Known as the “Museum Without Walls” Gyeong-Ju contains more tombs, temples, rock carvings, pagodas and Buddhist statuary than any other place in South Korea and if your are into history it is a fantastic place to spend a couple of days. Well, actually a few more than just a couple since Gyeong-Ju is a vast area (~1300 sq. km) and there is so much to see. I spend about three days in the area and I did not have time to see quite everything that I wanted to see. However, the various places I managed to visit were absolutely stunning.
The early history of Gyeongju is closely tied to that of the Shilla kingdom (57 BC – 935 CE), of which it was the capital. Based on the dynastic chronicles of the Shilla, Gyeong-Ju, was first established in 57 BCE, when six small villages in the Gyeongju area united under Bak Hyeokheose . As the kingdom expanded, it changed its name to Shilla. During this period, the city was called “Seorabeol”, “Gyerim” or “Geumseong”. In the 7th century CE, under King Munmu, Shilla conquered the neighbouring KIngdoms of Goguryeo and Baekje and Gyeong-Ju became the capital of the whole penisnsula. The city was home to the Shilla court and the great majority of the kingdom’s elite. Its prosperity became legendary, and was reported as far away as Persia according to the 9th century Book of Roads and Kingdoms. The records of Samguk Yusa give the city’s population in its peak period as 178,936 households, suggesting that the total population was almost one million. Many of Gyeongju’s most famous sites date from this Unified Shilla period, which ended in the late 9th century when it was conquered by Goryeo (918–1392).