The territory of Balhae in 830, during the reign of King Seon of Balhae.
Capital Dongmo Mountain

Central Capital

Upper Capital
East Capital

Upper Capital
Common languages Goguryeo language or Tungusic language or both
Religion Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Shamanism
Government Monarchy
Go (first)
Dae Ijin
Dae Inseon (last)
Historical era Ancient
 Fall of Sanggyeong
January 14 926
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Khitan Liao dynasty
Today part of  China
 North Korea
Chinese name
Original name in Chinese
Korean name
Original name in Korean
Part of a series on the
History of Manchuria
Monarchs of Korea
  1. Go 698–719
  2. Mu 719–737
  3. Mun 737–793
  4. Dae Won-ui 793
  5. Seong 793–794
  6. Gang 794–809
  7. Jeong 809–812
  8. Hui 812–817
  9. Gan 817–818
  10. Seon 818–830
  11. Dae Ijin 830–857
  12. Dae Geonhwang 857–871
  13. Dae Hyeonseok 871–894
  14. Dae Wihae 894–906
  15. Dae Inseon 906–926

Balhae (698–926), also known as Parhae or Bohai[1] was a multi-ethnic kingdom in Manchuria and the Korean peninsula. Balhae was established by refugees from Goguryeo, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, and Mohe tribes in 698, when the first king, Dae Jo-yeong, defeated the Zhou dynasty at Tianmenling.[2][3][4]

Balhae's original capital was at Dongmo Mountain in modern Dunhua, Jilin Province. In 742 it was moved to the Central Capital in Helong, Jilin. It was moved to the Northern Capital in Ning'an, Heilongjiang in 755, to the Eastern Capital in Hunchun, Jilin in 785, and back to the Northern Capital in 794.[5]

In 926, the Khitan Liao dynasty conquered Balhae and established the autonomous kingdom of Dongdan ruled by the Liao crown prince Yelü Bei, which was soon absorbed into the Liao.[5] Meanwhile, a series of nobilities and elites led by key figures such as crown prince Dae Gwang-hyeon, were absorbed into Goryeo.

According to a Chinese source, the kingdom had 100,000 households and a population of about 500,000. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Balhae culture was an amalgamation of Chinese, Korean, and indigenous cultures.[7]


Balhae was founded in 698 under the name 震, transcribed as Jin and Zhen in Korean and Chinese romanisations. Jin is the modern Revised Romanization of Korean , the same as the earlier Jin state. However, the kingdom's name was written as in Chinese character, with the reconstructed Old Chinese pronunciation /*[d]ər/ and the Middle Chinese pronunciation dzyin;[8] King Go's state wrote its name as , with the Middle Chinese pronunciation tsyin.[8] The former state's character referred to the 5th Earthly Branch of the Chinese zodiac, a division of the orbit of Jupiter identified with the dragon. This was associated with a bearing of 120° (between ESE and SE) but also with the two-hour period between 7 and 9 am, leading it to be associated with dawn and the direction east.

In 713, the Tang dynasty bestowed the ruler of Jin with the title of Head of Balhae Commandery, and in 762 the Tang recognized it as a kingdom and renamed it "Balhae".[5][9]



During the Khitan rebellion against Tang, Dae Jung-sang, a former Goguryeo official led Goguryeo refugees , allied with Geolsa Biu, a leader of the Mohe people, against the Tang in 698. After Dae Jungsang's death, his son, Dae Jo-yeong, a former Goguryeo general or chief of Somo Mohe succeeded his father, who received orders from the last King of Goguryeo to found a succeeding country. Geolsa Biu died in battle against the Tang army led by the general Li Kaigu. Dae Jo-yeong managed to escape Tang territory with the remaining Goguryeo and Mohe soldiers. He successfully defeated a pursuing army sent by Wu Zetian at the Battle of Tianmenling. which enabled him to establish the state of Jin in the former region of Yilou as King Go.

