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

Stefan Ewing sa_ewing at hotmail.com
Sun Jun 12 15:24:15 EDT 2005

Dear KS list members:

Thanks to Lawrence Driscoll, Robert Ramsey, and Don Baker for your 
informative answers to my questions.

1. In follow-up to Professor Ramsey, would it be reasonable then to 
hypothesize that the modern-day _hun_ readings of characters are not merely 
definitions _per se_, but rather hangulized preservations of actual ancient 
readings of those characters?  Thank you for the explanation of the origin 
of the name "siot," and I will definitely try to hunt down Gari Ledyard's 
work _The Korean Language Reform of 1446_.

I may have to look at _hyangga_, too.  Where may I find David McCann's 
translation of the "Song of Ch'oyang"?  (Although I am more looking forward 
to his introduction to that book on Korean romanization that he wishes Gari 
Ledyard, Robert Ramsey, and Ross King--and hopefully such scholars as 
Sangoak Lee, Ikseop Lee, and others--would write!)

Along with Don Baker, I too would be curious to know where and when the 
practice he mentioned (writing a character with the index finger in the palm 
of one's opposite hand) originated.  I once met a westerner in Osaka who was 
vacationing from teaching English in Taiwan, who used this method for 
illustrating a character; so it might possibly be more or less universal in 
CJK (or CJKV?) countries.

2. Lawrence Driscoll's comment that the origin of hanja/kanji day names may 
lie in Jesuit missionaries in China is plausible.  The late arrival of those 
names in Korea (Don Baker)--and their subsequent disappearance in 
China--also makes sense.  Kojong adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1895 
("Ko^nyang," Korean Yahoo Encyclopedia, 
http://kr.encycl.yahoo.com/enc/info.html?key=1044470&q=??), a few months 
before he enacted the era _Ko^nyang_.

Modern-day Buddhist calendars give, if I recall correctly, day numbers 
according to the lunar cycle in three sets of ten.  This might help to 
explain why the native Korean day numbers (harunnal, it'u^nnal, etc.) go up 
to ten (yo^ru^llal), then skip all numbers to twenty (su^munal; disregarding 
poru^mnal for the fifteenth).  (Would, say, the 22nd of December in the 
lunar calendar then have been called in native Korean _so^ttal su^mul 

3. Finally, thanks to Don Baker for confirming what the correspondent (an 
SOAS student) told me.  The practice of persevering in using _Myo^ngnara_ 
reign dates is interesting.  In the general light of _Choso^n Malgi_ era 
names, I just found the article "Yo^nho" in the _Hanguk Minjok Munhwa 
Sajo^n_ (KODIA; "Digital Hanguk'ak") 
(http://www.koreandb.net/dictionaries/Viewframe.aspx?id=4198), which also 
confirms the use of Chinese reign names during most of the Choso^n Dynasty.  
It also answers another question I had: the era _Kaeguk_--which preceded 
_Ko^nyang and measured years from the founding of the Choso^n dynasty--was 
enacted in 1894, making that year _Kaeguk 503 nyo^n_ (counting 1392 as year 
1, presumably).

With four different era names in the sixteen years between 1894 and 1910 
(Kaeguk to 1896, Ko^nyang to 1897, Kwangmu to 1907, and Yunghu^i), the 
Chinese and Korean regnal years that preceded them, the lunar and solar 
calendars, ten-day versus seven-day weeks, _and_ the _yuksip kapcha_, times 
were tumultuous enough without the added complication of so many different 
ways of numbering dates!

Stefan Ewing

>From: "Baker Don" <ubcdbaker at hotmail.com>
>Reply-To: Korean Studies Discussion List <Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
>To: Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws
>Subject: RE: [KS] Ch'oe Sejin; Days of the Week; Choso^n Dynasty Regnal 
>Date: Sat, 11 Jun 2005 09:07:11 -0700
>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

(My original post deleted due to unsightly HTML mangling)

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