Taejo of Goryeo
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Taejo of Goryeo

Taejo of Goryeo (31 January 877 - 4 July 943), also known as Taejo Wang Geon (Wang K?n, ), was the founder of the Goryeo dynasty, which ruled Korea from the 10th to the 14th century. Taejo ruled from 918 to 943, achieving unification of the Later Three Kingdoms in 936.[1]


Wang Geon was born in 877 to a powerful maritime merchant family based in Songak (modern Kaesong) as the eldest son of Wang Ryung (Korean; Hanja). He traced his ancestry to a noble Goguryeo clan.[2] His ancestors were Goguryeo refugees who settled around Songak, accumulating great wealth through maritime trade and gaining control of the region, including the Ryesong River.[3] During the Later Silla period, the northern regions, including Songak, were the strongholds of Goguryeo refugees,[4][5] and Wang Geon's hometown of Songak would become the original capital of Later Goguryeo in 901.[6]

Rise to power

Taejo began his career in the turbulent Later Three Kingdoms (hanja: ). In the later years of Silla, many local leaders and bandits rebelled against the rule of Queen Jinseong, who did not have strong enough leadership or policies to improve the condition of the people. Among those rebels, Gung Ye (; ) of the northwestern region and Gyeon Hwon (; ) of the southwest gained more power. They defeated and absorbed many of the other rebel groups as their troops marched against local Silla officials and bandits. In 895, Gung Ye led his forces into the far northwestern part of Silla, where Songdo was located. Taejo's father, Wang Yung (later Sejo of Goryeo), along with many local clans, quickly surrendered to Gung Ye. Wang Geon followed his father into service under Gung Ye, the future leader of Taebong, and he began his service under Gungye's command.

Wang Geon's ability as a military commander was soon recognized by Gung Ye, who promoted him to general and even regarded him as his brother. In 900, he led a successful campaign against local clans and the army of Later Baekje in the Chungju area, gaining more fame and recognition from the king. In 903, he led a famous naval campaign against the southwestern coastline of Hubaekje (Keumsung, later Naju), while Gyeon Hwon was at war against Silla. He led several more military campaigns, and also helped conquered people who lived in poverty under Silla rule. The public favored him due to his leadership and generosity.

In 913, he was appointed as prime minister of the newly renamed Taebong. Its king, Gung Ye, whose leadership helped found the kingdom but who began to refer to himself as the Buddha, began to persecute people who expressed their opposition against his religious arguments. He executed many monks, then later even his own wife and two sons, and the public began to turn away from him. His costly rituals and harsh rule caused even more opposition.

Rise to the throne and founding of Goryeo

In 918, four top-ranked generals of Taebong--Hong Yu (; ), Bae Hyeongyeong (; ), Shin Sung-gyeom (; ) and Bok Jigyeom (; )--met secretly and agreed to overthrow Gung Ye's rule and crown Wang Geon as their new king. Wang Geon first opposed the idea but later agreed to their plan. The same year Gung Ye was overthrown and killed near the capital, Cheorwon. The generals installed Wang Geon as the new king of this short-lived state. He renamed the kingdom Goryeo, thus beginning the Goryeo Dynasty. The next year he moved the capital back to his hometown, Gaegyeong.

He promoted Buddhism as Goryeo's national religion, and laid claim to the northern parts of the Korean Peninsula and Manchuria, which he considered his rightful legacy as the successor of Goguryeo.[7] According to the Goryeosa, in 918, the ancient capital of Pyongyang had been in ruins for a long time and foreign barbarians were using the surrounding lands as hunting grounds and occasionally raiding the borders of Goryeo; therefore, in his first year as king, Wang Geon ordered his subjects to repopulate the ancient capital,[8] and soon sent his cousin Wang Sik-ryeom to defend it. Afterward, he decreed Pyongyang as the Western Capital.[9] He also sought alliances and cooperation with local clans rather than trying to conquer and bring them under his direct control.

