[KS] Samguk Yusa readership during Joseon

Richard McBride rick_mcbride17 at hotmail.com
Mon Sep 10 22:15:50 EDT 2012

Dear Colleagues

The question of the readership of the Samguk yusa is an interesting one, and associated with that the authorship of the Samguk yusa has been more vexing than one would think.  In other words, the direct association of Iryŏn with the Samguk yusa can be seen a Chosŏn-period development.  I have read much secondary scholarship on the Samguk yusa, and the only article I can think of that describes late-Chosŏn period impressions of the work is the article I mention below by Yi

Iryŏn’s authorship of the Samguk yusa is
based on a single line of text right under the heading of the fifth roll/chapter:  “Compiled by the Honored One
of State, Great Sŏn Master Iryŏn, Wŏn’gyŏng Ch’ungjo, Abbot of In’gak
Monastery, [which is located at] the base of Mt. Kaji
of the Chogye School” 國尊曹溪宗迦智山下麟角寺住持圓鏡冲照大禪師一然選; see SYKY 5:377. 
Furthermore, evidence for Iryŏn’s disciple Hon’gu’s
emending some earlier version of the Samguk yusa is based on two
references.  He contributed an annotated
essay on the history of the transmission of Buddhaśarīra in Korea and appended
an edited and amended version of a stele inscription dated to 1199 dealing with
the life of the eminent monk Chinp’yo眞表 (fl. eighth century) of Silla. 
Both of Hon’gu’s contributions are marked by the phrase “recorded by
Mugŭk” (Mugŭk ki 無極記), at the very end of the passage in question.  See SYKY
3:266 (Ch’ŏnhu sojang sari); 4:367 (Kwandong P’ungak Paryŏn-su sŏkki).

  Here I am using the following edition:  Samguk yusa kyogam yŏn’gu 三國遺事校勘硏究 (Critical Edition of
the Samguk yusa), edited by
Ha Chŏngnyong 河廷龍 and Yi Kŭnjik 李根直 (Seoul:  Sinsŏwŏn, 1997).

Ha Chŏngnyong suggests that since Iryŏn’s name is mentioned only in the fifth
fascicle of the Samguk yusa it must
have been the only section authored by Iryŏn. 
To him, this would explain why the Samguk
yusa is not mentioned in either Iryŏn or Hon’gu’s funerary stele
inscriptions.  See Ha Chŏngnyong 河廷龍,
Samguk yusa saryo pip’an:  Samguk yusa ŭi p’yŏnch’an kwa kanhaeng e
taehan yŏn’gu 三國遺事史料批判: 三國遺事의 編纂과 刊行에 대한 硏究 (Criticism
of the Samguk yusa as a historical
source:  Research on the compilation and
printing of the Samguk yusa)
(Seoul:  Minjoksa, 2005), 16.  I describe other reasons why the Samguk yusa is not listed in either Iryon or Hon'gu's stele inscriptions.  See McBride,
“A Koreanist’s Musings on the Chinese Yishi
Genre,” Sungkyun Journal of East Asian
Studies 6, no. 1 (April 2006): 31–59; and McBride, “Preserving the Lore of Korean Antiquity:  An Introduction to Native and Local Sources
in Iryŏn’s Samguk yusa,” Acta Koreana (Taegu) 10, no. 2 (July 2007): 1–38.  The following paragraph is from the second essay on the Samguk yusa.

are divided on the question of when the Samguk
yusa was first compiled. My own conclusion
is that Iryŏn probably began work composing and compiling his materials at the
end of his life, sometime between 1282 and 1289, after Koryŏ’s submission to
Mongol suzerainty in 1259. He did not begin to compile the Samguk yusa by order of the Koryŏ king. There is no evidence that
anyone at court knew of this work or regarded it as important if they did. If
the Samguk yusa had been known, it would have been mentioned
in Iryŏn’s stele inscription. After his death the incomplete manuscript was
further edited by Iryŏn’s disciple Hon’gu, who was also responsible for a few
additions to the manuscript prior to his death in 1322. The Samguk yusa was probably edited further
after Hon’gu because its oldest extant complete recension dates to 1512 (The recent research of Ha Chŏngnyong supports the general contours of this view.
He proposes that the 1512 edition cannot be the oldest version of the Samguk yusa since it is cited in Chosŏn-period
works as early as 1403. Although no one has claimed that there is a late-Koryŏ
edition of the Samguk yusa, Ha
suggests that the work reached its final form between 1360 and 1394, when it
was published by Kim Kŏdu 金居斗. Kim published the Samguk sagi
in 1394, and Ha conjectures that the first version of
the extent recension of the Samguk yusa
was published at the same time. See Ha, Samguk yusa saryo pip’an, 116–120, 273–280.).
Frankly speaking, although scholars, myself included, tend to attribute much of
the composition and style to Iryŏn, we cannot be completely certain that Iryŏn
is responsible for the present organization of the text. Several scholars have
presented strong evidence that the Dynastic Chronology (wangnyŏk 王曆), which was placed at the
beginning of the work in the 1512 recension, was not originally part of the Samguk
yusa because there are several discrepancies between the information and
diction contained in the chronology and the anecdotes in the Annals and Marvels
(kii 紀異) section that follows. Kim
Sang-hyun asserts that the chronological table was probably appended to an
earlier version of the Samguk yusa by Iryŏn himself before 1310, but Ha Chŏngnyong proposes that it was
not added until 1394.  For an
overview and analysis of the scholarship on these problems see Kim Sang-hyun,
“Samguk yusa wangnyŏk p’yŏn kŏmt’o—wangnyŏk sŏnja e taehan ŭimun” 三國遺事 王曆篇 檢討—王曆 撰者에대한 疑問 (An Analysis of the Dynastic
Chronology Section of the Samguk yusa: An Inquiry into the Compiler of the
Dynastic Chronology), Tongyanghak 東洋學 15 (1985): 307–328; Ha Chŏngnyong, Samguk
yusa saryo pip’an, 17,

The Sirhak 實學 (practical learning) scholar An Chŏngbok 安鼎福 (1712–1791),
for instance, disputed the importance and relevance of the Tan’gun story and
pejoratively regarded it to be mere “monk talk” (sŭngdam 僧談). See
also Yi
Namyŏng 李楠永, “Samguk yusa wa sŭng
Iryŏn kwaŭi kwan’gye koch’al” 三國遺事와 僧一然과의 關係 考察 (A study of the
relationship between the monk Iryŏn and the Samguk yusa), Chŏrhak
yŏn’gu 哲學硏究 2 (1973): 14–27, esp. 16, 18, for at least a brief discussion of An Chŏngbok's impression of the Samguk yusa.

Rick McBride
Department of History

From: sunjookim1 at hotmail.com
To: koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws; gkl1 at columbia.edu
Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2012 21:00:18 -0400
Subject: Re: [KS] Samguk Yusa readership during Joseon

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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