Gwangjong of goryeo, or wang so was the fourth King of Goryeo
Gwangjong was born in 925 as the fourth son of King Taejo, Wang So, who founded Goryeo in 918. His mother was Queen Shinmyeongsunseong of the Chungju Yu clan, who also gave birth to Wang Tae, Wang Yo, Wang Jeong, Jeungtong, and Nangnang and Heungbang princesses. In addition, from his father’s other marriages, Gwangjong had twenty half-brothers and seven half-sisters.
He was far from succession to the throne since he had three older brothers, Mu, Tae and Yo; Wang Tae, however, died early on, and Wang Mu died in 945, three years after being crowned king, leaving the throne to Wang Yo, who ruled Goryeo as Jeongjong for four years. He wanted to make Wang So his heir before dying, instead of his first and only son, Prince Gyeongchunwon.
HIS ROLE IN GORYEO
The rule of the emancipation of slaves in 956 was his first reform. There were many slaves among the noble families, mostly prisoners of war, who served as private soldiers; they numbered more than the commoners, and paid no taxes to the crown, but to the clan under which they worked. Gwangjong converted them into commoners by emancipating them, weakening the influence of the noble families and gaining citizens who paid taxes to the king and could become part of his army. This reform gained the support of the people from his administration, though nobles were against it; even Queen Daemok tried to stop the king as her family was affected by the rule, but to no avail.
Scholar Shuang Ji was sent as an envoy to Goryeo in 957 and, with his advice, Gwangjong introduced the national civil service review in 958 with the intention of expelling officials who acquired court positions rather than by merit due to family power or reputation. The examination, based on the civil service examination of the Tang and the Confucian classics, was open to all male free-borns to give all, not just the rich and influential citizens, the opportunity to work for the state, but only sons of the gentry could obtain the requisite education to take the examination in practise; instead, royal relatives of the five highest ranks were left out on purpose. In 960, to differentiate officials of various ranks, the king adopted different colours for court robes.
Medical centres known as Daebi-won, which supplied free medicines to poor patients, were founded in Kaesong and Pyongyang during the reign of Gwangjong, and later expanded as the Hyeminguk in the provinces. To face the times of drought, Taejo set up regional granaries, and Gwangjong added jewibo stores that paid interest on grain loans, which were then used for poor relief. Those initiatives continued to operate for the next 900 years, even if in changed ways, in tandem with improved cultivation methods to keep up with population development.
Gwangjong saw the alliance of religious institutions and the state as an aid to subdue local lords, and chose the abbot of Haeinsa Temple to spread Buddhism among the people. He took capable monks as advisors and encouraged temple construction: he founded the Yongjusa Temple in Cheongju, North Chungcheong, in 962, for example, and the Cheongpyeongsa Temple in Chuncheon, Gangwon.
Gwangjong’s focus on Buddhism grew in his later years. He convened a reunion in 968, after a nightmare, and prohibited the slaughter of his kin. An earthquake occurred in Goryeo in December 971, and the nobles and the people blamed the king. Gwangjong managed to cope with the crisis, but in February 972 there was a second earthquake: during this time he had a nightmare and in August he granted amnesty to prisoners.
In July 975 (the fifth month of the Lunar calendar), he developed a severe illness and died only a few days later at the age of 50. The posthumous name “Hongdoseon-yeolpyeongse sukheon-ui hyoganghye daeseong dae-wang” was given to him.
He was succeeded by his only son, Wang Ju, who became Gyeongjong, the fifth King of Goryeo. The reform policies were passed on to his successors to curb the influence of the capital elite, but they were not able to follow them; as a consequence, the bureaucracy changed from a meritorious aristocracy to a hereditary class. During the sixth king’s rule, Seongjong, the statute of slave emancipation was retracted.
Portrayed by LEE JOON GI IN THE FAMOUS SOUTH KOREAN DRAMA SERIES, MOON LOVERS : SCARLET HEART RYEO
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