▶ The changing names of Gaya states
Names of States
The most famous ancient state in the Gimhae region was Geumgwan-gaya (金官加耶),
which is mentioned in a section on the five Gayas in Samguk-yusa. The name
Geumgwan-gaya is associated with the opposition against Silla between the end of the Silla
Dynasty and the early days of the Goryeo era. As such, Geumgwan-guk (金官國) is
implied to be a member of the Gaya Confederation.
What was the state's name in later eras when it continued to exist in the Gimhae
region? According to the biography of Kim Yusin in Samguk-sagi, King Suro founded a
state among the nine villages of Garak (駕洛), referred to it as “Gaya” (加耶), and later
changed the name to “Geumgwan-guk (金官國).” “Garak” or “Gaya” may have been the
name of the state at its founding and “Geumgwan” the name at the time when it fell.
The following state names from the Gimhae region appear in historical records:
Gaya (加耶, 伽耶, 伽倻), Gara (加羅), Geumgwan (金官), Hagara-do (下加羅都),
Garak (駕洛), Nam-gaya (南加耶), Imna-garyang (任那加良), Dae-garak (大駕洛),
Nam-gara (南加羅), Sunara (須那羅), Sonara (素奈羅), Guya (狗邪), Imna-gara
(任那加羅), and Imna (任那).
The names Guya, Gaya, Garak, and Imna-gara are names of Gaya states before the
fourth century. Geumgwan, Sunara, Hagara-do, and Nam-gaya are state names from the
late Gaya era after the fifth century.
Among the historical sources, Samguk-ji and Samguk-yusa mention the names of
the early Gaya states; Nihon-shoki mentions state names from the late Gaya era; and
Samguk-sagi mentions names from both eras. The only state of Gaya-guk that is
mentioned in “Silla-bongi” in Samguk-sagi before the section on King Nahae in 212 A.D.
is Gaya-guk. The same name appears in a section on King Soji in 481 A.D., when it is
referred to as a domain of Goryeong.
In brief, the historical evidence suggests that before the fourth century the small
states of the Gimhae region were known as “Garak-guk (駕洛國),” while during the late
Gaya era of the fifth century the states were known as “Geumgwan-guk (金官國).”
▶ The formation of Gaya states in the Gimhae region
Shell mounds in the Gimhae region indicate that people inhabited the region since the
Neolithic Age and that they survived mainly by fishing. From the seventh to six century
B.C., a dolmen and plain pottery culture based on farming appeared in the Gimhae region.
Among the relics found from the second century B.C. were jar coffins, wooden
coffins, narrow bronze daggers, chisels, iron axes, and black pottery. Such relics may be the
remains of the Nine Gans before King Suro. The political system at the time was a tribal
council among the chiefs of the nine villages. Likely power was exercised jointly and no
single person ruled.
Into the first century A.D., various iron manufactures and tile pottery were
produced in the Juchon-myeon Yangdong-ri district in Gimhae.
The culture in the area was settled and developed under a compromise with latter
plain pottery culture. Tomb No. 55 at Yangdong-ri is a wooden outer-coffin tomb that was
made between the end of the first century and beginning of the second century. The tomb
was stocked with iron daggers, bronze mirrors, and jade objects to display the male
occupant’s heavenly authority. Was King Suro such a figure?
Tomb No. 162 at Yangdong-ri is a large wooden outer-coffin tomb from the
middle of the second century. Six stands for a large iron dagger (a dagger which followed
the narrow bronze dagger) and several iron spears were found in the tomb. The spears
were of various sizes, with the largest measuring up to 60 cm long.
The male occupant of the tomb was left with some currency from that
time—several narrow iron axes laid beneath the wooden coffin. The tomb was decorated
with a bronze mirror--a symbol of magic power--and a bead necklace. Judging from the
valuable objects in the tomb, the owner was likely the chief of a small state who possessed
great wealth and political power.
In brief, a small state emerged in the Gimhae region during the middle of the
second century. Soon after, other small states began to cluster around the Nakdong River
basin and Gyongsang-namdo district.
▶ Development of the Gaya Confederation under Garak-guk at Gimhae
Based on our observations of Gaya relics, we can conclude that the cultural center of the
Gimhae region before the first half of the third century A.D. was Juchon-myeon
Yangdong-ri. Garak-guk at this time emerged as the leader of the confederation of twelve
states at Byeonhan, or the early Gaya Confederation. Garak-guk was able to become a
powerbroker in the Nakdong River area because of the state’s favorable geographic
position. Garak-guk was connected to Nakrang in northwest Korea and Wa in Japan.
Moreover, the state possessed advanced iron-manufacturing technology.
