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

Baker Don ubcdbaker at hotmail.com
Sat Jun 11 12:07:11 EDT 2005

I'll leave it to the historical linguistics people to answer the first 
question, though I would like to add a related question:  When did Koreans 
first begin writing Chinese characters on the palms of their hands  with 
their fingers when they wanted to show a listener which Chinese character 
they were talking about?

As for the days of the week, that is clearly a Japanese import. The whole 
notion of a 7 day week wasn't accepted in Seoul until the end of the 19th 
century and it took a while to get people in the countryside to start 
thinking about a week as 7 days long rather than 10.  A month was 
traditionally divided into the first 10 days, the 2nd ten days, and the 3rd 
ten days. As for the exact name for a specific day of that ten-day week, I 
don't know of any, though the literate could use the appropriate hanja pair 
from the sixty cyclical calendrical items that were used to name days and 

As for official dates on documents, as a tributary state of China, Korea 
was supposed to use Chinese reign titles for dates. In internal documents, 
Korean reign titles could be used (as long as the rulers in Beijing didn't 
find out about it). It has also been reported that, especially in the 17th 
and 18th centuries, some Koreans who refused to accept the legitimacy of 
the Manchu conquest of the Ming, continued to use Ming reign dates long 
after the Ming was dead. I vaguely recall seeing a Ming reign date on an 
18th century Korean document, but don't remember when or where I saw it. 

Don Baker
Associate Professor, 
Department of Asian Studies
Director, Centre for Korean Research
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, Canada V6T 1Z2
dbaker at interchange.ubc.ca

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