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Several hypotheses on Paekche (part one)
Now we will analyse the name Paekche and its variants. From an examination of the meaning and the pronounciation of the characters with which these names are written, we will try to go back to their original form. While for the southern languages (the three Han, Silla and then the MK) the remained vocabulary is rich enough, we cannot say as much for what concerns the vocabulary of the northern languages (Koguryŏ etc.); the scarcity of this latter material hinders very much the researches on this name. Luckily, however, from the historical analysis made before we can conclude beforehand, with a certain reliability, that the Paekche name must have been a southern name, the same name that appears in the San-kuo-chih or another name imitating this one.
Some of the explanations provided by eastern scholars, although based upon the 15th century language or on the Silla language (southern languages) refer, for the reconstruction of the meaning of the name, to the northern origin of the founders of the state. This seems to be contrasting with the logic because, if the name meant something like “fortress of the Maek” (cf. later) and was the name of the state, this is equivalent to say that, in its form, this name did strictly connect to the Maek language, which, as long as we know, being similar to that of Koguryŏ, was very much different from that of Silla.
But, let's look at the question from a nearer point of view. In Korean the two characters
百濟 give just one pronounciation, paekche, that anyhow can be traced back to a Middle Korean .pɑjk:ʦjəi 74 of the 15th century 75.
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This connects to an original Chinese reconstructed with the help of Karlgren as pɑktsiei (*paktsiər) 76. In the analysis we are about to start, this pronounciation could be interpreted both as the phonetic transcription of a name (of a country or a people) made with the help of the only writing system known in Korea at that time, that is the Chinese ideographic writing, and as the translation in Chinese of the original name of the state. Considering then the two characters
百 and 濟 as two separated parts, and taking the first one for its phonetic value and the second for its semantic value and viceversa, we can interpret the above mentioned name as a combination of the two possibilities here suggested.
The first two explanations of the name, based on the meaning of the two characters, come from the Samguk sagi and from the Sui-shu. The Samguk sagi tries to explain the first character of the name Sipche
十濟 speaking of “ten” subjects ( 十臣) which, with Onjo, would have founded the state, and the first character of the name Paekche 百濟 (whose ideograms taken one by one originally mean “one hundred” and “to cross a stream”) linking it to the word paeksŏng 百姓 (people = “a hundred” families) 77, while the Sui-shu explains the name saying that the country is called in this way because initially it was established by “a hundred families which crossed the sea” 78. These explanations, that try to interpret the name analyzing just the meaning of the characters which make it up, do not seem to be very convincing.
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Yuktang Ch’oe Nam-sŏn
六堂崔南善 79, interpreting both characters as phonetic transcriptions of Korean words, gives for the name Paekche the following explanation: paek would derive from pɑlk- "to be clear, luminous", and che would come from tsjas "castle, town". Moreover, paek would point to the Maek 貊 (Chinese Mo) 80 and, as a consequence, the name Paekche would be the phonetic transcription in Chinese characters of a Korean original with the meaning of “fortified town of the Maek” ( 貊人의 居城). To a similar conclusion arrives also Kanazawa Shōzaburō 金澤庄三郎 81 taking the first character for its phonetic value and the second one for its semantic value. Paek, coming from pak, would stand for Maek, while che 濟 (ford) would link to the Korean naru (ferry); from this would come Pak-nara “country of the Maek” ( 貊族の國).
The criticisms we can move to these theories is that
貊 perhaps was never pronounced pɑk or pɑjk (> paek ), but only mɑk or mɑjk (> maek ) 82, Tsjas or tsas for “fortress, castle” 83, and naru and nara for "ferry" and "nation" respectively are glosses based on the language of Silla the first one, and on the 15th century's Korean the second one, and not on the language of Paekche.
At this point we can bring in the hypothesis that Paekche (< pɑlk-tsjas ) would mean something different from “the fortress of the Maek”. Pɑlk-tsjas, for instance, could also be the transcription of “bright fortress” , or “luminous fortress” 84.
