HWA RANG KWAN

Hwa Rang Kwan

THE HISTORY OF THE HWA RANG

from The Ki Process (Korean Secrets for Cultivating Dynamic Energy) by Scott Shaw

Formal Chinese contact with the Korean peninsula began in approximately 200 B.C., during the Qin Dynasty (221-206 B.C.). This contact was intensified by the placement of Chinese military colonies on the northern Korean peninsula during the Han Dynasty (220-202 B.C.). From these contacts, the Korean peninsula was led into a period of rapid advancement in agriculture, health science, and formalized governmental statesmanship. Confucianism, Taoism, and, later, Buddhism were all introduced to Korea from China.

Due to the advancements in civilization and growing individual tribal unities, three Korean tribal kingdoms were formed: Paekche (18 B.C.), Koguryo (37 B.C.) and Silla (57 B.C.). This was the beginning of what became known as the "Three Kingdom Period" of Korean history.

The Three Kingdoms of Korea entered into a period of continued war against each other and the expansionist Tang Dynasty of China (A.D. 618-907) during the sixth century A.D. This warring period in Korean history instigated the formation of the first group of formally trained and organized soldiers who utilized Ki for other than medical purposes. They were known as the Hwa Rang (Flowering Youth) warriors.

The Hwa Rang warriors were first organized by King Chin-hung of the Korean Kingdom of Silla in A.D. 576. Though his kingdom had its army, his soldiers were believed to be of an unexceptional nature, accounting for his inability, through continued conflicts, to defeat his geographical neighbors, the Koguryo, the Paekche, and the invading Tang Chinese. So King Chin-hung set about organizing a group of talented young noblemen who were exceedingly loyal to the throne, who could be extensively trained in all forms of warfare and then successfully go into battle.

The Kingdom of Silla was based on a Confucian doctrine of society. King Chin-hung believed, however, that the Buddhist canon led to a more calm and pure mind than did Confucianism. To this end, young, handsome males of Noble birth, some as young as 12 years old, were gathered together. They were dressed in the finest clothing and their faces were attractively painted with elaborate makeup. They were instructed extensively in Buddhism, medicine, and the theory of Ki according to the Nei Ching [the Huang Ti Nei Ching Su Wen (The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine), the first written text ever to discuss Ki and its interrelationship with the human body], and in poetry and song.

It was believed that those who fared well in these activities had the divine grace to become superior warriors. A certain number of these young men who excelled were thus recommended to enter the ranks of the Hwa Rang.

These chosen young noblemen were then trained in all known forms of martial combat. As part of this training, they were instructed by Buddhist monks who, through years of meditation, had refined the knowledge of Ki to a point where it was no longer simply a method of rebalancing the Um (Yin) and Yang in the human body. This advanced Ki training taught the young Hwa Rang how to channel Ki energy, first internally to strengthen their bodies against the fierce Korean climate, and then externally in order to become more powerful warriors in battle.

As Buddhism, for the most part, simply passed through China and was not thoroughly absorbed, the Korean peninsula was the first East Asian region to truly accept the doctrine. It was the belief of the Hwa Rang that meditation took place not only in the traditional fashion, in a sitting posture, but was also achievable when individuals focused their personal spirit and then entered into battle with a highly refined purpose and a vision of victory. The battles the Hwa Rang fought thus became spiritual exercises in enlightenment.

The Hwa Rang were the first group of trained warriors ever to posses a spiritual attitude toward warfare. Though the Chinese wrote great philosphic works on warfare, such as The Art of War (Sun Tzu), their focus was on the Confucian concept of political loyalty, not on refined spirituality leading to ultimate enlightenment, as Korean Buddhism taught. This spiritual warrior code developed by the Hwa Rang was first passed on to Japan in the sixth century A.D. From this, the famed Samurai tradition was eventually born.

Once a Hwa Rang was fully trained, he was put in command of a military troop of several hundred common soldiers. The battles won by the Hwa Rang brought about the unification of Korea. History would not be served, however, if it were not acknowledged that this unification was achieved by very bloody conflicts in which a large percentage of the Korean population was killed.

After the unification of Korea and the defeat of the invading Tang Dynasty, the mind of the Korean people rapidly began to shift from conflict to more philosophic thoughts. As warriors, the Hwa Rang fell into decline by the end of the seventh century. Their refined knowledge of Ki and its healing abilities caused them to become known as a group specializing in Buddhist philosophy, healing, and poetry. No longer, however, did they maintain the high status of royal warriors.