What does Hwarang mean?

The Hwarang were an elite association of young men in the Kingdom of Silla during the sixth and seventh centuries C.E.. They are known as warriors skilled in horse-riding, sword-fighting, and archery.

There’s some uncertainty as to what the Hwarang actually were, however. 花郎 hwarang literally means ‘flower boys’ or more figuratively ‘flower knights’, but the word and its derivatives have been used to mean anything from a priest to a playboy. The Hwarang were also known for their physical beauty and their use of make-up, which could support the idea that they were male courtesans.

However, a number of sources suggest that the Hwarang were skilled warriors whose efforts contributed to the unification of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. The Hwarang also had a close connection to Buddhism, which was the dominant religion of Silla at the time. Hwarang often had Buddhist monks as spiritual mentors.

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