The meaning of "silla" (신라), the name of the old kingdom

Discussion in '한국어 (Korean)' started by wildsunflower, Feb 6, 2013.

  1. wildsunflower

    wildsunflower Senior Member

    Korean & English (Canada)
    Aside from the name of the old kingdom, what does silla mean in Korean? In Sireniki Eskimo language, the word "silla" has meanings “universe”, “outer world”, “space”, “free space”, “weather”. I wonder if they are related.
  2. vientito Senior Member

  3. wildsunflower

    wildsunflower Senior Member

    Korean & English (Canada)
    Thanks for the reply, but I don't understand how that answers my question. They are just various Hanja records of the original Korean word. I assume the ancient Koreans used Hanja, as they did not have their own writing system. I am curious about the original meaning of the word.
  4. youngbuts Senior Member

    Hi, wildsunflower.

    Unfortunately, nobody knows the exact original meaning of 신라(新羅). Even when we just consider the meaning of the Chinese characters of 新羅 from the view of the present, there could be many interpretations. Some people believe it means the political unification of three different nations in the Korean peninsula at that time, because 新 means 'new', and 羅 means a net. Another believe 신라 means a new world, because 羅 could means a world as in 삼라만상 (森羅萬象), which refers to all beings in the universe. In ancient contexts, could means a world or a unvierse. (Buddhists believe there are many universes in the world or many worlds in the universe. In this context a net refers to the relation of all beings in regard with Buddha's saying. He seems to believe the relations were the universe.)

    And the others believe 신라 was from a original Korean word. But the problem is there are too many possible words and we don't know even the assumed words really are the origin or there were other words.

    But if we suppose 서라벌 of orginal Korean word, the name of 신라's capital city, has a relation with 신라 (it is the Chinese charater's combination and turned out later than '서라벌'), I would consider 서라 has a meaning related to 새로(new), and 벌 has a meaning related to a wide and open field or world. In addition, '서' could implies a outstanding stance or a starting point to a new stage from the view of 다(stand). For example, 서울=서+울(<울타리).

    Even though we don't know exactly, I consider 신라 was based on the philosophy of Buddhism. In many texts we can find the monks was considered higher than the nobles. And the remaining temples from the era were built as sincerely as they still are beautiful to me. So I believe it is a better interpretation that we understand the word origin of 신라 related to Budhism.

    But your theory could be possible and interesting. As you know, the aboriginal people in North America were from North Asia. 신라 people and 가야 people who would be the upper class also had came from that area, I heard.
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2013
  5. wildsunflower

    wildsunflower Senior Member

    Korean & English (Canada)
    Thank you, youngbuts. I've found this site.
    As you mentioned, the author thinks that "신라" originated from "서라벌", which means '산골짜기 나라', '동쪽 나라'
    Would you tell me where you have found this information?
    I want to know more about it. Thank you.
  6. youngbuts Senior Member

    I heard there are many theories to try to explain their origin. One of them, 베링해협 유입성 was popular with Korean once because of a documentary aired by a Korean broadcast.(I'm sorry I don't remember its name. Perhaps It was from KBS or MBC.)

    By the way, as a Korean I have to say it would be affected by Japan empire perspectives of history, if someone try to interprete 신라 or 서라벌 as '산골짜기 나라', '동쪽 나라'. I believe before 조선, we did not consider ourselves as something valued by China. The word 동이족 or 동쪽나라 was a word Chinese called us like Europeans called American aboriginals Indians. I cannot agree our ancestors at that times used the word to name themselves. (In fact I don't have good evidence for my opinion but...^^) Of course, I don't deny many Korean historians were affected by Japanese views. But it has being changed. I can agree with 조지훈 refered to in the site, but not with the others....
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2013
  7. wildsunflower

    wildsunflower Senior Member

    Korean & English (Canada)
    Thank you, youngbuts. It will take a while for me to read the article. ;)
  8. Rance Senior Member

    I personally find the name Silla coming from Buddhism rather weak.
    One thing to take in mind is that Buddhism did not get official recognition until around 528 AD in Silla.
    Adoption of new name for the kingdom was around 504 AD.
    I'd expect official recognition coming first before the renaming of the kingdom. (Order of events seems reversed if true.)
    It would be more reasonable(at least for me, then again I'm no historian myself) to find the root of the word from another angle, like from ancient Korean language.

    Also there are many reasons why many Korean historian were affected by Japanese views.
    Many early historians after Korean Independence were the intellects who were pro-Japan(친일파) during colonial time...
    Two main history records for this era we had relied on are 삼국사기 and 삼국유사. Sadly these two books were heavily tampered by Japanese Imperialists.

    Anyhow back to the OP's question, there are many theories, but I doubt anyone can give any clear answer.
    So it's possible kingdom has same origin as silla in Sireniki, but if that were to be true, I'd expect to find more than a single word with same origin in Sireniki.
  9. youngbuts Senior Member

    지증왕, who found, named Silla, and became actually the first king of its, is also considered the first one who prohibited the custom of burying the live with the dead. At that time the other nations, each of 백제 and 고구려, already accepted Buddihsm two hundred years ago and had truned into one strong nation respectly. But until then Silla was spilt as small many tribes. Only after 지증왕 got to be King, for the first time Silla could just start to send the officials to the local areas. Before then, the local tribes did not accept it because they wanted to keep their power.

    So what has puzzled historians is what made 지증왕 try to abandon the custom; the burial live with the dead.
    Under the circumstances, 지증왕 seems to have had very week power, but he tried to make the bad custom abandoned, which porbably was stronlgly resisted by the leaders of the local tribes. It was the custom that even 백제 and 고구려, who accepted Buddihsm, still did not dare to try to abolish.

    We have two theories. One is the effect of Confusim, and the other is Buddhism. Confucuous criticized the custom very strongly. Buddha also proclaimed one must not kill even animals as well as humans for the ceremony. Anyway, 24 years later, 지증왕's son, 법흥왕 became King following his father, and he declared Silla would be Buddha's nation. Someone can believe 지증왕 was not Buddihst. Someone can believe 지증왕 was such a idiot that gave his power to the son who would not support his philosophy. However, someone believe some truths exist beyond the numbers which are simply copied on middle school text books.

    P.S. In fact, 법흥왕 was keeping to have some power even before his father's period. Many believes by that power 법흥왕 took a great role in making his father the King, who actually did not have the legal right to succeed to the throne. So many ones believe much of whatever 지증왕 had done was from 법흥왕, whose name's meaning is the Buddha's teaching-spreading King. And that is the reason they support the fact that the name's origin somehow must have been related to Buddhism.

    Last edited: Feb 20, 2013

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