Another account of events suggests that there was no rebellion at all, and the leader of the Sumo Mohe rendered assistance to the Tang by suppressing Khitan rebels. As a reward the Tang acknowledged the leader as the local hegemon of a semi-independent state.[1]

Expansion and foreign relations

The second King Mu (r. 719–737), who felt encircled by Tang, Silla and Heishui Mohe along the Amur River, attacked Tang with his navy in 732 and killed a Tang prefect based on the Shandong Peninsula. In the same time, the king led troops taking land routes to Madushan (馬都山) in the vincity of the Shanhai Pass (about 300 kilometres east of current Beijing) and occupied towns nearby. He also sent a mission to Japan in 728 to threaten Silla from the southeast. Balhae kept diplomatic and commercial contacts with Japan until the end of the kingdom. Balhae dispatched envoys to Japan 34 times, while Japan sent envoys to Balhae 13 times.[10] Later, a compromise was forged between Tang and Balhae, which led Tang diplomatically recognize Mun of Balhae, who succeeded to his father's throne, as King of Balhae.

The third King Mun (r. 737–793) expanded its territory into the Amur valley in the north and the Liaodong Peninsula in the west. During his reign, a trade route with Silla, called "Sillado" (신라도, 新羅道), was established. King Mun moved the capital of Balhae several times. He also established Sanggyeong, the permanent capital near Lake Jingpo in the south of today's Heilongjiang province around 755; stabilizing and strengthening central rule over various ethnic tribes in his realm, which was expanded temporarily. He also authorized the creation of the Jujagam (胄子監), the national academy, based on the national academy of Tang. Although China recognized him as a king, Balhae itself referred to him as the son of heaven and a king.[11]

The tenth King Seon reign (r. 818–830), Balhae controlled northern Korea, Northeastern Manchuria and now Primorsky Krai of Russia. King Seon led campaigns that resulted in the absorbing of many northern Mohe tribes and southwest Little Goguryeo kingdom, which was located in the Liaodong Peninsula, was absorbed into Balhae. Its strength was such that Silla was forced to build a northern wall in 721 as well as maintain active defences along the common border. In the middle of the 9th century, Balhae completed its local system, which was composed of five capitals, 15 prefectures and 62 counties.

Fall and legacy

Following the reign of King Seon (830), there is no surviving written records of Balhae. Some scholars believe that the 946 eruption of Paektu Mountain may have caused a national level catastrophe leading to its final fall to the Khitan Liao Dynasty, while other historians believe that ethnic conflicts between the ruling Koreans and underclass Mohe weakened the state.[12] The Khitans were centered in Liaoning and Inner Mongolia, which overlaps Balhae's purported territories in the west. A Khitan invasion took the capital of Balhae after a 25-day siege in 926. After defeating Balhae, the Khitans established a puppet state, the Dongdan Kingdom, which was annexed by Liao in 936. Some Balhae aristocrats were forced to move to Liaoyang, but Balhae's eastern territory remained politically independent. Goryeosa records the arrival of tens of thousands of Balhae households, led by a general escaping from the Khitans in 925, one year before the final collapse of the kingdom. The rest of the Balhae people were assimilated into the Khitan polity as well as the Jurchens who would revolt against the Khitans later in the century. Some descendants of the Balhae royalty in Goryeo changed their family name to Tae (태, 太) while Crown Prince Dae Gwang-hyeon was given the family name Wang (왕, 王), the royal family name of the Goryeo dynasty. Balhae was the last state in Korean history to hold any significant territory in Manchuria, although later Korean dynasties would continue to regard themselves as successors of Goguryeo and Balhae.[12]

The Khitans themselves eventually succumbed to the Jurchen people, the descendants of the Mohe, who founded the Jin dynasty. Jurchen proclamations emphasized the common descent of the Balhae and Jurchen people from the seven Wuji(勿吉) tribes, and proclaimed "Jurchen and Balhae are from the same family". The fourth, fifth and seventh emperors of Jin were mothered by Balhae consorts. The 13th century census of Northern China by the Mongols distinguished Balhae people who belonged to khitan from other ethnic groups such as Goryeo, Khitan and Jurchen.[13]

In 1778, the Qing empire regime in Qianlong reviewed various history books and found that Balhae was an ancestor of the Manchurian, and published Researches on Manchu Origins(Manchu: ᠮᠠᠨᠵᡠᠰᠠᡳ
ᠰᡝᡴᡳᠶᡝᠨ ‍ᡳ
;Möllendorff: Manjusai da sekiyen-i kimcin bithe;Abkai: Manjusai da sekiyen-i kimqin bithe; Chinese: 滿洲源流考; pinyin: Mǎnzhōu Yuánliú Kǎo) to provide the Balhae as a history of Manchurian.


