Society and Politics of Shilla

From at least the 6th century, when Shilla acquired a detailed system of law and governance, social status and official advancement were dictated by the bone rank system. This rigid lineage-based system also dictated clothing, house size and the permitted range of marriage.

Two royal classes

Since its emergence as a centralized polity Shilla society had been characterized by its strict aristocratic makeup. Shilla had two royal classes: "sacred bone" (seonggol 성골 聖骨) and "true bone" (jingol 진골 眞骨). Up until the reign of King Muyeol this aristocracy had been divided into "sacred bone" and "true bone" aristocrats, with the former differentiated by their eligibility to attain the kingship. This duality had ended when Queen Jindeok, the last ruler from the "sacred bone" class, died in 654.[2] The numbers of "sacred bone" aristocrats had been decreasing, as the title was only conferred to those whose parents were both "sacred bones", whereas children of a "sacred" and a "true bone" parent were considered as "true bones".

Korean monarchy and aristocracy

Following unification Shilla began to rely more upon Chinese models of bureaucracy to administer its greatly expanded territory. This was a marked change from pre-unification days when the Shilla monarchy stressed Buddhism, and the Shilla monarch's role as a "Buddha-king". Another salient factor in post-unification politics was the increasing tensions between the Korean monarchy and aristocracy.

Shifting of Power

Shilla was ruled by three clans, which were the Park(박),Seok(석), and the Kim(김). Historical records do not mention any bloodshed in these shiftings of power, but historians have come to the conclusion that bloodless power shifts could not have happened. The Park(박) clan held power for three generations before being faced with a coup by the Seok clan. During the reign of the first Seok ruler, Talhae of Shilla, the Kim clan's presence in Shilla is mentioned in the form of Kim Alji being born from an egg. The Bak and Seok clans constantly fight each other for power and both are eventually overthrown by the Kim clan. The Kim clan solely rules over Shilla for many generations with the Bak and Seok clans as nobility, and the Park(박) eventually come back to power and ruled for four generations. However, the final ruler of Later Shilla, King Gyeongsun, was a member of the Kim Clan.