BCE 109 – BCE 108: When Han Attacks

BCE 109 – BCE 108: When Han Attacks

Early Korea; the Shiji (太史公書; 사기); The Han Dynasty (漢朝; 한조); The Yan Kingdom (연나라; 燕國); The Xiongnu (흉노; 匈奴)


Welcome to the History of Korea. I’m your host, Allen Lee. In this episode, we talk about when China first attacks, and conquers, Korea. We also discuss the Eurasian steppes.

[intro music] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okd8brEiidA

In the last episode, we concluded with the war between the Han Dynasty and Gojoseon in 109 BCE, and we can say with a lot of certainty that this is the first time China (as the people / state that we know) has attacked Korea (as the state / people that we know). First let’s step back and look at the broader geopolitical environment, which involves China and another powerful entity, and how that leads to that fateful war. We’ll then go into the details of the war. 

China History

While Korea, and frankly, most of the rest of the world was still evolving from Neolithic hunter and gatherers to tribes of subsistence farmers to larger groups with elaborate burial mounds requiring social stratification, what was happening to the west in China was especially remarkable. In the larger, more fertile and more populous center of China, a people had already invented a written language, the only neolithic language that survives to this day in daily use. 

The Shang Dynasty (상; 商), the first historically proven dynasty of China, unites a large swath of territory around 1500 BCE. During it’s roughly 500 year reign Its extraordinary bronze-casting skill would be among the most advanced feats of human endeavor recorded in the world at the time. It’s also when we find evidence of the first Chinese characters, preserved on turtle bones. 

The Zhou dynasty (주; Chinese: 周; pinyin: Zhōu [ʈʂóu]) would defeat the Shang in 1045 BCE, and the victorious Zhou would cut up the sizable empire to parcel it out among their kinsmen, and in time these territories would themselves become small kingdoms. They include the Yan, Jin, Han, Wei, Qi, Lu, and a couple of smaller territories called the Tang and Song. And if you recognize those names it’s because the later dynasties of China would refer to this list of names when selecting their dynasty names as a symbol of their legitimacy and tie to the phenomenally unbroken history of China.

One of these kingdoms, called Yan (연나라; 燕國), encompassed the far northeastern reach of China including Liaoning peninsula on its eastern flank and its capital city in the western portion, which they named Ji. Ji is remarkable for being situated right where the flat northern Chinese plains meet the mountains that separate greater China from the steppes. That’s why the great wall of china was built just north of this capital city. You may recognize it by its modern name, Beijing. (small city of 21 million people). If you want to know the deep historical relations of Korea and China, you would do well to know at least this fact. China’s capital city was deeply involved with Korea since as early as 500 BCE.

Directly east of Yan is present day North Korea, and that’s where our story for this episode begins.

The long lived but declining Zhou dynasty, which by the end was barely held together by just a titular crown, would displaced by the Qin Dynasty in 221 BCE, a very interesting state with a strong ideological raison d’etre,  which itself would only last one generation to around 206 BCE, and finally replaced by the Han Dynasty, which would find some serious unification, stability and consolidation. It is after these turbulent times, when the Chinese empire is still very new, that we see Korea enter its historical records.

SHIJI (史記 )

Before we continue, a quick note about the Shiji, the historical source that covers this period. The Zhou dynasty is well documented into the Spring and Autumn period (춘추 시대) and the Warring States period, in fact these periods are named after the histories written about them. But there isn’t a ton of written records on the Qin period, from 221 to 206 BCE, and for that we rely on the Shiji by Sima Qian (司馬遷; 사마천), finished in 94 BCE. He covers not just the fall of Zhou but the Qin period, and the Han Dynasty. He wrote about Gojoseon, as you may remember from our last episode. And it’s worth reporting how high in esteem Sima Qian is held. Amongst historians of China he is known simply as “The Grand Historian” (Tàishǐ Gōng 太史公). His father’s ambition was to write the complete history of China but only wrote some preliminary sketches before his death. Qian inherited his father’s position as court historian and made it his life’s mission to complete his father’s goal; and he certainly did. In 99 BCE he would end up on the wrong side of a dispute with the emperor. Given the choice of death or castration, Qian chose castration so that he could complete his work, and complete it he did. He not only wrote about China but about all the nations around China. For Koreans, he is the single reliable source for descriptions of Gojoseon.