After the fall of Balhae and its last king in 926, the autonomous satellite state of Dongdan was founded by its new Khitan rulers.[14] Restoration movements by displaced Balhae people established Later Balhae, which was later renamed to Jeongan.[15] Though Balhae was lost, a great portion of its population including the royalty and aristocracy fled to the southern kin-state of Goryeo. There, they were given places to live along with positions in accordance to their status before the fall. The Goryeosa notes the existence of additional mass emigrations of the dispersed Balhae people before the fall of Jeongan.

Dae Gwang-hyeon, the last crown prince, and much of the ruling class of Balhae sought refuge in Goryeo, where they were granted land and the crown prince included in the royal household by Wang Geon, thus unifying the two successor nations of Goguryeo.[16] The Goryeo scholar Choi Seungno referred these events in the Shimu 28 (Korean: 시무 28조, Chinese: 時務二十八條).

Government and culture

Balhae's population was composed of former Goguryeo peoples and Tungusic Mohe people in Manchuria. According to Lee ki-baik, the Mohe made up the working class which served the Goguryeo ruling class.[12] As such while the Mohe dominated common society, their influence was mainly restricted to providing labor. Nevertheless, there were instances of Mohe moving upward into the Balhae elite, however few, such as the followers of Geolsa Biu, who supported the establishment of Balhae. They were limited to the title of "Suryeong", or "chief", which is derived from Goguryeo language[17] and played a part in the ruling elite.

After its founding, Balhae actively imported the culture and political system of the Tang dynasty and the Chinese reciprocated through an account of Balhae describing it as the "flourishing land of the East."[18] The bureaucracy of Balhae was modeled after the Three Departments and Six Ministries and used Chinese characters to write their native language for administrative purposes.[5] Balhae's aristocrats and nobility traveled to the Tang capital of Chang'an on a regular basis as ambassadors and students, many of whom went on to pass the Imperial examinations.[19] Unlike Tang government, the Balhae "taenaesang" or the "great minister of the court" was superior to the other two chancelleries (the left and the right) and its system of five capitals originates from Goguryeo's administrative structure.[20]

Balhae society was stratified into a rigid class system similar to other Korean kingdoms. Elites tended to belong to large extended aristocratic family lines designated by surnames. The commoners in comparison had no surnames at all, and upward social mobility was virtually impossible as class and status were codified into a caste system.[19]

Balhae had five capitals, fifteen provinces, and sixty-three counties.[21] Archaeologists studying the layout of Balhae's cities have concluded that they shared features common with cities in Goguryeo, indicating that Balhae had retained cultural similarities with Goguryeo.[22] However the capital of Sanggyong was organized in the way of Tang's capital of Chang'an. Residential sectors were laid out on either side of the palace surrounded by a rectangular wall.

Language and script

Shoku Nihongi implies that the Balhae language and Silla language share a close relationship: a student sent from Silla to Japan for an interpreter training in the Japanese language assisted a diplomatic envoy from Balhae in communicating during the Japanese court audience. Linguistic analysis of Korean loanwords in the Khitan language also indicate the possibility that the Balhae elite spoke the Korean language.[23]

Evidence of Balhae script comes from the remains of roof tiles used in Balhae architecture, where 370 letters were found. 135 of the letters were found to be Chinese characters. However, 151 of the letters were unidentifiable as any known script. Korean scholars believe these unidentifiable letters are part of a unique Balhae script like the Idu script of Silla. On the other hand, Chinese scholars dismissed them as miswritten Chinese characters.


The historic position of the Balhae is controversial between Korean and Chinese historians.[24][25] Due to its origins as the successor state of Goguryeo, Korean scholars consider Balhae as part of the North–South States Period of Korean history, while Chinese scholars argue Balhae is a part of Chinese history.[9]


Balhae features in the Korean film Shadowless Sword, about the last prince of Balhae, and Korean TV drama Dae Jo Yeong, which aired from September 16, 2006 to December 23, 2007, about its founder.

