King Munmu (文武王)

King Munmu (year of birth unknown - 681) was the 30th king of the Korean kingdom of Silla (reigned from 661 to 681), whose family name was Kim and given name was Beopmin. He was the eldest child of King Muyeol, the former king, and Munmyeong, a daughter of Kim So Hyun, who was a Tsunuka (first-ranked officer), and she was also a younger sister of Kim Yu-shin. Queen Ja-eui was a daughter of Seonpum, who was a Hachinsan (forth-ranked officer). In June 661, he ascended the throne as the former ruler King Muyeol passed away. During his reign, he destroyed the Korean kingdom of Goguryeo and unified the Korean peninsula by driving the Tang Dynasty's power out of the peninsula.

Before Enthronement

After his father Kim Chun-chu, who had not ascended the throne as King Muyeol yet, established a close relationship between Tang China and Silla and returned to the country, Kim Beopmin visited Tang in June 650 in order to report the victory of a local war against Baekje in 649 and present a great peace poem of five-word verses written by Queen Jindeok, admiring the prestige of the Tang Dynasty. Emperor Gao Zong was so delighted with this that the post of Taifu Qing (the minister of palace supplies) was given to Kim Beopmin before he returned to the country. When his father ascended the throne as King Muyeol after his return, he was given a director position called Hachinsan (forth-ranked officer) in 654, and then he was appointed Crown Prince.

Leading 50,000 soldiers with Kim Yushin and other fellows, he fought against Baekje together with Tang's army led by Su Dingfang, who was the Great General of the Left Guard, in July 660, and made great achievements. Although remaining forces of Baekje continued to rebel in various regions, Kim Beopmin and allied forces got 尓礼城 Castle (青馬山城 Castle in Fuyu County, South Chungcheong Province) fallen, and all the remaining forces of Baekje in more than 20 castles surrendered, which made old territories of Baekje suppressed once.

Unification Wars

When the momentum of their success in the subjugation of Baekje made Tang China begin to advance toward Goguryeo, King Muyeol passed away in June 661 and Kim Beopmin ascended the throne. Requested from Tang to support their army to conquer Goguryeo immediately, King Munmu ordered Kim Yushin and other fellows to supply food to the Tang army staying in Pyongyang, in order to show their intention of total backup. At this battle, Goguryeo held out against the enemy's attack, and the Tang army ended the battle and returned to China after receiving the food. In 662, Tang conferred honorific titles of "Kaifu Yitong Sansi (Supreme Minister), Jochukoku (an official rank given in recognition of one's services), King of Rakuro County, and King of Silla" on him.

In May 663, former generals of Baekje including Gwisil Boksin raised a large-scaled rebellion for revival of Baekje joining hands with Buyeo Pung of the royal family, which resulted in causing the Battle of Hakusukinoe between the allied forces of Baekje and Japan and the allied forces of Tang and Silla, where the Japanese navy was completely defeated and the hope of restoring Baekje disappeared. In April 666, Tang was requested to dispatch their troops for conquest of Goguryeo, and attacks to Goguryeo were started after Tang appointed Li Ji to the supreme commander of the army to advance to Liaodong Province. In 668, Silla attacked Chang'ancheng in Pyongyang together with Tang's troops, and they succeeded in destroying Goruyeo on September 21, 668. A new rank called Grand-Great Tsunuka was established over Great Tsunuka, which had been the supreme rank in the official rank system of Silla until then, in order to reward distinguished war services made by Kim Yushin throughout these battles, and additionally, every noble was granted a one official rank promotion. However, individual reward grants were not given to private soldiers of nobles in the capital although they worked as the core of the military forces of Silla, but powerful local clans who had distinguished services, as well as commanders and generals who surrendered from Baekje and Goguryeo, were treated favorably in order to foster the military forces under the direct control of the king, following the reward-oriented policy taken by King Muyeol, and this contributed to expansion of the sovereignty of Silla.

Opposition to Tang

The peninsula was not unified soon after Baekje and Goguryeo were destroyed, and as shown in the prior case of April 663 in which Silla was declared Gyerim Great Command Area, where King Munmu served as "governor-general of Gyerim Prefecture," Tang established Ungjin and other command areas in places formerly owned by Baekje, as well as Andong and other military forces in places formerly owned by Goguryeo, in order to have their surviving retainers govern by using the control system for different ethnic groups. To oppose such a posture of Tang, Silla used Anseung, an illegitimate child of King Bojang of Goguryeo, who escaped to Silla with their remaining forces, by allowing him to live in Kinbasho (Iksan City, North Jeolla Province) to achieve a dominance relationship with him regarded as King of Goguryeo in August 670. Silla had this Goguryeo pay tribute to Japan by being accompanied with Silla's envoy, and in September 674, Anseung was given a title of King of Bodeok to establish a puppet regime there in order to demonstrate the suzerainty of Silla over former Goguryeo.

