Wei Man came from northern China and lived in the second century b.c.e. He staged an unsuccessful uprising against the newly established Han dynasty in 195 b.c.e. and fled with 1,000 followers to the northern Korean peninsula, where he founded a state called Caoxian (Ch’ao-hsien) in Chinese—the name is anglicized as Choson, one of the names by which Korea is called. His capital was close to modern Pyongyang, capital of modern North Korea. Choson was a Sinicized state, reflecting the accelerated penetration of Chinese economic, military, and political power into the Korean peninsula since the late Warring States era in China in the third century b.c.e.
With superior military and economic strength, Wei Man’s successors (who controlled highly developed ironworks) were able to expand the kingdom throughout the northern part of the Korean peninsula against Korean tribes. The killing of a Chinese envoy by Choson soldiers and the harboring of Han deserters by Chosen led to war between the two states. A Chinese force invaded Choson in 109 b.c.e. and forced its surrender in 108 b.c.e. after the assassination of King Ugo, Wei Man’s grandson. The establishment of four commanderies in Korea followed the destruction of Choson; they were administered as territories of the Han dynasty.
- Gardiner, K. H. J. The Early History of Korea. Canberra: Australian National University, 1969;
- Weems, Clarence Norwood, ed. Hulbert’s History of Korea. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1962.
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