See also


  1. 1 2 Crossley 1997, p. 18.
  2. Walker, Hugh Dyson (2012), East Asia: A New History, Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, p. 177
  3. Seth, Michael J. (2016), A Concise History of Korea: From Antiquity to the Present, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, p. 71
  4. Kim, Djun Kil Kim (2014), The History of Korea, Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, p. 54
  5. 1 2 3 4 Michael Dillon (1 December 2016). Encyclopedia of Chinese History. Taylor & Francis. p. 95. ISBN 978-1-317-81715-4.
  6. Michael J. Seth (21 January 2016). A Concise History of Korea: From Antiquity to the Present. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 72–73. ISBN 978-1-4422-3518-2.
  7. 1 2 Baxter-Sagart.
  8. 1 2 Jinwung Kim (2012). A History of Korea: From "Land of the Morning Calm" to States in Conflict. Indiana University Press. p. 85. ISBN 978-0-253-00024-8.
  9. 9 Balhae and Japan Archived 2015-06-26 at the Wayback Machine. Northeast Asian History Foundation
  10. Ŕ̿ϹŮ. "야청도의성(夜聽도衣聲)". Retrieved 2012-09-12.
  11. 1 2 3 Lee Ki-baik. "The Society and Culture of Parhae." The New History of Korea, page 88-89. Harvard University Press, 1984.
  12. Hong Won-tak. "Liao and Jin: After Khitan and Xianbei in West Manchuria, Jurchen in Eastern Manchuria appeared" East Asian History: Distortion and Correcting, page 80-110. Seoul: Gudara, 2012.
  13. [Mote p. 49]
  14. Kim, Jinwung (2012). A History of Korea: From "Land of the Morning Calm" to States in Conflict. Indiana University Press. pp. 87–88. ISBN 978-0253000248. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  15. Lee, Ki-Baik (1984). A New History of Korea. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 103. ISBN 978-0674615762. "When Parhae perished at the hands of the Khitan around this same time, much of its ruling class, who were of Koguryŏ descent, fled to Koryŏ. Wang Kŏn warmly welcomed them and generously gave them land. Along with bestowing the name Wang Kye ("Successor of the Royal Wang") on the Parhae crown prince, Tae Kwang-hyŏn, Wang Kŏn entered his name in the royal household register, thus clearly conveying the idea that they belonged to the same lineage, and also had rituals performed in honor of his progenitor. Thus Koryŏ achieved a true national unification that embraced not only the Later Three Kingdoms but even survivors of Koguryŏ lineage from the Parhae kingdom."
  16. North Korea: A Country Study by Robert l. Worden
  17. Injae, Lee; Miller, Owen; Jinhoon, Park; Hyun-Hae, Yi (2014-12-15). Korean History in Maps. Cambridge University Press. pp. 64–65. ISBN 9781107098466. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  18. 1 2 Crossley 1997, p. 19.
  19. "North Korea - Silla". Retrieved 2012-09-15.
  20. Ogata, Noboru. "Shangjing Longquanfu, the Capital of the Bohai (Parhae) State". Kyoto University. January 12, 2007. Retrieved November 10, 2011.
  21. Ogata, Noboru. "A Study of the City Planning System of the Ancient Bohai State Using Satellite Photos (Summary)". Jinbun Chiri. Vol.52, No.2. 2000. pp.129 - 148. Retrieved November 10, 2011.
  22. Vovin, Alexander (2017), "Koreanic loanwords in Khitan and their importance in the decipherment of the latter", Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, 70: 207–215
  23. 姜成山 2014、p4
  24. 酒寄雅志 (March 2001). 渤海と古代の日本. 校倉書房. p. 16. ISBN 978-4751731703. 和書.


  • Mark Byington (October 7–8, 2004). "A Matter of Territorial Security: Chinese Historiographical Treatment of Koguryo in the Twentieth Century". International Conference on Nationalism and Textbooks in Asia and Europe, Seoul, The Academy of Korean Studies. 
  • 孫玉良 (1992). 渤海史料全編. 吉林文史出版社 ISBN 978-7-80528-597-9
  • Crossley, Pamela Kyle (1997), The Manchus, Blackwell Publishing 
  • Mote, F.W. (1999), Imperial China, 900-1800, Harvard University Press, pp. 49, 61–62, ISBN 978-0-674-01212-7 
  • Pozzi, Alessandra; Janhunen, Juha Antero; Weiers, Michael, eds. (2006). Tumen Jalafun Jecen Aku: Manchu Studies in Honour of Giovanni Stary. Volume 20 of Tunguso Sibirica. Contributor Giovanni Stary. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. ISBN 978-3447053785. Retrieved 1 April 2013. 
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