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Four Commanderies of Han

Four Commanderies of Han

The Four Commanderies of Han (Hangul한사군; Hanja漢四郡) were the Chinese colony located in northern Korean Peninsula and part of the Liaodong Peninsula.[1][2] The commanderies were set up to control the populace in the former Gojoseon area as far south as the Han River, with a core area at Lelang near present-day P'yongyang[3] by Emperor Wu of the Han dynasty in early 2nd century BC after his conquest of Wiman Joseon. Though disputed by North Korean scholars, Western sources generally describe the Lelang Commandery as existing within the Korean peninsula, and extend the rule of the four commanderies as far south as the Han River (Korea).[4][3] However, South Korean scholars assumed its administrative areas to Pyongan and Hwanghae region.[5]

Three of the commanderies fell or retreated westward within a few decades, but the Lelang commandery remained as a center of cultural and economic exchange with successive Chinese dynasties for four centuries. As its administrative center in Lelang, the Chinese built what was in essence a Chinese city where the governor, officials, and merchants, and Chinese colonists lived. Their administration had considerable impact on the life of the native population and ultimatedly the very fabric of Gojoseon society became eroded.[6] Goguryeo, a later founded, a mixed Koreanic and Yemaek kingdom, slowly began conquering the commanderies and eventually absorbed them into its own territory.[7]

The commanderies

A commandery that was separated out of Lelang Commandery in the later years of its history is the Daifang Commandery (帶方郡, 대방군, AD 204 ~ AD 313)


In the North Korean academic community and some parts of the South Korean academic community, the Han dynasty's annexation of the Korean peninsula have been denied. Proponents of this revisionist theory claim that the Han Commanderies actually existed outside of the Korean peninsula, and place them somewhere in Liaodong Commandery, China instead.[13]

The demonization of Japanese historical and archaeological findings in Korea as imperialist forgeries owes in part to those scholars' discovery of the Lelang Commandery—by which the Han Dynasty administered territory near Pyongyang—and insistence that this Chinese commandery had a major impact on the development of Korean civilization.[14] Until the North Korean challenge, it was universally accepted that Lelang was a commandery established by Emperor Wu of Han after he defeated Gojoseon in 108 BCE.[15] To deal with the Han Dynasty tombs, North Korean scholars have reinterpreted them as the remains of Gojoseon or Goguryeo.[14] For those artifacts that bear undeniable similarities to those found in Han China, they propose that they were introduced through trade and international contact, or were forgeries, and "should not by any means be construed as a basis to deny the Korean characteristics of the artifacts".[16] The North Koreans also say that there were two Lelangs, and that the Han actually administered a Lelang on the Liao River on the Liaodong peninsula, while Pyongyang was an "independent Korean state" of Lelang, which existed between the 2nd century BCE until the 3rd century CE.[15][17] The traditional view of Lelang, according to them, was expanded by Chinese chauvinists and Japanese imperialists.[15]

While promoted by the academic community of North Korea, and supported by certain writers and historians in South Korea, this theory is not recognized in the mainstream academic circles of South Korea, United States, China (and Taiwan) and Japan. See the "Further Bibliography" section at the end of this artile.


