The Mongols, who conquered the largest amount of territory in the history of mankind stretching over the European and Asian continent, invaded Goryeo in 1231. Taking advantage of the fact that the Mongols were fearful of the sea, Goryeo moved the capital to Ganghwa Island, and the populace in general was made to take refuge in the mountain fortresses or on islands off the sea. Goryeo then entered into a prolonged battle against the Mongols.
Fortresses were built along the coastline, along with the palaces, government offices and mansions for the aristocrats. The members of the ruling class continued their lives on Ganghwa Island just as they had done at the capital. Festivals such as Yeongdeunghoe and Palgwanhoe were held on the island, and the taxes collected throughout the nation were sent to Ganghwa Island. Ganghwa Island, constructed after Gaegyeong, served as the capital for 40 years.
While the Goryeo government took refuge on Ganghwa Island, on land the peasantry suffered great hardship due to the Mongol army. As the nation fell into crisis, the people stood firm with stout resistance. During the battle at Cheoin Fortress, the residents killed the commander of the Mongol army. In Chungju Fortress, the resistance, led by an army of slaves, drove back the Mongol army after the chief magistrate and the aristocratic officials all fled.
Meanwhile, with religious determination and the strenght of Buddha to drive back the Mongol army Goryeo undertook woodblock of the Tripitaka Koreana, the woodblock carving of the Tripitaka, over a period of 16 years.
Goryeo resisted the Mongol army for over 40 years. The Mongols, exhausted from the war, proposed peace on the condition that it would recognize the sovereignty of Goryeo if the royal crown of Goryeo came to the Mongols to conclude a peace agreement. Taking this opportunity, the civil officials of Goryeo toppled the military regime, concluded a peace agreement with Yuan and moved its capital to Gaegyeong once again(the return of the capital to Gaegyeong 1569). The military forces and the Sambyeolcho, however, vowed to continue resistance against the Mongol army to the end.
Genghis Khan, who united the Mongol tribes in the early 13th century, swiftly conquered all of central Asia, destroyed the Chin dynasty in northern China and toppled the Islam kingdom in western Asia. Their conquests continued and subsequently, the Mongols seized Russia, and eastern Europe (Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania of today). It then toppled the Southern Sung, the last power in China, and established the Yuan Dynasty, under which the Mongols controlled all of China. Mongols devastated every place that they passed through. Those who resisted the Mongols were killed in a ghastly fashion, many innocent people died, and many cities were torched. The Mongol invasion placed Goryeo in a crisis. However, while China, Russia, Arabia and eastern Europe all fell, Goryeo held on, and reconciled with the Yuan.
Tripitaka Koreana is the woodblock set of printing blocks of the Tripitaka, the Buddhist canon, carved during the Goryeo period. It consists of some 8 million printing blocks, which is equivalent to over 6,500 printed volumes. Tripitaka Koreana is regarded as the finest example of printing block in the world, in terms of its accuracy, its beauty of calligraphic style, and its exquisitely carved of the wood blocks. Meanwhile, Daejanggyeongpanjeon is the structure that was built in the Joseon period to house the Tripitaka Koreana. It is the culmination of the outstanding science and technology of the Joseon period. In 1995, UNESCO designated the Tripitaka Koreana and Daejanggyeongpan at Haein Temple (Hapcheon, South Gyeongsang province) as a monument of world cultural heritage.
The oldest book printed with movable metal type is in the National Library of France. In 1972, in the‘ Year of the Books of the World’exhibition, this book was officially recognized to be the first book in the world to be printed with movable metal types. Movable metal types are metal casts inscribed to print a book. This book was originally made in a temple named Heungdeoksa in 1377 during the Goryeo period, but was taken to France in the late 19th century by a French diplomat working in Seoul. Both the Tripitaka Koreana and Jikjisimche-yojeol represent the world-class printing technology of Goryeo.