This volume presents two histories of the early Korean kingdom of Paekche (trad. 18 BCE–660 CE). The first, written by Jonathan Best, is based largely on primary sources, both written and archaeological. This initial history of Paekche serves, in part, to introduce the second, an extensively annotated translation of the oldest history of the kingdom, the Paekche Annals (Paekche pon’gi). Written in the chronicle format standard for the traditional official histories of East Asia, the Paekche Annals constitutes one section of the Histories of the Three Kingdoms (Samguk sagi), a comprehensive account of early Korean history compiled under the editorial direction of Kim Pusik (1075–1151). Although these two representations of Paekche history differ markedly, the underlying problem faced by both the twelfth-century and the twenty-first-century historian is essentially the same: fashioning a responsible, encompassing, and reasonably coherent history of the kingdom from meager, and often disparate and fragmentary, evidence.
Included in the volume are 22 appendixes on problems in Paekche history; a concordance of proper names, official titles, omens, and weights and measures; a glossary of geographical names; and six historical maps of the kingdom showing its changing boundaries.
Best’s book is a watershed in the study of Paekche outside of Korea and perhaps will give further impetus to the growth of studies on traditional Korea in the West… Whether this is on the horizon or not, Best’s work will stand alone as both a scrupulously written history of a little understood kingdom, and a scholarly and informed partial translation of one of the most important works in the study of Korea.
Rarely has the East Asian scholarly world seen the publication of a work on its early history as important as Jonathan Best’s History of the Early Korean Kingdom of Paekche. This history promises to be a definitive text of early Korean history and an important piece of the puzzle for scholars who are seeking to understand East Asia at the start of the first millennium.
- 555 pages
- 6 x 9 inches
- Harvard University Asia Center
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