See also


  1. ^ Dane Alston. "Contested domains: The Poetic Dialogue between a Ming Emperor and a Chosŏn Envoy". Retrieved 2 April 2012.
  2. ^ Lim Jie-Hyun. "The Antagonistic Complicity of Nationalisms". Retrieved 2 April 2012.
  3. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-06-25. Retrieved 2015-06-15.
  4. ^ Carter J. Eckert, el., "Korea, Old and New: History", 1990, pp. 13
  5. ^ Yi Pyong-do, 《The studies of the Korean history》 Part 2, Researches of problems of the Han commanderies, PYbook, 1976, 148 p
  6. ^ Eckert, Carter J.; el. (1990). Korea, Old and New: A History. p. 14. ISBN 978-0962771309.
  7. ^ 'Ki-Baik Lee', "A New History of Korea", 1984 Harvard University Press, page 24'
  8. ^ 《前漢書》卷二十八〈地理志〉第八:“樂浪郡,武帝元封三年開。莽曰樂鮮。屬幽州。戶六萬二千八百一十二,口四十萬六千七百四十八。有雲鄣。縣二十五:朝鮮;□邯;浿水,水西至增地入海,莽曰樂鮮亭;含資,帶水西至帶方入海;黏蟬;遂成;增地,莽曰增土;帶方;駟望;海冥,莽曰海桓;列口;長岑;屯有;昭明,高部都尉治;鏤方;提奚;渾彌;吞列,分黎山,列水所出,西至黏蟬入海,行八百二十里;東暆;不而,東部都尉治;蠶台;華麗;邪頭昧;前莫;夫租。”Wikisource: the Book of Han, volume 28-2
  9. ^ 玄菟郡,武帝元封四年開。高句驪,莽曰下句驪。屬幽州。戶四萬五千六。口二十二萬一千八百四十五。縣三:高句驪,遼山,遼水所出,西南至遼隊入大遼水。又有南蘇水,西北經塞外。上殷台,莽曰下殷。西蓋馬。馬訾水西北入鹽難水,西南至西安平入海,過郡二,行二千一百里。莽曰玄菟亭。Wikisource: the Book of Han, volume 28-2
  10. ^ 通典 邊防 朝鮮 武帝元封三年、遣樓船將軍楊僕從齊浮渤海、兵五萬、左將軍荀彘出遼東、討之。朝鮮人相與殺王右渠来降。遂以朝鮮為真蕃、臨屯、楽浪、玄菟四郡。今悉為東夷之地。昭帝時罷臨屯、真蕃以并楽浪、玄菟。
  11. ^ 《三國志》卷30 魏書 烏丸鮮卑東夷傳 穢 自單單大山領以西屬樂浪、自領以東七縣、都尉主之、皆以濊為民。後省都尉、封其渠帥為侯、今不耐濊皆其種也。漢末更屬句麗。Wikisource: the Records of Three Kingdoms, volume 30
  12. ^ 《後漢書》卷85 東夷列傳 濊 至元封三年、滅朝鮮、分置樂浪・臨屯・玄菟・真番四郡。至昭帝始元五年、罷臨屯・真番、以并樂浪・玄菟。玄菟復徙居句驪、自單單大領已東、沃沮・濊貊悉屬樂浪。後以境土廣遠、復分領東七縣、置樂浪東部都尉。the Book of Later Han, volume 85
  13. ^
  14. ^ a b Pai, Hyung Il (2000), Constructing "Korean" Origins: A Critical Review of Archaeology, Historiography, and Racial Myth in Korean State Formation Theories, Harvard University Asia Center, pp. 127–129
  15. ^ a b c Ch'oe, Yŏng-ho (1980), "An Outline History of Korean Historiography", Korean Studies, 4: 23–25, doi:10.1353/ks.1980.0003
  16. ^ Ch'oe, Yŏng-ho (1980), "An Outline History of Korean Historiography", Korean Studies, 4: 509, doi:10.1353/ks.1980.0003
  17. ^ Armstrong, Charles K. (1995), "Centering the Periphery: Manchurian Exile(s) and the North Korean State", Korean Studies, 19: 11–12, doi:10.1353/ks.1995.0017

Further Bibliography

(sorted by Family Name of the first author)

