The state of Paekche, an ancient kingdom in south-western Korea, offers us great insight into the history and culture of Korea. The kingdom was founded in 18 BCE and has been said that Paekche was the most culturally developed of the early Korean kingdoms.
By the 4th century CE, the Paekche court was literate in Chinese and adopted the Buddhism faith by 384 CE (Higham, p.575). One particular sculpture, the Sosan Triad, epitomises the impact of the Buddhist faith in Paekche. “The large, standing central Buddha is flanked by two bodhisattvas, the one to his left standing and the one to his right sitting in the so-called pensive pose. Yet their positioning and the alignment of their nimbuses indicate that these three figures were intended as a single unit, as a triad, in spite of the peculiar disparity of poses” (, p.89). Less than 100 meters southwest, lay the ruins of a Buddhist temple.
During the 6th century CE, Paekche felt the growing power of the Silla kingdom to the north in regards to land frontiers. Hemmed in by their antagonistic Korean neighbours, Paekche was compelled from the beginning to rely primarily on the sea for pursuing its contacts with China (Best, p.92). Because of this contact with China during the 4th, 5th and 6th centuries, China became a formative influence on Paekche.
Paekche continued a close relationship with southern China until the fall of the Liang Dynasty (502–587). The succeeding Chen Dynasty offered nothing culturally new, and “although Paekche did send several embassies to the Ch’en court, the kingdom’s contacts with the mainland no longer focused exclusively on the south. Rather, during the third quarter of the sixth century, Paekche began increasingly to look toward the comparatively vigorous states that in succession controlled the north-eastern coast of China: Northern Ch’i, followed briefly by the Northern Chou, and then by the Sui” (Best, p.92).
The establishment of the Buddhist faith has been stated by scholars that it probably attracted a larger following during the reign of King Seong, the 26th ruler of Paekche. Due to this encouragement of encouragement by the earnest support of his successors, appears to have been firmly established throughout the kingdom by the start of the seventh century. The kingdom of Paekche was responsible for introducing Buddhism into Japan in the mid 6th century CE (Best, p.89).
The history of Korea is as fascinating as its people. Continual research into the history of these kingdoms will gain us new insight, not only into the history of Korea, but of Asia as a whole.
Best, Jonathon W. (1980) The Sosan Triad: An Early Korean Buddhist Relief Sculpture from Paekche, Archives of Asian Art, University of Hawai’i Press for the Asia Society.
Higham, Charles (2005) The Human Past – Complex Societies of East and Southeast Asia, Thames & Hudson, London.