Gaya confederacy
가야 (加倻)
Map showing the approximate location of selected Gaya polities.
Map showing the approximate location of selected Gaya polities.
Common languagesGaya
Buddhism, Shamanism
• 42–199
(first, Geumgwan)
• ?-562
(last, Dae)
Historical eraAncient
• Establishment
• Submission to Silla
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Byeonhan confederacy
Today part ofSouth Korea
Gaya confederacy
Duck-shaped pottery from Gaya, 5th or 6th century.
Korean name
Revised RomanizationGaya

Gaya (Korean가야; Hanja加倻; RRGaya, Korean pronunciation: [ka.ja]) was a Korean confederacy of territorial polities in the Nakdong River basin of southern Korea,[1] growing out of the Byeonhan confederacy of the Samhan period.

The traditional period used by historians for Gaya chronology is AD 42–532. According to archaeological evidence in the third and fourth centuries some of the city-states of Byeonhan evolved into the Gaya confederacy, which was later annexed by Silla, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. The individual polities that made up the Gaya confederacy have been characterized as small city-states.[2] The material culture remains of Gaya culture mainly consist of burials and their contents of mortuary goods that have been excavated by archaeologists. Archaeologists interpret mounded burial cemeteries of the late third and early fourth centuries such as Daeseong-dong in Gimhae and Bokcheon-dong in Busan as the royal burial grounds of Gaya polities.[3]


Further information: Gaya language

Although most commonly referred to as Gaya (가야; 加耶, 伽耶, 伽倻; [kaja]), probably due to the imprecision of transcribing Korean words into hanja, historical sources use a variety of names, including Garak (가락; 駕洛, 迦落; [kaɾak]), Gara (가라; 加羅, 伽羅, 迦羅, 柯羅; [kaɾa]), Garyang (가량;加良; [kaɾjaŋ]), and Guya (구야; 狗耶; [kuja]).[4] According to Christopher I. Beckwith, "The spelling Kaya is the modern Korean reading of the characters used to write the name; the pronunciation /kara/ (transcriptionally *kala) is certain."[5]

In Japanese, Gaya is often referred to as Mimana (任那), a name with considerable present-day political connotations. However, another word called "Kara (から)" was used when alluding to ancient Korea, a word that is believed to have derived from the alternate spelling of Gaya, Gara (加羅) which is now represented by three separate characters: 韓, 漢 and 唐 in kun'yomi. It is thought that the meaning of "Korea" was initially preserved in Japanese in the word "Kara" which later expanded to include "China, then mainland East Asia" and, more recently, an even more vague sense of "the nations overseas or foreign countries".[6]


Linguists, including Vovin and Janhunen, suggest that Japonic languages were spoken in large parts of the southern Korean Peninsula. According to Vovin, these "Peninsular Japonic languages" were replaced by Koreanic-speakers (possibly belonging to the Han-branch).[7][8]

The later Gaya language likely belonged to the Koreanic Han languages.

The genetic diversity in the Gaya Kingdom region is linked to Jomon-related ancestry.[9]


According to a legend written in the Samguk Yusa in the 13th century, six eggs descended from heaven in the year AD 42 with a message that they would be kings. Six boys were born and matured within 12 days. One of them, named Suro, became the king of Geumgwan Gaya, and the other five founded the remaining five Gayas: Daegaya, Seongsan Gaya, Ara Gaya, Goryeong Gaya, and Sogaya.[10]

The Gaya polities evolved out of the chiefly political structures of the twelve tribes of the ancient Byeonhan confederacy, one of the Samhan confederacies. The loosely organized chiefdoms resolved into six Gaya groups, centered on Geumgwan Gaya. Based on archaeological sources and the limited written records, scholars have identified the late 3rd century as a period of transition from Byeonhan to Gaya, noting increasing military activity and changing funerary customs. This transition was also associated with the replacement of the previous elite in some principalities (including Daegaya) by elements from the Buyeo kingdom, which brought a more militaristic ideology and style of rule.[11][12]

After the Eight Port Kingdoms War(浦上八國 亂)(209~212) between Silla and Gaya, Gaya was influenced by Silla's southeast peninsular hegemony, but diplomatically utilized the influence of Japan and Baekje to maintain independence. The Gaya Confederacy disintegrated under pressure from Goguryeo between 391 and 412, although the last Gaya polities remained independent until they were conquered by Silla in 562, as punishment for assisting Baekje in a war against Silla.

