So^ng (Myo^ng) wan is the king described in the Kinmei 13 chapter of the Nihon shoki and in the Gangooji engi. He supposedly sent a mission from Paekche in 552 CE (or perhaps 538) that brought an image of Shakyamuni and several sutras to the Japanese court. This description has traditionally been considered the official introduction of Buddhism to Japan. There is an extensive literature on the authenticity and dating of this account of the transmission of Buddhism to Japan in both Western languages and in Japanese. See for example,
Dept. of Philosophy and Religion
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC 27695-8103
Mr Richard Jaffe's response that Song (Myong) wang of Paekche was ranked together with such mythical sage-kings of China as Yao and Shun, because he transmitted Buddhism to Japan did not really satisfy me.
I would like to emphasize Songmyong wang's exemplary patronage of Buddhism in Paekche as well as his role in protection of his kingdom from the two rival kingdoms of the peninsula, Silla and Koguryo as a basis for his apotheosis. Like the great Indian emperor Asoka he built several temples and waged a brave war of peninsular conquest. He in fact died in a battle field. His name Song may perhaps be a posthumous title, an abbrreviation of the Korean word for Cakravarti "Chollyun songwang", as some Korean historians have suggested.
Nearly contemporary Chinese records mention him as Ming wang ( Korean: Myong wang), an enlightened or bright king. The contemporary ruler of Silla, King Chinhung unambiguously invoked the concept of cakravarti by naming his sons Gold Wheel and Bronze Wheel, and additionally, we have on the evidence of the Korean texts, Samguk yusa and Haedong Kosung Jon that he manipulated Asokan symbolism to legitimate and consolidate his kingship. King Chinhung's example may have been an inspiration behind supreme sacralisation of the kingship of Song (Myong) wang.
When the people of Paekche migrated to Japan after it fell to the forces of Silla in 660 A. D.they took along the myths and legends of their land and when they became involved in the early historical enterprises of Japan, namely writing of Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, they deliberately maligned Silla and glorified their own lost land. The Kojiki account of the Empress Jingu's invasion of Silla in which the Silla king is shown as grovelling before the Japanese empress and accepting a lowly position in a stable, and conversely appearance of Wani, a Paekche tutor to the Japanese court as a mythical figure are some of its illustrations.
An answer to Dr Behr's question lies perhaps in the image of Songmyong wang that Paekche emigrants projected and promoted in Japan when they crossed over. It is not without significance that Song wang of Korean records and Myong wang of the Chines historical annals combines both these grand names and becomes Song myong wang ( A Sacred and Enlightened King) when he is mentioned in Nihon Shoki.
There are two important works in Japanese on Paekche history, Kudara no kenkyu by Imanishi Ryu and Kudarashi no kenkyu by Sakamoto Yoshitame. Works in Korean are too numerous to mention, but No Chungguk's work, Paekche Chongch'isa yon'gu is worth looking at. Chinese scholarship on the history of Paekche is nil, but in English we have two meticulous papers by Jonathan Best, one on Paekche's relations with China and the other on Paekche monks who went to China and India. These papers make some reference to the life and times of Song wang, and as both were published in the _Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies_, it would not be difficult to find them.
Asian History centre
Australian National University
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