Starting around the middle of the 1st millennium BCE (so roughly 500 BCE), the tribes in Korea have been mixing it up two main groups of people: the Yan Dynasty to their west and the constant nomadic tribes inhabiting the steppes north of them.

We know this from archeological evidence; much of the pottery and metal work found in present day Korea show influences from Yan or greater China. And again, I’ll bring in England and the Roman Empire as a comp because it’s convenient–much like the history of early England is the story of an indigenous people who are greatly affected by one of the greatest civilizations in history, so too is the history of early Korea the story of an indigenous people, or peoples, and how they came into contact with the mighty civilization of China.

More tellingly, Zhou knife money has been found as far south as the center of the Korean peninsula. Zhou knife money was used as currency in the Zhou empire, and the different kingdoms issued their own type as well, including the Yan. They actually look like straight edge razors, and have really cool symbols in them. Some have fancy handles, and they all have rings on the far edge of their handle so that they can be strung together and transported easily.

So we know that Yan and the Koreans (and whether we classify them as a state like Gojoseon, or whether they’re just a loose confederation of tribes, is something we speculated on in the last episode) are trading and interacting during this time.

The Eurasian Steppes

But aside from the early Chinese and Koreans, there’s a 3rd party that we need to include in our story here. And normally I’d say it’s a people, but in this case it’s not a people.  It’s not an enemy, or an ally. It just is. It’s an ecoregion, which we’ll broadly call the Eurasian steppes.

Broadly speaking, the steppes is the huge swath of land that extends horizontally across the huge Eurasian landmass, roughly from the Danube river in modern day Hungary all the way to the east in Manchuria. The eastern border coincides nicely with the border of Gojoseon. Here is a great description of the steppes that I found on the Internet: 

Steppes are dry, grassy plains occurring in intemperate climates between the tropic and polar regions. Steppes usually receive 25 to 50 centimeters (10 to 20 inches) of annual rainfall. Because of this annual amount of rain, Steppe can grow grasses and short shrubs, but not tall trees. ..Sometimes the Eurasian Steppe can have very extreme temperatures. It can reach up to 104 degrees fahrenheit (40 degrees celsius) in the summer and can fall down to -40 degrees fahrenheit in the winter. It gets so cold in the winter because there are no tall trees to block the fierce winds and no clouds to keep the heat from leaving to the upper atmosphere. 

The Eurasian Steppe has a unique climate cycle where the Steppe has 10 or more years of good rain, and then just as many years of drought. The soil in the Steppes has a lot of minerals, but not so much organic matter as a result of the such little amount of rainfall in the Steppes. 


I’d say the history of Korea (and China for that matter) is not just their dealings with the multitude of states and peoples within and without their borders but their permanent, complicated relationship with this ecoregion.

This ecoregion is not good for agriculture. But it’s not barren; it’s got tall grasses that can feed large herds of animals including horses, cattle, goat and sheep. Horses start out as cheap winter meat, since cattle and sheep don’t know how to use their hooves to break through the snow crust to get at fodder below. 

That means it can support a significant human population. The humans that grow up in this ecoregion base their lives around the livestock that feed them, so they are nomadic. And once they learn to tame the horse (which happens near the Ural mountains around 3500 BCE), they are highly mobile. Eneolithic horses were shown to be 13-14 hands high, big enough to ride.

Tribal raiding on horseback starts; Massed, mounted archery occurs during the final bronze and early iron transition around 900 BCE, and you get the progenitor to world terrors including Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan.

