Languages of Nature and Identity in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Korea
(60th Meeting of the PIAC, Székesfehérvár 2017)
This paper examines Korean scholars’ literary depictions of the Manchurian landscape in the aftermath of the Manchu invasions of Korea in the early seventeenth century. Primarily drawing on writings of Korean scholars who travelled through the border region between China and Korea from the seventeenth to the eighteenth century, this study assesses the manner in which the landscape of Manchuria was experienced, recorded, and contextualized in relation to the terrain and environment of Korea’s peninsular northwest.
Among Korean scholars who described the nature of the landscape of Manchuria in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, this paper pays particular attention to Kim Yuk (1580–1658), who in the 1630s and 1640s personally observed differences and similarities in the terrain of Manchuria and Korea’s north-western provinces. Based on his observations, he strongly advocated adopting Chinese carts as a means of transporting goods within Korea. He sharply criticized those in Korea’s Chosŏn court who asserted that the method of cart transport was ill-suited to the Korean terrain because Korea’s landscape was punctuated by tall and precipitous mountains. By analysing writings of Kim Yuk and other scholars on the landscape of the Sino-Korean borderland, this study not only highlights the manner in which Korean scholars understood and imagined the geographical space between China and Korea in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It also illuminates how they sought to define their political and cultural identity following the Manchu invasions.