In 529, Silla destroyed Takgitan Gaya(啄己呑國) under the pretext of its alliance with Daegaya and took half of Taksun Gaya(卓淳國)'s territory. This led Daegaya to distrust the Gaya and begin uniting around the Ara Gaya, which was maintaining a strong power. In order to escape interference between Baekje and Silla in Gaya, the Ara Gaya invited Silla, Baekje, and Japan to hold the Anra Conference(安羅會議). Although they wanted to pressure Silla through the meeting to rebuild the Takgitan Gaya(啄己呑國) and raise the international status of Anra, Baekje preferred strong diplomacy and Silla was not interested in it. Although Japan was pro-Anra Gaya, it was unable to help due to internal problems.[13][14][15]

In 541 and 544, Baekje led the Sabi Conferences(泗沘會議), which were participated in by seven countries including Ara and Imna. However, Ara still did not fully trust in Baekje. As a result of the conference, Gaya attacked Goguryeo alongside the Silla-Baekje alliance and acquired Seoul. In this attack, Baekje was betrayed by Silla and Gaya was also absorbed by Silla.[16][17]


Polities were situated in the alluvial flats of tributary river valleys and the mouth of the Nakdong. In particular, the mouth of the Nakdong has fertile plains, direct access to the sea, and rich iron deposits. Gaya polities had economies that were based on agriculture, fishing, casting, and long-distance trade. They were particularly known for its iron-working, as Byeonhan had been before it. Gaya polities exported abundant quantities of iron ore, iron armor, and other weaponry to Baekje and the Kingdom of Wa.[18] In contrast to the largely commercial and non-political ties of Byeonhan, Gaya polities seem to have attempted to maintain strong political ties with those kingdoms as well.


Several ancient historical records list a number of polities of Gaya. For example, Goryeo Saryak (고려사략; 高麗史略) lists five: Geumgwan Gaya, Goryeong Gaya, Bihwa Gaya, Ara Gaya, and Seongsan Gaya.

Traditionally, the Gaya Confederacy enjoyed good relations with Japan and Baekje, such as when the three states allied against Goguryeo and Silla in the Goguryeo-Wa War. Records indicate Gaya would alongside Baekje regularly send economical, cultural, and technological aid to Japan in exchange for military and political aid, as the Yamato court desired technological progress and cultural advancement while Baekje and the Gaya states desired Japan's military aid in their wars against Silla and Goguryeo.[19]

The various Gaya polities formed a confederacy in the 2nd and 3rd centuries that was centered on the heartland of Geumgwan Gaya in modern Gimhae. After a period of decline, the confederacy was revived around the turn of the 5th and 6th centuries, this time centered on Daegaya of modern Goryeong. However, it was unable to defend itself against the incursions and attacks of the neighboring kingdom of Silla. Eventually, all of the Gaya Confederacy were absorbed into Silla.[20]

After the fall of the Gaya Confederacy, many of the nobility and elite of the confederated states were integrated into the ranks of Silla's bone-rank system including the royal houses of the defeated Gaya Confederacy.[21] One such example was the Sillan General Kim Yu-sin who played a critical role in the unification of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. Kim was the great-grandchild of King Guhae of Geumgwan Gaya, the last ruler of the Geumgwan Gaya state. As a result, Kim was given the rank of "true bone" which was the second highest rank one could attain, in part because the royal family of Geungwan Gaya, the Gimhae Kim clan were intermarried with the Gyeongju Kim clan, which was a prominent noble house in Silla.[22]

Member statelets

Mimana/Imna controversy

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Main article: Mimana

Political and trade relations with Japan have been a source of controversy in both Korea and Japan. Japanese publicists during the twentieth century looked to the Nihon Shoki, which claims that Gaya (named "Mimana" also "Kara" in Japanese) was a military outpost of Japan during the Yamato period (300–710). While there is no evidence to support this, the claim has nonetheless been advocated at various times by Japanese imperialists, nationalists and press to justify the Japanese colonial rule of Korea between 19th and 20th centuries.[23][24]

Archaeological evidence suggests that Gaya polities were the main exporter of technology and culture to Kyushu at that time. The theory of a Japanese outpost is widely rejected in Korea and Japan as there was no Japanese local groups at the time that had a strong enough military power to conquer Gaya or any other part of Korea.[25][26] The technology of Gaya was more advanced than that of the Japanese dynasties of the time.[25][26]

Though this theory has been largely refuted since the 1970s, it remains a sensitive and re-occurring issue in modern-day.

