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In-Sung Kim Han. Objects as History: Islamic Material Culture in Medieval Korea

The discovery of a Muslim Korean’s tombstone from the Goryeo period (918-1392) in an Islamic grave site (Ch. qingzhenxianxian gumu) in Guangzhou, China, in 1985 created a sensation in Korea. In 2003, Korean scholars published their study of its Arabic and Chinese inscriptions, which reveal the identity and personal circumstances of the deceased: ‘Ramadan (1313-1349)’, ‘son of Allah Uddin’ served as the darugachi (local governor) of Guangxi province in the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368), but was originally from the Korean kingdom of Goryeo. The inscriptions were written by a fellow Muslim, ‘Arsa, who had travelled to Halab (Aleppo)’. These statements not only confirm the considerable influence of Muslims in the Mongol empire, but also highlight the extent of Korean connections with the Islamic world. Trade and interaction between these two cultures left their mark on visual and material culture in medieval Korea. 

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