Seong of Baekje

Seong of Baekje (also Holy King, died 554) (r. 523–554) was the 26th king of Baekje, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. He was a son of Muryeong of Baekje and is best known for making Buddhism the state religion, moving the national capital to Sabi (present-day Buyeo County), and reclaiming the center of the Korean Peninsula. His demise eventually came at the hands of an ally who betrayed him. The name Seong translates as 'The Holy.'

Seong of Baekje
성왕, 명왕, 성명왕
聖王, 明王, 聖明王
Revised RomanizationSeong-wang, Myeong-wang, Seongmyeong-wang
McCune–ReischauerSŏng-wang, Myŏng-wang, Sŏngmyŏng-wang
Birth name
Revised RomanizationMyeongnong

Foreign relations and BuddhismEdit

Seong was known as a great patron of Buddhism in Korea, and built many temples and welcomed priests bringing Buddhist texts directly from India. In 528, Baekje officially adopted Buddhism as its state religion. He maintained his country's diplomatic ties with Liang Dynasty China as well as Wa (Japan).

He sent missions to Liang in 534 and 541, on the second occasion requesting artisans as well as various Buddhist works and a teacher. According to Chinese records, all these requests were granted. A subsequent mission was sent in 549, only to find the Liang capital in the hands of the rebel Hou Jing, who threw them in prison for lamenting the fall of the capital.

He is credited with having sent a mission including Norisachigye (노리사치계, 怒利斯致契, ?-?) in 538 to Japan that brought an image of Shakyamuni and several sutras to the Japanese court. This has traditionally been considered the official introduction of Buddhism to Japan. An account of this is given in Gangōji Garan Engi.

Move of the capitalEdit

In 538, he moved the capital from Ungjin (present-day Gongju) further south to Sabi (present-day Buyeo County), on the Geum River. Unlike the earlier move of the capital from the present-day Seoul region to Ungjin, forced by the military pressure of Goguryeo, the move to Sabi was directed by the king to strengthen royal power, aided by the political support of the Sa clan based in Sabi.[1]

He completely reorganized the administration of the country to strengthen central control, to counteract the political power of the noble clans. He changed the name of the country to Nambuyeo,[1] to emphasize the ancient connection to Buyeo.

Guze Kannon is a statue made in the image of King Seong[2] in the Korean style.[3]

Battle among the Three KingdomsEdit

Baekje had maintained a century-long alliance with its neighbor Silla, to balance the threat of the northern kingdom Goguryeo. With the aid of Silla and the Gaya confederacy, Seong led a long campaign to regain the Han River valley, the former heartland of Baekje which had been lost to Goguryeo in 475. Baekje regained its original capital in 551. The campaign culminated in 553 with victories in a series of costly assaults on Goguryeo fortifications.

However, under a secret agreement with Goguryeo, Silla troops, arriving on the pretense of offering assistance, attacked the exhausted Baekje army and took possession of the entire Han River valley. Incensed by this betrayal, the following year Seong launched a retaliatory strike against Silla's western border. This attack was led by the crown prince (subsequent king Wideok) and joined by the Gaya confederacy. But Seong and 30,000 Baekje troops were killed in the disastrous battle. This defeat led to significant erosion of royal power.


According to the Shogeishō(聖冏抄), a compilation of the ancient historical records and traditions about the Japanese Prince Regent Shotoku Taishi, Guze Kannon is a statue that is the representation of King Seong, which was carved under the order of the subsequent King Wideok of Baekje.[2] It was written by a Japanese monk Shogei(1341-1420), the 7th Patriarchs of the Jodo sect. The statue which had originally come from Baekje[4] to Japan and has been preserved at the Japanese temple Hōryū-ji. The American scholar of Asian cultures Ernest Fenollosa describes the Guze Kannon he uncovered at Hōryū-ji along with the Tamamushi Shrine as ”two great monuments of sixth-century Corean Art”.[5] It is referred to by the authors of The Cambridge History of Japan as one of the "great works of Asuka art created by foreign priests and preserved as Japanese national treasures".[6]

His third son, Imseongtaeja (琳聖太子), left for Japan, via Taiwan, after his father was killed. Imseongtaeja is credited for playing a key role in the formation of the early Japanese state. Because of date discrepancies most scholars now say he must have been son of Wideok of Baekje.


  • Father: Muryeong of Baekje
  • Mother: unknown
    • Brother: Prince Junda (淳陀太子, ?–513) – settled in Japan, became ancestor of Yamato clan.
    • Brother: Shigakishi (斯我君, ?–?) – known in Baekje as Buyeo Sa'a. He was sent to Japan in 505 as a political hostage to Emperor Buretsu of Japan.
    • Queen(s): unknown
      • 1st son: Buyeo Chang (扶餘昌, 525–598) – 27th King of Baekje, Wideok of Baekje.
      • 2nd son: Buyeo Gye (扶餘季, 527–599) – 28th King of Baekje, Hye of Baekje.
      • Daughter: Lady Sobi (比召, ?–?) – consort of the 24th King of Silla, Jinheung of Silla.
      • 3rd son: name unknown (?–?) – father of Mokuto-Ō known in Baekje as "Mokdo-wang" (目圖王/目図王), ancestor of the Oka no muraji clan (岡連氏). He settled in Japan.

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 119. Silk Pagoda (2006). ISBN 1-59654-348-5
  2. ^ a b 聖冏抄 ... 故威德王恋慕父王状所造顕之尊像 即救世観音像是也
  3. ^ Evelyn McCune. The arts of Korea: an illustrated history. C. E. Tuttle Co., 1962
  4. ^ Asiatic Society of Japan. Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan. The Society, 1986
  5. ^ Fenollosa, Ernest F. Epochs of Chinese and Japanese Art: An Outline History of East Asiatic Design. Heinemann, 1912
  6. ^ Brown, Delmer, ed. (1993). The Cambridge History of Japan. Cambridge University Press. p. 169. ISBN 978-0-521-22352-2.
Seong of Baekje
Cadet branch of the House of Go
 Died: 554
Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of Baekje
Succeeded by