Korean Manuscript Gazetteer
TAE TUNG ILT’ONGJI [“Unified Gazetteer of the Great East”].
Manuscript on paper, entitled on the upper wrapper. One full-page manuscript map, in brush & ink, of the eight major roads or provinces of Korea & many tables in the text. 111 numbered folding leaves. Small folio (302 x 215), orig. patterned wrappers (wrappers a little soiled & wormed), stitched as issued. [Korea: 18th or 19th century].
Manuscript gazetteer describing Chosŏn Korea, which was referred to as “the East” (tung) or the “Eastern kingdom” (tungguk) before the 20th century. Our manuscript was written between 1694 (we find that date in the text) and 1895, when the eight provinces shown on the map on leaf 45b were abolished.
The word “gazetteer” is used in reference to a genre of East Asian historical and geographical texts known as (di)fang zhi in China and ŭpchi, both translating roughly to “local treatises.” The now rare word “gazetteer” is used in analogy with a similar genre that existed in British India.
Treatises dedicated to the geography, socio-political makeup, culture, or history of localities exist from early times, but the local gazetteer as we know it largely took shape in China in the Song period (960-1279). In Korea, mentions of treatises covering larger geographical units such as provinces or indeed the whole country are found in medieval sources, but no such books have come down to us. Truly local gazetteers covering smaller jurisdictions date only from the early sixteenth century, with the earliest surviving book dated 1581. In total, 1637 gazetteers are known to have been produced in Korea up until the advent of Japanese colonial rule in 1910. Many of them only ever circulated in manuscript, like our copy. “The Chosŏn period saw a number of privately written works of great distinction. The sirhak scholars of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were active in geographical studies and were especially concerned to reconstruct or refine knowledge of the nation’s historical territory and boundaries.”–Gari Ledyard, “Cartography in Korea” in Cartography in the Traditional East and Southeast Asian Societies (ed. by J.B. Harley & David Woodward), Vol. 2, Book 2 (University of Chicago), p. 275.
Our gazetteer is not local, however, but national. The first national gazetteer commissioned by the Chosŏn court was finished in 1530. An update was commissioned in 1757 and finished seven years later. These books, called Yŏji sŭngnam [Easy Geographical Overview] and Yŏji tosŏ [Geographical Maps and Texts], both contained the phrase yŏji, meaning “geography.”
Our text, by contrast, is called ilt’ongji, “unified gazetteer,” a deliberate association to an imperial Chinese textual heritage: the first “unified gazetteer” was compiled in China under Mongol rule in the late 13th century. The later Ming and Qing states continued to commission empire-wide gazetteers that they likewise called “unified gazetteers” (Ch.: yitong zhi).
The fact that it is a manuscript and does not contain a preface suggests that it is either a private work in progress or a selection of material copied from some other book. We cannot find a book with this title elsewhere, however.
The text contains information on the local jurisdictions of Korea, their administrative history, correspondences between these earthly locations and areas of the night sky (the “28 Lunar Mansions,” pun’ya, Ch.: fenye, a topic commonly covered in gazetteers), and distances for overland and maritime routes. Also included are descriptions of waterways and canals, the main roads of Korea, and distances between cities and villages,
The boldly drawn full-page map on 45b depicts the “eight major roads” or “eight major provinces” of Korea. Also shown are Jindo, Jeju, Tsushima, and Japan.
In very good condition.
❧ Brook, Timothy, “Native Identity under Alien Rule: Local Gazetteers of the Yuan Dynasty” in Pragmatic Literacy, East and West, 1200-1330 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1997), edited by Richard Britnell, pp. 235-46. Dennis, Joseph R., Writing, Publishing, and Reading Local Gazetteers in Imperial China, 1100-1700 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Asia Center, 2015). Yamada Masahiro, “Richo jidai (Chŏsen jidai) no chihoshi — yushi — ni tsuite” [“On the Local Gazetteers of the Yi Period [Chosŏn period], the ŭpchi”] in Chirigaku hokoku, Vol. 83 (1996), pp. 1-17.
Item ID: 8457