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However, we have already seen that pɑlk- “luminous” is an adjective connected with the name of the king; from this to the meaning of “fortress of the king” it is a short step. We will still notice the coincidence of this reconstruction with the meaning of the name of the town of Ulaγan Xota, already seen before, which, even after several centuries, seems to repeat a traditional form of a town name used by the proto-Mongol and Tungus populations, perhaps handed down from the remote ancient times.
The name Paekche (
百 with the meaning of “one hundred” and 濟 with the meaning of “to cross a river; ford”) can be though as the translation of an original Korean term. In the attempt to discover if a native Korean term connected with Paekche might be the one that produced the Kudara of the Nihon shoki, we will try to reconstruct these original words in the most ancient form it is possible to reach. In this case, even if we will not be able to go too far in time, we can at least reconstruct the name .on-nɑrɑ < *un-nɑrɑ based on the language of the 15th century 85.
For .on “one hundred” we can go back to the 12th century, because this form is quoted in the Kyerim yusa 鷄林類事 86.
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Bearing in mind that nɑrɑ “ferry” 87 is connected with nara(h) “country, nation” 88, we can probably suppose that
濟 (nɑrɑ) had here the meaning of “country, nation”, hence the name 百濟 could have had the meaning of “a hundred countries”, “a hundred nations”, “a hundred towns” 89 or, in a broader sense, “many countries” etc. Making also 百 follow a process similar to the one applied to 濟 (nara(h) < nɑrɑ), we can go back, for 百濟 to a meaning of “all the countries”, which gives us the idea of a kind of confederation of several communities. The MK pronounciation .on “one hundred” calls indeed to the mind the MK :on “all”, a term that could have been represented by 百
(.on) and have in fact been in semantic relation with that one 90.
- The . and : signs you can see in front of the transcription of the syllable to which they refer are used to point out the “tones” reported by the 15th century writing. Concerning the value of these diacritical signs in Middle Korean, Ohno Susumu (The Origin of Japanese Language, Tōkyō 1970, p. 118) speaks of «pitch accent», instead of “tones” (see also the review of this book written by R. A. Miller in «Monumenta nipponica», XXVI, 3-4, Tōkyō 1971, p. 465) and towards a similar interpretation seems to be inclined also Chŏng Yŏn-ch’an
鄭然粲 (Kugŏ sŏngjo-ŭi kinŭng pudamnyang-e taehayŏ 國語聲調의 機能負擔量에 대하여, in Kim Chae-wŏn paksa hoegap kinyŏm nonch’ong 金載元博士回甲紀念論叢, Seoul 1969, p. 733-753), while Yi Sung-nyŏng (Chungse..., cit., p. 119) speaks of “tones” ( 聲調) and of the same opinion is also Yi Ki-mun (Kugŏsa..., cit., p. 119: “tonemes” 聲調素) who says that the MK was a «tone language». A study of the Korean sources of the 15th century and a comparison with the dialect of Kyŏngsang 慶尙 seem rather to make us incline towards a definition of the cited diacritical signs as signals of «pitch accent» instead of “tonemes”, because in the Korean language there were really just two tones, a higher one and a lower one (cf. K. L. Pike, Tone Language, University of Michigan, 1948, p. 14-15). About the value of these diacritical signs, for an interpretation differing from that given by Yi Sung-nyŏng, cf. Kim Yŏng-man 金永萬, Pangjŏm-ŭi ponjir-e taehan koch’al 旁點의 本質에 대한 고찰, in «Kugŏ kungmunhak» 국어국문학, 36, Seoul 1967, p. 71-87.
