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Korea Horseback Archery

1. The horseback archery in the time of the Three States

The human power has become strong in hunting and war after humans began to use bows and after the horses were bred, the wars became to have the aspects of cavalry battles, information wars and conquest wars in the fighting with other races. The horse-riding race that had wide continent obtained food through hunting by horseback archery that means shooting on the horseback and executed wars also with horseback archery.

Beginning with the Muyongchong, an ancient tomb with wall paintings of the times of Goguryeo in Jian, Jilin, China, through the paintings in the ancient tombs such as Ssangyongchong, an ancient tomb with wall paintings of the times of Goguryeo in Anseong-ri, Yonggang-gun, Pyeongannam-do, the Anak number 1 ancient tomb in Sangsan-ri, Anak-gun, Hwanghae-do, the ancient tomb with wall painting in Dukheung-ri, Daean city, Pyeongannam-do, Number 1 ancient tomb in Jangcheon-ri, the ancient tomb with wall painting in Yaksoo-ri, Gangseo-gu, Pyeongannam-do, we can see the aspects that our predecessors were hunting deer and tigers running on horsebacks. Especially, there is a scene of horseback archery competition being held in the wall painting of the ancient tomb in Dukheung-ri which tells us that the horseback archery already positioned in the daily life in the times of the Three States. Also, the chapter of main record of Baeje in the chronicles of the Three States reads ‘good at horseback archery’ in indicating the bravery of king, Gye telling that horseback archery was an important criterion to evaluate feats of arms of individuals and that many warriors including kings practiced horseback archery.

horseback archery paintingIn Goguryeo, hunting competitions were held in every spring and fall and the ones with excellent skill to shoot arrows on horseback who hunted many animals were advanced to the position of 勇士(brave warrior) and in Shilla, government officials participated in a horseback archery competition for the prize from king. The record of the customs in Gongju (孔州風土記) in summary of north fort (北塞記略) reports the customs of horseback archery that peoples generally liked shooting arrows on horsebacks and boys shot arrows running on horsebacks when they became 10 plus years old. Gongju is the old name of Gyeongheung, Hambuk.

2. Horseback archery in the time of Goryeo

Succeeding the times of the Three States, horseback archery was widely done in the times of Goryeo too.

Horseback archery was a criterion to determine the excellence of feats of arms of individuals in normal times and an important pivot of national defense ability exerting great power in battles in wartimes. Also, from the work of king Gongmin of Goryeo, the drawing of going for hunting(出獵圖) and the work of a scholar at the end of the times of Goryeo, Lee, Je-Hyun (李齊賢), the drawing of a big hunting affair(大獵圖), we can see that the nobles in the times of Goryeo primarily executed horseback archery in hunting. Horseback archery is found to have positioned as a culture of nobles already in the times of Goryeo.

Horseback archery was also a criterion to determine the excellence of feats of arms of military officers. The series of biographies in the history of Goryeo expressed the evaluation of the feats of arms of individuals with the abbreviated phrase ‘good at horseback archery’. This means that horseback archery was the foremost among the feats of arms in the times of Goryeo and was perceived as an essence of general feats of arms and that being good at horseback archery meant excellence on feats of arms.

3. Horseback archery in the times of Joseon

The horseback archery in the times of Joseon is evaluated in diverse ways.

As a means of appointing men of talent, it was one of most important means to determine success or failure of examinees(擧人) in the military service examination(武科).

In wartimes, with the fast movements using horses, they went deep into enemy’s camp and killed enemy’s general and horseback archery proved the power in chasing war.

In normal times, as the criterion to evaluate continuous discipline of military officers, the feats of arms of military officers and palace guards were evaluated through horseback archery. The archery in the times of Joseon was as popular as the sports of today and competitions were often held and the military officers who were good at horseback archery were awarded sometimes. Also, archery competions were held on Sasin or Dano and this shows that archery took the position of a culture of feats of arms in the times of Joseon.

The scene of the ground of horseback archery competition

The competition items are one shoot, fast shoot and successive shoot

One shoot: One target is installed and the point earned is compared. The point of 120m in competition ground becomes finish line and a target is installed on a midway point, at 90m point. The time to pass the finish line, the 120m point after start is set as 18 seconds for children and youth and adults should pass within 15 seconds and every 1 second of the over time will be deducted of 1 point.

One Shoot

Fast shoot:Two targets are installed in 120m competition line and the points earned are compared. One of the two targets is installed on 60m point facing starting point and 2nd one is installed to be shot in the posture turned around to the back side in competition. The time to pass the finish line, 120m point after start is set as 18 seconds for children and youth and adults should pass within 15 seconds and every 1 second of over time will be deducted of 1 point.

Fast Shoot

Successive shoot: Total distance is set to be 160m and 1st target is installed at 30m point from start line and 4 more targets are installed with 30m interval in a row and the points earned are compared. The time to pass finish line, 160m point after start is set as 25 seconds for children and youth and adults should pass within 20seconds and every 1 second of over time will be deducted of 1 point.

Successive Shoot