[KS] More on the Gabor Map

gkl1 at columbia.edu gkl1 at columbia.edu
Wed Jul 10 18:28:13 EDT 2013

Frank Hoffman has posted an interesting discussion of the virtually  
all-Hangŭl map on which I posted (June 30)  That posting included  
a link to an on-line article I published: “A Unique 18th Century  
Korean Map”.  I repeat the link here:

      I judged the map to be a product of the 18th century based on  
the placenames and linguistic analysis of the orthography of those  
names. I also made comments on the physical state of the map and  
consulted a Korean paper expert, who happened to be lecturing in New  
York, Lee Seung-chul (이승철) He considered it to be of the 18th century  
on the basis of the darkness of the paper.

      Frank is reasonably suspicious of the accuracy of such an  
analysis, saying:

      “… paper and ink, though, are almost impossible to date if they  
are older than the 1910s. And the age of its paper, based on its  
coloration [citing my footnote 10] is really not at all acceptable,  
and I’m not sure why the consulted expert, Prof. Lee Seung-chul, would  
have said so. The coloration of any paper, both Western papers and  
hanji, varies *widely* depending on the archival conditions over the  
centuries. The same is true for ink. In addition to the analysis given  
by Professor Ledyard  these would be essential pieces of evidence when  
trying to look into the issue if such a map is original or a forgery.”

      I accept this criticism. Frank is an art historian and has  
expertise that I don’t. He will be even more suspicious when he knows  
that Li Seung-chul was not shown the map itself (we were in New York  
but the map was at that time in France).  Rather, I showed Prof. Li a  
professionally taken photograph commissioned by the owner, which was  
printed out in color on a large scale (91.5x60.3cm) —almost  as  
large as the map itself  (103x63cm). There’s no question that a  
thorough examination of the physical state of the map is highly  

      Still, I have no doubt whatever that this  map is original. We  
have a map unlike any other known map in the Chŏng Ch’ŏk  
(鄭陟) genre and of the type 全圖,(a map showing all eight of the  
traditional provinces and their districts (varying between 330 and 335  
depending on the date). And how could such a map be forged? Its data,  
apart from a few misspellings, are accurate and the districts are  
positioned where they should be. Information on the margins of the map  
is generally accurateand and useful. The rivers, mountains, and coast  
lines are typical of  those generally drawn on all Chŏng  
Ch’ŏk-style maps. The only thing that sticks out, and loudly, is  
the exclusive use of Hangŭl for district names. For some unknown  
reason the name  “Paektusan” is written in Chinese, as is the name  of  
the insignificant island Nokto (鹿島) “Deer Island.” A mysterious  
appearance of a tiny character 半(반,“half”) written alongside a few  
district names in P’yŏngan Province, which I cannot explain, is  
curious. But aside from that, everything looks like dozens of other  
Chŏng Ch’ŏk maps with the single exception of all the  
Hangŭl names and notes on the Gabor Map. How can something  
hitherto unknown that suddenly appears be a forgery? A forgery of  
what??  If it is a forgery, then any great map or work of art that  
appears for the first time is a forgery. I call it a game-changing  
innovation. As I pointed out in my on-line article, all of us in  
Korean Studies are now living in pretty much a 100% Hangŭl  
publishing environment, both in the North and the South. The North  
went in that direction long before the South. In the South soon after  
1945, fiction and poetry were published almost all in Hangŭl,  
while in most newspapers and general publishing the hancha remained on  
the the pages until some time in the mid or late 1980s, when the  
Hangŭl-only  trend began for most newspapers and general  
publishing. That said, we have an unknown person who sometime in the  
18th century broke the “all-hancha” pattern for cartography by  
creating a map in Hangŭl. He was already pointing the way a  
couple of centuries ago.

      When my earlier posting on this Hangŭl map first appeared  
and I stated that the Catholic martyr Kim Taegŏn had had also  
drawn a map of Korea in 1845 or 1846 with all the place names in  
Hangŭl. Someone noted that it wasn’t in Hangŭl, but in  
French romanization. I felt a little embarrassed. I had seen an  
article in a Korean newspaper discussing that map, but had failed to  
clip the article. I was pretty sure that it had mentioned Hangŭl  
place names. So, when another posting said it wasn’t Hangŭl but  
French romanisations, I was taken aback. Well, it turns out that we  
were both right.

      In an earlier post, Frank Hoffman checked out and posted remarks  
by Prof. Li Jin-Mieung (이진명), who had clearly gone to the Bibliotheque  
Nationale Francaise (BNF), Departement des Cartes et Plans (DCP), and  
looked into the the 19th century map connected with Kim Taegŏn.  
He discovered not one but three maps of Korea, as follows:
1. BNF DCP Ge C 10622:  La Coree d’apres l’original dresse par Andre  
Kim (김대건/金大建) 57x112cm
2. BNF DCP Ge B 257:  <해좌전도>/海左全圖, Haejwa Chŏndo, 54x97cm
3. BNF DCP Ge C 9317:  <순한글 조선전도> Sun Hangŭl Chŏndo, 60x97cm