- About .pɑjk
百 cf. Tusiŏnhae ch’ogan 杜詩諺解初刊 (1481-1482) (quoted by Yu Ch'ang-don, Ijoŏ..., cit., p. 358). See also the Tongguk chŏngun 東國正韻 (1447), p. 17 and 422 of the edition published in 1966 by Yu Ch'ang-gyun 兪昌均 as a photocopy of the original. To the pronounciations of the Tongguk chŏngun, given the particular character of this work (cf. Yu Ch'ang-gyun, Tongguk chŏngun yŏn’gu 東國正韻硏究, Taegu 大邱 1966, and Nam Kwang-u 南廣祐, Tongguk chŏngun-sik hanchaŭm yŏn’gu 東國正韻式漢字音 硏究, Seoul 1966), we will refer just when necessary.
- See Karlgren, Grammata..., cit., 781a, 593o. We try to get round the uncertainty of the Korean pronounciation of the characters at the time of Paekche comparing it with that given by Karlgren for the 600 A.D. (in parenthesis we give also the archaic form). In this case the two forms, that of the MK (.pɑjk:ʦjəi ) and that of the ancient Chinese (pɑktsiei ) prove to be very similar. See also what was said in Anselmo, cit., note 77.
- See Samguk sagi, kwŏn 23, p. 393 cit. ed.:
溫祚居河南慰禮城以十臣爲輔翼國號十濟 ... 後以來時百姓樂從改號百濟
- See Sui-shu, Tung-yi-ch'uan, Pai-chi
百濟, p. 11979 of the Po-na ed.: 初以百家濟海因號百濟.
- See Ch’oe Nam-sŏn, Chosŏn sangsik
朝鮮常識, chiri-p’yŏn 地理篇, Seoul 1953.
- Karlgren (Grammata..., cit., 781f) for
貊 reconstructs *mak / mɑk, with the initial nasal m, and not with the occlusive p. The Maek ( 貊 · 貉 · 貃), called also Ye ( 濊 · 穢 · 獩) or Yemaek, were a Tungus population which is said to be the ancestor of the northern Koreans, the Puyŏ, the Okchŏ and the Koguryŏ. Also the Fu-yü of Central Manchuria are supposed to be of Yemaek line. Yun Mu-byŏng 尹武炳 (Yemaek-ko 濊貊考, in «Paeksan hakpo», 1, 1966, p. 13-27) on the contrary holds that the Maek, the Ye and the Yemaek probably were distinct populations and that the last name (Yemaek) was probably originally used, starting from the Shih-chi 史記, to mean the Koguryŏ, while Maek 貊 alone was also used to mean the Koguryŏ up to the Hou-Han 後漢 period. At the time of the (Chinese) Three Kingdoms the name Yemaek disappears, substituted by Koguryŏ. About the Yemaek, see also Kim Chŏng-bae 金貞培, Yemaekchog-e kwanhan yŏn’gu 濊貊族에 關한 硏究, in «Paeksan hakpo», 5, 1968, p. 1-46.
- Quoted by Chōsen-shi taikei, cit. ed., p. 115-116.
- Yang Chu-dong (Koga..., cit., p. 6), however, establishes a connection among the characters
百, 伯 and 貊 saying that all these ideograms could have been used to transcribe the word pɑlk or pɑl “bright”. See also Pak Si-in 朴時仁, Alt’ai inmun yŏngu 알타이人文硏究, Seoul 1970, p. 32.
- About tsas “fortress”, see Yang Chu-dong, Koga..., cit., p. 569.
百濟 = pɑlktsas = Kwangmyŏngsŏng 光明城 (see Yang Chu-dong, Koga..., cit., p. 570). Pak Si-in (Alt'ai..., cit., p. 542) gives for 百濟 the meaning of "land of the light".
- Here too the biggest uncertainty about the value of these reconstructions is given by the fact that the language of the 15th century on which we base ourselves is fundamentally the language of a southern country, Silla, changed with the passing of time, but with few contributions from those which were the languages of the northern states of Korea. There is however the probability, as we said before, that the original name Paekche could be nothing else than a local name of the Mahan, a population speaking a southern language, in which case a part of the first two reconstructions proposed a moment ago (tsias and nɑrɑ) could be considered a valid one.
