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General Survey

How did the Gaya kingdom fall after seven hundred years of history?

The Causes of Gaya Disintegration

Since the 1970s, many of Gaya's ancient tombs have been discovered in the Gyeongsang-nam bukdo area, and their abundant cultural artifacts have astonished archaeologists and lay people alike. Gaya culture began to develop in the Nakdong River basin from the first century B.C., and twelve small states appeared by the second century A.D. From the third to fourth century, the early Gaya confederation under Gimhae's Garak-guk prospered, and from the fifth to sixth century, the late Gaya confederation under Goryeong's Daegaya-guk evolved into a unique entity.

How could Gaya fall after having been an independent power for more than seven hundred years? The reasons are as follows:
First, the small states under Gaya influence built up a relatively uniform culture and system of exchange between them, largely due to geographical factors. Basically, the states were equidistant from agricultural regions and from key areas of access to the sea. Geography subsequently acted to check and balance each state so that no region could challenge the power of another..

Second, due to an unstable political and economic climate in regions beyond Gaya during the fourth century, Goguryeo's army advanced southward to make an assault on the Nakdong River basin at the end of the fourth century. This abruptly interrupted Gaya's development.

Third, Gaya acted too late in centralizing its political system in that it lacked a leader of confederation to unify the small states around it. Thus, Gaya could not cope efficiently with foreign political and economic pressures.

Fourth, Gaya's power was based on its superiority in iron technology and iron production, but as Wa-guk succeeded in its development of an iron mine from the fifth century and Baekje began to trade with Wa directly, Gaya's relative superiority in iron was weakened as Wa became increasingly more important as a center of iron production.

The four factors above all worked together to bring about Gaya's downfall.