      Map 10622 is not described by Prof. Li, but in his  
comment—“Korea according to the original drawn by Andre Kim”  
(Kim Taegŏn) —it is implicit that this map is a copy of an  
earlier map, which isn’t described either.
      Map 257 is a well known map drawn during the first half of the  
19th century. See the complete map in color inYi Ch’an (李燦), <韓國의  
古地圖>, Hanguk ŭi ko chido, (Pŏmusa 범우사) Seoul, 1991, Plate 57  
on p. 97, and plate note 57 on p. 389. This is a map in the Chŏng  
Sanggi (鄭尙驥) style, developed during the mid-years of the 18th  
century. It was a revolutionary style that quickly pushed the  
Chŏng Ch’ŏk maps, in vogue from the last third of the 15th  
century, out of fashion for serious cartographers. It was the first  
appearance of  a systematically scaled  map, and that quickly became  
standard. Not that the scale system was all that accurate, but at  
least it represented a closer profile of the Korean peninsula in an  
outline that we would recognize today. Square grids were laid out  
(though not shown) and a consistent scale was applied. The flaw in  
this was that, as the longitudes narrowed as the map extended further  
and further into the north, P’yŏngan and Hamgyŏng provinces  
became much larger in relation to the provinces in the latitudes to  
the south. The famous Kim Chŏngho, who flourished in the early  
1860s and created the masterful Taedong Yŏjido  大東輿地圖, which  
brought the shape of the north into a closer accuracy. But even Kim  
Chŏngho did not not achieve perfection. It seems to me to be  
possible, and even likely, that the Haejwa Chŏndo could have been  
the map that Kim Taegŏn copied as a basis for his map with  
Hangŭl place names.
      Prof. Li gives his own title to Map 9317: A Complete Map of  
Korea in Pure Hangŭl. He says, “This map is similar to the Haejwa  
Chŏndo (which is completely in Chinese— GKL); it is an old  
map of Korea which has the place names in pure Hangŭl without a  
single Chinese character. Beside the Hangŭl placenames there are  
French transcriptions which would have been placed after the  
Hangŭl names to indicate the pronunciation (for the French  
missionaries—GKL ), perhaps by Father Ridel, who would have  
donated the “Pure Hangŭl Map of Korea” together with the Haejwa  
Chŏndo to the Bibliotheque Nationale Francaise.”

      I’m not so sure that Prof. Li is is correct about the “donation”  
of the maps to the BNF. Why would Father Ridel have done that? Kim  
Taegŏn would have substituted Hangŭl for the Hancha and  
added French transcriptions for the benefit of the French missionaries  
in Korea. Kim Taegŏn had spent years in Macao and Hongkong, and  
served as a translator for  French admirals. He even accompanied an  
admiral as an interpreter in Nanking for the signing of the treaties  
ending the Opium Wars. This role stretched out over several years of  
service to the French fleet at the behest of missionaries. He could  
speak decent French and be of great assistance to navigators in the  
vicinity of Korea’s West coast. This activity had taken him to Macao,  
Shanghai, Taiwan, Manila, and the Liaodong Peninsula. (See the long  
article on him and the map of his sea travels in the 한국 가톨릭 대사전  
(published  in Seoul , 1985 and again in 1989 by the 한국 교회사 연구소).  
Given this background, I think that he would have made what Professor  
Li calls the “Pure Hangŭl Map of Korea” in the course of his many  
voyages with the fleet. He would have based it on the all-Chinese  
Haejwa Chŏndo, which he somehow would have acquired. Such a map  
would have had great value for his consultations with various admirals  
and navigators. Given the great stress of his capture by Korean  
authorities and his beheading on 16 September 1846, he doubtless would  
have had little time to arrange the posting his map to Paris. I  
suspect that the maps were still on the ship that landed him in  
Hwanghae Province for his last return to Korea, and that the French  
Admiralty at some point donated it and the other maps to the BNF.

      Frank asks: How does the 18th century map you discuss, if indeed  
it is original and from the 18th century, as all your analysis  
strongly suggests… how does such a map figure into the social history  
of the late ChosOn period?
      The only possible response is, Well, not very strongly. In  
popular terms, Hangŭl didn’t really take off until the late 15th  
century. When you consider that from that time on wives and husbands  
exchanged letters in the vernacular, poets had easier going in  
developing a greater variety of genres, Confucian scholars  were more  
active in promoting ŏnhae (언해/諺解) versions of the Confucian  
classics, Buddhists did the same for important sutras, vernacular  
lexicography had a rich development, and novelists imagined more and  
longer and more developed narratives. All that continued through the  
16th and 17th centuries, and by the 18th century there was a small but  
worthy corpus of vernacular literature. But none of that seemed to rub  
off on cartographers, who did not respond to the vernacular  
opportunity. Even the nationalist cartographer Kim Chŏngho didn’t  
put a single hangŭl syllable on his marvelous map. Part of this,  
I think, is due to the iconic power of Chinese characters and to the  
fact that anyone who could not demonstrate hancha literacy was going  
to go nowhere in a country where education, status, and power were on  
everyone’s minds. The maker of the Gabor Map seems to have been a  
voice in the wilderness.

      Frank says: “My question to Professor Ledyard and others here  
would be: The new Korean National Museum has a very impressive section  
on Korean maps also, and last time I visited I was surprised to see  
many with place names in Han'gŭl from the 19th century. How does  
the 18th century map you discuss, if indeed it is original and from  
the 18th century, as all your analysis strongly suggests… how does  
such a map figure into the social history of the late ChosOn period?   
…From before the Tonghak Movement, I would have looked at him with  
utter disbelief. Still, they are there. Now there is one for the 18th  
century, and interestingly that appears at an auction overseas...

      As for how the Gabor Map figures in the late Chosŏn period,  
one can consider the great growth of markets and trade in the middle  
and late 17th century and  all of the 18th century. That helped to  
encourage social mobility, of which there was a considerable  amount,  
much of it in the lower social orders. Slaves fled from their masters  
and in an active market place could find niches for profit. Second and  
third sons could more easily find work in the economy. Many would have  
depended on Hangŭl literacy to advance. I doubt that such people  
needed Hangŭl maps to travel. I wandered  through the provinces  
without maps a lot in my younger days and never got lost. If in doubt  
there was always an obliging person who would point me in the right  
direction. The bus drivers always told me just where to go. I’m sure  
that social skills were all that was necessary for any Korean to get  
from one place to another.

Gari Ledyard

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