Hwarang - The Flower Knights of Korea: Dedicated warriors who were beautiful inside and out
Hwarang, also known as the Flower Knights, was an elite organization of young males from high social ranking families. These men gathered to study art, philosophy, and religion. They also trained in martial arts and travelled together. Hwarang belonged to the Kingdom of Silla, one of the three kingdoms of the Peninsula of Korea.
The origin of Hwarang can be traced back to the reign of King Jinheung (540 – 576) where they started to take part in the Silla’s army, training to become warriors and serve their kingdom with honor and integrity. There are mentions in poems and songs about how handsome they were and how good they smelled. For this reason, they received the name of The Flower Knights. They were considered to be the most refined, elegant, and educated young men of their time, selected carefully from the aristocracy and known for their code of conduct and highest standards.
The ones who were chosen by Silla Kingdom became warriors and knights of the Silla Dynasty. They were introduced to the teachings from a young age, where they learned about martial arts, which taught them self-defense. They also learned about morality and spirituality from Buddhism, which gave them self-control.
Historians believe that the Hwarang played a great role in the unification of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, Silla, Baekje and Goguryeo in the Korean Peninsula. One specific monk, Won Gwang, is known for the creation of The Hwarang Code: texts containing the rules of ethical behavior. These writings are called The Code of Honor, or The Five Commandments of Secular Life(세속오계), which are:
1. Loyalty to the country.
2. Devotion to one’s parents.
3. Trust among friends.
4. Never retreat in battle.
5. Kill only with forethought.
In 2016, KBS2 launched the drama series called Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth, a fiction production that relates to the history of the Silla Kingdom and the creation of Hwarang, with the aim of fighting for the unification of The Three Kingdoms of Korea.
There are mentions about Hwarang up until the beginning of the 10th Century, which suggests that they existed until the end of the Kingdom of Goryeo (918-1392), that unified and ruled the Peninsula of Korea until the beginning of Joseon Dynasty in 1392. The history of Hwarang was not widely known until the National Liberation Day of Korea in 1945. From then on, Hwarang became an elevated symbol of importance to the history of Korea, because of their morality, integrity, and ethics.
(Silla’s Gim Yu-sin, who played an important role in the foundation of
Unified Silla, was also a Hwarang.)
(TV Series Hwarang)