In 2010, a joint study group of historians sponsored by the governments of Japan and South Korea agreed that Gaya had never been militarily colonized by ancient Japan.[27]


See also


  1. ^ (2001). Kaya. In The Penguin Archaeology Guide, edited by Paul Bahn, pp. 228–229. Penguin, London.
  2. ^ Barnes, Gina L. (2001). Introducing Kaya History and Archaeology. In State Formation in Korea: Historical and Archaeological Perspectives, pp. 179–200. Curzon, London.
  3. ^ Barnes 2001:188–198.
  4. ^ Barnes 2001:182-184.
  5. ^ Beckwith, Christopher (2009). Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present. NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 105. ISBN 978-0-691-13589-2.
  6. ^ 『デジタル大辞泉』 "Digital Daijisen" (by 小学館/SHOGAKUKAN) at Goo Dictionary
  7. ^ Janhunen, Juha (2010). "Reconstructing the language map of prehistorical Northeast Asia". Studia Orientalia 108 (2010). ... there are strong indications that the neighbouring Baekje state (in the southwest) was predominantly Japonic-speaking until it was linguistically Koreanized.
  8. ^ Vovin, Alexander (2013). "From Koguryo to Tamna: Slowly riding to the South with speakers of Proto-Korean". Korean Linguistics. 15 (2): 222–240.
  9. ^ Gelabert, Pere; Blazyte, Asta; Chang, Yongjoon; Fernandes, Daniel M.; Jeon, Sungwon; Hong, Jin Geun; Yoon, Jiyeon; Ko, Youngmin; Oberreiter, Victoria; Cheronet, Olivia; Özdoğan, Kadir T. (2022-06-21). "Northeastern Asian and Jomon-related genetic structure in the Three Kingdoms period of Gimhae, Korea". Current Biology. 32 (15): 3232–3244.e6. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2022.06.004. ISSN 0960-9822. PMID 35732180. S2CID 249896345.
  10. ^ Barnes 2001:180-182.
  11. ^ Sin, K.C. (2000). Relations between Kaya and Wa in the third to fourth centuries. Journal of East Asian Archaeology 2(3–4), 112–122.
  12. ^ This is presumed because of the confusion caused by a series of displaced peoples southward movements following the invasion of Wei in 242, invasion of the Xianbei in 285, the fall of lelang in 313
  13. ^ 日本書紀(Nihon Shoki) 卷第十七 男大迹天皇 繼體天皇 > 繼體天皇 23年 3月 > 是月, 遣近江毛野臣, 使于安羅. 勅勸新羅, 更建南加羅㖨己呑. 百濟遣將軍君尹貴麻那甲背麻鹵等, 往赴安羅, 式聽詔勅. 新羅, 恐破蕃國官家, 不遣大人, 而遣夫智奈麻禮奚奈麻禮等, 往赴安羅, 式聽詔勅. 於是, 安羅新起高堂, 引昇勅使. 國主隨後昇階. 國內大人, 預昇堂者一二. 百濟使將軍君等, 在於堂下. 凡數月再三, 謨謀乎堂上. 將軍君等, 恨在庭焉.