The War of the Later Three Kingdoms

In 927, Gyeon Hwon of Hubaekje led forces into Silla's capital, Gyeongju, capturing and executing its king, King Gyeongae. Then he established King Gyeongsun as his puppet monarch before he turned his army toward Goryeo. Hearing of the news, Taejo planned a strike with 5000 cavalrymen to attack Gyeon's troops on the way back home at Gongsan near Daegu.[10] He met Hubaekje forces and suffered disastrous defeat, losing most of his army including his generals Kim Nak and Shin Sung-gyeom, the very same man who crowned Wang as a king. However, Goryeo quickly recovered from defeat and successfully defended Hubaekje's attack on its front.

In 935, the last king of Silla, King Gyeongsun, felt there was no way to revive his kingdom and surrendered his entire land to Taejo. Taejo gladly accepted his surrender and gave him the title of prince, and accepted his daughter as one of his wives (Wang had six queens, and many more wives as he married daughters of every single local leader). It caused much disgust to Gyeon Hwon. Gyeon's father, who held his own claim to the Sangju region, also defected and surrendered to Goryeo and was received as the father of a king.

In the same year, Gyeon Hwon's oldest son, Gyeon Singeom (hanja: ), led a coup with his brothers Yanggeom and Yonggeom, against their father, who favored their half-brother, Geumgang, as his successor to the throne. Gyeon Hwon was sent into exile and imprisoned in Geumsansa, but escaped to Goryeo and was treated like Taejo's father, who died just before his surrender.

Goryeo victory and unification

In 936, Wang led his final campaign against Singeom of Later Baekje. Singeom fought against Taejo, but facing much disadvantage and inner conflict, he surrendered to Taejo. Wang finally occupied Hubaekje formally, and unified the nation for the second time since Unified Silla; he ruled until 943, and died from disease.

Taejo sought to bring even his enemies into his ruling coalition. He gave titles and land to rulers and nobles from the various countries he had defeated: Later Baekje, Silla, and also Balhae, which disintegrated around the same time. Thus he sought to secure stability and unity for his kingdom which had been lacking in the later years of Silla.

After the destruction of Balhae by the Khitans in 926, Balhae's last crown prince and much of its ruling class sought refuge in Goryeo, where they were warmly welcomed and included into the ruling family by Wang Geon, thus uniting the two successor nations of Goguryeo.[11] Taejo felt a strong familial kinship with Balhae, calling it his "Relative Country" and "Married Country",[12][13] and protected Balhae refugees, many of whom were also of Goguryeo origin.[7][12] This was in strong contrast to Later Silla, which had endured a hostile relationship with Balhae.[14]

Taejo displayed strong animosity toward the Khitans who had destroyed Balhae. The Liao dynasty sent 30 envoys with 50 camels as a gift in 942, but Wang Geon exiled the envoys and starved the camels under a bridge in retribution for Balhae, despite the major diplomatic repercussions.[15] Taejo proposed to Gaozu of Later Jìn that they attack the Khitans as revenge for the destruction of Balhae, according to the Zizhi Tongjian.[12][16] Furthermore, in his Ten Mandates to his descendants, he stated that the Khitans are no different than beasts and should be guarded against.[15]


Portrait of Taejo at the Manwoldae
Life-sized bronze statue of Taejo, constructed in 951, discovered in 1992 at Kaesong[17][18]

The unification of the Later Three Kingdoms in 936 was very important in Korean history; the unification of 668 CE by Silla was only a unification of approximately half of the peoples of the Korean Peninsula and its vicinity (who at the time largely considered themselves one people divided among many states), since the northern part was ruled by Balhae, which asserted itself as a reincarnation of Goguryeo. However, Wang Geon's unification in 936 was a more complete unification (in which only a single state emerged among the people, as opposed to the 7th century, when two, Later Silla and Balhae, emerged); the people of the Korean Peninsula thereafter remained under a single, unified state until 1948, when Korea was divided into north and south by Russian and U.S occupation forces.

As noted elsewhere in this article, the modern name of "Korea" is derived from the name "Goryeo," which itself is derived from "Goguryeo," to whose heritage (and by extension, territory) Wang Geon and his new kingdom laid claim.[7] As the first ruler to more fully unite the people of the Korean Peninsula under a single state, many modern-day Koreans look to his example for applicability to the current state of division on the Korean Peninsula.

