T'aengniji by Yi Chunghwan (1690–1756?): Land and Politics
This article examines T'aengniji (1751) by Yi Chunghwan (1690–1756?) in three different historical periods: late Chosǒn, the beginning of the 1910s, and the 1970s. These three stages were selected to compare how changes in Korean politics were reflected in the understanding of the book and in the understanding of the idea of sojunghwa 小中華, or Korea as “Little China,” in particular. These stages also depict the popularization of T'aengniji from its completion by Yi Chunghwan in manuscript form to its printing by Ch'oe Namsǒn (1890–1957) in 1912 and the first translations into Korean during Pak Chǒnghŭi's presidency (1963–79). A comparison of different T'aengniji manuscripts with the printed version by Ch'oe Namsǒn shows that the devotion to the Ming dynasty emphasized by Yi Chunghwan vanished in the beginning of the twentieth century under the pressure of the strong influence of social Darwinist ideas. The version by Ch'oe Namsǒn was used for the first translations from hanmun (Literary Sinitic) into modern Korean, thus changing the original meaning of many phrases. On the other hand, a Korea-centered T'aengniji that emphasized the importance of Korean history, geography, and culture contributed to the building of modern Korean ethnicity. Analysis of the same description of Mount Paektu in Yi Chunghwan's T'aengniji and Ch'oe Namsǒn's T'aengniji shows how one piece of information was read differently by different readers. Depending on the historical period when the book was read and the dominant political course of the time, the Korean Peninsula depicted in T'aengniji was either Confucian and sadae compliant or prosperous, strong, and autonomous.