The Eurasian steppes are just north of all the farming societies in eastern Europe, central Asia, Turkey, and Asia. Because the region is so huge and spread out, it acts as a kind of natural highway for those who travel across it, and in fact the Silk Road would cut across it. The settled farmlands south of this highway are peopled with sedentary farmers who don’t travel much at all. Whereas the nomads to the north travel east and west much more easily. In that way, even though their population is not as dense, they are able to pick up some of the innovations from their farmer neighbors. Horse domestication and riding spread from west to east along the steppes. The use of bronze cauldrons went east to west; it was picked up by the eastern steppes people near Manchuria  and spread westward. Languages and blood were also somewhat mixed in this way.

Recent archeological evidence shows that these nomads didn’t subsist only on their livestock though. Starting very early on, they supplemented their diets with grain. Some of this grain was the result of trade with their southern neighbors. But as we know from history, some of it was taken by force, giving these nomads their well deserved reputation for a propensity for violence.

Still, there is no consensus on the history of all the peoples that lived in the steppes. But if you search in an academic database for research, you will see a ton of DNA studies being done from many locations across the steppes on the ancient peoples that lived there. 


Getting back to our story, what we do know, through the writings of the Chinese and corroborated by archeology and now DNA, is that by around 300 BCE the various tribes and peoples occupying the eastern reaches of the steppes, around Mongolia, had organized into a confederacy that we now call the Xiongnu (Xiongnu [ɕjʊ́ŋ.nǔ] (Korean: 흉노; Chinese: 匈奴; Wade–Giles: Hsiung-nu). And like steppes people usually are, the Xiongnu are a real threat to all the farming societies south of them. Riotto speculates that:

The Xiongnu came from Manchuria, near where the Donghu (동호; 東胡) lived. The Donghu were a tribe or tribal union in Northeast China that included ancient Koreans. Many noteworthy tombs (perhaps of kings) attributable to the Xiongnu culture found in Manchuria seem to confirm their Manchurian origin. 

Others speculate they were a nomadic ethnic minority living near Shaanbei. Regardless, we know that during the Zhou dynasty they are living near Shaanxi when they are forced out by the “Han” people. 

The first significant clash with the Chinese army occurred in 245 BCE (Shiji, 110; Han Shu, 94) when Li Mu (李牧), a commander of the Zhao (趙), defeated the Xiongnu, the Donghu, and other “barbarian” peoples in the same military campaign. Soon after China’s unification, the Xiongnu suffered another attack from the Qin (秦; 진) (214 BCE). Touman (頭曼), the shanyu (單于, king or ruler) of the Xiongnu, fled north.

  • Riotto

In 209 BCE, Modu, Modun, or Maodun (simplified Chinese: 冒顿单于; traditional Chinese: 冒頓單于; pinyin: Mòdú Chányú, c. 234 – c. 174 BCE) who was the son of Touman, regroups and then organizes the tribes into the empire of the Xiongnu. And in true tribal fashion he came to power by ordering his men to kill his father in 209 BCE.

This is one of those times when the steppes people have unified into a single confederation. And when that happens, the world is impacted (and if you need any example, take the Mongols under Genghis Khan). 

If you want to know how powerful the Xiongnu had become by that time, consider that the Great Wall of China, as we know it, was built first as a demarcation of territory by the Qin Dynasty, and of course as a defense against the Xiongnu. Actually, the beginnings of the walls were built by the separate kingdoms even before then, around 800 BCE, to protect against the nomads as well as each other. But the Qin in 221 BCE organized all the walls into one mostly continuous one running east and west.

What do the Xiongnu have to do with Korea? There is strong evidence that the Xiongnu, and the Donghu (another nomadic tribe that lived east of the Xiongnu, right north of Korea), were interacting a lot with Gojoseon, and might even have been related. 

The Xiongnu remains discovered in the So˘g’am-ri tomb near Pyongyang and in other places bear witness to the existence of interactions between the two states.


