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Xuantu Commandery (Korean현도군; Hanja玄菟郡) was a colony set in the Korean Peninsula and part of the Liaodong Peninsula by the Han China. It was one of Four Commanderies of Han, established in 107 BCE, after the Han dynasty invaded Wiman Joseon of Korea. Korean kingdom of Goguryeo rose in this area in competition with the Chinese over the region. Although Goguryeo gained full control over the general region in 302, Later Han had already lost the earlier territory of Xuantu, which retreated to Liaodong Peninsula in the 1st century CE. The populations of the respective prefectures were greatly reduced after they were transferred to Liaodong, but their prefectural identities were preserved albeit nominally.

Xuantu Commandery
Chinese name
Korean name
Xuantu Commandery(Orange)



In 82 BCE, the Han dynasty reduced its commandery units; Lintun Commandery merged with Xuantu as a result. In 75 BCE, the Xuantu Commandery was forced to moved its seat from Fort Okjeo (沃沮城) to Gaogouli County due to raids by the Maek tribes (貊), a likely reference to Gaogouli. As a result, some of its previous counties had now to be abandoned or reassigned, seven of which were subject to Lelang Commandery, the so-called "seven counties beyond the eastern pass" (嶺東七縣).

As a result of the change, only three counties remained under Xuantu Commandery: Gaogouli County, Shangyintai (上殷台) and Xigaima (西蓋馬).[1]

The Book of Han records 45,006 households and 221,845 individuals in Xuantu Commandery for year 2 CE.[2]

When General Sima Yi of Cao Wei conquered Gongsun Yuan in his military campaign against Liaodong in 238, there remained only four counties in the new Xuantu Commandery that had retreated west (present-day Fushun): Gaogouli, Gaoxian (高顯), Liaoyang (遼陽), and Wangping (望平). These would all fall within the influence of the fast-growing state of Goguryeo within the next century, and Goguryeo would end up ruling much of the previously Han-occupied part of the Northern Korean Peninsula.[3]


In the North Korean academic community and some part of the South Korean academic community, the Han dynasty's annexation of the Korean peninsula have been denied. Proponents of this revisionist theory claim that the Four Commandaries of Han actually existed outside of the Korean peninsula, and place them somewhere in Liaodong Commandery, China instead. According to this theory, the Xuantu Commandery was said to be located in Shenyang.

