Military and philosophical code developed in the Korean state of Silla during the 6th century.

It formed the basis for training an elite society of young warriors known as the hwarang, who were instrumental in unifying Korea under the Silla dynasty (668–935). Their moral code, derived from Buddhism and Confucianism, emphasized loyalty to the king, filial piety, faithfulness to friends, courage in battle, and the evil of indiscriminate killing. The hwarang were disbanded during the Choson dynasty (1392–1910), but interest in the code revived in the late 20th century with a style of Korean martial arts known as hwarangdo.

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▪ ancient Korean military
      (Korean: “Way of the Flower of Manhood”), unique military and philosophical code developed in the ancient Korean state of Silla around the 6th century AD. The Hwarangdo provided the basis of training for the elite society of youths known as the hwarang; this training placed almost equal emphasis on academic and martial skills.

      The hwarang warriors played an instrumental role in Silla's conquest of the rest of the Korean peninsula and in the establishment of the Unified Silla Dynasty (668–935). The hwarang organization was a survival of the youth bands of early Korean society. Each hwarang was composed of young Silla men of aristocratic birth, sometimes numbering in the thousands, who grouped themselves under a single leader.

      A spirit of chivalry resulted from the Hwarangdo training, and hwarang members frequently engaged in a kind of religious cult in which they prayed for the welfare of the state by visiting beautiful mountains and rivers and engaging in ritual songs and dances. They also chanted the hyangga, a special Silla poem with religious flavour.

      The guiding principle of the Hwarangdo education can be seen in the sesok o-kye (“five commandments”). These norms of virtuous conduct, apparently derived from Confucian and Buddhist teachings, taught loyal service to the king, filial piety, faithfulness to friends, courage in battle, and the evil of indiscriminate killing.

      The prominence of the Hwarangdo began to decline with the disintegration of Silla rule, and the hwarang were officially disbanded during the Yi dynasty (1392–1910). Interest in the Hwarangdo was renewed in the second half of the 20th century, and one style of modern Korean martial arts is known as hwarangdo.

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Universalium. 2010.

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