The Culture of Balhae

Stone lantern dating back to Palhae

Stone lantern dating
back to Palhae

Parhae imported the Tang culture over the groundwork laid by traditional Koguryo culture to achieve a relatively developed culture. In Sanggyong, the long standing capital of Parhae, an aristocratic culture developed, and it became the center of culture in Manchuria.

Parhae had a Chujagam to instruct Confucianism and Chinese literature, and many sons of aristocracy studied abroad in Tang. Thus, Confucianism and Chinese literature were believed to have been considerably developed. On the epitaphs of Princess Chonghyo excavated in 1980 and of Princess Chonghye unearthed earlier, beautiful poems carved in a pairing style can be found.

As poets of Parhae, Yang T’ae-sa, Wang Hyo-ryom, Injong and Chongso are especially well-known. They sailed to Japan where they wrote poems which are still read today. Among many others, “In the Frosty Sky the Moon Shines and the Milky Way is So Much Cleaner,” written by Yang T’ae-sa, was highly appreciated for its brilliant style.

Stone lion statue dating back to Palhae

Stone lion statue dating
back to Palhae

Buddhism prospered in Parhae and many temples were erected, but today only the building sites remain. As monks rose in social status they performed important roles not only in the field of religion but also in foreign diplomacy. Injong and Chongso were dispatched to Japan as members of the diplomatic corps.

Parhae arts possess an overflowing ambitious spirit which is a character prevalent in the works of Koguryo, and in addition they possess a soft refined quality. The Buddhist images and lotus flower designed tiles unearthed in Sanggyong display the peculiarities of Koguryo art. Moreover, the Ondols and many tombs in lateral stone chambers found in Sanggyong prove that Parhae was the successor to the Koguryo culture.

The two stone lions excavated from the tomb of Princess Chong-hye are famous for their refinement. The stone lantern in Sanggyong, which is six meters high, is one of these masterpieces of the stone art of Parhae.

Tae Kan-chi is also known to be one of the famous painters. In the recently excavated tomb of Princess Chonghyo a fresco of twelve personages, through which the life of the people of ancient Parhae can be seen, was found.


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