On the value of the vowels of the MK, see Yi Sung-nyŏng, Chungse..., cit., p. 41-59, Kim Pang-han
金芳漢 Kugŏ moŭm ch’egye-ŭi pyŏndong-e kwanhan koch’al 國語 母音體系의 變動에 關한 考察, in «Tong-A munhwa» 東亞文化, 2, 1964, p. 29-80, and Yi Ki-mun, Chosŏngwanyŏgŏ-ŭi chonghapchŏk kŏmt’o 朝鮮館譯語의 綜合的 檢討, in «Sŏul taehakkyo nonmunchip» 서울大學校論文集, 14, 1968, p. 71-72.
- See Pang Chong-hyŏn
方鐘鉉, Kyerim yusa yŏn’gu 鷄林類事硏究, in «Tongbang hakchi» 東方學志, 2, Seoul 1955, p. 7 and 113 of the second part: 百曰醞. Karlgren does not mention the character 醞, but, for similar forms, pronounced today yün, gives us the ancient pronounciation ˑi̯uən (see Karlgren, Grammata..., cit., 426e, f, g): the Chinese pronounciation of the 12th century of the above mentioned character should straddle these two pronounciations, which on the other hand are very similar. The form on for "one hundred" is mentioned also by the Chosŏngwanyŏgŏ 朝鮮館譯語 (Chinese: Ch'ao-hsien-kuan I-yü) (14th-15th century): 一百黑嫩 () (see Yi Ki-mun, Chosŏn..., cit., p. 77).
- Perhaps in connection with the the MK ːnai(h) “river”, “stream” (?). In Japanese the name of the town that was the capital of Paekche from 475 to 537, Ungch’ŏn
熊川, is read Kumanari or Kumanare (see Maruyama Rimpei, Jōdaigo..., cit., p. 409) from which it would result nari for "river" (or perhaps, on the contrary, nari has the meaning of "ford, ferry" and is in connection with the other name of the capital city, that is Ungjin 熊津?) and a kuma for "bear", perfectly in agreement with the theory of the vocalic rotation (cf. Yi Ki-mun, Chosŏn..., cit., p. 72, and Anselmo, Armonia..., cit.). With regard to this nari, Haguenauer holds that it is not a Korean word, but a Japanese word later become obsolete, but advances also the hypothesis that the Korean nä (nae) "river" might be in connection with a similar form (see Ch. Haguenauer, A propos de coréen nä, rivière, et mö, montagne, in Yi Pyŏng-do paksa hwagap kinyŏm nonch’ong 李丙燾博士華甲紀念論叢, Seoul 1956). The pronounciation nari for “ford, ferry” is still found in the southern regions of Chŏlla-do 全羅道 and Kyŏngsang-do 慶尙道 (see Ogura Shimpei 小倉進平, Chōsengo hōgen-no kenkyū 朝鮮語方言の硏究, Tōkyō 1944, p. 45 of the 1st volume).
- This is the opinion of many Korean linguists. The first communities sprang up on the banks of the great rivers, probably near easy fords or ferries. The first earthenware found in Korea was the so-called Comb-marked pottery (Kammkeramik) found along the coastline and the big rivers. This first earthenware used by the proto-Korean populations suggests two facts: first, that for the communications they preferred the rivers or the sea (let’s remember that the land was crowded by wild animals, like the tiger, that seems to be not yet completely extinct in Korea), and, second, that the fishery played an important role in the economy of the population of that time (see Ki, Chŏng-hak, Han’guk kiha hangmun t’ogi munhwa-ŭi yŏn’gu
韓國幾何學文土器文化의 硏究, in «Paeksan hakpo», 4, 1968, p. 1-100, and Gardiner, The Early History..., cit., p. 6).
- The first communities were not “states” in the modern sense and we can think that they had the numerical consistence and the organization of a small town of ours or of a village.
- These double interpretations leave us very much doubtful. An interpretation like the one given by Ch’oe Nam-sŏn seems more logical, even if, as it is formulated, cannot be completely accepted.