Goryeo Dynasty

In 918, King Taejo Wanggeon established the Goryeo Dynasty, turning a new chapter in history, ushering in the middle ages, and closing the book on ancient times.

Goryeo was famous across the world for its publishing. They printed the oldest metal type printed book, Buljo jikji Simcheyojeol in 1377, which was 78 years earlier than Gutenberg’s work. Jikji, as it is known, was inscribed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in 2001, alongside Gutenberg’s “42-line Bible”. Jikji, as the world’s oldest extant metal type printed book, was designated the greatest invention of the last 1000 years and “the first information revolution” by the New York Times.

The Palmandaejanggyeong Buddhist scriptures, also known the Tripitaka Koreana, made by Goryeo, had some 80,000 pieces, which delivered hope to Goryeo in times of national crisis. Palmandaejanggyeong means 84,000 Buddhist priestly teachings, which correspond to the number of worldly desires.

One obstacle to early printing efforts was proper ventilation. Early Goryeo prototypes for wooden typesets guaranteed ventilation and prevented corrosion by using different sizes for the upper and lower winders. The secret of ventilation the buildings housing the press lay in its floor. The floor was hardened by salt, coral, and lime, so it absorbed moisture during the rainy season and held it during the dry season.

Word of the Goryeo Dynasty spread across the world as a trade powerhouse. Brisk trade activities in the outport of Byeognando in Gaegyeong, its capital city, took place between the merchants of Goryeo and merchants from China, Japan, Arabia, and even Persia. Goryeo exported mainly ginseng, agricultural implements, and ceramics, and imported glasses, crafted products, books, and silk. Trade with “Goryeo” gave Korea its name to the western world.

When Genghis Khan and his Mongol armies were conquering continents, Goryeo did not escape invasion. Goryeo held off their invaders for 40 years, handing them three defeats in battle and severely wounding their pride.

But a country can only withstand so much: after 40 years of invasion and devastation, Goryeo surrendered. But not everyone raised the white flag. Sambyeolcho, armed forces, established an independent government and protested against the Mongolian government for three years. Although Sambyeolcho was completely destroyed in 1273 by the Goryeo–Mongolian allied forces, Sambyeolcho held strong the spirit of Goryeo and today remains a symbol of national spirit and patriotic pride.

Goryeo’s ceramics rivaled its printing techniques in recognition. Goryeo Blue Celadons were highly appraised and sought by the upper classes of China.

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