Why War?

Back to our story. We’ll get to the details of the war in just a minute, but first let’s talk about why Han China attacked Gojoseon. 

As a review, In 195 BCE, Lu Wan, the king of Yan, is implicated in a plot of rebellion against the new Emperor Gaozu of Han. He flees to the Xiongnu, but his general, Wiman, instead goes to the Gojoseon, where he would go on to usurp power from King Joon (기준, 基準).

So there was already some bad blood between the Han and Gojoseon; after all, one of their most wanted men has not only found safe harbor in Gojoseon but managed to take over it as his own.

Sometime later, according to the Shiji, Wiman is charged with the duty of defending the border from neighboring barbarians. He’s enfeoffed as an “outer vassal” of Han and supplied with iron weapons on the condition that he refrain from blocking the passage of those tribes wishing an audience with the emperor.

Wiman used this advantage to subjugate neighboring polities including Jinbeon (진번, 眞番), which occupied what is now the bulbous territory between Pyeongyang and Seoul; and Imdun.

Meanwhile, in 133 BCE, the Han dynasty has declared an all out war on the Xiongnu over raids, incursions and just general conquest of land. This series of battles would last until 89 CE.

By 109 BCE, Wiman’s grandson, Ugeo (위우거; 衛右渠) is the king of Gojoseon. But by then, all formal diplomatic relations with Han ceased to exist. Historians assume that Gojoseon had attained a certain level of skill to produce their own iron weapons, and no longer needed the Han.

So Han attacked because either (A) the ruler was blocking access from other polities in the Korean peninsula to the Emperor; (B) Han was afraid Gojoseon would align with the Xiongnu; (C ) some overzealous military officers got carried away and didn’t try hard enough to negotiate; or (D) all of the above. We will address all of these in turn.

The Attack

For the details of this attack, I will be reading almost exclusively from Ancient History of the Manchuria by Lee Mosol. This is because I have not found any details of the Han-Gojoseon war in English anywhere else. Surprisingly, the Wikipedia entry is extremely scant. This is disappointing because we have the full text of the Shiji which describes it in some detail. I haven’t found any details on the writer Lee Mosol, other than that he is a Korean American doctor who practiced in the states, and seems to be an amateur enthusiast of the Chinese classics. He basically read the Shiji in it’s original classic Chinese form in order to provide a “Korean” perspective to a work that is obviously well covered by Chinese historians. Luckily he wrote an English-language version of his work, and it seems to be self published.

At that time, many Han refugees were crossing the border into Gojoseon. Ugeo had never paid tribute to the Emperor. Furthermore he had broken a pact between his grandfather and the eastern Han commandery official by blocking envoys from the other polities around Gojoseon, including the Zhen, Bo and Jinbeon (진번, 眞番) from paying tribute to the Emperor. 

By this time, Gojoseon had become a regional power to be dealt with. Wiman must have controlled the trade route from the Han to parts of Manchuria and the peninsula. 

By this time in 109 BCE, we’re on our seventh ruler of the Han Dynasty, Emperor Wu. He’s 48 years old when this happens, and had been ruling for 32 years; he would go on to reign for a total of 54 years, the longest of any ethnic Han emperor. 

So he sent She He (Shè hé; 섭하; 涉何) as the official envoy to 우거 to presumably issue a cease and desist. She He fails to get a deal done, and is escorted out of Gojoseon. Right as he reaches the border, called Pei Creek (浿水; now the 압록강 or the Yalu), She orders his troops to kill the Joseon escort. He quickly escapes across the river and disappears into the safety of the fortress. She sends notice to the court that he has killed the Joseon escort, and he is rewarded with the title of Commander of the Liaodong Commandery. Joseon understandably gets angry, mobilizes its troops, and attacks and kills She Ha.

The way this is written in the Shiji makes it seem very simple. But for a Joseon force to attack and kill the envoy within a commandery requires a major battle. 