Although Tang rebuked Silla for having Anseung as the King of Goguryeo, Silla clearly showed its posture opposing to Tang over the domination of the former Baekje territory, and in 671, Silla wrested the former Baekje areas one after another starting with occupation of Sabi and establishment of 所夫里州 Prefecture. As a result, in January 674, Emperor Gao Zong of Tang deprived King Munmu of his official ranks, and arbitrarily declared King Munmu's brother Kim Inmun staying as a night duty guard to be King of Silla, deciding to advance to Silla with punitive forces headed by Liu Rengui and other generals. Although King Munmu dispatched a messenger of apology in February 675 to temporarily create peace, he continued small-scaled battles and gave heavy damages to Tang's army in 伎伐浦 (長項, Seocheon County, North Chungcheong Province) at the mouth of 白江河 River in November 676, and as a result, Tang finally gave up punitive invasion into Silla and conquest of the peninsula. Tang relocated Ungjin Command Area and Andong Military Arm in the Liaodong district, and Tang's influence was eliminated from the Korean Peninsula after all.

Realizing that it was difficult to oppose Tang only with old forces in Silla, King Munmu also put effort into reorganization of Silla's class system by taking in people who were originally from Baekje and Goguryeo. The traditional class system in Silla was composed of the capital rank system mainly used in the capital Geumseong (Gyeongju City) and the local rank system used for a hierarchy of powerful local clans, but in 674 the hierarchy system for local clans was abolished for unification with the capital system. In 673, those who transferred from Baekje were integrated into the official rank system of Silla by properly giving ranks according to their ranking in the official rank system of Baekje in order to maintain the consistency between the two systems. For people from Goguryeo, Anseung was under control of Silla by protecting him as King of Goguryeo and then King of Bodeok, but King Munmu put much effort into integration of the former three kingdoms by having his younger sister marry Anseung in 680 to unite the two royal families of Silla and Goguryeo.

Improvements of Domestic Administration

To reorganize the central government offices, he added the ministries of order to deal with legislation, and they respectively called these offices the right and left ministries of order. In 678, he additionally assigned another vice minister to both the right and left ministries of order, and in the same year, he established the Ministry of Vessels by separating vessel management operations from the control by the Ministry of Military with the minister assigned.

In order to directly govern places formerly owned by Baekje or Goguryeo, 発羅州 Prefecture (prefectural capital was present-day Naju City, South Cholla Province) was established in the southwestern part of Baekje in the same way that he had established 所夫里州 Prefecture (prefectural capital was Fuyu County, South Chungcheong Province now) in the old capital Sabi, Baekje. In addition, he established a secondary capital of 北原 (Wonju City, Gangwon Province) at the site of 平原城 Castle in Goguryeo in 678, and another secondary capital of 金官 (Gimhae City, South Gyeongsang Province) in Gaya County in 680 as a base to govern local areas while trying to disseminate the culture of the imperial capital Geumseong. With prefectures and secondary capitals already established by the sixth century, it was not long before the system to govern the local areas of Silla under the nine prefectures and the five secondary capitals would be completed.


In the reign of King Munmu, the imperial capital Geumseong was reconstructed. In February 674, he constructed 月池 Pond (later called Anapji Pond) near the imperial castle called Banwolseong Castle, and in 679, he repaired the royal palace and built the crown prince's palace (臨海殿 Palace) there. He got 四天王寺 Temple (仁旺洞狼山, Gyeongju City) built and promoted construction of other temples in the surrounding area away from the king's palace, and in 676, he allowed a high priest named Uisang to found Pusoksa Temple (Pusoksa 面, Yeongju City, North Gyeongsang Province).


After 21 years of his reign, he passed away on July 1, 681, and the posthumous title of King Munmu was given. According to his previously expressed will, he became the first cremated king in Silla, and his cinerary urn was placed on a big stone on the beach of the East Sea (Japan Sea). According to a popular tradition, the king transformed into a giant dragon guarding the country, and this stone was called the great king rock. In addition, 感恩寺 Temple (陽北面, Gyeongju City, North Gyeongsang Province) was built for the king at the site. A book handed down to 感恩寺 Temple says that King Munmu started building this temple to break down Japanese soldiers, but he died before its completion in 682.

In 682 under the reign of King Sinmun, the five-mausoleum system for religious services for ancestral mausoleums in Silla was established in order to enshrine the souls of the five kings of his father King Munmu, grandfather King Muyeol, great-grandfather Galmunwang 文興 (Kim 龍春), great-great-grandfather King Jinpyeong, and progenitor Great King (the earliest ancestor of the royal line of the Kim clan, the 13th Michu Isageum). In the reign of the 36th ruler, King Hyegong, the five-mausoleum system was applied to his father King Gyeongdeok, grandfather King Seongdok, King Munmu, King Muyeol and Michu Isageum, and King Munmu was specially regarded as a key ancestor whose position should not be changed for generations together with King Muyeol and Michu Isageum.

[Original Japanese]