[KS] Samguk Yusa readership during Joseon

Sun Joo Kim sunjookim1 at hotmail.com
Mon Sep 10 21:00:18 EDT 2012

Dear Gari,
Kyujanggak's online catalog shows that it does have a 1512 edition.
This is call number: 古貴951.03-Il9s
According to its bibliographical note (link below), two incomplete printed editions that predate 1512 are extant. Tenri University in Japan and Korea University also have a 1512 edition. The copy preserved at the Tenri University used to be owned by An Chong-bok and it has An's handwritten notes.   
Sun Joo


> Date: Sun, 9 Sep 2012 20:28:35 -0400
> From: gkl1 at columbia.edu
> To: koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws
> Subject: Re: [KS] Samguk Yusa readership during Joseon
> As for the general attitude of ChosOn dynasty scholars toward the 
> Samguk yusa, they were certainly aware of its Tangun and related myths 
> involving the nations’s primitive history, but that was about it. The 
> average Neo-Confucian scholar or official generally would have found 
> it difficult to credit the average Buddhist monk’s capacity to take 
> folk traditions and miracles seriously. And the average 
> neo-Confucian’s disdain for Buddhism has to be borne in mind as well. 
> On the other hand, there were always a few more curious and more 
> broadly interested Confucian scholars who would have enjoyed 
> themselves and learned from reading the Yusa’s often problematic tales.
> During most of the ChosOn period it would probably not have been easy 
> to find a copy of the Yusa. Its text certainly was available to the 
> Korean court in the 15th century. It was cited and extensively quoted 
> by King Sejong in relation to the political history of Cheju Island in 
> his sillok’s geographical appendix. In 1452, it was quoted 
> extensively by King Tanjong on the Tangun story and the related 
> shrines connected with it in P’yOngyang. In 1487 King SOngjong 
> consulted it concerning the touchy issues related to Korea’s borrowing 
> of the Chinese system for royal posthumous names for Korean kings 
> (formally called Myoho 廟號), for example, “T’aejo,” “Sejong,” 
> “Hyojong,” etc., which are really the names of the deceased kings’ 
> designated temples even though used in historical discourse as their 
> final name.
> It’s likely that either the Samguk yusa was never completed by its 
> author, the monk IryOn 一然 (1206-1289), or that the copies circulating 
> in the 14th and 15th centuries were incomplete or textually currupt. 
> (There’s a lot of Korean scholarship on these issues during the last 
> 10 or 20 years that I have not read—so be alert as you read 
> this.) The Samguk yusa as it existed for most of the ChosOn dynasty is 
> based on the woodblock edition of 1512, organized and financed by 
> local officials and approved by the then governor of KyOngsang Province.
> I think it likely that most of the major sirhak scholars of the 18th 
> century had read or were at least generally informed on the contents 
> of the Samguk yusa, as might have been many of their students. From 
> 1875 though the 1930s, Japanese scholars took a great interest in the 
> Samguk yusa. Various Japanese academic societies collected texts and 
> published them with Japanese translations, which of course also 
> circulated widely in colonial Korea. There are also two highly 
> informative modern texts, one by Ch’oe NamsOn (Tan’gi 4279=1946, 
> 4287=1954, and 4291=1958), with rich appendices containing other texts 
> compiled during the Koryo dynasty . The second is the edited Chinese 
> text and Korean translation by Yi PyOngdo, Tan’gi 4289=1956, an 
> edition apparently never completed but I’m sure that it is still in 
> print because I’ve seen it in libraries. In any event, there are much 
> better ways to read the Samguk yusa than the deeply flawed English 
> translation that was cited. On the other hand, one must grant that 
> translating the Samguk yusa into any modern language is extremely 
> difficult.
> One would think that there would have been a copy of the 1512 Samguk 
> yusa in the Kyujanggak Library where Yu TUkkong worked. But the 
> catalogue of the holdings of the Kyujanggak, published in 1965, 
> contains no listing of it. That does not necessarily mean that that it 
> was not in the Kyujanggak when he worked there. There is reason to 
> believe that there were losses to that collection in the rough times 
> of the 19th century, and there were also losses in the 20th century as 
> well. I also checked in the catalogue of the Royal family’s library, 
> the ChangsOgak (as opposed to the Kyujanggak, the ChosOn Royal 
> government’s library), now housed at the Academy of Korean Studies, 
> but all it had was the Japanese photolithographic copy (影印版, Showa 7 = 
> 1932) of the 1512 woodblock edition.
> Gari Ledyard
> Quoting Andrew <zatouichi at gmail.com>:
> > Dear all,
> >
> > I'm writing to ask a couple of questions concerning the history/fate/shelf
> > life of the *Samguk Yusa* during the Joseon dynasty. Broadly:
> >
> > I How was the *Samguk Yusa* regarded by scholars of the Joseon dynasty,
> > particularly by the late 18th century?
> >
> > II How widely available and read was the *Samguk Yusa *throughout this
> > time?
> >
> > The context for these questions is related to my current research on
> > scholar Yu Deuk-gong (1749-1807) associated with the Northern Learning
> > school (북학파), in particular his poetry cycle *21 Capital hoegosi* (이십일도회고시)
> > of which I have made a tentative translation (including the extensive
> > quotes from histories accompanying each poem).
> >
> > In this work, Yu directly quotes from the *Samguk Yusa* just twice: once at
> > the beginning concerning Dan'gun establishing his capital at Pyeongyang;
> > the second significantly later concerning Gyeon-hwon's Later Baekje.
> > However, many of the other earlier poems also take topics found dotted
> > throughout Books 1 and 2 of the *Samguk Yusa *and whilst they were no doubt
> > topics recorded in other works which Yu would have also read, if he was
> > reading the *Samguk Yusa* anyway, I imagine it influenced his selection for
> > the poetry cycle which essentially became a chronological miscellany of
> > topics picked out from conventional Joseon historiography (from Dan'gun up
> > to Goryeo).
> >
> > According to the biographical information I have on Yu Deuk-gong, he was
> > from an illegitimate line of descent, his father died when he was young and
> > he was raised by his mother alongside two uncles who were only slightly
> > older than himself. He was widely read in history and skilled in poetry
> > but essentially quite poor until being granted a position at the Gyujanggak
> > royal library in 1779. He first completed the *21 Capital hoegosi* the
> > year before in 1778 (and revised it later in 1792). So how did he come to
> > read the *Samguk Yusa *early on? Was it widely available in Seoul at the
> > time?
> >
> > To what degree was the *Samguk Yusa* considered a heretical Buddhist work,
> > and to what degree was it regarded as a collection of folklore? Yu was
> > interested in everything from ancient history to contemporary folk customs,
> > so it is no surprise he read it: but I wonder in what context was it
> > available to him?
> >
> > It's not impossible that he didn't read it until joining the Gyujanggak
> > library, if there was a copy kept there, and inserted the two extracts in
> > the revision of 1792 (it was the extracts and structure which were revised
> > rather than the 43 poems themselves). But what makes me doubt this is, as
> > said, the topics initially chosen for the cycle seem to have been
> > influenced by reading the *Samguk Yusa;* and even potentially the structure
> > itself was influenced as it alternates between the poems and historical
> > prose extracts in a manner reminiscent to the "songs" interspersed in
> > the *Samguk
> > Yusa* though both points may just be coincidence* *(I've only read and have
> > available the Ha Tae-Hung & Mintz translation of the *Samguk Yusa*.)
> >
> > Any thoughts related to this topic would be of much interest.
> >
> > sincerely
> > Andrew Logie
> > (Helsinki)
> >
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