Translated by: Yang Hi Choe-Wall
Publisher: Global Oriental, 2010.
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This is the first translation into English of the eighteenth-century Korean masterpiece entitled Yŏrha ilgi (‘The Jehol Diary’) by Pak Chiwŏn (1737-1805). The original text was written in classical Chinese and is a notoriously difficult work to translate. Pak Chiwŏn diarises the experiences of his remarkable overland journey on horseback from the northern border region of Korea to China’s imperial summer residence in Jehol. Having been commanded by King Chongjo, the Korean monarch, to undertake the journey, Pak accompanied the royal envoys in 1780 on their tributary visit to the Chinese Emperor Qianlong, who was celebrating his seventieth birthday. The diary reveals the author’s considerable curiosity about everything he sees and experiences: he describes aspects of China’s superior material culture, and compares what he sees to be the backwardness of Korean methodology and uneconomic ways. In addition, the diary provides an outline of his suggestions for Korean social reform and even painstakingly records the daily lives of his fellow travellers, including his two personal servants. The text consists of three chapters: Crossing the Yalu River; Tales from Shenjing and Gateways and Garrisons.
Some surprisingly modern thinking, and even a little humour, is to be found in this leisurely account of the first stages of a journey into Qing China.
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