By the latter half of the third century A.D., Gimhae's cultural center gravitated
toward present-day Gimhae City. Large wooden outer-coffins tombs at Daeseong-dong
and the shell mounds at Bonghwang-dae and Buweon-dong reveal a flourishing culture in
the area. At this time, Garak-guk--a Gaya state in the Nakdong River area--was at war with
Jar coffin tombs, wooden outer-coffin tombs, and stone outer-coffin tombs from
the second half of the second century to the first half of the sixth century were unearthed
at Daeseong-dong in Gimhae. However, the main type of tomb found was the wooden
outer-coffin tomb from the late third century to the late fourth century. The No. 2 Tomb
at Daeseong-dong' is the largest in the entire Gimhae region, and the quality of the
engraved relics is very high. Thus, we can safely assume that the tomb was built for a
powerful king in the Gimhae region during the second half of the fourth century.
When Nakrang-gun and Daebang-gun fell and the northern trade center
disappeared in the first half of the fourth century, Garak-guk lost its comparative
advantage in maritime trade. Garak-guk was also challenged by the Eight States from
Kyongsang-namdo, but the kingdom persevered by enlisting the help of Silla. In the
mid-fourth century, King Geunchogo of Baekje opened a trade route linking the Southern
Chinese Dynasty to Wa-guk (Ancient Japan) by way of Imna-guk at Changweon.
Garak-guk participated in this trade network. Thus, in the late fourth century, the Gaya
Confederation was integrated into Imna-gara’s economic system at Gimhae, enabling it to
▶ Disintegration of the early Gaya Confederation and the rise and fall of
Decline and Fall
As Imna-gara expanded in the late fourth century, Silla in the east Nakdong River area was
vexed for a time. However, after Silla enlisted the support of an army of 50,000 men from
Goguryeo, it conquered Gaya. Imna-gara, the center of the Gaya Confederation, suffered
By the early fifth century, large tombs were no longer constructed in the Gimhae
region, and the tombs of great chiefs disappeared. Judging from such archeological data,
we can say that Garak-guk, which had been the driving force of the early Gaya
Confederation, was on the brink of ruin.
In the tombs at Yean-ri, pottery remains from that region and from Silla were
found together. This reveals that the builders of the tombs maintained their own identity,
albeit under Silla's influence.
During the second half of the fifth century, owing to the development of Dae-gaya
in Goryeong, the Gaya Confederacy began to reconstitute itself in the Gimhae region.
When Goryeong re-established the late Gaya Confederation by calling itself “Dae-gaya” at
this time, it revealed its affinity with Geumgwan-guk. Subsequently, the southern Gaya
states, including Gimhae, participated in this confederation.
By the end of the 520s, however, the alliance between Dae-gaya and Silla had
crumbled. Takgitan-guk, a Gaya state at Milyang-Yeongsan, succumbed to Silla. The
southern states of Gaya united under Anla-guk at Haman, but a military force from Baekje
thwarted this plan and established a forward base.
Silla then dispatched General Isabu to subjugate Geumgwan-guk. In 532 A.D.,
King Guhae of Geumgwan-guk, realizing it was futile to resist, capitulated to Silla without
a struggle. As a token of gratitude for surrendering so readily, Silla accepted King Guhae
and his family as jingol, or royalty, granting them the same status as Silla's royal family.
▶ The influence of Geumgwan-guk’s descendants on Silla's unification of three
From the perspective of nation building, Silla’s conquering of Baekje and Goguryeo and
the unification of the Korean Peninsula in the mid-seventh century, was a milestone in
Korean history. Although the people of Silla carried out this act, Gaya descendants also
played a pivotal role.
Silla's King Munmu once said: "My late king asked for soldiers from Dang to
absorb Goguryeo and Baekje. But that was because of his literary assistance, although his
help also had military merit. How can I ignore Gangsu's service?"
After conquering Goguryeo's Pyeongyang Castle, King Munmu said: "Yusin, going
out a general and entering a prime minister, has performed many meritorious acts." Saying
this, the King gave Kim Yusin the position of Taedaegakgan, the highest official rank. The
King also allowed him to carry a staff in the royal palace and granted him the privilege of
not having to bow before him.
Using this evidence, we can say that Gangsu helped Silla unify with the pen, while
Kim Yusin used the sword.
Interestingly, Gangsu lived at Gukweon Castle (present-day Chungju), but he
revealed to King Muyeol of Silla that he was “originally from Imna-garyang." Gangsu’s
ancestor moved to Gyeongju with the royal family of Gaya following Geumgwan-guk’s
surrendered to Silla in 532. The ancestor moved again to Gukweon Castle in 558.
Kim Yusin was a grandson of Gakgan Kim Muryeok, a general who had assured
Silla's victory at the battle of Gwansan Castle by killing Baekje's King Seong. Muryeok’s
father was King Guhae, the last king of Geumgwan-guk. Therefore, Kim Yusin was a
great-grandson of Geumgwan-guk.
Thus, when Silla unified the three states, the progenitors of Geumgwan-guk at
Gimhae made significant military and intellectual contributions to the new kingdom. Here
we can see the lasting influence of Gaya.