The early Korean kingdom of Silla (ca. third century CE-935 CE) began to use Sinographic writing widely in the mid-sixth century. This change appears to coincide with considerable territorial expansion under King Chinhŭng (r. 540-576), which included the annexation of territories formerly part of the Kaya confederacy and the conquest of the Han River Valley. While extant sources for this period are exceedingly few, inscriptions on stone steles and recently discovered mokkan (wooden strips with ink writing) suggest that the integration of new lands into the realm was accomplished at least in part through the use of writing. Mokkan inscriptions confirm the spread of document-based administration to mountain-fortress sites in outlying parts of the realm, while monumental inscriptions on stone steles appear to symbolically inscribe these new parts of the realm as belonging to the Silla king. This presentation will outline what we know of written culture in sixth and seventh century Silla through these inscriptions, and argue that writing was seen as a vital technology for bringing new territories and people under Silla control.
MARJORIE BURGE received a B.A. in Asian Studies and Japanese from George Washington University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the Department of East Asian Languages & Cultures at UC Berkeley. From 2018-2019, she was a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Chicago. Her Ph.D. dissertation, “Inscriptive Life and Sinographic Literary Culture in Early Historic Korea and Japan,” examines inscribed wood slips known as mokkan excavated from sites in southern Korea and Japan in order to shed light on the nature of written culture in early historic Paekche (ca. third century-660 CE), Silla (ca. third century-935 CE) and Japan. The dissertation also attempts to answer questions related to the role of allochthons (Korean migrants) at the Japanese court in the development of written culture. Dr. Burge is currently working on revising her dissertation for publication as a book titled Unearthing the Written Cultures of Early Korea and Japan. In addition to this book project, Dr. Burge is currently working on two smaller projects, one on the late-ninth century waka-kanshi collection Shinsen Man’yōshū, and another on the literary culture of the court at the Ōmi capital (667-672).
JACK DAVEY is an archaeologist and Early Koreanist specializing in the Iron Age of peripheral East Asia and the early states of Proto-Three Kingdoms Period Korea. He has been a part-time faculty member at George Washington University since 2019 where teaches courses on the history and archaeology of Early Korea as well as the geopolitical ramifications of historical disputes in East Asia. At GW, he is also the Managing Editor of The Journal of Korean Studies where he seeks to foster interesting, interdisciplinary scholarship that challenges how we understand Korea as an analytic category. Dr. Davey received his Ph.D. in Archaeology from UCLA. He was a Korea Foundation postdoctoral scholar at UC Berkeley from 2014-2015 and a research fellow at the Academy of Korean Studies in 2018.