During the early Goryeo dynasty, the title of crown prince (hanja: ) was only a peerage title for sons of the king; a separate title existed for the heir apparent (hanja: ).


  1. Queen Shinhye of the Jeongju Ryu clan (? ), daughter of Ryu Cheon-Gung ()
  2. Queen Janghwa of the Naju Oh clan (? ), daughter of Oh Da-Ryeon ()
    1. King Hyejong of Goryeo (912 - 23 October 945) ( )
  3. Queen Shinmyeongsunseong of the Chungju Yoo clan (900 - 951) ( ), daughter of Yu Geung-Dal ()
    1. Prince Wang Tae (918 - 921) ()
    2. King Jeongjong of Goryeo (923 - 13 April 949) ( )
    3. King Gwangjong of Goryeo (925 - 4 July 975) ( )
    4. Wang Jeong, Prince Munwon ( ?)
    5. Prince Jeungtong (?)
    6. Princess Nakrang (?)
    7. Princess Heungbang (?)
  4. Queen Shinjeong of the Hwangju Hwangbo clan (900 - 19 August 983) (? ), daughter of Hwangbo Je-Gong (?)
    1. King Daejong of Goryeo (Wang Wook) (? - November 969) ( )
    2. Queen Daemok of the Hwangju Hwangbo clan (? )
  5. Queen Shinseong of the Gyeongju Kim clan (? ), daughter of Kim Eok-Ryeom ()
    1. King Anjong of Goryeo (? - 7 July 996) ( )
  6. Queen Jeongdeok of the Jeongju Ryu clan (? ), daughter of Ryu Deok-Young ()
    1. Prince Wangwi ()
    2. Prince Inae ()
    3. Crown Prince Wonjang (?)
    4. Prince Joyi ()
    5. Queen Munhye of the Jeongju Ryu clan (? )
    6. Queen Seonui of the Jeongju Ryu clan (? )
    7. Unnamed daughter
  7. Grand Lady Heonmok of the Pyeong clan ( ), daughter of Pyeong Joon ()
    1. Crown Prince Sumyeong (?)
  8. Lady Jeongmok of the Wang clan (? ), daughter of Wang Gyeong ()
    1. Queen Dowager Sunan ()
  9. Lady Dongyangwon of the Pyeongsan Yu clan ( ), daughter of Yu Geum-Pil ()
    1. Wang Ui, Crown Prince Hyomok ( ?)
    2. Wang Won, Crown Prince Hyoeun ( ?)
  10. Lady Sukmok of the Myeong clan (? ), daughter of Myeong Pil ()
    1. Crown Prince Wonnyeong (? - 976) (?)
  11. Lady Cheonanbuwon of the Im clan ( ), daughter of Im Eon ()
    1. Crown Prince Hyoseong (? - 976) (?)
    2. Crown Prince Hyoji (?)
  12. Lady Heungbokwon of the Hongju Hong clan ( ), daughter of Hong Gyu ()
    1. Prince Wang Jik ()
    2. Unnamed daughter
  13. Lady Daeryangwon of the Hapcheon Lee clan ( ), daughter of Lee Jeong-Eon ()
  14. Lady Hudaeryangwon of the Lee clan ( ), daughter of Lee Won ()
  15. Lady Daemyeongjuwon of the Wang clan ( ), daughter of Wang Ye ()
  16. Lady Gwangjuwon of the Yanggeun Ham clan ( ), daughter of Ham Gyu / Wang Gyu ( / )
  17. Lady Sogwangjuwon of the Yanggeun Ham clan ( ), daughter of Ham Gyu / Wang Gyu ( / )
    1. Prince Gwangju (? - 945) (?)
  18. Lady Dongsanwon of the Suncheon Park clan ( ), daughter of Park Young-Gyu ()
  19. Lady Yehwa of the Haeju Wang clan (? ), daughter of Wang Yu ()
  20. Lady Daeseowon of the Dongju Kim clan ( ), daughter of Kim Haeng-Pa ()
  21. Lady Soseowon of the Dongju Kim clan ( ), daughter of Kim Haeng-Pa ()
  22. Lady Seojeonwon ()
  23. Lady Shinjuwon of the Kang clan ( ), daughter of Kang Gi-Ju ()
  24. Lady Wolhwawon (), daughter of Yang Yeong-Jang ()
  25. Lady Sohwangjuwon ()
  26. Lady Seongmu of the Pyeongsan Park clan (? ), daughter of Park Ji-Yoon ()
    1. Crown Prince Hyoje (?)
    2. Crown Prince Hyomyeong (?)
    3. Prince Beopdeung ()
    4. Prince Jali ()
    5. Unnamed daughter
  27. Lady Uiseongbuwon of the Uiseong Hong clan ( ), daughter of Hong Yu ()
    1. Great Prince Uiseongbuwon ()
  28. Lady Wolgyeongwon of the Pyeongsan Park clan ( ), daughter of Park Soo-Moon ()
  29. Lady Mongryangwon of the Pyeongsan Park clan( ), daughter of Park Soo-Kyung ()
  30. Lady Haeryangwon of the Seon clan ( ), daughter of Seon Pil ()

