One of the most important and celebrated works of premodern Korean prose fiction, Kŭmo sinhwa (New Tales of the Golden Turtle) is a collection of five tales of the strange artfully written in literary Chinese by Kim Sisŭp (1435–1493). Kim was a major intellectual and poet of the early Chosŏn dynasty (1392–1897), and this book is widely recognized as marking the beginning of classical fiction in Korea.
The present volume features an extensive study of Kim and the Kŭmo sinhwa, followed by a copiously annotated, complete English translation of the tales from the oldest extant edition. The translation captures the vivaciousness of the original, while the annotations reveal the work’s complexity, unraveling the deep and diverse intertextual connections between the Kŭmo sinhwa and preceding works of Chinese and Korean literature and philosophy. The Kŭmo sinhwa can thus be read and appreciated as a hybrid work that is both distinctly Korean and Sino-centric East Asian. A translator’s introduction discusses this hybridity in detail, as well as the unusual life and tumultuous times of Kim Sisŭp; the Kŭmo sinhwa’s creation and its translation and transformation in early modern Japan and twentieth-century (especially North) Korea and beyond; and its characteristics as a work of dissent.
Tales of the Strange by a Korean Confucian Monk will be welcomed by Korean and East Asian studies scholars and students, yet the body of the work—stories of strange affairs, fantastic realms, seductive ghosts, and majestic but eerie beings from the netherworld—will be enjoyed by academics and non-specialist readers alike.