Valerio Anselmo
A research on the name Kudara
(published in 1974)
Introduction - Paekche and Kudara


The language of Paekche (1)

I am greatly indebted to the late prof. Luigi Polese Remaggi for the help received while I was working on this research.

[page 1 of the original]


One of the most stimulating problems for the imagination of a linguist interested in Japanese and Korean is that of the etymology of the name Kudara 1. This name in Japan refers to the Korean state of Paekche 百濟 2, which at the time of the Three States (Samguk 三國) was occupying the South-Western part of the Korean peninsula 3. The state of Paekche, because of the continuous pression exerted upon it by Koguryŏ 高句麗 4 and Silla 新羅 5, was the most faithful ally of Japan in the peninsula for fighting against the other two states. Starting from the 4th century on, it was the most important intermediary of the continental Chinese culture towards Japan. In the year 660 it was conquered by Silla 6, which in 668, with the capitulation of Koguryŏ, was able, for the first time in history, to unify under its rule all the Korean peninsula.
[page 2 of the original]
Still today in Japanese the state of Paekche is called Kudara. This name, so different from those which are the Japanese pronounciations hakusai and hyakusai 7 of the two Chinese characters forming it, has been the object of various interpretations, mainly by Oriental scholars.

This script does not aim to solve the problem in an irrefutable way, but simply tries to clear up some historical-linguistical issues connected with the research about the etymology of the name Kudara. Some solutions will be proposed, although not definitive for the time being, but susceptible of further reconsiderations and developments should other material relating to the research be discovered or the studies on this subject be furtherly deepened.

This study is divided into the following parts:

Paekche and Kudara

The Kudara reading for 百濟 appears only in Japanese texts, where it is attested already in the Kojiki 古事記 (712) 8, in the Nihon Shoki 日本書紀 (720) 9 and in the Hizen-no-kuni fudoki 肥前國風土記 (first part of the 8th century) 10. The reading (furigana 振り假名) of those texts, although, probably does not go back to the age of their compilation, while it is likely that the reading Kudara mentioned in the Genji monogatari 源氏物語, compiled at the beginning of the 11th century, goes back to the time of its writing 11.
[page 3 of the original]
Was Kudara a name made up by the Japanese themselves, or, on the contrary, was it based on a Korean pronounciation? Being the name of a foreign state, it is more probable that, beforehand, the second thesis could be supported, that is that Kudara was a non-Japanese name. The name, however, because of the different phonetic system of this language could have taken in the Japanese transcription a form different from the original one and, to some extent, “japanisized”. We must also presume, until we have proof of the contrary, that Kudara was the name with wich the inhabitants of Paekche called their state, although, frankly, the exchanges of populations' names were not so rare in the Japanese historiography 12. This study bases itself on the hypothesis, supported on the other hand by all the scholars who dealt with this subject, that the name Kudara was not an original Japanese name.

The name Kudara should moreover have some relationship with the Korean pronounciation at that time of the two Chinese characters forming the Paekche name, or with the original Korean word, whose pronounciation the two character were transcribing. This name, too, like that of Paekche, cannot be separated, at the beginning, from the name which probably was the original name of the state. Kudara and Paekche, however, are phonetically so distant that we cannot see how it could be possible to establish between them any kind of relationship, even supposing the most daring phonetical variations. They do not have a single sound in common and this, as a starting point, is rather discouraging.

In the Chinese sources Paekche (Chinese Pai-chi ) appears for the first time, quoted with the characters 伯濟, in the San-kuo-chih 三國志 13, but the fact that it is written with those characters and that it is listed as one of the 55 small states of Mahan 馬韓 14, leaves many questions open about its possible identification with the state we are now studying.
[page 4 of the original]
With the characters 百濟, those same characters that are read Kudara in the Japanese sources, the name is mentioned for the first time in the Chin-shu 晉書 15, where it is reported in the second year of Yung Ho 永和 of the Eastern Chin 東晉 dynasty (346 A.D.).