Using the death of his envoy as a pretext, Emperor Wu launches an attack on the capital of Gojoseon. This is a major offensive. The first line of the Shiji describing this attack is “The emperor gathered the criminals to attack the Joseon.” It seems that Emperor Wu had forced or otherwise conscripted an army of criminals or at the least defeated enemies. This is relevant as you’ll see. There are two main branches to the attack. 

In autumn, Yang Pu (양복; 楊仆), the commanding officer of the Han Navy, sails along the shore of Qi (or the northern shoreline of Shandong province) with 50,000 soldiers through Bohai Bay (which is the body of water next to Stone Tablet Mountain 碣石山 ) to arrive at 例口.

A few days afterwards, the left branch of the army under Commanding General Xun Zhi (左將軍荀晨) is deployed from Liaodong and reaching the capital, commands Ugeo to surrender.

King Ugeo moves from the capital city Wanggeom to the fortress. As Lee writes, back in those days, there were two ways to protect the royal family. The first was to make the capital city itself a fortress. This was more common if it were located on a flat field. They would construct a moat around a stone wall. However, if the capital were located near mountainous terrain, they would usually build a separate fortress in the mountains. Lee theorizes that Wanggeom was the latter.

Ugeo himself had two main military branches: 損水西軍 and 俱水上軍 

While we know there were 50,000 troops under Yang Pu, the Shiji doesn’t specify how many were under General Xun Zhi (左將軍荀晨). However, we know that Yang Pu was subordinate to Xun Zhi. Therefore, Lee concludes that Xun Zhi’s force was likely larger, so that the total force is over 100,000 strong.

An officer name Da, from the Liaodong division, led the first assault, but was defeated so badly that many of his soldiers fled the battlefield (and here we see the relevance of a largely unwilling army). Da is executed for this failure.

Next, an army of 7,000 soldiers from Qi (or Shandong) are the first from their branch to arrive at the capital. Ugeo, seeing that there aren’t that many soldiers, quickly led an army to meet them in battle and defeated them. Many of the Han soldiers ran away into the mountains and hid for ten days. Later, they were able to get them back. Xun Zhi attacked the western branch of Ugeo but was unable to defeat them or advance.

Let’s take a step back and realize what just happened here. The fledgling Korean state of Gojoseon has repelled the mighty Han army, all 100,000 of them. And to give you a sense of how formidable this Chinese army was, the bona fides of both Chinese generals, Xun Zhi and Yang Pu, are well documented. Xun Zhi was from the Taiyuan region (太原; ), a mountainous region in the heart of northern China in present day Shaanxi, and had gained a reputation as a fierce warrior, no doubt having gained experience in fighting in the mountains as well as fighting the fierce nomads to the north. He may even have had some Shanrong blood himself (山戎; a fierce nomadic tribe from that area).

Yang Pu was even more accomplished. In 112 BCE, he had gained renown as the general who defeated the “southern barbarians” in what is today northeast of Hong Kong, and as his reward was appointed as the marquee of a region called Jiangliang.

This wouldn’t be the last time China would come up against the fierce defense of the Koreans.

What happens next, according to the Shiji, however, is a bit confusing. I’ll read Lee’s direct translation of the Shiji with a few minor edits to clean up his English:

By realizing that those two generals couldn’t accomplish their missions, the emperor sent his envoy ‘Wei Shan to persuade Ugeo to surrender by demonstrating massive military buildup as a threat. As soon Ugeo realized that he had met the real envoy from the emperor in his domain, he was delighted and made a sincere apology by saying, ‘I Intended to surrender to the emperor, but was afraid those two generals might kill me. Now by knowing the emperor’s personal note is genuine, I want to surrender.’ 

Ugeo then sent his son the crown prince towards the emperor’s court with a sincere note of apology, along with 5,000 horses and grain to supply the Han’s military. Right as the 10,000 fully armed Gojoseon troops were about to pass Pei Creek, the emperor’s envoy, Wei Shan, concerned that these troops might cause trouble, and knowing that the crown prince had already surrendered, asked the Joseon army to disarm themselves.