Popular culture

See also


  1. ^ "()". ? (in Korean). Korea Creative Content Agency. Retrieved 2018.
  2. ^ ?, (2015-08-24). ? : ? 500? (in Korean). . ISBN 9788958629023. Retrieved 2016.
  3. ^ (1 March 2015). " ? · ''". ? (in Korean). JoongAng Ilbo. Retrieved 2018. ? ? ?(?)? ?, ? ? ? , ? ? ? .
  4. ^ (2014). - (in Korean). . ISBN 9791159250248. Retrieved 2018.
  5. ^ "(2) - ". (in Korean). National Institute of Korean History. Retrieved 2018.
  6. ^ (2008). ? 2: · (in Korean). . ISBN 9788986982923. Retrieved 2018.
  7. ^ a b c Rossabi, Morris (1983-05-20). China Among Equals: The Middle Kingdom and Its Neighbors, 10th-14th Centuries. University of California Press. p. 323. ISBN 9780520045620. Retrieved 2016.
  8. ^ ":",?,,?,, "()
  9. ^ "". (in Korean). National Institute of Korean History. Retrieved 2018.
  10. ^ Il-yeon: Samguk Yusa: Legends and History of the Three Kingdoms of Ancient Korea, translated by Tae-Hung Ha and Grafton K. Mintz. Book Two, page 128. Silk Pagoda (2006). ISBN 1-59654-348-5
  11. ^ Lee, Ki-Baik (1984). A New History of Korea. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 103. ISBN 978-0674615762. "When Parhae perished at the hands of the Khitan around this same time, much of its ruling class, who were of Kogury? descent, fled to Kory?. Wang K?n warmly welcomed them and generously gave them land. Along with bestowing the name Wang Kye ("Successor of the Royal Wang") on the Parhae crown prince, Tae Kwang-hy?n, Wang K?n entered his name in the royal household register, thus clearly conveying the idea that they belonged to the same lineage, and also had rituals performed in honor of his progenitor. Thus Kory? achieved a true national unification that embraced not only the Later Three Kingdoms but even survivors of Kogury? lineage from the Parhae kingdom."
  12. ^ a b c (2015). ? : ? 500? (in Korean). . ISBN 9788958629023. Retrieved 2018.
  13. ^ . "''? ''? ?". ?. Chosun Ilbo. Archived from the original on 2017-06-22. Retrieved 2018.
  14. ^ "Parhae | historical state, China and Korea". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2018.
  15. ^ a b (22 June 2015). "[] ? ". ? (in Korean). Kyunghyang Shinmun. Retrieved 2018.
  16. ^ " ". M (in Korean). ?. Retrieved 2018.
  17. ^ "". (in Korean). National Institute of Korean History. Retrieved 2018.
  18. ^ . "?(?)". (in Korean). Academy of Korean Studies. Retrieved 2018.

External links

Taejo of Goryeo
Born: 31 January 877 Died: 4 July 943
Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of Goryeo
Succeeded by
Political offices
New office Prime Minister of Taebong
Office abolished

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