[KS] Choson, The land of the morning calm... really?

Dr. Edward D. Rockstein ed4linda at yahoo.com
Mon Jun 18 09:06:49 EDT 2007

Gari Lefyard wrote:

Mark is probably right that it was originally a Chinese phonetic
transcription of some native name used among the eastern peoples in
the Korean neighborhood. It appeared in Chinese books long before
Korean books existed, probably the 4th century BCE (depending on
when one dates the first appearance in Chinese literature of the
Kija/Choson story). The problem is that no one has any idea what
kind of a name it was intended to represent.
  Certainly one of the earliest appearances of the term "Choso^n",
  however it may have been pronounced,  was in the Chan-kuo-ts'e
  [Strategies of the Warring States].  Kenneth Gardiner in his The Early History of Korea discusses the story of the "Marquises of Ch'ao-hsien" noting that this term appears first in the Wei-lu"eh. He notes some similarities of the early stories of Choso^n and other founding stories seeming to imply that they were adapted or confused. 
  There is, also, in the Tongguk Yo^ji Su^ngnam  [Augmented Survey of the Geography of Korea (Tongguk)] an reference where it asserts that there was a term 'cho kwang so'n ryo' [cho as in Choso^n, kwang as in 'Kwanghwamun', so'n as in Choso^n, and ryo^ as in Koryo^].  This is interpreted as the 'Cho' of Choso^n representing 'Tongbang' = East Country = Korea and the So^n representing the So'nbi(jok) = Xianbei, a probably Mongol people who were an early influence in eastern Manchuria and the Korean Peninsula..  
  Then again, Sin Ch'ae-ho wrote in his Manju wollyu ko that the name Choso'n derived from the 'Suksin ' appellation for the Tungusic Malgal/Mohe/Matgat who were also known as the 'Chusin' 'Chu' as the "Ju" in 'Chinju' = pearl and 'Sin' = the 9th of the 12 earthly branches (horary characters). Presumably implying that this devolved in to 'Choso^n.'
  Among the huge problems in dealing with the etymology of these old names is the relative inaccuracy of Chinese phonology as practiced by different writers in different eras, the subsequent interpretation of old Chinese phonology at various times due to variations in dialect prominence, the already huge gaps in time between the times of events and the recording of these events by early writers such as Ssu-ma Chien and even much later writers such as Il'yo^n, the basic disagreements on geographic references (e.g., the P'ae-su river generally identified as the Yalu, but identified as the Ch'o^ng-ch'o^n river by the eminent Korean historian Yi Pyo^ng-do), etc.  
  So the question appears to remain a riddle wrapped in enigma and as Gari pointed out, "The problem is that this "morning calm" business is so old, so deeply entrenched, and worst of all so blindly accepted by the Korean airline and tourist  industry, that we will never get rid of it, even though it was  wrong, wrong, wrong from the day it was imagined by some Western  ignoramus, probably British or American, way back in the 1870s or  early 1880s. Like the even sillier and actually pernicious "hermit kingdom," it will plague us forever."
  Now if you want to talk about 'ASADAL', that's a horse of a different color! ;-}>
  Ed Rockstein

                          Dr. Edward D. Rockstein 
Korean Language Instructor 
Language Learning Center (LLC) 
891 Elkridge Landing Road, Rm 301 
Linthicum Heights, MD 21090 
Office 410-859-5672
  Fax 410-859-5737 
ed4linda at yahoo.com 

  "Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as publick Liberty, without Freedom of Speech." Benjamin Franklin

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