This scared the crown prince, who was afraid the Han generals might trick and kill him, decide not to cross the river but to return home. When Wei Shan reported this to the emperor he was executed.

General Xhun Zi destroyed the northern branch of the Gojoseon army and then proceeded back towards the castle. This time, instead of attacking from the east, which was well guarded, he went around, up into the mountains, broke the defenders there, and then crossed down across the border to the northwestern side of the fortress.

By this time, the Han forces had surrounded the fortress. King Ugeo held firm as before, and several months passed.

King Ugeo dispatched messengers to both generals: Xhun Zi refused to negotiate and prepared for a massive attack. Meanwhile, Navy General Lou Chuan (樓船將), stinging from the defeat by the Joseon earlier, met privately with the Joseon, hoping for a peaceful resolution.

Commanding General Xun Zhi sent a message demanding the Joseon surrender; but they told him they were negotiating with Navy General Lu. 

The emperor, realizing that he was about to face yet another failure, angrily remarked that he had already sent envoy Wei Shan to demand Ugeo surrender, and that Wei Shan couldn’t get a deal done and instead clashed with the commanding general. So the Emperor sent the governor of Qi, Gong Son Do, giving him ultimate authority to speak on behalf of the crown.

Commanding General Xun told Envoy Gong that he had planned multiple times for an all out assault of the fortress, but each time the Navy General had refused. He further told him that his personal suspicion was that the Navy General was ultimately going to side with the Joseon and attack the Han.

Envoy Gong agreed with his suspicions, and on behalf of the emperor, ordered the Navy General to report to the Commanding General, give up his arms and hand over control of his entire force to the Commanding General.

Having accomplished this, Envoy Gong reported to the emperor and was promptly executed for his trouble.

Commanding General Xun, now in charge of the 100,000 or so force, led both branches in a fierce assault of the fortress. King Ugeo refused to surrender. However, his chief advisors, namely the prime minister, Lo yin (노인; 路人), minister Han Eum (한음; 韓陰) from the Han Kingdom (you’ll recognize this from Korea’s current name), a minister named Sam (삼; 參) from Nixi, Nigi (이계; 尼谿) and general Wong Qian (왕겹; 王唊) all got together secretly. They wanted to surrender to the Navy General, but now that he was out of the picture they saw the writing on the wall. A few of them escaped and surrendered, but Lo Yin died in the effort.

The next summer, the minister for Nigi sent an assassin who kills Ugeo, and then surrenders on behalf of the kingdom. But the capital doesn’t surrender, with some loyal vassals continuing to resist the Han.

Commanding General Xun sends an envoy to the son of Ugeo, Zhanghang (장항; 長降). Meanwhile, the son of a prime minister, Choe (最), reaches out to the general public to kill the leader of the holdouts, Sung Sa (成巳?), which they do. 

And finally, Han has conquered Joseon. Han sets up four commanderies (which we will discuss in the next episode) and enfoeffs Sam as Marquee, while Eum, Heum and Zhanghang. Choe is also enfoeffed.

The victorious Commanding General Xun, the decorated, battle hardened warrior from the mountainous region of Shaanxi, is summoned to the court. He is accused of the crime of jealousy, competing for war trophies and failing to accomplish his mission, and his put to death.

Navy General Lu was also called to court and was stripped of all his title, but was spared his life because he paid some enormous monetary penalty.

The writer Lee would wryly point out that this is the only time in Chinese history that a commanding general would be punished by death for bringing victory to the emperor. Lee believes this shows the true, cold, terrific nature of not just Emperor Wu, but of the Han dynasty: the cold-blooded mercilessness; one in which the emperor is next only to god; that his word is final; that his judgement is mercurial and arbitrary like a supernatural power. Lee also speculates that perhaps the court viewed the commanding general, at long last, as a non ethnic Han; and that having used him, they disposed of him.

