- "A flower without fragrance draws notice, but not interest."
Seondeok (c. 595~610 – 17 February 647/January 8, Lunar Calendar) was the first queen and twenty-seventh ruler of Silla, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. She leads the Koreans in Civilization VI: Rise and Fall.
For Korea, the pursuit of Science has many benefits, in addition to being the most technologically advanced civilization in the world.
Queen Seondeok, the stars reveal you lead Korea to greatness. Build Seowons to educate your people, for the secrets of the world are theirs to uncover. For those who would steal your knowledge, treat them to a rain of rocket propelled fire from your Hwacha. Reach for the heavens, shrewd queen, and your people will reach with you.
Korea's unique science district, the Seowon, is going to be your most powerful asset, so completing the Writing technology early is essential in getting ahead of the competition. Plan its location carefully to take advantage of its benefits. Isolate the Seowon away from other districts to maximize the Science boost and gain additional Food and Science yields by placing Farms and Mines adjacent to this district. Combining these two benefits strategically will greatly improve your city output. Don't ignore Culture advancement, as gaining Governors to place in your cities provides an additional yield boost to your empire. You are very likely to want to appoint a Governor for each of your primary cities.
Agenda-based Approval: Your mastery of creation's secrets is the envy of my people. (내 백성은 창조의 신비를 통달한 당신을 매우 부러워합니다. / Nae baekseong'eun changjoui sinbireul tongdalhan dangsin'eul maeu bureoweohabnida.)
Agenda-based Disapproval: While others reach for the heavens, you claw at the dirt. (다른 이들이 하늘을 향해 나아갈 때 당신은 땅을 파고 있습니다. / Dareun ideuli haneuleul hyanghae naagal ddae dangsin'eun ddang'eul pago ittseubnida.)
Attacked: Your defeat shall be swift … your people, forgotten. This I have foreseen. (내가 예견하노니, 당신의 패배는 빠르고 민족은 잊혀질 것입니다. / Naega yegyeonhanoni, dangsin'ui paebaeneun bbareudo minjok'eun itchyeojil gis'ibnida.)
Declares War: The stars predict your defeat. Why argue with the heavens? (별들이 당신의 패배를 예견합니다. 하늘의 뜻은 거절할 수 없습니다. / Byeoldeun'i dangsin'ui paebaereul yegyeohabnida. Haneului ddeus'eun geojeolhang su eosseubnida?)
Defeated: I foresaw my own end, but not that Korea would share my fate. (나는 내 죽음을 예견했지만, 한국의 운명은 다를 것입니다. / Naneun nae jok'eum'eul yegyeonhaettchiman, Hanguk'ui unmyeong'eun dareu; geos'ibnida.)
Greeting: I, Seondeok of Korea, acknowledge you. Our meeting was foreseen. (나, 한국의 선덕 여왕은 당신을 인정합니다. 우리의 만남은 예견됐습니다. / Na, Hanguk'ui Seondeok yeowang'eun dangsieun injeonghabnida. Uriui mannam'eun yegyeondwaesseubnida.)
It is an honor to meet you: You must visit our capital. Our seowon are the finest examples of scientific and political thought.
Refuses declaration of friendship: I cannot accept your declaration. To do so would cause more trouble for Korea than it's worth.
Accepts trade deal: An appealing offer. Korea shall agree.
Refuses trade deal: Thank you, but I cannot agree.
Delegation: Please accept our delicious yukpo. The soy keeps the beef tender and flavorful.
Player accepts a delegation: Excellent!
Accepts a delegation: We are grateful to receive your delegation. We welcome the gifts you provided.
Refuses a delegation: Korea is wary of receiving a gift until we know the intentions of its benefactor.
Denounced: Korea has done nothing to deserve your vile insults! But now, perhaps we shall.
Denunciation: You are the ocean's offal—your stink clings to everything you touch.
It is no easy feat to claim the throne, even during times of peace. In the ancient Korean kingdom of Silla, it wasn’t unheard of for women to hold positions of power, but Seondeok became the first woman to rule over the kingdom as queen. Her fifteen-year reign saw a prolific, highly accomplished sovereign who paved the way for other women to rule the kingdom—including her cousin, Chindok.
Seondeok’s father, King Jinpyeong, had no male heirs. Of his daughters, Jinpyeong chose Seondeok as his successor due to her intuitive nature—one she demonstrated at an early age. As the apocryphal story goes, Jinpyeong received a gift of peony seeds from China. The box containing the seeds bore a painting of the flowers in bloom. A very young Seondeok noticed and commented that the flowers were pretty, but it was too bad they had no smell. When Jinpyeong asked why she thought that, Seondeok explained that if the flowers did smell sweet, the painting would have butterflies and bees, too. As it happened, the flowers in bloom lacked smell.
Jinpyeong's death led to Seondeok's coronation in 632. Although some of Silla’s nobility were dissatisfied following a queen rather than a king, her proven cleverness and clear choice as heir helped quell their grumbling. Beyond this, the bone rank system (analogous to the concept of “royal blood”) dictated that were they to deny her coronation, they would have to upend the entirety of Sillan aristocracy.
Seondeok’s immediate priority as queen was bettering the lives of the Sillan people by establishing effective welfare policies for her most impoverished citizens. Heavy investment in schools saw the kingdom’s knowledge of arts and sciences flourish. She established the Cheomseongdae, an astronomical observatory, in Silla’s capital. Buddhism was already Silla’s state religion, but Seondeok’s rule saw Buddhism further integrated into the government and society as a whole. Numerous Buddhist temples underwent restoration, and Silla broke ground on many new temples.
Despite the numerous internal advances, Queen Seondeok’s rule was not a peaceful one. Constant internal rebellions and contentious struggles with the neighboring kingdoms of Goguryeo and Baekje threatened her reign. By carefully playing politics, she was able to navigate the ever-changing, aggressive, and often violent political landscape of the Korean kingdoms. Queen Seondeok made alliances where needed, altering them when the situation called for it. When Baekje became a problem in 641 CE, she sought the help of Goguryeo. When negotiations failed, Seondeok sent an army of 10,000 to recover her imprisoned diplomat.
Seondeok’s ability to balance negotiations with a threat of force helped her gain an alliance with the Chinese Tang Dynasty when Goguryeo and Baekje united to attack Silla. Her alliance with the Tang Dynasty was one of her greatest political feats. Seondeok not only managed to convince the Tang Dynasty to give Silla military assistance, but she rejected their demand that she stand down as queen and allow a Tang prince to rule in her stead.
Until her death in 647, Queen Seondeok served the Silla kingdom as an adaptable queen whose intellect protected her people during a difficult time of conquest. By playing her enemies against one another, she ensured her kingdom would survive and thrive. Though she would not live to see a united Korean peninsula, Seondeok’s skillful parley sowed the seeds for the defeat of the Baekje and Goguryeo forces by 668.
- Seondeok's appearance in the final version of the game is different from her appearance in the early builds and promotional materials, which depicted her with darker skin and a rounder face.
- Seondeok's diplomacy screen shows her palace gardens under the moon.
- Seondeok is the only new leader from Rise and Fall to appear in the expansion's announcement trailer.
- A YouTube video posted by 2K Asia states that Seondeok was voiced by Yuri Seo. This has resulted in some uncertainty about who actually voiced the character.
- Seondeok's leader ability is named after the Flowering Knights of Silla, while her leader agenda references the "star-gazing tower" in Gyeongju.