    In March, 近江毛野臣 was dispatched as an envoy to Anra, and the emperor ordered Silla to rebuild Southern Garas and Takgitan. Baekje dispatched generals "君尹貴","麻那甲背" and "麻鹵" to Anra for orders. Because Silla destroyed the government houses in the country, it did not send those in high rank officer, but sent "夫智奈麻禮" and "奚奈麻禮" to Anra to hear orders. At this time, Anra made a new "godang(高堂)" and made them go up to the royal temple. The king of Anra followed up the stairs, and one or two people with a high official rank of Anra climbed above, but Baekje's general "君" was below. Since the meeting was held on the party floor for many months, General "君" felt bad for what was below.
  14. ^ 백승옥. 2004, "安羅高堂會議'의 성격과 安羅國의 위상", 지역과 역사, vol.0, no.14 pp.7-39.
  15. ^ : The Nature of 'Anragodang Conference(安羅高堂會議)' and the Position of AnraGuk(安羅國)
  16. ^ 日本書紀(Nihon Shoki) 卷第十九 天國排開廣庭天皇 欽明天皇 > 欽明天皇 2年 4月 > 夏四月. 安羅次旱岐夷呑奚·大不孫·久取柔利, 加羅上首位古殿奚, 卒麻旱岐, 散半奚旱岐兒, 多羅下旱岐夷他, 斯二岐旱岐兒, 子他旱岐等, 與任那日本府吉備臣[闕名字.], 往赴百濟, 俱聽詔書. 百濟聖明王謂任那旱岐等言, 日本天皇所詔者, 全以復建任那. 今用何策, 起建任那. 盍各盡忠, 奉展聖懷. 任那旱岐等對曰, 前再三廻, 與新羅議. 而無答報. 所圖之旨, 更告新羅, 尙無所 報. 今宜俱遣使, 往奏天皇. 夫建任那者, 爰在大王之意. 祇承敎旨. 誰敢間言. 然任那境接新羅. 恐致卓淳等禍[等謂㖨己呑·加羅. 言卓淳等國, 有敗亡之禍.]. 聖明王曰, 昔我先祖速古王·貴首王之世, 安羅·加羅·卓淳旱岐等, 初遣使相通, 厚結親好. 以爲子弟, 冀可恆 隆. 而今被誑新羅, 使天皇忿怒, 而任那憤恨, 寡人之過也. 我深懲悔, 而遣下部中佐平麻鹵·城方甲背昧奴等, 赴加羅, 會于任那日本府相盟. 以後, 繫念相續, 圖建任那, 旦夕無忘. 今天皇詔稱, 速建任那. 由是, 欲共爾曹謨計, 樹立任那等國. 宜善圖之. 又於任那境, 徵召新羅, 問聽與不. 乃俱遣使, 奏聞天皇, 恭承示敎. 儻如使人未還之際, 新羅候隙, 侵逼任那, 我當往救. 不足爲憂. 然善守備, 謹警無忘. 別汝所噵, 恐致卓淳等禍, 非新羅自强故, 所能爲也. 其㖨己呑, 居加羅與新羅境際, 而被連年攻敗. 任那無能救援. 由是見亡. 其南加羅, 蕞爾狹小, 不能卒備, 不知所託. 由是見亡. 其卓淳, 上下携貳. 主欲自附, 內應新羅. 由是見亡. 因斯而觀, 三國之敗, 良有以也. 昔新羅請援於高麗, 而攻擊任那與百濟, 尙不剋之. 新羅安獨滅任那乎. 今寡人, 與汝戮力幷心, 翳賴天皇, 任那必起. 因贈物各有差. 忻忻而還.
    1st Sabi Conference in Emperor Kinmei 2year April (AD 541)
  17. ^ 日本書紀(Nihon Shoki) 卷第十九 天國排開廣庭天皇 欽明天皇 > 欽明天皇 5年 11月 > 十一月, 百濟遣使, 召日本府臣·任那執事曰, 遣朝天皇, 奈率得文·許勢奈率奇 麻·物部奈率奇 非等, 還自日本. 今日本府臣及任那國執事, 宜來聽勅, 同議任那. 日本吉備臣, 安羅下旱岐大不孫·久取柔利, 加羅上首位古殿奚·卒麻君·斯二岐君·散半奚君兒, 多羅二首位訖乾智, 子他旱岐, 久嗟旱岐, 仍赴百濟. 於是, 百濟王聖明, 略以詔書示曰, 吾遣奈率彌麻佐·奈率己連·奈率用奇 多等, 朝於日本. 詔曰, 早建任那. 又津守連奉勅, 問成任那. 故遣召之. 當復何如, 能建任那. 請各陳謀. 吉備臣·任那旱岐等曰, 夫建任那國, 唯在大王. 欲冀遵王, 俱奏聽勅. 聖明王謂之曰, 任那之國, 與吾百濟, 自古以來, 約爲子弟. 