So that’s the somber note that we’ll end on for this episode. China’s first attack of Korea is an uncoordinated, messy affair. It was an episode of Keystone Cops, and while it’s funny to learn about it, it’s not so funny to learn about the cold, calculated toll it takes on the individuals responsible for it. We are seeing, in essence, the beginnings of a great empire and the intolerance for imperfection that such an empire requires.

For the Koreans, we see just the beginning of an unending series of attacks. Hidden in the Shiji’s accounts are the untold amount of suffering borne by the civilians of Gojoseon.

I’ll read directly from Lee Mosol’s translation of the Shiji:

Section 4: 子募罪人擊朝鮮。其秋,遣樓船將軍楊仆從齊浮渤海; 兵五萬人,左將軍荀晨出遼東:討右渠右渠發兵距險。左將軍卒正 多率遼東兵先縱,敗散,多還走,坐法斬。樓船將軍將齊兵匕千人先至 王險。右渠城守,窺知樓船軍少,即出城擊樓船,樓船軍敗散走。將軍 楊仆失其眾,遁山中十餘日,稍求收散卒,復聚左將軍擊朝鮮狽水西 軍,未能破自前. 

Section 4: The emperor gathered the criminals to attack the Joseon. 

In autumn of that year, Yang Pu, the commanding officer of Han’s navy, was sent to sail along the shore of Qi with fifty thousand soldiers, navigating through Bohai. 

The left branch of the army under Xun Zhi was deployed from Liaodong and commanded Woo Ge to surrender. Ugeo mobilized his army and moved to the citadel of the capital town Wanggeom (왕험; 王險) as the fortress (or away from his main camp went to the place, where defense would be to his advantage). 

23) The man named “Da who was under 左將軍荀晨  led one group of Army from the Liaodong branch and took the first assault. Being defeated badly, lots of them escaped (from the army camp). Da was put to death according to the rule of law. An army of 7,000 soldiers from the Qi which was under the [___] arrived first at the capital of Wiman Joseon Wanggeom (왕험; 王險). 

Ugeo caved inside the fortress. He later noticed that the enemy soldiers were not big in number, so he quickly came out from the fortress and demolished the[] troop. [ ] was defeated badly, lost lots of soldiers, ran away, and hid in the mountainous terrain for about ten days. Gradually he was able to put together the scattered soldiers. [ ] ( [] army) attacked the western branch of the enemy [ ] but was unable to destroy the enemy in front and unable to advance.

From this passage it is clear that the Han’s first attack was a disaster. 

Wanggeom (왕험성; 왕검성; 王險城) – Historic capital of Wiman Joseon

Historians proffer three main sites for Wangheom, including (1) Lie Creek River Delta (洌水; 대동강) in North Korea; (2) In Manchuria: 遼陽(랴오양) / 梅城 Or (3) 朝陽 (조양; Zhaoyang) / 龍城 

There is strong evidence that the Dongnu, or the tribe east of the Xiongnu and right north of the modern North Korean border, share cultural and blood ties with the Koreans. And the Dongnu were aligned with the Xiongnu. 

There’s evidence also that the Xiongnu and Koreans also have close ties. 

There are some theories that perhaps Wiman was in fact an agent of the Xiongnu? And that Han attacked Gojoseon because it was attacking Xiongnu?


