Scholars have interpreted the Hwarang organization as everything from a group of fierce warriors who united the Korean peninsula to young gays, male sharmen, boy scouts or an organization for promoting Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism and much more. In modern times Hwarang has been used as the name of the South Korean military academy, supermarkets, drugstores, a high military decoration, the name of hotels, bars and restaurants, a brand of cigarettes, and much, much more.
The number of references in the traditional Korean sources makes it clear that the Hwarang were real and that they represented an important Silla institution.
The problem is that the references not only span much more than 700 years but they are also scattered throughout the texts. Also, most references does not specifically form a clear picture of what sort of institution the Hwarang were. Often times the references are short, sometimes as part of a biographical sketch only stating that a person was a Hwarang. Read separately they do not form a clear picture of what sort of institution the Hwarang were.
This is, of course, the reason why scholars have (and still are) debating the “true nature” of the Hwarang. Therefore I have tried to collect all the references in one place in order to examine what the references themselves relate. Also I have choosen to bring them in historical order whenever possible. This way it is possible to see the development of the organization.
With time this site will hopefully develop and grow larger with discussions of all aspects of the Hwarang organization. Papers, links, and other contributions to this page are welcome.
My own comments are always in italic so they are not confused with the translations.
Finally a short word on the references themselves. I will not start a lengthy discussion on the validity or accuracy of the sources here. For now it must suffice to note that none of the original Silla texts have survived until today and that therefore all the references are from the Koryo dynasty (AD 918-1392) or later. Of course it’s impossible to know how true or accurate the information is because eventhough they are based on much older sources, they were still written long after the events took place. The oldest, Samguk Sagi dates back to 1125 AD, the Haedong Kosung Chon (or Lives of Eminent Korean Monks) was compiled in 1215 and the Samguk Yusa about 70 years later. However, the information which surface from the sources will definitely help clarify the Hwarang organization by comparative analytical studies of the material. I think the information on the Hwarang organization will also show that the material is consistant through out the sources. (Later I hope to bring a link here for a more lengthy discussion on this matter)