Korea: Forest Rooster Saved Kim Alji, Ancestor of Kim royal clan of Silla of the Three Kingdoms of Korea

Gyerim Forest

The original name of Gyerim was Sirim (시림, 始林). However, according to the Samguk Sagi, a 12th-century Korean history, Sirim was the site where the child Kim Alji, founder of the Gyeongju Kim clan, was discovered. Found in a golden box accompanied by a rooster, he was adopted by the royal family. His descendants became the later kings of Silla and the forest where he was found was renamed Gyerim, “rooster forest.” The Samguk Yusa, a 13th-century miscellanea of tales relating to the Three Kingdoms of Korea, gives a different origin of the term Gyerim. According to that text, the founder of Silla, Bak Hyeokgeose, was born at a stream called Gyejeong (계정, 鷄井), “rooster well,” and that his future consort was born from a dragon that came to earth at another place called Gyeryongseo (계룡서, 鷄龍瑞), and for this reason the area was renamed Gyerim.

Based upon the legends of Silla’s founding, Gyerim also became a sobriquet for that state. The earliest recorded reference we have of Gyerim being used to designate Silla is from the Chinese histories. The Book of Tang records that in 663 Tang Gaozong designated Silla as Gyerim Territory Area Command (Hangul: 계림도독부, Hanja:鷄林州都督府) and Silla’s King Munmu the Gyerimju dodok, Commander-in-chief of Gyerim Territory. The early eighth-century Silla scholar Kim Daemun authored a no longer extant book of tales of Silla entitled Gyerim japjeon (계림잡전, 鷄林雜傳).

Gyerim also appears in the title of the early 12th-century Chinese work Jilin Leishi, or Gyerim Yusa (계림유사, 鷄林類事), which provides one of the earliest sources of information on the pronunciation of the native Korean language.

Kim Alji

Kim Alji (김알지, 金閼智) was a historical figure in Korean history. His descendents formed the Kim royal clan of Silla, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea.

His legendary birth is said to have occurred during the reign of Silla’s fourth ruler, King Talhae of Silla. Though Kim Alji did not rule as King of Silla, his descendants did. Today, 1.7 million South Koreans are in the Gyeongju Kim clan, who trace their genealogy to Kim Alji.

The Samguk Yusa and Samguk Sagi both contain nearly the same story about Kim Alji’s birth.

In the year 65 (9th year of Talhae’s reign), King Talhae heard a rooster crowing in Sirim, west of Geumseong (Gyeongju, the Silla capital at the time). He sent his minister, Hogong, who was from Japan, to investigate, whereupon Hogong found a golden box hanging on a branch. Light was emanating from the box, and a white rooster was crowing under it.

Hearing this report, the king ordered the box brought to him. When the king opened the box, there was an infant inside. The king was very pleased and reared him. Because he was born from a golden box and was very clever, the king named him “Kim (金, meaning gold) Alji (meaning gold in native korean, with the hanja 閼智 supposed to be read phonetically)”. The forest where the box was found was named Gyerim (rooster forest), which also was used as the name of Silla.

This legend is similar to the birth legend of the founder of Silla, Bak Hyeokgeose of Silla (who is said to have called himself Alji Geoseogan).

Modern interpreters have suggested that the Kim Alji may have been the chief of a “gold” (al) clan of northern Korea/Manchuria.

The circumstances and time of his death are currently unknown and cannot be precisely located within any records, but it is known that his descendants continued to serve as powerful officials within the Silla court until the time came when they took power.

Kim’s son was Sehan (세한(勢漢)), and subsequent generations are recorded as: Ado (아도(阿都)) – Suryu (수류(首留)) – Ukbo (욱보(郁甫)) – Gudo (구도(俱道)). Gudo’s son (Kim Alji’s seventh generation descendant) was the first Silla king of the Kim line, Michu of Silla.


Silla (57 BC – 935 AD) (Korean pronunciation: [ɕilːa]) was one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, and one of the longest sustained dynasties in Asian history. Although it was founded by King Park Hyeokgeose, who is also known to be the originator of the Korean family name Park (박, 朴), the dynasty was to see the Gyeongju Kim (김, 金) clan hold rule for most of its 992-year history. What began as a chiefdom in the Samhan confederacies, once allied with China, Silla eventually conquered the other two kingdoms, Baekje in 660 and Goguryeo in 668.

Thereafter, Unified Silla or Later Silla, as it is often referred to, occupied most of the Korean Peninsula, while the northern part re-emerged as Balhae, a successor-state of Goguryeo. After nearly 1000 years of rule, Silla fragmented into the brief Later Three Kingdoms, handing over power to its successor dynasty Goryeo in 935

Three Kingdoms of Korea

The Three Kingdoms of Korea (Hangul: 삼국시대; Hanja: 三國時代) refer to the ancient Korean kingdoms of Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla, which dominated the Korean peninsula and parts of Manchuria for much of the 1st millennium. The Three Kingdoms period ran from 57 AD until Silla’s triumph over Goguryeo in 668, which marked the beginning of the North and South States period (남북국시대) of Unified Silla in the South and Balhae in the North.

The earlier part of this period, before the three states developed into full-fledged kingdoms, is sometimes called Proto–Three Kingdoms of Korea.

– Gameness til the End

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