Munmu of Silla

Munmu of Silla (626–681; reigned 661–681[1]) was the 30th king of the Korean kingdom of Silla. He is usually considered to have been the first ruler of the Unified Silla period. Munmu was the son of King Muyeol and Munmyeong, who was the younger sister of Gim Yu-sin. Under his father's reign, he held the office of pajinchan, who apparently was responsible for maritime affairs, and played a key role in developing the country's diplomatic links with Tang China. He was born Prince Beopmin (Hangul: 법민 Hanja: 法敏), and took the name Munmu when he succeeded his father to the throne. After his death, he was known by the title of Dragon King.[2]

Munmu of Silla
Revised RomanizationMunmu Wang
McCune–ReischauerMunmu Wang
Birth name
Revised RomanizationGim Beopmin
McCune–ReischauerKim Pŏmmin


  • Father: King Muyeol
  • Mother: Queen Munmyeong (Hangul: 문명왕후, Hanja: 文明王后) of the Gimhae Kim clan
  • Spouse: Queen Jaeui, of the Kim Clan (자의왕후 김씨; d.681)
    • Son: Prince Somyeong (?-665)
    • Son: Prince Jeong-myeong–who became King Sinmun, the 31st of Silla

Unification of Three KingdomsEdit

King Munmu took the throne in the midst of a long conflict against Baekje and Goguryeo, shortly after General Gyebaek and Baekje had been defeated at Sabi by General Gim Yu-sin in 660. In these struggles, Silla was heavily aided by the Tang.

The first years of his reign were spent trying to defeat Goguryeo, following an abortive attempt in 661. Finally, in 667, he ordered another attack which led to the defeat of Goguryeo in 668. After the small isolated pockets of resistance were eliminated, Munmu was the first ruler ever to see the Korean peninsula completely unified.

War with Tang ChinaEdit

King Munmu then faced the challenge of freeing his country from Tang domination. After the fall of Goguryeo, Tang created the Protectorate General to Pacify the East and attempted to place the entire Korean peninsula, including Silla, under its rule. To prevent this, Munmu forged alliances with Goguryeo resistance leaders such as Geom Mojam and Anseung, and launched a frontal attack on the Tang forces occupying former Baekje territories. The struggle lasted through the early 670s.

In 674, Tang and its former ally, Silla, were in constant battle, as King Munmu had taken over much of former Baekje and Goguryeo territory from the Tang and fostered resistance against them. Emperor Gaozong, in anger, arbitrarily declared King Munmu's brother, Gim Inmun, the king. However, King Munmu formally apologized and offered tribute, and Emperor Gaozong ordered a withdraw and recalled Gim Inmun.

In 675, Li Jinxing (Hanja:李謹行) reached Silla territory with Mohe forces that submitted to Tang. However, the Tang forces were defeated by the Silla army at the Maeso fortress (Tang sources claim that the Tang forces won this and other battles in Silla).

Emperor Gaozong ordered withdrawal of Tang forces from the Korean Peninsula entirely and moved the Protectorate General to Pacify the East to Liaodong, allowing Silla to eventually expel Tang out of the Korean Peninsula and unify the parts of the peninsula south of the Taedong River. This victory, and the maintenance of Silla's independence, is generally regarded as a critical turning point in Korean history.

After Unification WarsEdit

Munmu ruled over unified Silla for twenty years, until he fell ill in 681. On his deathbed, he left his last will and testament, and abdicated to his son, Prince Sinmun. Before he died he said: "A country should not be without a king at any time. Let the Prince have my crown before he has my coffin. Cremate my remains and scatter the ashes in the sea where the whales live. I will become a dragon and thwart foreign invasion." King Sinmun did as his father asked, and scattered his ashes over Daewangam (the Rock of the Great King), a small rocky islet a hundred metres or so off the Korean coast. Moreover, King Sinmun built the Gomun Temple (the Temple of Appreciated Blessing) and dedicated it to his father, he built a waterway for the sea dragon to come to and from the sea and land, and he built a pavilion, Eegun, overlooking the islet so that future kings could pay their respects to the great King Munmu.

In a dream, King Munmu and the famous general Gim Yu-Sin appeared to King Sinmun and said to him: "Blowing on a bamboo flute will calm the heavens and the earth." King Sinmun awoke from the dream, rode out to the sea and received the bamboo flute named Manpa-sikjeok (萬波息笛, 만파식적). It was said that the blowing of this bamboo flute invoked the spirits of King Munmu and General Gim Yu-sin and would push back enemy troops, cure illnesses, bring rain during drought and halt the rains in floods.


The Stele of Munmu Wang suggests that he was of the ethnic Xiongnu origin, or at least that parts of his family arrived from the Xiongnu.[3][4][5][6][7][8]

Popular cultureEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Il-yeon: Samguk Yusa: Legends and History of the Three Kingdoms of Ancient Korea, translated by Tae-Hung Ha and Grafton K. Mintz. Book Two, page 79. Silk Pagoda (2006). ISBN 1-59654-348-5
  2. ^ Keith Pratt and Richard Rutt. Korea: A Historical and Cultural Dictionary. Routledge. P.298.
  3. ^ Cho Gab-je (2004-03-01). 騎馬흉노국가 新羅 연구 趙甲濟(月刊朝鮮 편집장)의 심층취재 내 몸속을 흐르는 흉노의 피. 月刊朝鮮. Archived from the original on 2012-01-19.
  4. ^ 김운회 (2005-08-30). 김운회의 '대쥬신을 찾아서' <23> 금관의 나라, 신라. 프레시안. Archived from the original on 2015-01-08.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  5. ^ 경주 사천왕사(寺) 사천왕상(四天王像) 왜 4개가 아니라 3개일까. 조선일보. 2009-02-27. Archived from the original on 2014-12-30.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  6. ^ 2부작 <문무왕릉비의 비밀> - 제1편: 신라 김씨왕족은 흉노(匈奴)의 후손인가?. KBS 역사추적. 2008-11-22.
  7. ^ 2부작 <문무왕비문의 비밀> - 제2편: 왜 흉노(匈奴)의 후예라고 밝혔나?. KBS 역사추적. 2008-11-29.
  8. ^ (채널돋보기) 신라 김씨 왕족은 흉노의 후손일까. 매일신문. 2008-11-21.
  9. ^ Son of King Jijeung
  10. ^ Daughter of King Beopheung
  11. ^ "The King's Dream". (in Korean). Retrieved 2018-06-17.
Munmu of Silla
Born: 626 Died: 681
Regnal titles
Preceded by King of Silla
Merged into
the Crown
Preceded by
King of Silla
Succeeded by