[Cultural Policy Bulletin Vol.4] GyeongGi Administration System in Goryeo Dynasty

Development of Concept of the GyeongGi and GyeongGi Administration System


GyeongGi refers to an area that is designated to protect and support the capital where the monarch lives. The concept of the GyeongGi originates from China. In Chinese history, the GyeongGi Administration System is linked to feudalism based on clan rules. The territory of the Zhou dynasty was composed of an area under the direct control of the monarch and the one led by feudal lords. The monarch’s area, which was regarded as at the heart of the whole world, was the capital which became the origin of the concept of GyeongGi.


The organization of Zhou’s territory was based on the kingdom’s world view and on the monarch’s authority. Zhou’s feudalism reflected the concept of social classes in accordance with clan rules. Just as Zhou’s hierarchical order translated into official ceremonies, the logic of order and classes formed the ideological basis of designating and emphasizing the capital where the monarch lived.


The concept of the monarch’s capital was maintained through the Qin dynasty and Han dynasty. Later on, the Tang dynasty established an official GyeongGi Administration System managed by a governor. In short, the GyeongGi Administration System originates from ancient China where the king was at the top of the kingdom’s hierarchical order.



Tang’s GyeongGi Administration System


The Tang dynasty’s GyeongGi Administration System came from that of the Northern Qi (550-577) which organized its territory in seven classes. In 713 (1st year of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang), China designated a capital and its surrounding area. The kingdom actually had three capitals in the north, east and west and each of them had its special capital region.


The west capital managed the capital and a capital area prefecture and after the middle of the Tang period, it came to manage the capital, secondary capital and a GyeongGi prefecture. To be more specific, during the early Tang period, the kingdom had two capital prefectures and all the other prefectures were GyeongGi prefectures. Later on, the GyeongGi prefectures came to accommodate royal tombs and they gradually became secondary capital prefectures. The two capital prefectures also had royal tombs on their outside.


Tang’s GyeongGi Administration System came from China’s former dynasties that ruled over their territory according to their hierarchical order. China’s GyeongGi was thus regarded as the foundation of all directions. Consequently, the area benefited from lighter forced labor and from the king’s favor. To summarize, China’s GyeongGi Administration System, which started from the concept of the ruling system focused on the monarch, meant more than an administrative unit around the capital; it reflected Chinese society’s hierarchical order focused on the monarch.



Goryeo’s Adoption of the GyeongGi Administration System


Goryeo first adopted the GyeongGi Administration System in the late 10th century (reign of King Seongjong). At that time, Goryeo was reorganizing its administrative framework and under these circumstances, the kingdom decided to rearrange its ruling system around the capital on the basis of China’s GyeongGi Administration System.


Historical records dating from the periods of the Three Kingdoms of Korea and Unified Silla mention terms related to the capital system such as “the monarch’s capital” and “Capital region.” Nevertheless, it would have been during the early Goryeo period that the kingdom officially adopted and ran the specially designated GyeongGi Administration System of the Tang dynasty.


Goryeo’s royal family was formed by those from Korea’s areas other than the capital during the late Silla period and the period of the Later Three Kingdoms of Korea. King Taejo of Goryeo wasn’t from a noble family; he came from the border area located far from the capital of Silla. Right after unifying the Later Three Kingdoms of Korea, Goryeo faced a challenge of internal integration and establishment of hierarchical order focused on the king.


The concept of the “king’s capital” which first referred to the royal familiy’s hometown and residential area, was reflected during the reign of King Taejo by an administrative unit (called Gaeju) around the king’s capital. Gaeju was organized in accordance with Silla’s administrative system composed of counties and prefectures. Thus, Gaeju had Songak County (including Gangeum Prefecture and Songnim Prefecture) and Gaeseong County (including Deoksu Prefecture and Imjin Prefecture). The provincial government of Gaeju was Gaegyeong, the kingdom’s capital. In other words, Gaeju was the king’s special area including the capital. King Taejo also built ten Buddhist temples in this area in order to replace the king’s capital of Silla based on Buddhism.



Goryeo’s Management of Its GyeongGi Administration System


In 995 (14th year of King Seongjong) the government of Goryeo divided the area around the capital Gagyeong into the capital prefecture and GyeongGi prefecture which belonged to the administrative unit Gaeseong-bu. This is comparable to Tang’s west capital managing the capital prefecture and GyeongGi prefecture. Unlike Silla that partially utilized the GyeongGi Administration System, the government of Goryeo officially adopted the system as a ruling framework of the GyeongGi, reaching the level of the system in Tang, which was regarded as having a culture of the highest quality in that era. In this context, Goryeo’s adoption of Tang’s GyeongGi Administration System is interpreted as an attempt to raise the status of the royal family which needed to be differentiated from local clans.