The language of Paekche (1)

  1. In the text, modern Korean is transcribed according to the McCune-Reischauer system, 15th century Korean and ancient Korean are transcribed according to the rules of the International Phonetic Association (I.P.A.), modern Chinese according to the Wade-Giles system, while ancient Chinese forms are shown in the transcription given by B. Karlgren (with some small differences due to typographical reasons) and Japanese is transcribed according to the Hepburn system.
    Please, notice that in the reconstructed pronounciations mentioned in this text a and ɑ are different vowels. In particular, a corresponds to the I.P.A. [a], ɑ corresponds to [ɑ] and ɨ to [ɨ].
  2. Traditional dates 18 B.C. - 660 A.D.
  3. It seems that the state included the present provinces of Kyŏng’gi-do 京畿道, Ch’ungch’ŏng-do 忠淸道 and Chŏlla-do 全羅道 at the time of its maximum extension.
  4. Traditional dates 37 B.C. - 668 A.D.
  5. Traditional dates 57 B.C. - 935 A.D.
  6. From 892 to 936 there was a state called “Later Paekche”, Hu Paekche 後百濟, founded by a certain Kyŏn Hwŏn 甄萱 which, at the head of a group of revolting peasants, occupied the South-Western part of the peninsula, saying that he intended to satisfy the old resentments of king Ŭija 義慈 of Paekche. Because of these ideological reasons (the fight against Silla) and also for geographical reasons (time before, the place where it rose was Paekche's previous land) it was called Later Paekche, but really it did not have any link with the previous state of Paekche.
  7. Paekche was called in the Japanese way also by Western authors which wrote about Korea. See W. E. Griffis, Corea, the Hermit Nation, New York 1911, reprinted in 1971, page 35, where Paekche is called Hiaksai.
  8. In the Kojiki this name is mentioned for the first time under Chūai tennō 仲哀天皇 (traditional dates 192-200). See Kojiki, p. 230 of the Iwanami Shoten 岩波書店 edition («Nihon Koten Bungaku Taikei» 日本古典文學大系), Tōkyō 1963, and Kojiki, transl. D. L. Philippi, Tōkyō 1968, chap. 94:6.
  9. See what it is said also in the Chōsen-shi taikei 朝鮮史大系, jōseishi 上世史, Chōsen-shi gakkai 朝鮮史學會 edition, Keijō 京城 1929, p. 115. In the Nihon shoki Kudara is mentioned for the first time in the 9th year of Jingū kōgō 神功皇后 (traditional dates 201-269). See Nihon Shoki, p. 339 of the 1st volume of the Iwanami Shoten edition («Nihon Koten Bungaku Taikei»), Tōkyō 1967. This edition of the Nihon shoki in the following references will be shortened as NS, Iwa. The empress regent Jingū was a legendary figure; it is therefore risky to establish an exact correspondence between the 9th year of her reign and the Western calendar.
  10. See Fudoki 風土記, Iwanami Shoten edition, Tōkyō 1963, p. 394; Hizen-no-kuni fudoki, district of Kagami-no-watari 鏡渡.
  11. The Genji monogatari novel writes the name Kudara in kana near the 百濟 characters. See Genji monogatari, 5th volume, chapter Wakamurasaki 若紫, 20, p. 197 of the first volume of the Iwanami Shoten edition, Tōkyō 1963.
  12. For instance, in the NS, Iwa, both Koryŏ 高麗 (= Koguryŏ) (K. 14, Yūryaku tennō 雄略天皇, 2nd month of the 8th year, p. 478 of the 1st volume) and Maek (K. 14, Yūryaku tennō, 20th year, p. 496 of the 1st volume) are read Koma and both Kara 加羅 (K. 9, Jingū kōgō, 62nd year of regency, p. 360 of the 1st volume) and Han (K. 14, Yūryaku tennō, 7th year, p. 474 of the 1st volume) are read Kara.
  13. See San-kuo-chih, Wei-shu 魏書, Tung-yi-ch'uan 東夷傳, p. 4627a of the Po-na 百衲 edition. The San-kuo-chih is the history of the Three kingdoms (220-280). It was privately compiled from 285 to 297 by Ch'en Shou 陳壽 (233-297).
  14. The Mahan were one of the three groups of small states (Sam Han 三韓) which occupied the southern part of Korea. The other two groups were the Chinhan 辰韓 and the Pyŏnhan 弁韓 (or Pyŏnjin 弁辰); they were rural populations and their presence in the region is verified starting from the 1st century A.D.
  15. Reported in the NS, Iwa, 1st vol., p. 612, note 10.

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© Valerio Anselmo