Buyeo National Museum, much like the Gyeongju National Museum, presents local archaeological discoveries and offers visitors a narrative about the ancient Baekje Kingdom.
The Korean peninsula consisted of hundreds of little chieftainships, each controlling no more than a few villages, and around the time iron began to be widely used, many of these chieftainships formed cofederacies. One of these was the Mahan Confederacy in southwestern Korea.
Baekje was originally one of the 54 cheiftainships of the Mahan Confederacy. It gradually grew stronger and bigger, annexing its neighbors, until Baekje had practically absorbed all of Mahan.
Baekje’s original capital was Hanseong, but after it was captured by its northern enemy and neighbor Goguryeo, the capital was moved to Unjin. Later, the capital was moved to Sabi, which is present-day Buyeo.
Baekje prospered from trade with both China and Japan. Baekje converted to Buddhism earlier than its eastern neighbor Silla, and there is strong evidence that Buddhism was first brought to Japan by missionaries from Baekje.
It has been noted that many objects from Japan’s Nara period bear a striking resemblance to objects excavated from ancient Baekje. It’s clear that there was a great deal of cultural exchange between Baekje and ancient Japan.
The highlight of the museum, of course, is the large bronze incense burner which was excavated in Buyeo in 1993, shown above, which is possibly the single most impressive artifact from ancient Baekje known today. You can’t really see it in the photos, but if you are there, and can examine it closely, you can see all of the fanciful little details, revealing the imagination of the ancient Baekje artisan.
The museum also has a nice rest area, shown above.
I’ve always like ancient history, and I enjoy very much learning about Korea’s ancient history.
One of my high school teachers said that art tends to swing between ‘classical’ – simple, stoic, elegant, sparse, ordered – and ‘romantic’ – ornate, passionate, chaotic, colorful styles. Ancient Silla, as far as I can tell, definitely favored ‘classical’ style, whereas ancient Baekje seems to be much further on the ‘romantic’ side of the spectrum.
I already discussed the fall of Baekje. As for other ancient remains of Baekje in modern-day Buyeo? That’s going to be in the next post.