  1. Armstrong, Charles K. (1995), "Centering the Periphery: Manchurian Exile(s) and the North Korean State", Korean Studies, 19: 1–16, doi:10.1353/ks.1995.0017
    "North Korean historiography from the 1970s onward has stressed the unique, even sui generis, nature of Korean civilization going back to Old Chosön, whose capital, Wanggömsöng, is now located in the Liao River basin in Manchuria rather than near Pyongyang. Nangnang, then, was not a Chinese commandery but a Korean kingdom, based in the area of Pyongyang."
  2. Barnes, Gina (2000). State Formation in Korea. Routledge. p. 17. ISBN 978-0700713233.
    "Despite recent suggestions by North Korean scholars that Lelang was not a Chinese commandery, the traditional view will be adhered to here. Lelang was one of four commanderies newly instituted by the Han Dynasty in 108 BC in the former region of Chaoxian. Of these four commanderies, only two (Lelang and Xuantu) survived successive reorganizations; and it seems that even these had their headquarters relocated once or twice."
  3. Bowman, John Stewart (2000). Columbia Chronologies of Asian History and Culture. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0231110044.
    page 11: "Han China resumes its effort to subdue Korea, launching two military expeditions that bring much of the peninsula under Chinese control; it sets up four commanderies in conquered Korea."
    page 193: "After a period of decline, Old Choson falls to Wiman, an exile from the Yan state in northern China. Wiman proves to be a strong ruler, but his ambitious program of expansion eventually brings him into conflict with the Han dynasty of China. The Han defeats Wiman Choson and establishes a protectorate over northern Korea in 108 b.c. Resistance to Chinese hegemony, however, is strong, and China reduces the territory under its active control to Nang-nang colony with an administrative center near modern Pyongyang."
  4. Brian, Brian M. (2012). The Oxford Companion to Archaeology. Oxford University Press. p. 361. ISBN 9780195076189.
    "Chinese commanderies at Lelang (modern Pyongyang) functioned as the political and military arm of Chinese dynasties, beginning with Han, as well as the major contact point between the advanced Chinese civilization and the local population."
  5. Brian, Fagan Dr. (2016). Ancient Civilizations. Routledge. p. 365. ISBN 978-1138181632.
    "In 108 B.C. most of the Korean peninsula was divided into four Han commanderies, the most important of which was Lelang."
  6. Buckley, Patricia (2008). Pre-Modern East Asia: A Cultural, Social, and Political History, Volume I: To 1800. Cengage Learning. p. 100. ISBN 978-0547005393.
    "Lelang commandery, with its seat in modern Pyongyang, was the most important of the four."
  7. Byington, Mark E., Project Director of the Early Korea Project (2009). Early Korea 2: The Samhan Period in Korean History. Korea Institute, Harvard University. p. 172. ISBN 978-0979580031.
    "The latter, associated with Han China, are important, as their discovery permits us to infer the existence of relations between the Han commanderies and the Samhan societies."
  8. Ch'oe, Yŏng-ho (May 1981), "Reinterpreting Traditional History in North Korea", The Journal of Asian Studies, 40 (3): 509, doi:10.2307/2054553, JSTOR 2054553.
    "North Korean scholars, however, admit that a small number of items in these tombs resemble those found in the archaeological sites of Han China. These items, they insist, must have been introduced into Korea through trade or other international contacts and "should not by any means be construed as a basis to deny the Korean characteristics of the artifacts" found in the P'yongyang area."
  9. Clemens, Walter C. Jr. (2009). Getting to Yes in Korea. Routledge. p. 27. ISBN 978-1594514067.
    "Chinese forces subsequently conquered the eastern half of the peninsula and made Lolang, near modern Pyongyang, the chief center of Chinese rule."
  10. Clemens, Walter C. Jr. (2016). North Korea and the World: Human Rights, Arms Control, and Strategies for Negotiation. University Press of Kentucky. p. 26. ISBN 978-0813167466.
    "Chinese forces subsequently conquered the eastern half of the peninsula and made lolang, near modern Pyongyang, the chief base for Chinese rule. Chinese sources recall how China used not only military force but also assassination and divide-and-conquer tactics to subdue Chosŏn and divide the territory into four commanderies."
  11. Connor, Edgar V. (2003). Korea: Current Issues and Historical Background. Nova Science Publishers. p. 112. ISBN 978-1590334430.
    "They place it northwest of the peninsula, possibly near Beijing, in order to de- emphasize China's influence on ancient Korean history."
  12. Eckert, Carter J. (1991). Korea Old and New: A History. Ilchokak Publishers. ISBN 978-0962771309.
