Her father was the king of the Silla kingdom, which had emerged in the south about 250 and 350 AD and by the end of the 7th century managed to unify the whole peninsula. Having no sons, he chose as his heir his daughter Sun Duk, which was no great surprise for a number of reasons.
One was that women in this period had a certain degree of influence already as advisers, queen dowagers, and regents. Throughout the kingdom, women were heads of families since matrilineal lines of descent existed alongside patrilineal lines.
The Confucian model, which placed women in a subordinate position within the family, was not to have a major impact in Korea until the fifteenth century. During the Silla kingdom, women’s status remained relatively high.
There were other reasons, too, that led the king to favor Sun Duk. Early in her life she had displayed an unusually quick mind. One anecdote tells of the time the king received a box of peony seeds from China accompanied by a painting of what the flowers looked like. Looking at the picture, seven-year-old Sun Duk remarked that while the flower was pretty it was too bad that it did not smell. “If it did, there would be butterflies and bees around the flower in the painting.”
Her observation about the peonies lack of smell proved correct, one illustration among many of her intelligence, and thus ability to rule. In 634, Sun Duk became the sole ruler of Silla, and ruled until 647. She was the first of three female’s rulers of the kingdom, and was immediately succeeded by her cousin Chindok, who ruled until 654.
Sun Duk’s reign was a violent one; rebellions and fighting in the neighboring kingdom of Paekche filled her days. Yet, in her fourteen years as queen of Korea, her wit was to her advantage. She kept the kingdom together and extended its ties to China, sending scholars to learn from that august kingdom. She was drawn to Buddhism and presided over the completion of Buddhist temples. She built the “Tower of the Moon and Stars,” considered the first observatory in the Far East. The tower still stands in the old Silla capital city of Kyongju, South Korea.
Sun Duk’s respect as a ruler may have been reinforced by the ancient tradition of female shamanism, which was prominent in Korea, and among some peoples still is. Up until Sun Duk’s time, the word shaman was assumed to apply to women. Shamans had great power as recognized intermediaries between gods and humans. Some presided over national ceremonies, but most were a kind of family priestess, whose role usually was inherited.
Through spirit possession, shamans performed healings and exorcisms, revealed causes of family strife and advised on their resolution, picked auspicious days for weddings or burials, conducted rituals to guarantee continual prosperity, and healed those who were broken in body or soul. As foretellers of the future, shamans had enormous power.
Histories tell us that Sun Duk was revered for her ability to anticipate advents. Might it have been this more than any other attribute that led to her popularity as a ruler? If so, it is a prime example of a way time honored female tasks have helped women assume leadership roles.
|The Royal Tomb of Queen Seondeok (선덕여왕릉), located in Bomun-dong, is a round-shaped tomb with earthen layers, 73 meters in circumference. Aside from the fact that it was constructed using natural stones in double layers, the tomb has no other unique features. As the oldest daughter of King Jinpyeong, Queen Seondeok became the first queen of the Silla Dynasty. During the 16th year of her reign, Bunhwangsa Temple (분황사) and Cheomseongdae Observatory (첨성대) were built. She also ordered the construction of the famous nine-story pagoda of Hwangyongsa Temple, an achievement of Buddhist architecture. While many of her efforts laid the foundation for the unification of Three Kingdoms of Korea, Queen Seondeok’s reign was plagued by rebellion and strife and she died in 647 during a rebellion, 23 years before unification was realized.
Yung-Chung Kim, “Women of Korea – A History from Ancient Times to 1945” Seoul: EWHA Women’s University Press, 1997.
There is a site called “Teaching About Korea” with curriculum handouts. Some deal with “Queens of the Silla Era.”
Note: This is the abridge version of the biography. For a more in-depth and detail account, it is available on request.
Compiled and prepared by: Master Ngiaw Wee Sun
SUN DUK HYONG
This pattern is named after Queen Sun Duk of the Silla Dynasty 668 A.D. She was known for bringing martial art from China to Korea. The diagram represents “Lady”. The 68 movements of this pattern refer to the year 668 A.D. This pattern was designed and created by Grand Master Park Jung Tae for 4th Degree Black Belt.
Grand Master Park developed Pyong Hwa and Sun Duk, realizing that everything in life is a confluence of relationships. Everything is a balance between feminine and masculine energies, the yin and the yang, and anytime when there is more of one than the other, we are out of balance. Pyong Hwa denotes peace and to bring about peace and order in the world, Grand Master Park invoked the presence of Queen Sun Duk , the yin qualities of sweetness, beauty and intelligence. As the 27th ruler of the Silla Dynasty Queen Sun Duk also showed herself to be a lover of art, architecture, and peace.
Queen Sun Duk was a vibrant woman with an intuitive intellect, a queen who ruled her people well, and who could, according to legend, predict the future. Her life was, in my humble opinion, a life well lived.
Right now we need to awaken the feminine divinity within us because the dominance of the masculine forces has contributed to belligerence, arrogance, and aggression, the very problems we see in the world right now.
Sun Duk pattern ( 68 movements )