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The Review of Korean Studies

  • P-ISSN1229-0076
  • E-ISSN2773-9351
  • SCOPUS, ESCI

Travel to Baekdusan and its Significance during the Joseon Period

The Review of Korean Studies / The Review of Korean Studies, (P)1229-0076; (E)2773-9351
2010, v.13 no.4, pp.13-31
https://doi.org/10.25024/review.2010.13.4.001

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Abstract

This article analyzed the transformations of perception on Baekdusan in the pre-modern era before the concepts of nation-state took root. Perceptions of Baekdudaegan have existed in an idealized form along with geomancy since the Goryeo period. Elites of early Joseon also recognized Baekdusan as a sacred and representative mountain of Korean national territory. Such perceptions are evident in Choe Bu’s description on Baekdusan in response to the questions of Chinese officials on Korean geography as well as Kim Seryeom’s comparison of Baekdusan with Fuji Mountain of Japan during his trip to Japan as a member of the Korean state envoy. Interest in Baekdusan substantially increased in the eighteenth century—resulting in a clear perception of Baekdudaegan-based national territory. The 1712 erection of the Baekdusan boundary stone as a border marker between the Qing and Joseon aroused further interest in Baekdusan. Contemporaneous proliferation of accurate mapmaking in this period, influenced by Western learning, further strengthened the popular perception of Baekdudaegan-centered national territory. A group of scholars strongly criticized the Baekdusan boundary stone by claiming that Korea lost some 700 li of territory inside of the Duman River through a miscalculation of the Tumen River’s location. With the rise of a culture of traveling as well as interest in Baekdusan after the mid-eighteenth century, the overall number of people visiting and climbing Baekdusan substantially increased. Climbing Baekdusan during this period required mobilization of substantial manpower and supplies. It was a difficult journey that sometimes necessitated the building of new roads. At Baekdusan, according to the local customs, even the elites performed rites to the mountain god. In order to see the magnificent sight of the mountain lake, visitors even left records of oration to the mountain god asking for good weather.

keywords
Baekdusan Baekdusan boundary stone Baekdudaegan perception of national territory and Baekdusan travelogue

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The Review of Korean Studies