The Kingdom of Balhae’s Great Legacy
Although the Kingdom of Balhae had been completely obliterated, it left behind a great cultural legacy for northeastern China.
The Balhae people originated from the Sumo, one of the seven tribes of the Mohe peoples; then when Balhae was at its most powerful, they were absorbed among five of the other tribes, leaving only the northernmost Heishui tribe retaining their autonomy from start to finish.
The Heishui Mohe were eventually conquered by the Khitans. Later when the Jurchens, who were originated from the Heishui people, under leadership of Wanyan Aguda, led a successful rebellion against the Liao Dynasty (916–1125, established by Khitans), bringing an end to a dynasty that had thrived in northern China for over two centuries, and founded the Jin Dynasty (1115–1234).
When the Jurchens rebelled against Liao, many descendants of the Balhae married Jurchen royalty, so that they too became royalty of the Kingdom of Jin. The Jin Dynasty had a total of eight emperors, four mothers of whom were Balhae.
During Jin rule, many of the people of Balhae were married with the Jurchens, Han and others, and by the time of the nation-wide unity of the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368), the Balhae no longer appeared in history as a solitary people. Today, the Balhae, once a tribe of their own, have long since been completely absorbed by other peoples of northern China.
After the founding of the Kingdom of Balhae, they performed a comprehensive study of the ordinance system of the Tang Dynasty, so that from the point of view of the surrounding kingdoms, there was virtually no difference between Balhae and Tang.
Early archaeological publishings show that, today in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, Jilin and Mudanjiang City, Heilongjiang alone there are as many as 339 extant heritages related to the Kingdom of Balhae. These heritages are widely varied, and include settlements, moats, temples, tombs, and so on. Among the sculptures and paintings unearthed from within Balhae cities, many glimmer with the graceful beauty of the peak of Tang artistry.
The third King of Balhae, Dae Heum-mu, had two famous daughters: his second daughter Princess Zhenhui, and fourth daughter Princess Zhenxiao. Later, incredible findings were made in the tombs of these two princesses. Zhenhui’s main tomb was located on Liuding Mountain in Dunhua, Jilin, and the tombstone was discovered in 1949. The inscription on the tombstone corresponded to the bronze and stone script popular during the Tang Dynasty, from which it is apparent that the Balhae people not only used Chinese characters, but they also studied the writing style used in the Central Plains, the inscriptions being composed in a lavish style, and the handwriting was neat and legible. The rich culture of the inland had driven itself deep to the hearts of the northeastern peoples of the Tang Dynasty, so that the cultures of the Central Plains and the borderland had gradually become highly integrated.
In addition, among the systems established by the Kingdom of Balhae, the most important and influential component was its highly developed “Five-capital System”, namely the management of a single kingdom from multiple separate capital cities. Balhae’s Five-capital System had a deep and long-lasting influence on later governances, including the Liao Dynasty established by the Khitans and Jin Dynasty established by the Jurchens, both of which directly continued the Five-capital System initiated by the Balhae authorities in northeastern China.
The five capitals of Balhae were the Upper Capital Longquan Fu, Central Capital Xiande Fu, Eastern Capital Longyuan Fu, Southern Capital Nanhai Fu, and Western Capital Yalu Fu. At present, scholars have confirmed the geographical locations of the Upper, Central and Eastern capitals, namely the Upper Capital Longquan Fu is Bohai Town, Ning’an City, Heilongjiang; the Central Capital Xiande Fu is located in the Xigucheng Site of Toudao Town, Helong City, Jilin; and the Eastern Capital Longyuan Fu is in Baliancheng Site of Sanjiazi Manchu Village, Hunchun City, Jili. All three of these locations are situated within the borders of Balhae, on flat plains or in basins of river, where the terrain is relatively level and expansive. The locations of the Western Capital Yalu Fu and Southern Capital Nanhai Fu remain the subject of controversy.
Driving across the northeastern plains, there is