今日本府印岐彌[謂在任那日本臣名也.], 旣討新羅, 更將伐我. 又樂聽新羅虛誕謾語也. 夫遣印岐彌於任那者, 本非侵害其國[未詳.], 往古來今, 新羅無道. 食言違信, 而滅卓淳. 股肱之國, 欲快返悔. 故遣召到, 俱承恩詔, 欲冀, 興繼任那之國, 猶如舊日, 永爲兄弟. 竊聞, 新羅安羅, 兩國之境, 有大江水. 要害之地也. 吾欲據此, 修繕六城. 謹請天皇三千兵士, 每城充以五百, 幷我兵士, 勿使作田, 而逼惱者, 久禮山之五城, 庶自投兵降首. 卓淳之國, 亦復當興. 所請兵士, 吾給衣粮. 欲奏天皇, 其策一也. 猶於南韓, 置郡令·城主者, 豈欲違背天皇, 遮斷貢調之路. 唯庶, 剋濟多難, 殲撲强敵. 凡厥凶黨, 誰不謀附. 北敵强大, 我國微弱. 若不置南韓, 郡領·城主, 修理防護, 不可以禦此强敵. 亦不可以制新羅. 故猶置之, 攻逼新羅, 撫存任那. 若不爾者, 恐見滅亡, 不得朝聘. 欲奏天皇, 其策二也. 又吉備臣·河內直·移那斯·麻都, 猶在任那國者, 天皇雖詔建成任那, 不可得也. 請, 移此四人, 各遣還其本邑. 奏於天皇, 其策三也. 宜與日本臣·任那旱岐等, 俱奉遣使, 同奏天皇, 乞聽恩詔. 於是, 吉備臣·旱岐等曰, 大王所述三策, 亦協愚情而已. 今願, 歸以敬諮日本大臣[謂在任那日本府之大臣也.] 安羅王·加羅王, 俱遣使同奏天皇. 此誠千載一會之期, 可不深思而熟計歟.
    2nd Sabi Conference in Emperor Kinmei 5year November (544)
  18. ^ Farris, William (1996). "Ancient Japan's Korean Connection". Korean Studies. 20: 6–7. doi:10.1353/ks.1996.0015. S2CID 162644598.
  19. ^ Farris, William (1996). Ancient Japan's Korean Connection. University of Hawaii Press. p. 17.
  20. ^ Injae, Lee; Miller, Owen; Park, Jinhoon; Yi, Hyun-Hae (2014). Korean History in Maps. Cambridge University Press. pp. 44–49, 52–60.
  21. ^ Barnes, Gina (2001). Introducing Kaya History and Archaeology. In State Formation in Korea: Historical and Archaeological Perspectives. London: Curzon. pp. 179–200.
  22. ^ Bahn, Paul (2001). The Penguin Archaeology Guide. London: Penguin.
  23. ^ André Schmid (2002). Korea Between Empires: 1895 - 1919. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-50630-4. Retrieved 31 July 2013.. Page 150, Page 169
  24. ^ Lee, Peter H & Wm. Theodore De Bary. Sources of Korean Tradition. Columbia University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-231-10567-3. Page 14
  25. ^ a b Kenneth B. Lee (1997). "4. Korea and Early Japan, 200 B.C. -700 A.D.". Korea and East Asia: The Story of a Phoenix. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 31 ~ 35p. ISBN 978-0-275-95823-7.
  26. ^ a b John Whitney Hall (1998). "5. Japan and the continent". The Cambridge History of Japan. Cambridge University Press. pp. 308 ~ 310p. ISBN 978-0-521-22352-2.
  27. ^ Yukiko Ishikawa and Masahiko Takekoshi, "History gap still hard to bridge", Yomiuri Shimbun, 25 March 2010.

35°09′36″N 128°13′48″E / 35.16000°N 128.23000°E / 35.16000; 128.23000