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Civilisations Encountered by Joseon Dynasty in the 18th Century: The 72nd Far East Architecture and City History Colloquium

seminar Kim Bokyoung Feb 19, 2024

SPACE February 2024 (No. 675)


Source: Korean Christian Museum at Soongsil University



Source: Kyujanggak Institute for Korean Studies at Seoul National University


On Dec. 28, 2023, the 72nd Far East Architecture and City History Colloquium was held online, hosted by the Far East Architectural History Lab at Hanyang University School of Architecture. The colloquium was based on the book Civilisations Encountered by Joseon in the 18th Century: An Explanatory Study of Yeonhangrok (2023) by Jung Jaehoon (professor, Kyungpook National University), who gave a presentation on the subject of Yeonhangrok of the 18th century Joseon Dynasty (hereinafter Joseon). Yeonhangrok is a travelogue that records the observations of the Qing Dynasty (hereinafter Qing) as seen by the Joseon envoys. They are studied as a major source of architectural and urban history by describing in detail the daily scenery of the Qing, which was unfamiliar to the people of Joseon at the time. The reason for focusing on the 18th century is the change in the prose form from the previous verse form. In particular, the architectural landscape of Yanjing (now Beijing) at the time was examined through the lens of the Yeonhangdo, a late 18th century drawing from the collection of The Korean Christian Museum at Soongsil University. Through the thirteen-fold of the Yeonhangdo providing a glimpse into Joseon’s acceptance of Qing culture in the 18th century. Notably, King Jeongjo had a keen sensitivity to and access to information about the Qing obtained through Joseon Envoys to China. King Jeongjo dispatched Kim Hongdo and Yi Myeonggi, the eminent artists at the time of the Dongjisahaeng in the 1789, which was the background of the Yeonhangdo. Comparing the painting of Sanhaegwan Dongnaseong, which is believed to have been painted by Kim Hongdo, with the Janganmun in Suwon Hwaseong, they are mostly similar, with a two-storey pavilion and walls protruding on either side, although the direction of the gate is different. The architectural features drawn from the Envoys were used as the basis for the Hwaseong. The illustration of the Pumgyeseok in front of the main throne hall of the palace can be interpreted in the same context. An article from the 1777 does not mention the Envoys, but it does mention the installation of the Pumgyeseok. However, the Qing’s Pumgyeseok is made of bronze, while the Joseon’s is made of stone. The Joseon did not simply adopt Qing culture but transformed it to realise their newly envisioned state. Not all Yeonhangroks are objective and accurate. The painting of Guhyeoldae is of a high standard in terms of its detail, but the descriptions of the place contain misrepresentations. The narrative about Nurhachi, the first Khan of the Qing, dying at this site during the the Ningyuan Battle between the Ming and Qing, is not historically accurate. This discrepancy arises from drawing upon previous Yeonhangroks, leading to the repetition of errors. Jung Jaehoon commented that despite of the partial exaggerations, efforts were made to present the landscape and architectural structures through a close semblance to reality so they carry a relatively high level of credibility.