This article observes how Newtonian science was interpreted by two intellectuals from Korea and Japan who encountered it for the first time in their respective countries. In their responses, Korea’s Choe Hangi and Japan’s Shizuki Tadao displayed both similarities and differences. First, they are similar because they interpreted Newtonian science using traditional East Asian gi theory. Universalism and materialism of gi functioned as a common intellectual basis for premodern intellectuals of East Asia. Despite their common gi-based foundation, their thoughts on natural philosophy, as expressed through their interpretations of Newtonian science,display differences. Choe Hangi built a gi philosophy of his own using only gi theory. Devising a gi mechanism, Choe ultimately discarded Newtonian physics. In his gihak, the supranatural God was not recognized and all phenomena of nature were explained using only his mechanics of gi. Shizuki Tadao also attempted to interpret Newtonian science by applying the theory of gi. He denied the concept of a vacuum, and sought to explain the source and mechanism of gravity through gi. He did not,however, exhaustively pursue the theory and philosophy of gi as did Choe Hangi. Accepting the perspective of Newtonian science, Shizuki Tadao recognized the origin of gravity as unknowable. Then, Shizuki could not deduce the standard of morals and ethics of the humanity from the principles of nature and had to acknowledge the supranatural God as the creator and ruler of nature. The Newtonian science these two East Asian intellectuals understood was not the Newtonian science of the West. In premodern East Asia,Newtonian science was a context dependent knowledge, meaning its place was dependent upon specific historical and cultural contexts.
The term qishu that had a theoretical foundation in Neo-Confucian philosophy,especially the cosmological chronology, had been used in much Confucian literature starting from the early Joseon period. Until the middle of the seventeenth century, the term qishu and qishu theory sometimes faced strong rejection and criticism by court Confucians because of the fatalistic implications of qishu theory. However, beginning in the middle of the seventeenth century, the situation became more generous toward using the term qishu in court discussions or in the writings of Confucians, and the Joseon Confucians easily proposed qishu theory in order to interpret many incidents or occurrences such as portents or war. This change toward accepting qishu theory originated first from the publication and circulation of the cosmological chronology text complemented with Korean history by Joseon Confucians, and, secondly, from the invasion of Manchurian Qing army in 1667 and the humiliating defeat of the Joseon government. Using qishu theory, Joseon Confucians began to interpret the victories of “the barbarian Qing” and the fall of the Ming as the decline of zhonghua symbolizing human civilization with qishu. With qishu theory, those misfortunes that occurred in spite of human efforts were interpreted as reflecting a change in qishu, from a phase of yang qi domination to a phase of yin qi domination. Joseon Confucians thought that the rise of barbarian power and the gradual decline of civilization reflected a new phase of the great universal cycle entering into a decadent phase of yin qi. As an extension of this logic, the Joseon Confucians of the nineteenth century interpreted their contemporary situation of a world facing rising Western power and a declining East in terms of qishu theory and the cosmological chronology like their predecessors.
Ryu Hwi-mun (柳徽文) is an important figure in understanding the natural science of the line of the Southerners of Yeongnam in the early nineteenth century. Ryu Hwi-mun established his natural science through a wideranging reading of the classical books of China and Joseon. This tendency in his learning is often called ‘erudition.’ In fact, the erudite tendency in learning in the late Joseon period attracted attention in relation to ‘practical learning.’ Remembering the academic results and historical meaning of the ‘Encyclopedic School’, the group of philosophers of enlightenment in France, it was the development of encyclopedic learning in the late Joseon period that scholars have treated in relation to the modernity of practical learning. Jibongyuseol (芝峰類說) of Lee Su-gwang and Seonghosaseol (星湖僿說) of Lee Ik were typical examples. Such an erudite tendency in learning was taken as historically meaningful because it gave rise to the phase of ‘miscellaneous learning’ that had been despised by the existing system of learning based on the Chinese classics and Neo-Confucianism, and gave independence to knowledge from practice, criticizing the existing approach of learning that aimed for the union of knowledge and practice. Then, can it be seen that Ryu Hwi-mun’s erudition had such an aim? Referring to the existing discussions about various problems of natural science, he presented his own opinion. The foundation in most of his discussions was the ‘established theory of Zhu Xi’ and the instrument of discussions was the traditional theory of yin and yang, and sangsuhak (象數學: xiangshu xue). Therefore,the academic tendency in Ryu Hwi-mun can be seen as ‘Neo-Confucian erudition’ and ‘a period variation of Neo-Confucianism.’
