Baekje Kingdom established its capital in the lower reaches of the Han River basin. For 678 years, Baekje was one of the ancient kingdoms of the Three Kingdoms era, along with Goguryeo and Silla.
After its establishment in the Han River basin, Baekje moved its capital to Wungjin (today’s Gongju) and Sabi (today’s Buyeo), where the highly developed Baekje culture flowered. Archaeologists have found ruins of royal palaces in Wanggung-ni in Geumma of Iksan, North Jeolla Province, which they assume to be cultural remains from King Mu’s reign.
Baekje played an important role in promoting cultural exchange in East Asia. With long-term exchanges and interactions with China and Japan, Baekje created a unique cultural heritage. Baekje also played a significant role in the formation of Japan’s ancient culture. The relics unearthed from the tomb of King Muryeong and the guemdong daehyangno (incense burner) are testament to Baekje’s ability to make high-quality artwork.
Gongju, Buyeo and Iksan’s historical sites are major archaeological discoveries, crucial to understanding Baekje culture. The ruins of the royal palace, fortresses, Buddhist temples and burial mounds are all important cultural assets of Korea.
Cultural heritages of Baekje are designated as state-managed assets. Furthermore, 23 of such items are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List.
Cultural assets that reflect the characteristics of Baekje include the Gwanbuk-ri ruins in Buyeo and the Wangungni ruins in Iksan, which are confirmed to have been Baekje palace sites.
Songsan-ri tomb in Gongju and a group of ancient tombs in Neungsan-ri in Buyeo are representative royal tombs of the Baekje period.
Other important remains of Baekje are Gongsanseong Fortress in Gongju, and Buyeonaseong and Busosanseong fortresses in Buyeo.
As for temple sites, Jeonglimsa Temple in Buyeo and Mireuksa Temple in Iksan are the most prominent.
The Gongju, Buyeo and Iksan historic sites provide us with a comprehensive view of the history and culture of Baekje. The remaining cultural artifacts in these areas clearly represent the universal values of Baekje culture.
In February 2011, the Cultural Heritage Administration initiated a project titled “Baekje Historic Site Zone,” to add the historical sites of Baekje to UNESCO’s World Heritage List by 2015. The site has been prioritized and the CHA is making efforts to have Baekje cultural assets inscribed on the UNESCO list.
Inscribing Baekje’s culture into the UNESCO list will help Korea reinforce national competitiveness at a time when cultural appreciation affects national competitiveness. With Baekje’s cultural assets on the UNESCO list, people in the Gongju, Buyeo and Iksan areas will be able to feel a sense of pride, as well as benefit from tourism. The heritage listing will show the world that the country has a diverse and multi-faceted culture.
|Lee Dong-ju, Ph.D.|
By Lee Dong-ju, Ph.D.
The author is managing director of the Buyeo Cultural Heritage Center. ― Ed.