Welcome to the world of the Seven Kingdoms!
This map is my invention, illustrated by the extremely talented illustrator Virginia Allyn. It is my recreation of a mystical and fantasy version of Ancient Korea where there are seven distinct kingdoms. Because this map is based on my imagination, you will not find a map like this in any Korean history book. But then again, if you look for maps of ancient Korea, you will find that no two are exactly the same. I was amazed to find how different historians have interpreted the boundaries of ancient Korean kingdoms. The truth is no one can know for sure what a real map of Korea would have looked like during this time period.
When I first became interested in writing a fiction novel on ancient Korea, I contacted a famous professor of Korean history from Harvard University. I asked him what I could do about historical accuracy given my difficulties in finding sources of research for my subject. He stated that it was a good thing I was writing fiction because not a whole lot is known about this period! And he was right. This is a difficult period of time to research, but what is known about it is fascinating.
My novel is based on a time period between 300 and 360 A.D. in ancient Korea when there were many walled city states and warring kingdoms. Some of these city-states became famous kingdoms of ancient Korea. They were Koguryo, Paekche and Shilla – known as the Three Kingdoms. Kaya was also a walled city state of the time, but because it was more of a confederation of many walled cities, it was not historically referenced as one of the Three Kingdoms.
While each of the Three Kingdoms developed into a centralized state at different times, this period can be said to have begun around 350 A.D. and ended in 668 A.D. Koguryo, the oldest of the kingdoms, began its monarchical rule with its first king, T’aejo, in 53 A.D. However, both Paekche and Shilla did not centralize until much later. Paekche consolidated its power in 369 when it destroyed the Mahan kingdom. Shilla evolved from a walled town state of Saro and became a large kingdom by 356 A.D. The armies of all of these kingdoms were always fighting against one another. These were violent and turbulent times.
The Seven Kingdoms of my historical fantasy:
Hansong Kingdom – based on the walled capital city of Paekche called Hansong. It is the location of modern day Seoul.
Guru – based on Koguryo, one of the Three Kingdoms.
Kudara – based on Paekche, one of the Three Kingdoms.
JInhan – based on Shilla, one of the Three Kingdoms.
Kaya – sometimes referred to as the fourth kingdom, Kaya is based on the kingdom of the same name.
Oakcho – a walled city state of the same name.
Tongey – a walled city state of the same name.
Cathay – located in what is now modern day China.
Yamato – the early island nation that we now know of as Japan. Because of the close ties between Paekche and Yamato, many historians believe that the Yamato descended from the ancient Korean kingdom of Paekche. Archeological evidence validates this claim, clearly showing the prevalence of Paekche culture incorporated in early Yamato history.