China conducting closed research into ancient Korean dynasty

Posted on : 2013-01-26 12:36 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Observers say work on the Goguryeo stele is an attempt to incorporate it into Chinese history
 or memorial stone
or memorial stone

By Park Min-hee, Beijing correspondent

China continues its closed research into a recently unearthed Goguryeo stele, or memorial stone, that is attracting interest as the second Gwanggaeto Stele. The Hankyoreh confirmed that the research team includes a large number of scholars who took part in the Northeast Project, which was controversial for its distortions of Goguryeo history.

Goguryeo was one of the three kingdoms of ancient Korea, along with Baekjae and Silla. Parts of its territory are in present day North Korea, North eastern China and Russian Far East.

Officials in the city of Ji’an in Jilin Province, northeast China, where the new Goguryeo stele was discovered, assembled a guidance team for protection and study of the gravestone. The research team, according to an announcement posted recently by Ji’an’s Cultural Administration on a local government website, includes Wei Cuncheng, professor at Jilin University; Geng Tie-hua, professor at Tonghua Academy of Education; Zhang Fu-you, scholar of Jilin Province literature and history; Xu Jian-xin, academic advisor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; Sun Ren-jie, curator of the Ji’an Museum; and Wang Zhi-min, a member of the Jilin Province Cultural Relics Evaluation Committee.

Wei Cun-cheng, who is regarded as a leading scholar on the history of Goguryeo and Balhae and the southern and northern dynasties period in China, was one of the key figures of the Northeast Project, and he was also a member on that project’s expert committee.

Geng Tie-hua is an expert on the history of Goguryeo, and he is also noted for his participation in the Northeast Project. In China, he is considered to be an exceptional scholar in the area of Goguryeo history, and he has published various works including one that asks the question of which country the history of Goguryeo belongs to. He also published a book titled The Ceremonial Rites of Gwanggaeto the Great in 2003, which came out of the historians’ work on the Northeast Project.

The other scholars on the research team were also involved with the project, either directly or indirectly, reports indicate.

Concerns are being raised that, with key figures from the Northeast Project taking part in the research, it is very likely that China will use the results of the study of the new Goguryeo stele to reinforce its argument that Goguryeo belongs to China. Earlier this month, a journal on Chinese culture published by China’s Administration of Cultural Heritage discussed archaeological research on the Goguryeo stele. The report said that the discovery is most significant because it reveals a connection between Goguryeo and China. 

The Northeast Project is part of an ongoing effort by the Chinese government to incorporate all of the history that unfolded inside the borders of present-day China into Chinese history. By isolating Goguryeo from the history of the Korean peninsula and declaring that it is part of Chinese history, China has triggered a fierce historical debate with South Korea.

This Goguryeo stele is the third to be discovered, following the Gwanggaeto Stele and the Goguryeo Stele in Chungju. Amid appraisals describing it as the next Gwanggaeto Stele, it is attracting a large amount of attention. 

The stele, which appears to have been constructed around the same time as the Gwanggaeto Stele (around 414 CE), was discovered last July in Maxian in Ji’an, but the discovery was not announced until the beginning of January 2013.

The new Goguryeo stele is being stored at the Ji’an Museum, reports have confirmed. In a phone interview with the Hankyoreh on Jan. 25, a museum official said, “We are continuing to research the Goguryeo Stele here at the museum.”

The Ji’an Museum is now temporarily closed due to renovations, and no visitors are being allowed inside. The museum official said that they would not be accepting any requests for reporting by the press before the museum reopens in May 2013.

Please direct questions or comments to [englishhani@hani.co.kr]

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