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Korean J Med Hist > Volume 13(2); 2004 > Article
Korean Journal of Medical History 2004;13(2): 177-197.
삼국-통일신라기 인삼의 생산과 대외교역
양정필, 여인석
The Ginseng Growing District, Taxation and Trade in Ancient Korea
Jeong Pil Yang, In Sok Yeo
Department of Medical History, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Korea.
The very first record of ginseng in the Korean peninsula dates back to early 6th century A.D., with its concentration in Chinese sources. Regardless of the fact that the Korean ginseng was introduced to China before the birth of Christ, there is no writing about it for 500 years. This is because the Chinese substituted Korean ginseng for the Chinese one, which was cultivated around the Shangdang Area. The ginseng, however, is greatly influenced by natural environment and its native area being Manchuria and the Korean peninsula. It is believed that ginseng range from the northern mountains of Pyongando and Hamkyongdo provinces to the southern Taebaek and Sobaek mountains in Korea. Especially the area of Madasan (Baekdusan?) mountain was well-known for ginseng-growing district. The ginseng taxation of the Three Kingdoms period seems to have gone through certain changes along the development stages of the ancient state. The first taxation stage is estimated to be in the form of a tribute. Afterwards, as the governing power of central government was gradually strengthened in the subjugated places, there was a major replacement from tributary form to actual goods levy. The actual areas of such tributary collection is unknown, but the [Sejongshilok Chiriji] (geographical records of Sejong chronicles) of the early Choson era indicates 113 prefectures and counties as those which submit ginseng to the central government. These administrations provide permissible clues to the historic background of ginseng-taxed regions of the Three Kingdoms. The ginseng trade also is estimated to have flourished in ancient Korea through the Han commanderies of China. However, the writings of Korean ginseng trade is non-existent until 6th century A .D., Such phenomenon can be attributed to few reasons. First, the Chinese took little interest in Korean ginseng as they believed they had their own native ginseng in China. Second, same ignorance resulted from its inflowing but new feature. Third, active communication became impossible as the Goguryo-China relations deteriorated overall after the closing of the commanderies. Nevertheless, ginseng eventually was properly introduced into China as the relations between two regions improved after the 5th century A .D., which led the Chinese to realize the difference between Chinese and Korean ginseng. So it is estimated that such causes generated the real beginning of ginseng records in the 6th century. Based on the remaining texts, it can be inferred that trade in the Three Kingdoms era usually was conducted in each kingdom were all different, which was reflected in their respective contact with China. Such characteristics must have directly influenced their ginseng trade with China as well. For example, Shilla was only able to perform major ginseng commerce with China from the 7th century. There are various records of ginseng trade in Unified Shilla period, owing mostly to the previous tributary trade. Additionally, there is a case in which a certain individual presented Korean ginseng to a Chinese, as well as a case of Shilla ginseng trade in Japan. Aforementioned examples clearly illustrate that the fundamental structure of ginseng trade in East Asia was completed during the Unified Shilla period.
Key Words: Three Kingdoms-Unified Shilla period, Ginseng growing district, Ginseng taxation, Ginseng trade
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