We can find noteworthy astronomical developments in nineteenth century Korea from the following facts: piecemeal knowledge in the natural sciences as listed in Oju yeonmun jangjeon sango (Random Expatiations of Oju) in the early nineteenth century, Choe Hangi’s writings during the 1830s and 1840s, cosmological discussions of Yi Cheong and Choe Hangi in the midnineteenth century, production and widespread circulation of astronomical charts and world maps such as Honcheonjeondo and Yeojijeondo, and professional studies of astronomy and calendrical science by Nam Byeongcheol and Nam Byeonggil during the 1850s and 1860s. This article aims to explore the comparative differences between the nineteenth century and eighteenth century and the genealogy of scientific knowledge on which the discourses of nineteenth-century Korean Confucian scholars were based. In addition, I want to make a preliminary overview of the representative scientific accomplishments of nineteenth century Korea in the context of the late-nineteenth-century high imperialism, when modern science and technology were rushing into Korea. In conclusion, we can see that most works of astronomical science and the cosmological contemplations of Korean scholars did not deviate from the general paradigm of synthesis between traditional East-Asian science and western science until the late nineteenth century, although they were unique and interesting.
Joseon was a society whose dominant principle of social management was Neo-Confucianism, therefore the perception of geomancy, which is the study of divination, was negative on the whole. The mysterious aspects immanent in geomancy itself provoked criticism by many Confucian scholars. However, in a Confucian society stressing the practice of ‘filial piety’, burying the corpse of one’s ancestor at a propitious site was an obligation of the descendant. Accordingly, there was room in which the theory of geomancy could be accepted. Geomancy of tomb was mainly accepted in relation to the selection of royal tombs. Song Si-yeol was a typical case. However, these cases were rare. Geomancy of house, employed in the selection of villages or dwelling sites, was more favorably received. Nevertheless, most Confucian scholars had a negative view of geomancy. While they took advantage of geomancy in selecting propitious burial sites for ancestors, they didn’t accept the theory of geomancy whole-heartedly. Since the former Joseon period, a criticism was raised about the theory of geomancy in relation to the construction of royal tombs. During the latter Joseon period when the vice of geomancy became a serious social problem, criticism of tomb-related geomancy was focused on the “feeling the same energy” theory or the theory of fortune and misfortune. Realist scholars such as Jeong Sang-gi, Yi Ik and Jeong Yak-yong led the criticism.
I want to review discourses on late–Joseon-period illustrations of the body in this article. In the fields of Joseon medicine and natural history, anatomical knowledge functioned as the determinant of whether a medical perspective was right or wrong. While accepting such theories of Chinese medicine,Dongeui bogam also incorporated Taoist perceptions of the body, along with its emphasis on cultivation of energy, spirit and body. On the other hand, discussions in the natural history field were more active. Natural historians often questioned what practitioners of medicine took as given such as the connections between the five organs and the five elements, and the relationship between the five internal organs and five sensory organs. However, they did not think of anatomical research as something positive. Western discourses on the body, illustration and dissection, which markedly differed from the traditional perspective, entered Joseon Korea beginning in the late seventeenth century. Western medicine was supported by even more anatomical study, which presented a serious challenge to existing perspectives of the body. That challenge was also a challenge to the Neo-Confucian perception of the body, the dominant framework of thought in Joseon Korea.
This review of materials begins with an overview of early Joseon Tongsinsa,the Joseon diplomatic missions to Japan. The origin of Tongsinsa goes back to the late Goryeo dynasty in Korea, as the Korean government dispatched diplomatic missions to the Japanese government in order to curtail pirate activities. Then, the introduction of basic materials in the study of Tongsinsa begins by referring to Miyake Hideyoshi’s 1968 work on Korean-Japanese relations during the Joseon dynasty. Excellent sources for the study of Joseon Tongsinsa identified are Joseon wangjo sillok and Haehaeng chongjae, the latter a record translated into Korean in the 1970s. Sinsa girok of Daemado jongga munseo, stored at the National Institute of Korean History, is also noted. Japanese materials that are useful in Tongsinsa studies, including Cho-sen tsu - kou - taiki and Tsu - ko- ichiran, a collection of historical records pertaining to foreign relations, compiled by the Tokugawa bakufu in 1853, are also canvassed. A discussion of representative works of the field makes certain observations, including the assessment that there are not many comprehensive and thorough studies among the Tongsinsa-related works, that there is an overemphasis on cultural exchange among them, and recommends that future research to focus more on political, diplomatic and economic aspects of Tongsinsa instead of its role in cultural exchange.
This article examines the problems and limits of current history-related sites by analyzing Korean domestic sites dealing with history, surveying both Koreans and foreigners who use them, then analyzes users’ tendencies and expectations on the basis of the survey, and suggests new directions for development of user-oriented history sites. The user-oriented history site,which is opened in conformity with the requirements of the general public,is expected to raise their usage rates and satisfaction when they log on to the site, and furthermore be a stepping stone on which cultural content like art,film, games, and characters will be created.