Queen Seondeok of Silla From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia "Queen Seondeok" redirects here. For the historical drama, see Queen Seon Deok (TV series). This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding reliable references. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (July 2007) Queen Seondeok of Silla Hangul 선덕여왕, also 선덕왕 Hanja 善德女王, also 善德王 Revised Romanization Seondeok yeowang, also Seondeok wang McCune–Reischauer Sŏndŏk yŏwang, also Sŏndŏk wang Monarchs of Korea Silla (Pre-unification)
Queen Seondeok of Silla (606 - 8 January 647) reigned as Queen of Silla, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, from 632 to 647. She was Silla's twenty-seventh ruler, and its first reigning queen. She was also one of the first female sovereigns in East Asian history and encouraged a renaissance in thought, literature, and the arts in Silla. Contents [hide]
1 Selection as heiress 2 Reign 3 Legends 4 Family 5 References 6 See also
Selection as heiress
Before she became queen, Seondeok was known as Princess Deokman (덕만(德曼)). She was the first of King Jinpyeong's three daughters. Her nephew, Princess Cheonmyeong's son, eventually became King Muyeol of Silla while Seondeok's other sister, Princess Seonhwa, eventually married King Mu of Baekje and became the mother of King Uija of Baekje. Seonhwa's existence is controversial due to the discovery of evidence that points to King Uija's mother as being Queen Sataek, and not Seonhwa as indicated by historical records.
Because he had no sons, Jinpyeong selected Seondeok as his heir. The act was not unusual within Silla, as women of the period had already had a certain degree of influence as advisors, dowager queens, and regents. Throughout the kingdom, women were heads of families since matrilineal lines of inheritance existed alongside patrilineal ones. During the Silla kingdom, the status of women was relatively high, but there were still restrictions on female behavior and conduct; they were discouraged from activities considered unwomanly. Reign
In 632, Seondeok became the sole ruler of Silla, and reigned until 647. She was the first of three female rulers of the kingdom (the other two being Jindeok of Silla and Jinseong of Silla), and was immediately succeeded by her cousin Jindeok, who ruled until 654.
Seondeok's reign was a violent one; rebellions and fighting in the neighboring kingdom of Baekje were often what preoccupied her. Yet, in her fourteen years as queen of Korea, she used her wit to her advantage. She kept the kingdom together and increased its ties to China, sending scholars there to learn. Like Empress Wu Zetian of the Tang, she was drawn to Buddhism and presided over the completion of Buddhist temples.
She built the "Star-Gazing Tower," or Cheomseongdae, considered the first observatory in the Far East. The tower still stands in the old Silla capital of Gyeongju, South Korea.
Lord Bidam of Silla is said to have led a revolt with the slogan that "female rulers cannot rule the country” (女主不能善理). Legend says that during the uprising, a star fell and was interpreted by Bidam's followers as a sign of the end of the queen's reign. Kim Yushin (commander-in-chief of the royal army from 629) advised the queen to fly a burning kite as a sign that the star was back in its place.
Yeomjong stated that about ten days after Bidam's uprising, he and thirty of his men were executed (Queen Seondeok died on 8 January, and Bidam was executed on 17 January after Jindeok took the throne).
Chilsuk and Seokpum are also believed to have staged an insurrection during her reign, but it was short-lived. Legends
It is believed that Seondeok's selection as her father's successor was justified by her displays of precocious intelligence when she was a princess. One such story (both in Samguk Sagi and Samguk Yusa) recounts that her father received a box of peony seeds from the Emperor Taizong of Tang accompanied by a painting of what the flowers looked like. Looking at the picture, the young Seondeok remarked that while the flower was pretty it was a shame that it did not smell. "If it did, there would be butterflies and bees around the flower in the painting." Her observation about the peonies' lack of scent proved correct — just one of many illustrations of her intellect and hence of her ability to rule.
There are two other accounts of Seondeok's unusual ability to perceive events before their occurrence. In the first it is said that Seondeok once heard a horde of white frogs croaking by the Jade Gate pond in the winter. She interpreted this as an impending attack from the Kingdom of Baekje (the croaking frogs were seen as angry soldiers) in the northwest of Silla (white symbolized the west in astronomy) at the Women's Valley (the Jade Gate was associated with women). When she sent her generals to the Women's Valley, they were able to capture two thousand Baekje soldiers.
The second is an account of her death. Some days before she died, Seondeok gathered her officials and gave the order "When I die, bury me near the Dori-cheon (忉利天, "Heaven of Grieved Merits")." Decades after her death, the thirtieth king Munmu of Silla constructed Sacheonwang-sa (四天王寺 "Temple of the Four Heavenly Kings") in her tomb. Then the nobles realized that one of the Buddha's sayings, "Dori-cheon is above the Sacheonwang-cheon", was accomplished by the Queen.
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