    page 13: "The territorial extent of the Four Chinese Commanderies seems to have been limited to the area north of the Han River."
    page 14: "As its administrative center, the Chinese built what was in essence a Chinese city where the governor, officials, merchants, and Chinese colonists lived. Their way of life in general can be surmised from the investigation of remains unearthed at T'osong-ni, the site of the Lelang administrative center near modern P'yongyang. The variety of burial objects found in their wooden and brickwork tombs attests to the lavish life syle of these Chinese officials, merchants, and colonial overloads in Lelang's capital. ... The Chinese administration had considerable impact on the life of the native population and ultimatedly the very fabric of Gojoseon society became eroded."</ref>
  13. Hiltebeitel, Alf (1998). Hair: Its Power and Meaning in Asian Cultures. State University of New York Press. p. 113. ISBN 978-0791437421.
    "These tombs are associated with the Lelang commandery, which was established by the Han dynasty of China, successor to the Qin. Han generals conquered the armies of Wiman's grandson Ugo and established control over the northern part of the Korean peninsula."
  14. Hwang, Kyung Moon (2010). A History of Korea: An Episodic Narrativea. Palgrave MacMillan. p. 4. ISBN 978-0230205451.
    "In the corridor between the peninsula and northeast China, the Chinese Han dynasty established four “commanderies” that ruled over parts of the peninsula and Manchuria, much as modern imperial powers governed their colonies."
  15. Hyung, Hyung Il (2000). Constructing "Korean" Origins. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674002449.
    page 128: "At present, the site of Lelang and surrounding ancient Han Chinese remains are situated in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. Although North Korean scholars have continued to excavate Han dynasty tombs in the postwar period, they have interpreted them as manifestations of the Kochoson or the Koguryo kingdom."
    page129: "When material evidence from the Han commandery site excavated during the colonial period began to be reinterpreted by Korean nationalist historians as the first full-fledged "foreign" occupation in Korean history, Lelang's location in the heart of the Korean peninsula became particularly irksome because the finds seemed to verify Japanese colonial theories concerning the dependency of Korean civilization on China."
  16. Jones, F. C. (1966). The Far East: A Concise History. Pergamon Press. p. 34. ISBN 978-0080116419.
    "He then divided the country into military districts, of which the most important was that of Lolang, or Laklang, with headquarters near the modern Pyongyang. Tomb excavations in this area have produced much evidence of the influence of Han civilization in northern Korea."
  17. Kang, Jae-eun (2006). The Land of Scholars: Two Thousand Years of Korean Confucianism. Homa & Seka Books. p. 36. ISBN 978-1931907309.
    "Nangnang commandery centered around Pyeong'yang was established when Emperor Wu of Han China attacked Gojoseon in 108 BC and was under the rule of Wei from 238. Wei is the country that destroyed the Later Han dynasty."
  18. Kim, Jinwung (2012). A History of Korea: From "Land of the Morning Calm" to States in Conflict. Indiana University Press. p. 18. ISBN 978-0253000248.
    "Immediately after destroying Wiman Chosŏn, the Han empire established administrative units to rule large territories in the northern Korean peninsula and southern Manchuria."
  19. Lee, Kenneth B. (1997). Korea and East Asia: The Story of a Phoenix. Praeger. p. 11. ISBN 978-0275958237.
    "Chinese civilization had started to flow into the Korean Peninsula through Nang-nang. This was the only time in Korean history that China could establish its colonies in the central part of Korea, where occupation forces were stationed. The Han Empire not only occupied Korea, but expanded westward to Persia and Afghanistan."
  20. Lee, Peter H. (1993). Sourcebook of Korean Civilization. Columbia University Press. p. 227. ISBN 978-0231079129.
    "But when Emperor Wu conquered Choson, all the small barbarian tribes in the northeastern region were incorporated into the established Han commanderies because of the overwhelming military might of Han China."
  21. Meyer, Milton W. (1997). Asia: A Concise History. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 118. ISBN 978-0847680634.
    "In southern Manchuria, and northern and central Korea, the Chinese established four commanderies, which were subdivided into prefectures."
  22. Nelson, Sarah Milledge (1993). The Archaeology of Korea. Cambridge University Press. p. 168. ISBN 9780521407830.
    "The Chinese commanderies did not extend to the southern half of the peninsula, stretching perhaps as far south as the Han river at the greatest extent, but they did reach the northeast coast."