Gojoseon (Korean: 고조선; Hanja: 古朝鮮)


국역 동국통감 위만 조선 [ 衛滿朝鮮 ]

Ancient History of the Manchuria, Lee Mosol, MD, MPH (Don S. Lee (李燉聖), pen name “Mosol,”) 뿌리를 찾아서 李燉聖

Horseback Riding and Bronze Age Pastoralism in the Eurasian Steppes

Xiongnu https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53Dq07ABlVc

137 ancient human genomes from across the Eurasian steppes. Peter de Barros Damgaard1, Nina Marchi2, Simon Rasmussen3

Economic Diversification Supported the Growth of Mongolia’s Nomadic Empires. Shevan Wilkin 1*, Alicia Ventresca Miller1,2, Bryan K. Miller1, Robert N. Spengler III  1, William T. T. Taylor1,3, Ricardo Fernandes1,4,5, Richard W. Hagan6, Madeleine Bleasdale 1, Jana Zech1, S. Ulziibayar7, Erdene Myagmar 8, Nicole Boivin1,9,10,11 & Patrick Roberts 1,9*

Modeling environmental variability and network formation among pastoral nomadic households: Implications for the rise of the Mongol Empire.

Barnes, Gina Lee. State Formation in Korea (Durham East Asia Series). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition. 2001, Curzon Press.

Ancient Koreans and Xiongnu: What was the Nature of Their Relationship? Maurizio RIOTTO, Università degli studi di Napoli “L’Orientale”

Relations between Ancient Korea and Turkey: An Examination of Contacts between Koguryo˘ and the Turkic Khaganate*, Noh Tae-Don

Regional study: exchanges within the Silk Roads world system, Xinru Liu


John King Fairbank – China. A New History [2006][A]

Early Korea 1: Reconsidering Early Korean History through Archaeology Paperback – November 30, 2008 https://www.amazon.com/Early-Korea-Reconsidering-History-Archaeology/dp/0979580013

A History of Korea. Seth, Michael J. Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham: 2011.

Literal text from the Shiji:

左將軍已并兩軍,即急擊朝鮮。朝鮮相路人,相韓陰,尼谿相 參,將軍王峽相與謀曰:「始欲降樓船,樓船今執,獨左將軍并 將,戰益急,恐不能與,(戰)王又不肯降。:陰,峽,路人皆亡 降漢。路人道死。兀封三年夏,尼谿相參乃使人殺朝鮮王右渠 來降。王險城未下,故右渠之大臣成巳又反,復攻吏。左將軍 使右渠子長降,相路人之子最告諭其民,誅成巳,以故遂定朝鮮, 為四郡。封參為僵清侯,陰為荻直侯,峽為平州侯,長[降]為 幾侯。最以父死頗有功,為溫陽侯 


BC 109년에 한무제는 누선장군 양복(楊仆)을 보내 병사 5만을 거느리고 교동의과(지금의 산동연대山東煙台)로부터 발해(渤海)를 건너게 하고, 좌장군 순체(荀彘)에게는 약 6만의 육군을 거느리고 요동으로 나가게 하여, 두 길로 고조선을 향해 진군하게 하였다

[출처] 14. 한민족 전쟁사(韓民族 戰爭史) 14-1. 고조선 시대|작성자 먼산

  1. From Huns:

The first indication to that effect came in 1948 when Henning published a letter written by a Sogdian [ancient Iranian civilization in present day Uzbekistan] merchant named Nanaivande dating to the year 313 AD. It was a letter sent from the Gansu region of western China relating the fall of the imperial Chinese capital Luoyang to the Southern Xiongnu  in 311 AD. In it Nanaivande without any ambiguity calls the Xiongnu Huns. 

More recent evidence collected by La Vaissiere, the translations of ancient Buddhist sutras TathagataguM1ya-sulra and Lditrmistara by .11 Pah% a Buddhist monk from the western Chinese city of Dunhuang,ho was of Central Asian Bactrian descent, reaffirmed this identification. Zhu Fahu, whose translations are dated to 28o AD and 3o8 AD respectively (so roughly contemporaneous with Nanaivande’s letter), identifies again without any ambiguity or generalization the Htmo (appellation of the Huns in Indian sourc.) with tlie Xiongnu, as a specific political entity adjacent to China’ Therefore, it is now perfectly clear that the imperial Xiongnu of Mongolia and China and the European-Central Asian Huns had exactly the same name.


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