These hypotheses are "dictatorial" in the academic community of North Korea, which is supported by the amateur historical enthusiasts in South Korea, but this theory is not recognized at all in the academic circles of the United States, China and Japan.[note 1]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^
    • United States Congress (2016). North Korea: A Country Study. Nova Science Publishers. p. 6. ISBN 978-1590334430.
    "Han Chinese built four commanderies, or local military units, to rule the peninsula as far south as the Han River, with a core area at Lolang (Nangnang in Korean), near present-day P'yongyang. It is illustrative of the relentlessly different historiography practiced in North Korea and South Korea, as well as both countries' dubious projection backward of Korean nationalism, that North Korean historians denied that the Lolang district was centered in Korea and placed it northwest of the peninsula, possibly near Beijing."
    • Connor, Edgar V. (2003). Korea: Current Issues and Historical Background. Nova Science Publishers. p. 112. ISBN 978-1590334430.
    "They place it northwest of the peninsula, possibly near Beijing, in order to de- emphasize China's influence on ancient Korean history."
    "Immediately after destroying Wiman Chosŏn, the Han empire established administrative units to rule large territories in the northern Korean peninsula and southern Manchuria."
    "But when Emperor Wu conquered Choson, all the small barbarian tribes in the northeastern region were incorporated into the established Han commanderies because of the overwhelming military might of Han China."
    "Despite recent suggestions by North Korean scholars that Lelang was not a Chinese commandery, the traditional view will be adhered to here. Lelang was one of four commanderies newly instituted by the Han Dynasty in 108 BC in the former region of Chaoxian. Of these four commanderies, only two (Lelang and Xuantu) survived successive reorganizations; and it seems that even these had their headquarters relocated once or twice."
    • Ch'oe, Yŏng-ho (May 1981), "Reinterpreting Traditional History in North Korea", The Journal of Asian Studies, 40 (3): 503–523, doi:10.2307/2054553, JSTOR 2054553.
    "North Korean scholars, however, admit that a small number of items in these tombs resemble those found in the archaeological sites of Han China. These items, they insist, must have been introduced into Korea through trade or other international contacts and "should not by any means be construed as a basis to deny the Korean characteristics of the artifacts" found in the P'yongyang area."
    "Chinese forces subsequently conquered the eastern half of the peninsula and made lolang, near modern Pyongyang, the chief base for Chinese rule. Chinese sources recall how China used not only military force but also assassination and divide-and-conquer tactics to subdue Chosŏn and divide the territory into four commanderies."
    "The way of life maintained by the elite at the capital in the P'yongyang area, which is known from the tombs and scattered archaeological remains, evinces a prosperous, refined, and very Chinese culture."
    "The Chinese, having conquered Choson, set up four administrative units called commanderies. The Lelang commandery was located along the Ch'ongch'on and Taedong rivers from the coast to the interior highlands. Three other commanderies were organized: Xuantu, Lintun, and Zhenfan. Lintun and originally Xuantu were centered on the east coast of northern Korea. Zhenfan was probably located in the region south of Lelang, although there is some uncertainty about this. After Emperor Wu's death in 87 BCE a retrenchment began under his successor, Emperor Chao (87-74 BCE). In 82 BCE Lintun was merged into Xuantu, and Zhenfan into Lelang. Around 75 BCE Xuantu was relocated most probably in the Tonghua region of Manchuria and parts of old Lintun merged into Lelang. Later a Daifang commandery was created south of Lelang in what was later Hwanghae Province in northern Korea. Lelang was the more populous and prosperous outpost of Chinese civilization."
    "Han China resumes its effort to subdue Korea, launching two military expeditions that bring much of the peninsula under Chinese control; it sets up four commanderies in conquered Korea."
    • Mark E Byington, Project Director of the Early Korea Project (2009). Early Korea 2: The Samhan Period in Korean History. Korea Institute, Harvard University. p. 172. ISBN 978-0979580031.
    "The latter, associated with Han China, are important, as their discovery permits us to infer the existence of relations between the Han commanderies and the Samhan societies."
    "The Wei Ji (compiled 233–97) places the Yemaek in the Korean peninsula at the time of the Han commanderies in the first century BC, giving them a specifically Korean identity at least by that time."
    "In 108 B.C. most of the Korean peninsula was divided into four Han commanderies, the most important of which was Lelang."
    "Northeastwards Emperor Wu's forces conquered northern Korea in 108 b.c. and established four command headquarters there."
    "Nangnang commandery centered around Pyeong'yang was established when Emperor Wu of Han China attacked Gojoseon in 108 BC and was under the rule of Wei from 238. Wei is the country that destroyed the Later Han dynasty."
    • Armstrong, Charles K. (1995), "Centering the Periphery: Manchurian Exile(s) and the North Korean State", Korean Studies, 19: 1–16, doi:10.1353/ks.1995.0017
    "North Korean historiography from the 1970s onward has stressed the unique, even sui generis, nature of Korean civilization going back to Old Chosön, whose capital, Wanggömsöng, is now located in the Liao River basin in Manchuria rather than near Pyongyang. Nangnang, then, was not a Chinese commandery but a Korean kingdom, based in the area of Pyongyang."
    "108 BC: Han armies invade Wiman Choson; Chinese commanderies are set up across the north of the peninsula"
    "The Chinese commanderies did not extend to the southern half of the peninsula, stretching perhaps as far south as the Han river at the greatest extent, but they did reach the northeast coast."
    "He then divided the country into military districts, of which the most important was that of Lolang, or Laklang, with headquarters near the modern Pyongyang. Tomb excavations in this area have produced much evidence of the influence of Han civilization in northern Korea."
    "Under Emperor Wu-ti, Han China extended her influence into Korea, and in 108 B.C., the peninsula became a part of the Chinese Empire, with four dependent provinces under the Chinese charge."
    "In southern Manchuria, and northern and central Korea, the Chinese established four commanderies, which were subdivided into prefectures."
    "The Han dynasty created four outposts in Korea to control that portion of its border."
    "In the corridor between the peninsula and northeast China, the Chinese Han dynasty established four “commanderies” that ruled over parts of the peninsula and Manchuria, much as modern imperial powers governed their colonies."
    • Eckert, Carter J. (1991). Korea Old and New: A History. Ilchokak Publishers. p. 13. ISBN 978-0962771309.
    "The territorial extent of the Four Chinese Commanderies seems to have been limited to the area north of the Han River."


  1. ^ 《漢書·地理志》:“玄菟郡......, 縣三:高句驪、上殷台、西蓋馬”
  2. ^ 玄菟郡......, 戶四萬五千六。口二十二萬一千八百四十五。Wikisource: the Book of Han, volume 28-2
  3. ^ Charles Roger Tennant (1996). A history of Korea (illustrated ed.). Kegan Paul International. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-7103-0532-9. Retrieved 2012-02-09. Soon after, the Wei fell to the Jin and Koguryŏ grew stronger, until in 313 they finally succeeded in occupying Lelang and bringing to an end the 400 years of China's presence in the peninsula, a period sufficient to ensure that for the next 1,500 it would remain firmly within the sphere of its culture. After the fall of the Jin in 316, the proto-Mongol Xianbei occupied the North of China, of which the Murong clan took the Shandong area, moved up to the Liao, and in 341 sacked and burned the Koguryŏ capital at Hwando. They took away some thousands of prisoners to provive cheap labour to build more walls of their own, and in 346 went on to wreak even greater destruction on Puyŏ, hastening what seems to have been a continuing migration of its people into the north-eastern area of the peninsula, but Koguryŏ, though temporarily weakened, would soon