  23. Olsen, Edward (2005). Korea, the Divided Nation. Praeger. p. 13. ISBN 978-0275983079.
    "The Han dynasty created four outposts in Korea to control that portion of its border."
  24. Pratt, Keith (2006). Everlasting Flower: A History of Korea. Reaktion Books. p. 10. ISBN 978-1861892737.
    "108 BC: Han armies invade Wiman Choson; Chinese commanderies are set up across the north of the peninsula"
  25. Preucel, Robert W. (2010). Contemporary Archaeology in Theory: The New Pragmatism. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 296. ISBN 978-1-4051-5832-9.
    "The Wei Ji (compiled 233–97) places the Yemaek in the Korean peninsula at the time of the Han commanderies in the first century BC, giving them a specifically Korean identity at least by that time."
  26. Seth, Michael J. (2016). A Concise History of Korea: From Antiquity to the Present. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 978-1442235175.
    page 17: "The Chinese, having conquered Choson, set up four administrative units called commanderies. The Lelang commandery was located along the Ch'ongch'on and Taedong rivers from the coast to the interior highlands. Three other commanderies were organized: Xuantu, Lintun, and Zhenfan. Lintun and originally Xuantu were centered on the east coast of northern Korea. Zhenfan was probably located in the region south of Lelang, although there is some uncertainty about this. After Emperor Wu's death in 87 BCE a retrenchment began under his successor, Emperor Chao (87-74 BCE). In 82 BCE Lintun was merged into Xuantu, and Zhenfan into Lelang. Around 75 BCE Xuantu was relocated most probably in the Tonghua region of Manchuria and parts of old Lintun merged into Lelang. Later a Daifang commandery was created south of Lelang in what was later Hwanghae Province in northern Korea. Lelang was the more populous and prosperous outpost of Chinese civilization."
    page 18: "For the next four centuries a northwestern part of the Korean peninsula was directly incorporated in to the Chinese Empire.... The Taedong River basin, the area where the modern city of P'yongyang is located, became the center of the Lelang commandery."
    page 19: "The way of life maintained by the elite at the capital in the P'yongyang area, which is known from the tombs and scattered archaeological remains, evinces a prosperous, refined, and very Chinese culture."
  27. Stark, Miriam T. (2008). Archaeology of Asia. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 45. ISBN 978-1405102131.
    "The best known of these commanderies is Lelang, centered on the present city of Pyongyang, now the capital of North Korea."
  28. Swanström, Niklas (2009). Sino-Japanese Relations: The Need for Conflict Prevention and Management. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 13. ISBN 978-1847186201.
    "Under Emperor Wu-ti, Han China extended her influence into Korea, and in 108 B.C., the peninsula became a part of the Chinese Empire, with four dependent provinces under the Chinese charge."
  29. Tennant, Charles Roger (1996). A history of Korea. Kegan Paul International. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-7103-0532-9.
    "Soon after, the Wei fell to the Jin and Koguryŏ grew stronger, until in 313 they finally succeeded in occupying Lelang and bringing to an end the 400 years of China's presence in the peninsula, a period sufficient to ensure that for the next 1,500 it would remain firmly within the sphere of its culture."
  30. Tuan, Yi-Fu (2008). A Historical Geography of China. Aldine Transaction. p. 84. ISBN 978-0202362007.
    "Northeastwards Emperor Wu's forces conquered northern Korea in 108 b.c. and established four command headquarters there."
  31. United States Congress (2016). North Korea: A Country Study. Nova Science Publishers. p. 6. ISBN 978-1590334430.
    "Han Chinese built four commanderies, or local military units, to rule the peninsula as far south as the Han River, with a core area at Lolang (Nangnang in Korean), near present-day P'yongyang. It is illustrative of the relentlessly different historiography practiced in North Korea and South Korea, as well as both countries' dubious projection backward of Korean nationalism, that North Korean historians denied that the Lolang district was centered in Korea and placed it northwest of the peninsula, possibly near Beijing."
  32. Xu, Stella Yingzi (2007). That glorious ancient history of our nation. University of California, Los Angeles. p. 223. ISBN 9780549440369.
    "Lelang Commandery was crucial to understanding the early history of Korea, which lasted from 108 BCE to 313 CE around the P'yongyang area. However, because of its nature as a Han colony and the exceptional attention paid to it by Japanese colonial scholars for making claims of the innate heteronomy of Koreans, post 1945 Korean scholars intentionally avoided the issue of Lelang."