13 prefectures in Goryeo’s GyeongGi. Gaeju served as the kingdom’s foundation and formed a basis for the capital prefectures. Indeed, Gaeju was the royal family’s field of action, hometown and residence. Gaeseong-bu during the reign of King Seongjong is an extension of Gaeju.


After the beginning of King Taejo’s reign, Goryeo constructed ten Buddhist temples in the capital and during the reign of King Seongjong, the kingdom also built Confucian facilities such as an imperial ancestral temple. Such sanctification of the king’s residential space contributed to raising the status of the capital Gaegyeong. In addition, Goryeo attempted to transform the royal family’s hometown or residence into sacred places. Just as Tang designated the town where the royal palace was located as the capital prefecture, Goryeo designated Gaeju’s counties and prefecture, which were located in the vicinity of the royal palace in the capital Gaegyeong, as capital prefectures. In short, Goryeo’s GyeongGi Administration System during the reign of King Seongjong reflected the sanctification of the royal family’s residence and the kingdom’s hierarchical order.


13 prefectures in Goryeo’s GyeongGi. Gaeju served as the kingdom’s foundation and formed a basis for the capital prefectures during the reign of King Seongjong. Indeed, Gaeju was the royal family’s field of action, hometown and residence. Gaeseong-bu during the reign of King Seongjong is an extension of Gaeju.


Goryeo started running the GyeongGi Administration System in earnest during the reign of King Seongjong in Goryeo. Here, the expression “to start the system in earnest” doesn’t must mean that the institution or organization of the GyeongGi Administration System appear in the historical records of Goryeo. Instead, the expression means that the government of Goryeo attempted to officially apply Tang’s GyeongGi Administration System, which became systematic in the 8th century, on the basis of the understanding of the system’s history and scriptures.


Using the system of Tang and Song as a model, Goryeo reorganized its overall administrative system including its central and local governments during the reign of King Seongjong. However, the Chinese system had many elements that were not compatible with Goryeo’s reality. In particular, Goryeo had run diverse local administrative units including bu, ju, county and prefecture. During the reign of King Seongjong, the kingdom rearranged these units to look like Tang’s Juhyeon local administrative system composed of prefectures and to seek the centralization of power. Such a reform didn’t last long and in just 23 years in 1018 (9th year of King Hyeonjong), the kingdom adjusted its overall system again, reflecting the kingdom’s reality. As a result, the kingdom came to have a local administrative system composed of main prefectures and subordinate prefectures.


According to historical records on the king’s capital Gaeseong-bu in the geographic book of History of Goryeo, the abolition of Gaeseong-bu and appointment of governors of Gaeseong and Jangdan in 1018 (9th year of King Hyeonjong) would have led to launching the GyeongGi Administration System in the kingdom. This historical document has also made some experts believe that it was the starting point of Goryeo’s GyeongGi Administration System.1)


The reform of the GyeongGi Administration System during the 9th year of King Hyeonjong(1018) was an attempt to apply a system of main and secondary prefectures run by governors to the king’s special area (capital · capital region) excluding the five areas of Gaegyeong. The reform took place on the occasion of constructing an outer fortification system in the kingdom’s capital. A relevant historical document says that unlike other local areas, the king’s special GyeongGi is managed not by a governor but by the central government. Such central capital system would have been intended to strengthen the control of the GyeongGi. *February of the 9th year of King Hyeonjong: The kingdom dispatched 20 governors to its all areas including Gaeseong and Jangdan. It also specified six new rules to be respected by all civil servants working for local governments. In that year, the kingdom also appointed civil servants in charge of the crop loan, determined the number of government officials and their duties and came up with regulations on recommending town officials.


The GyeongGi Administration System, which was reformed during the 9th year of King Hyeonjong, was complemented during the reign of King Munjong. In 1062 (16th year of King Munjong), the kingdom raised the status of Gaeseong Prefecture’s governor to Gaeseong-bu’s governor so that he could manage the 13 prefectures in the GyeongGi area.2)


Gaeseong’s governor then came to manage the entire province of GyeongGi. It was around that time that the kingdom constructed a building called Jangwonjeong in the south of Byeongak in the Yeseong River basin and Heungwangsa Buddhist Temple in Deoksu Prefecture. Such national construction projects led the kingdom to increase its local government officials.


