Later Silla (668-935, Hangul: ; Hanja: ; RR: Husilla, Korean pronunciation: [hu:.?il.la]) or Unified Silla (Hangul: ?; Hanja: ?, Korean pronunciation: [t?o:?.il.?il.la]) is the name often applied to the Korean kingdom of Silla, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, after it conquered Baekje and Goguryeo in the 7th century, unifying the central and southern regions of the Korean peninsula. Later Silla was a prosperous and wealthy country, and its metropolitan capital of Seorabeol (modern name Gyeongju) was the fourth-largest city in the world at the time. During its heyday, the country contested with Balhae, a Goguryeo-Mohe kingdom, to the north for supremacy in the region. Throughout its existence, Later Silla was plagued by intrigue and political turmoil, mainly by the rebel groups in conquered Baekje and Goguryeo territories, leading to the Later Three Kingdoms period in the late 9th century.
Despite its political instability, Later Silla's culture and arts flourished. Through close ties maintained with the Tang dynasty, Buddhism and Confucianism became the principal philosophical ideologies of the elite as well as the mainstays of the period's architecture and fine arts. Its last king, Gyeongsun, ruled over the state in name only and submitted to Wang Geon of the emerging Goryeo kingdom in 935, bringing the Silla dynasty to an end.
Although traditionally considered the first unified Korean state, modern Korean historians argue that the subsequent Goryeo kingdom was in fact the first truly unified state of the Korean nation.
Modern Korean historians began to criticize the traditional view of Unified Silla as the unification of Korea. According to this perspective, Goryeo is considered the first unification of Korea, since Balhae still existed after the establishment of "Unified Silla", despite occupying territory north of the Korean peninsula.
In 660, King Munmu ordered his armies to attack Baekje. General Kim Yu-shin, aided by Tang forces, defeated General Gyebaek and conquered Baekje. In 661, he moved on Goguryeo but was repelled. King Munmu was the first ruler ever to look upon the south of the Korean Peninsula as a single political entity after the fall of Gojoseon. As such, the post-668 Silla kingdom is often referred to as Unified Silla. Unified Silla lasted for 267 years until, under King Gyeongsun, it fell to Goryeo in 935.
Unified Silla and the Tang maintained close ties. This was evidenced by the continual importation of Chinese culture. Many Korean monks went to China to learn about Buddhism. The monk Hyech'o went to India to study Buddhism and wrote an account of his travels. Different new sects of Buddhism were introduced by these traveling monks who had studied abroad such as Son and Pure Land Buddhism.
Unified Silla conducted a census of all towns' size and population, as well as horses, cows and special products and recorded the data in Minjeongmunseo (?). The reporting was done by the leader of each town.
A national Confucian college was established in 682 and around 750 it was renamed the National Confucian University. The university was restricted to the elite aristocracy.
Woodblock printing was used to disseminate Buddhist sutras and Confucian works. During a refurbishment of the Pagoda That Casts No Shadows, an ancient print of a Buddhist sutra was discovered. The print is dated to 751 CE and is the oldest discovered printed material in the world.
^Reischauer, Edwin Oldfather (May 1955). Ennins Travels in Tang China. John Wiley & Sons Canada, Limited. pp. 276-283. ISBN9780471070535. Retrieved 2016. "From what Ennin tells us, it seems that commerce between East China, Korea and Japan was, for the most part, in the hands of men from Silla. Here in the relatively dangerous waters on the eastern fringes of the world, they performed the same functions as did the traders of the placid Mediterranean on the western fringes. This is a historical fact of considerable significance but one which has received virtually no attention in the standard historical compilations of that period or in the modern books based on these sources. . . . While there were limits to the influence of the Koreans along the eastern coast of China, there can be no doubt of their dominance over the waters off these shores. . . . The days of Korean maritime dominance in the Far East actually were numbered, but in Ennin's time the men of Silla were still the masters of the seas in their part of the world."