Korea-China History Awareness

Tribute and Jarlig in Koguryo History

    ▶ Koguryo had a tributary/jarlig relationship with China.
    ▶ Tributes and jarligs were ancient forms of diplomacy, and these factors do not attribute to China's administration over Koguryo.

Chinese scholars contend that Koguryo was administered by China, because Koguryo paid tribute and received jarlig (imperial decree).

However, as numerous East Asian nations from pre-modern times paid tribute to and received jarlig from China, this factor alone cannot be the basis for determining dependency.

Many countries surrounding China actively entered into tribute/jarlig relationships due to the benefits that entailed. Even Chinese scholars consider the context and syntax in tribute/jarlig relationships and the reality of the situation when viewing China's relations with other countries. Strangely, only the facts revolving Koguryo are distorted.

In reality, Koguryo was on equal footing with China's Southern and Northern Dynasties at the time, the period in which the tribute/jarlig relationship is contended. Although Koguryo formed tribute/jarlig relations with both dynasties, the relations were adjusted according to the interests of each dynasty. However, neither dynasty was able to impose sanctions or interfere politically regarding Koguryo. This proves that tributes and jarligs are insufficient evidence for proving China's administrative control over Koguryo. If tribute/jarlig relationships were the sole factor in determining China's administrative control, then nearly all East Asian countries including Silla, Baekje, Japan, Vietnam, Goryeo, and Joseon would have to be considered China's domain regardless of region and era.


Tribute and Jarlig in Koguryo History


• Prior to Koguryo's capital transfer to Pyongyang, Koguryo had no jarlig relations with China, and the two kingdoms spent the majority of their time at war with each other. This fact demonstrates that China had no administrative control over Koguryo.
• Despite Koguryo's tribute/jarlig relationship with Northern Wei, Koguryo fought against the Northern Wei military, recruited King Feng Hong of Northern Yan, and refused extradition requests. Koguryo exchanged delegates and developed transborder diplomacy with Southern Qi (second Southern Dynasty), an enemy state of Northern Wei. This fact demonstrates the reality of the binding force of tribute/jarlig relations.

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