After the kingdom’s GyeongGi Administration System was reformed during the reign of King Munjong. Although some adjustments were made (e.g. dispatch of Buddhist monks in charge of general affaires in the GyeongGi area), the general framework of the system seems to have been maintained until the government of Goryeo was moved to Ganghwa after the invasion of Mongolia.


As for the management of the GyeongGi Administration System during the reign of King Munjong, it is generally understood that Gaeseong-bu, whose head office was located in Gaeseong Prefecture, managed all the 13 prefectures of the GyeongGi. Meanwhile, some experts say that the increase of the woods and fields distributed to civil servants during the reign of King Munjong meant the expansion of the GyeongGi Administration System. In this context, they add that the kingdom ran the so-called “large-scale GyeongGi Administration System” after 1069 (23rd year of King Munjong).


After Goryeo moved its capital to Ganghwa, it was unable to run its GyeongGi Administration System which had existed since the reign of King Munjong. During the period of the Yuan dynasty’s interference, Goryeo restored its GyeongGi Administration System. At that time, the system looked more like the one of King Seongjong’s reign rather than the one of King Munjong’s reign. Gaegyeong came to accommodate Gaeseong-bu. A governor was dispatched to Gaeseong Prefecture located outside Gaegyeong and he managed the eight prefectures of the GyeongGi. *Mongolia’s influence after the king returned to the capital Gaegyeong: Gaeseong-bu came to manage the capital and Gaeseong Prefecture took charge of the area around the capital (GyeongGi). This set a precedent for Hanseong-bu that managed Joseon’s capital Hanyang (today’s Seoul) later on.


During the period of the Yuan dynasty’s interference, the kingdom’s GyeongGi was restored. A historical document explains that the kingdom had fields and paddies in eight prefecture in GyeongGi in order to supplement civil servants’ salary. On the basis of this historical statement, experts generally agree that during this period, Goryeo’s GyeongGi had eight prefecture, a number reduced from that of the early Goryeo period. Nevertheless, during that period, Goryeo was still aware of its initial GyeongGi. Therefore, more research needs to be conducted in this matter.


During the late Goryeo period, the kingdom’s GyeongGi Administration System underwent a great change: a system composed of provinces which are metropolitan units. The change took place with a new government which led to a reform of the system of private fields and paddies. In summary, the GyeongGi Administration System during the early Goryeo period was characterized by its private nature and strong hierarchical order in a special space. Such system was based on feudalism. The system then went through some changes during the late Goryeo period and the period of the Yuan dynasty’s interference. During the Joseon period, the GyeongGi Administration System still maintained its basic nature of forming a material basis for the noble class but the system’s administrative units became more public and general.


1) Gaegyeong’s GyeongGi Administration System was established during the 9th year of King Hyeonjong. A historical document established during the 15th year of King Hyeonjong mentions the term “western GyeongGi.” This shows that Pyeongyang’s western GyeongGi also became systematic during the 9th year of King Hyeonjong

2) At that time, the existing western GyeongGi was also rearranged so four provinces were run in the north, south, east and west. Later on, the western GyeongGi was rearranged from the reign of King Injong to that of King Myeongjong.



Historical Meaningfulness of Goryeo’s GyeongGi Administration System


Goryeo’s territory was spatially divided into the central and local areas. The central area was composed of the capital Gaegyeong and the capital region which surrounded Gaegyeong. Goryeo realized the concept of hierarchical order in its ruling system which was led by the king’s capital Gaeseong-bu. The capital changed depending on different periods’ awareness of the GyeongGi and changing reality. In this process, the GyeongGi’s functions were combined and afterward, they were separated from the king’s capital’s ruling system, thus being reorganized to become independent ruling systems.


During the Unified Silla period, the GyeongGi Administration System had individual elements. During the Goryeo period, these elements were combined while their functions were divided. During the late Goryeo period and early Joseon period, the kingdom had provinces and its GyeongGi Administration System formed a material basis for the noble class living in the capital to escort the king. In addition the GyeongGi Administration System also reaffirmed its financial, economic and military functions supporting the capital


In that sense, the concept and system of a kingdom’s GyeongGi was emphasized at the historical stage where kingdoms armed themselves with feudal order. This argument is proved by the fact that the equal-field system (a field distribution system based on the equality of citizens) collapsed during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang (712-756) when the GyeongGi Administration System stabilized

#Bulletin #Bulletin Vol.4 #Cultural Policy #GyeongGi Millennium #GyeongGi Administration System

    • Writer/ Jeong Haksoo, Researcher of Research Center for Ganghwa History&Culture, Incheon Foundation for Arts and Culture

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    Writer/ GyeongGi Cultural Foundation

    About/ Everything about the GyeongGi arts and culture, GGCF

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