Obscure era spurs novel, and theater performanceThe less a subject has been documented, the more attractive it seems to Choi In-cho, a best-selling author who delves into possible conspiracies and mysteries of ancient times. Thus, Gaya ― a little-known civilization that existed in the southeastern part of the peninsula during the Three Kingdoms Period of Goguryeo, Silla and Baekje in the early Anno Domini years, was a natural subject of interest for the novelist.
The concept became more complicated when an old friend, stage director Lee Yoon-taek, suggested he turn Choi’s book, when completed, into a performance piece.
“It was a tough job but you shouldn’t be disappointed,” Choi said in a meeting with reporters earlier this month, in which he and Lee discussed the three book novel and play “The Fourth Empire.”
“There was very little documentation left on Gaya and a lot of my research was done on foot as I traveled in India and Japan, the two countries that collaborated with Gaya the most,” Choi said. “But through my research, I am more certain than ever that we should refer to the Korean ancient era as the ‘Four Kingdoms Period,’ and not as the ‘Three Kingdoms Period’ because Gaya is worth looking into,” he added.
With the help of anthropologists and historians, Choi wrote about a beautiful woman named Heo Hwang-ok, who legend tells sailed from India to the east end of Asia to marry King Suro, the first king of Gaya. The novelist said there were enough similarities found in ancient relics from the two countries to support his theory on the royal international marriage.
His second hypothesis in the book may cause some complaints, however. He asserts that Gaya was important because its citizens later migrated to the Japanese islands to start a civilization when the small kingdom fell into ruins after 700 years. It’s one of many ideas historians still argue about, he admitted.
Lee is staging the story with producer Lim Jin-taek as an outdoor play with 73 actors playing the ancient Indian, Japanese and Gaya people.
“It’s the first time we are dealing with the controversial part of the Gaya history,” said Mr. Lee.
by Lee Min-a
The performance “The Fourth Empire” will be staged at 8 p.m. everyday from tomorrow until Oct. 2 as part of the Gaya International Festival of Culture in Gimhae, South Gyeongsang province. For further information, visit www.gayafestival.com or call (055) 330-3114.
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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