUSHI as superintendent general for the Konan section and sent him to subdue them in November.

In September 686, Joshi KOKUSHI, with his more than 200 soldiers, soundly defeated the East Tokketsu army of more than 3000 soldiers. He was appointed superintendent general of the Enzen section as a reward for his contributions, and he became the supreme commander at the front line to fight against the East Tokketsu. In February 687, the East Tokketsu forces invaded in Shohei. The Tang Dynasty ordered great general of 左鷹揚衛 Joshi KOKUSHI to take command of the army and repel the Tokketsu army. Joshi KOKUSHI quickly fought them off. Joshi KOKUSHI also completely beat the East Tokketsu army that was advancing into Sakushu (Shuozhou) in the Battle of Okatai.

Ukanmon Churosho San Hoheki offered to join the battle in order to contribute to the Tang army. The Imperial Court approved his offer but they ordered Joshi KOKUSHI to supervise him since they had some misgivings about his joining to the army. San Hoheki, who was plotting to take all the credit generated in the battle for himself, made the troops take action without permission of Joshi KOKUSHI in order to pursue the East Tokketsu army, but he was thoroughly defeated by the enemy. San Hoheki was accused of this and executed by Empress Sokuten. The Empress also discharged Joshi KOKUSHI from his duties, attributing the blame for his incompetence in regard to San Hoheki's insubordination.

On November 26, 689, Joshi KOKUSHI (the Great General of the Right Military Guard and the Lord of the En Region) was falsely accused of plotting a rebellion by Shu Kyo and his henchmen, and he was jailed and clubbed to death. It is also said that he committed suicide because he knew he would be killed anyway.

After his death, it was revealed that he was killed on a false accusation and Busokuten awarded him the title of 大周故左武威衞大将軍検校左羽林軍贈左玉鈴大将軍燕国公黒歯府君, which was inscribed in his epitaph.

His first son was Shun KOKUSHI (according to the "Kokushi Joshi Boshi" [Epitaph of Joshi KOKUSHI] and the "Kokushi Shun Boshi" [Epitaph of Shun KOKUSHI]). His daughter married Jun MONONOBE (according to the "Mononobe Shogun Kotokuki" [Shogun Mononobe's Acts of Merit]). In November 2006, one report was issued and it insisted that 'Mononobe' must have referred to the Mononobe clan, but scholars have divergent opinions on that.

His Family Line and Relations with Japan
It is said that ancestors of Joshi KOKUSHI were the Baekje royal family, and Uija, who was the king when the Baekje Kingdom fell, must have been relatively closely related to Kokushi. It is also said that the Kokushi family took the family name of 'Kokushi' because they had governed the 'Kokushi-koku' (literally, "black-teeth country").
In present-day South Korea, there is controversy on this 'Kokushi-koku.'
Some people say that the 'Kokushi-koku' must be present-day Taiwan, which used to be a part of Baekje's territory in ancient times, and others say that, based on the Gishiwajinden (literally, an 'Account of the Wa' in "The History of the Wei Dynasty"), the 'Kokushi-koku' must have been a country located to the south of Wakoku (Japan) and ancestors of Joshi KOKUSHI were given one of the Baekje's territories, 'Kokushi-koku,' that was located to the southeast of Wakoku, as a reward for their conquering of Wakoku. In Japan, some amateur historians speculate that, since the 'Kokushi-koku' was known as another name of Japan in Korea and China at that time, the Baekje royal family members were sent to Wakoku (Japan) and stayed there for a long time (assuming that the hostages that appeared in the Nihonshoki [Chronicles of Japan] included these Baekje royal family members), and as these royal family members brought back a Japanese habit of painting one's teeth black, Baekje people called them the Kokushi (literally, "black-teeth") family, which gradually became a widely-used name in the country.

[Original Japanese]