Sa Da Ham


Another story which revealed the depth of familial bonds of the Silla period concerned the death of the Hwarang General Bi Yeng Ja. Asked by General Kim to lead a suicide attack against a large Chinese force. Hwarang Bi Yeng Ja replied, "You have given me a great honor to show loyalty to my king and country." He then requested that the general watch over his son and prevent him from following him into battle. Since Hwarang Bi Yeng Ja had only one son, he was concerned that his family name live another generation. General Kim assured him that he would watch over his son. Hwarang Bi Yeng Ja entered battle and was killed. Upon witnessing the death of his father, the son mounted his horse and followed his father into battle and was killed too. Then followed the house manager and servant who were also killed. The whole Silla army witnessed this act of loyalty and, swept with a wave of sympathy for this act of sacrifice, charged into battle to avenge the death of the Bi family. They defeated the Chinese armies and saved Silla from almost certain conquest.

      Fraternal loyalties among the Hwarang warriors were frequently as strong as familial ties. Another story is about Hwarang Sa Da Ham who was 15 years old when he became a Hwarang under King Chinhung. In a war with the Northern kingdoms, Sa Da Ham pleaded with the King that he be allowed to lead the first attack. In spite of Hwarang Sa Da Ham's young age, the King consented so as to demonstrate the bravery of the Hwarang youth. Sa Da Ham led the army into battle against a fortress and he was the first to breach the gate. For his bravery, King Chinhung gave him 300 slaves from the defeated army, but Hwarang Sa Da Ham gave them their liberty and wished no personal rewards for his deeds.

      In this war, Hwarang Sa Da Ham lost his closest comrade, Hwarang Moo Kwan Rang. From early childhood the two young friends had a death pact that obliged each to commit suicide should one or the other die in battle. Sa Da Ham heard of his friend's death and fell into remorse and mourning. He refused to eat or sleep for seven days. He died on the seventh day, and his sacrifice was eulogized in Hwarang novels for centuries to come.