[KS] Ch'oe Sejin; Days of the Week; Choso^n Dynasty Regnal Years

lawrence driscoll lawdri at hotmail.com
Sat Jun 11 00:47:06 EDT 2005

Hi Stefan and fellow listmembers:
I'll try to offer some insight on the second of your questions and I hope 
others can add to it to confirm some of my own lingering doubts about the 
For a long time I was puzzled by the difference between the Central 
Kingdom's naming of days of the week and that of its long standing emulators 
, Korea and Japan. I assumed that China had given up the use of the five 
elements for Tuesday through Saturday, when it was forced into "self 
strengthening" in the late 19th century, or at the time of the founding of 
the republic in the early 20th century. But a number of Chinese whom I asked 
expressed doubt about my supposition. Then in a web search I came across the 
following. I hope the author (unknown) will not mind my communicating it 
here. It seems the Korean "yoil" and the Japanese "yobi" are derived from 
the Chinese "yaori" 曜日.

From: http://www.languagehat.com/archives/001550.php

  "With regard to the naming of days of the week, it seems the Chinese began 
using the seven day week when Jesuit teaching became accepted in the Qing  
Court. At that time Sunday became known as Libairi (worship day) or Riyaori 
(sun day), Monday became known as Yueyaori (moon day) and the remaining days 
were named after the five elements, fire, water, wood, metal and earth. But 
the system was apparently abandoned in the early 20th century when "xingqi" 
(star period) was used with ri, or tian, as the suffix to form the word for 
Sunday, and the numbers 1-6 for the remaining days. However the Japanese and 
Koreans who had imitated the Jesuit-inspired Chinese seven day week model, 
continue to use the sun, moon, and five elements reference to this day."

Best regards,
Lawrence Driscoll

>From: "Stefan Ewing" <sa_ewing at hotmail.com>
>Reply-To: Korean Studies Discussion List <Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
>To: Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws
>Subject: [KS] Ch'oe Sejin; Days of the Week; Choso^n Dynasty Regnal Years
>Date: Fri, 10 Jun 2005 18:22:55 -0700
>Dear KS list members:
>I have three arcane questions, all on topics that have nothing to do with 
>romanization.  The first concerns the _hun_ readings (traditional 
>definitions) of hanja, the second the Korean names of the days of the week, 
>and the third the numbering of years using Korean versus Chinese reign 
>names.  The first two may perhaps be of the "Why is the sky blue?" variety, 
>but I am confident that at least some among you may be able to answer them.
>1.  In _okp'yo^n_ (hanja dictionaries), the _hun_ readings (native Korean 
>definitions) of characters often use archaic words or _natch'ummal_ for 
>nouns, or the determinative _-(u^)l_ ending for verbs and adjectives.  
>Examples will be familiar to most readers: _me san_ for "mountain"; _o^mi 
>mo_ for "mother"; _kal wang_ for "go."
>This practice would appear to be of rather ancient origin.  The question 
>is, how ancient and to whom may we attribute these delightfully fascinating 
>but fossilized forms?  Is this due to the work of Ch'oe Sejin in his 1527 
>_Hunmong Chahoe_, his great collection of hanja with Hangul glosses?  I 
>don't suppose there could be any attestations to this practice that are 
>much older than his work, unless Koryo^-era scholars wrote definitions in 
>2.  How did the naming of days in Korea and Japan after the Sun, the Moon, 
>and the planets (or traditional five elements) come about?  The 
>correspondence between the seven days of the week in Korean and Japanese on 
>the one hand and European languages on the other is surely too similar to 
>be a coincidence.
>The English names of the days of the week denote the Sun, the Moon, Mars 
>(the Teutonic deity Tiw), Mercury (Woden), Jupiter (Thor), Venus (Frigga 
>(sp.?), and Saturn, in that order.  Similarly, the Korean and Japanese 
>names of the days of the week denote the Sun, the Moon, Mars (Hwaso^ng), 
>Mercury (Suso^ng), Jupiter (Mokso^ng), Venus (Ku^mso^ng), and Saturn 
>(T'oso^ng) respectively.
>I notice than in modern written Chinese, days of the week are numbered, 
>their names having nothing to do with any sort of cosmological system.  I 
>also see that in the Kyujanggak's online edition of the _Ilso^nggi_ (late 
>Choso^n-dynasty court diary), days are named or numbered using the _yuksip 
>kapcha_, the same system used for numbering years in vernacular documents 
>of that period.  Was there any system for naming days of the week (rather 
>than as part of a 60-day cycle) in use at that time?  How did the 
>correspondence between names of days of the week and the planets (or five 
>elements) come about?  Is this a modern contrivance from the late 
>19th-century drives for westernization?
>3.  Someone recently informed me that he believed that during the 
>Choso^n/Joseon Dynasty (at least prior to 1896 when the era _Ko^nyang_ 
>began), while Korean regnal years (reign years; yo^nho) were used for 
>dating the Sillok (royal chronicles), _Chinese_ regnal years were used for 
>dating official documents.  Thus, the year 1887 would have been recorded as 
>"Kojong 25 nyo^n" in the _Kojong Sillok_, but as "Kwangso^ [Guangxu] 13 
>nyo^n" in official documents.  Could someone please tell me whether this is 
>in fact the case?
>I will be grateful for any and all answers to these vexing questions!
>Stefan Ewing
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