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Samguk yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms)

삼국유사 ( 三國遺事 )

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Classification National Treasure
Name of Cultural Properties Samguk yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms)
Quantity 5 Volumes of 2 Books
Designated Date 2003.04.14
Age The 7th year of the reign of King Jungjong of Joseon (1512)
Address Seoul National University Kyujanggak Institute for Korean Studies, #103, 1, Gwanak-ro, Gwanak-gu, Seoul

Samguk yusa is a historical record compiled by the Buddhist monk Il Yeon in 1281 (the 7th year of King Chungnyeol of Goryeo). It is composed of five books in two volumes, and the contents consist of nine separate parts: Wangnyeok, Gii, Heungbyeop, Tapsang, Uihae, Sinju, Gamtong, Pieun, and Hyoseon. Wangnyeok is a brief chronology of the Three Kingdoms, Garakguk, Later Goguryeo and Later baekje. Gii covers the history from Gojoseon to the late Three Kingdoms Period. The opening of the Gii part presents an introductory comment to describe why it was written. Heungbeop deals with the rise of Buddhism in the Three Kingdoms, while Tapsang covers pagodas and Buddhist images. Uihae provides anecdotes of renowned monks from the Silla period. Sinju tells the story about miracles done by esoteric Buddhism during the Silla period. Gamtong is about tales of devotion, and Pieun portrays legends of reclusive heroes. Lastly, Hyoseon contains folktales of filial piety and Buddhist virtues. Samguk yusa is considered to be an extremely important cultural heritage representing ancient Korean history, geography, literature, religion, language, folklore, art, archeology, etc. First, the book often cites ancient literary works about history, Buddhism and legends, most of which are not presently extant. Second, it presents a rare source for the study of ancient Korean language systems, particularly, 14 pieces of hyangga (old Korean folk songs) are essential in studying classical Korean literature. Third, the book also provides a wealth of information regarding Buddhist art, the mainstream in ancient Korean art history. The Tapsang part, in particular, which mainly focuses on the founding of pagodas, Buddhist images and temples, is an essential source for the study of various remains and relics of both historical and archeological value. Last but not least, the book contains a wide range of records about young soldiers of the Silla Period, which are more religious and poetical than those written in Samguk sagi. This is the only book that has no missing pages among the Samguk yusa books published in Gyeongju in 1512 (the 7th year of King Jungjong), the edition most widely used by academic scholars. This also is thought to be the earliest edition.