As part of another project I’ve got in the works at the moment, I put together a brief timeline of the history of Gyeongju which I’m posting it here with some photos. I hope that clearly and concisely portrays the dramatic thousand year rise and fall of the Shilla Dynasty and is subsequent rediscovery and preservation in the 20th century. It’s far from complete, but I’ve tried to include links to posts that flesh out the details a bit more. Heck, if folks think it’s good enough, I might even include it as a permanent page to be updated as I post more links. In the mean time, let’s start way back at the beginning:
Neolithic (8000-1500 B.C.E.) and Bronze Ages (1500-300 B.C.E.)
- Early human societies around Gyeongju create “comb-pattern” pottery.
- Carving of ancient petroglyphs, such as those at Bangudae and Cheonjeon-ri south of Gyeongju, and on the cliffs near Seokjang-dong.
- Construction of almost 20 dolmens, or stone table tombs, in the Gyeongju vicinity during early Bronze Age.
- Circa 1,000 B.C.E. Mongolian tribes invade the Korean peninsula and subjugate the “comb pattern pottery people.” Their descendents become aristocracy of the Shilla dynasty.
57 B.C.E. – 668 C.E. Three Kingdoms Period
57 – Six villages unite to form the state of “Saro” under the legendary 1st Shilla King; Pak Hyeokgeosa (박혁거세 거서간, r. 57 – 4 B.C.E.) of the Park clan.
36 – Construction begun on Banwolseong Fortress.
B.C.E. / C.E.
57 – 80 Reign of King Talhae (탈해 이사금), first king of the Seok clan and 4th king of the Shilla.
262 – 284 Reign of King Michu ( 미추이사금), first king of the Kim clan and 13th king of the Shilla.
4th Cen. – Shilla Dynasty begins constructing “Hill Tombs,” for which Gyeongju is famous.
417 – Legendary martyrdom of patriot Park Jae-sang in Japan.
489 - Legend of Seochulji Pond.
503 – Confucianism introduced to the Shilla Dynasty.
514 – 540 Reign of King Beopheung (법흥왕).
527 - Martyrdom of Icahdon. King Beopheung converts Shilla state religion to Buddhism. Name of kingdom officially changed from “Gyerim” to “Shilla.”
553 – Construction begun on Hwangnyeongsa (황령사지) or “Imperial Dragon Temple.”
562 – Shilla Dynasty conquers the Gaya (가야) Confederacy to the south.
576 - First historical mention of the Hwarang, or “Flower Youth,” an elite body of aristocratic youth organized around Buddhist principles and trained in martial arts and warfare as well as philosophy, art and music.
634 – 647 Reign of Queen Seondeok (선덕여왕).
634 - Construction begun on Bunhwangsa Temple (분분황사) and its 9-tiered pagoda.
636 – Ven. Jajang journeys to Tang China where he studies and travels for the next 7 years.
643 - Construction started on the 9-Story Wooden Pagoda of Hwangnyeongsa Temple.
647 – Building of Cheomseongdae Astronomical Observatory.
648 – Shilla Dynasty forms an alliance with Tang China.
660 - Combined Shilla and Tang forces conquer Baekje (백제) Dynasty to the west.
661 – 681 Reign of King Munmu the Great (문무왕)
661 - Ven. Won Hyo experiences his “Great Awaking” while attempting to travel to China with Ven. Uisang. Wonhyo returns to Gyeongju while Uisang journeys on to China.
668 – 935 C.E. Unified Shilla Period
668 – Combined Shilla and Tang forces conquer Goguryeo (고구려) Dynasty to the north, uniting Korean peninsula.
671 – Ven. Uisang returns to Shilla to warn of an impending tang invasion. Magical rituals are performed at Sacheonwangsa Temple which raises a storm that destroys Tang forces while at sea.
673 - Death of famed General Kim Yu Shin (b. 595 C.E.).
674 – King Munmu orders the construction of Imhaejeon Pleasure Palace (a.k.a. Anapji Pond) to commemorate the unification of the 3 Kingdoms.
676 - Shilla forces finally defeat the army of Tang China, freeing the peninsula from Tang domination.
681 - Death of King Munmu the Great. His ashes are buried at sea, so his spirit might become a dragon to protect the east coast from invasions .
682 - King Shinmun completes Gamunsa Temple to guard the grave of his father, King Munmu.
742 – 765 Reign of King Gyeongdeok (경덕왕)
751 – Founding (or possible expansion) of Bulguksa Temple and construction of Seokguram Grotto.
770 – Divine Bell of King Seongdeok (a.k.a the “Emile Bell”) completed.
927 – Gyeongju sack by King Gyeong Hwon of the Hubeakchae Kingdom. King Gyeongae (경애왕, r. 924 – 927 C.E.) is killed at Poseokjeong Pleasure Palace during the battle.
935 - Last Shilla King Gyeongsun (경순왕, r. 924 – 927 C.E.), officially surrenders remains of Shilla Kingdom to Wonggeon, first king of the Goryeo Dynasty, at Imhaejeon Palace (Anapji Pond)
935 – Original name of the city (“Seoraebol”) officially changed to “Gyeongju”
918–1392 Goryeo Dynasty
1238 - Gyeongju sacked by the Mongolians and “turned into a sea of fire.” Famed 9-story Golden Dragon Pagoda Hwangnyeongsa Temple burned to the ground.
1392–1897 Joseon Dynasty
1392 – Rise of the Joseon Neo-Confucianism. Buddhism official suppressed. Radical Neo-Confucians behead and deface dozens of ancient stone Buddha statues around Gyeongju.
1593 – City sacked during the Hideyoshi Invasion. Bulguksa Temple burned to the ground.
1907 - Rediscovery of Seokguram Grotto by a mailman. Two of 10 niche statues stolen and pagodas looted.
1910-1945 Japanese annexation and occupation of Korea
1913 - Seokguram dismantled and reconstructed using cement. Seokgulam irreparably damaged by use of cement and subsequent buildup of moisture and moss.
1915 - Reconstruction begun on Bunhwangsa Temple ‘s 9-tiered pagoda
1915 - Original opening of Museum in downtown Gyeongju (now home to the Gyeognju Cultural Center)
1924 - Japanese Colonial Administration attempts to restore Bulguksa Temple
1926 – Swedish Prince Gustav Adolf leads archeological excavation of Seobongcheon Tomb. “Golden Phoenix Crown” discovered during dig.
1950-1953 Korean War
1950 – Battle of Pohang (August 5th – 20th). DPRK forces come within miles of capturing Gyeongju, an important communications and transportation hub of the Busan Perimeter.
1959 - Excavation and restoration of pagoda at Gamunsaji Temple pagoda. Exquisite golden reliquary discovered.
1961 - Seokguram Grotto re-restored
1966 - Bulguksa Temple’s Seokkatap Pagoda attacked and looted by a team of processional thieves. Stolen gold reliquary subsequently recovered (now housed in Gyeongju National Museum).
1968 - Gyeongju National Museum moved to its current location
1973 - Restoration of Bulguksa Temple completed
1973 – Excavation of Cheongmachong, or “Flying Horse Tomb”
1976 – Beginning of 7 year excavation of Hwangnyeongsa Temple
1980 - Partial reconstruction of Imhaejeon Palace (Anapji Pond). Over 30,000 relics discovered during excavation of pond.
1987 – Present Sixth Republic of South Korea
1996 – Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto officially declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites
2010 – Yandong Folk Village declared UNESCO World Heritage Site