Korea's oldest city, Pyongyang was founded, according to legend, in 1122 BC by remnants of the Chinese Shang dynasty. Nearby is the reputed grave of the city's legendary founder, the Chinese scholar Ki-tze (Kija). As Lolang, the city served as capital of the Choson kingdom (300–200 BC) and later became (108 BC) a Chinese colony and an important cultural center. It was again capital under the Koguryo (77 BC–AD 668) kingdom and served as an adjunct capital during the Koryo (10th–12th cent.) dynasty.
Pyongyang fell c.1594 to the Japanese, who hoped to use it as a base for an invasion of China, but who then destroyed the city. Japanese invaders again devastated Pyongyang in 1894 and 1904. It became the capital of North Korea in 1948. Captured (1950) by UN forces during the Korean War, Pyongyang later fell to the North Koreans. After being ravaged in the war, the city was rebuilt along modern lines.
Only six gates remain of Pyongyang's former great walls. Other landmarks include three tombs (1st cent. BC) with remarkable murals, several old Buddhist temples, and the Grand Theatre. Pyongyang is home to many museums, libraries, theatres, and universities. Moran-bong Stadium plays an important part in the city's role as a show place for the nationalistic spectacles of the North Korean government. The 105-story Ryugyong Hotel (not yet opened) towers over the city's skyline.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Korean Political Geography
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