Organized Panel Session
Peripheral East Asia underwent tremendous social change in the first millennium CE and the borders, political structures, and networks that developed in this period are the foundation for many aspects of contemporary East Asian national identity. However, the anachronistic projection of these modern identities and borders onto ancient polities often hinders our understanding of the actual dynamics of these early societies.
This panel uses historical and archaeological evidence from the Korean peninsula to challenge assumptions about the cultural boundaries, geopolitics, and mythological narratives of Early East Asia. The papers bring new perspectives to the period by overcoming constraints resulting from an adherence to a small number of problematic textual sources and through methodologies that go beyond traditional historical analysis. Mark Byington presents a GIS-aided spatial analysis of Koguryô royal tombs during the kingdom’s period of unprecedented expansion in the late fourth century. Jonathan Best offers a chronological reassessment of the foundation myth of the Paekche kingdom and reinvests this story with new historical significance. Stella Xu puts sixth through eighth century Silla in its East Asian context and questions the utility of “Korea” as a meaningful analytic category. Richard McBride offers a new perspective on the reign of Silla Queen Chinsŏng, suggesting that her traditional characterization as immoral and ineffectual needs to be reevaluated.
By critically appraising fundamental assumptions embedded in our sources and approaches, these papers break down our projections of ‘Korea’ ‘China’ and ‘Japan’ in the past and are broadly relevant to scholars of early East Asia.