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Joseon, a centralized authoritarian state, and its geographic atlas

In Joseon, which was a thoroughly centralized authoritarian state, geographic atlases compiled and published by setting systematic items and principles of description of the traditional era were highly developed. The central government regularly compiled and published a national geographic atlas for each of the municipalities in order to secure information related to directional governance of all the municipalities throughout the nation.

Government compiled the national geographic atlas in a former part of the Joseon Dynasty

Taejong, the 3rd king of the Joseon Dynasty, implemented an extensive reorganization policy for the administration zones by pursuing a policy of powerful centralized authoritarian rule. King Sejong, who succeeded the performance of the powerful reorganization of administration zones from his father, Taejong, ordered compilation and publication of a new geographic atlas that was suitable for the new regional administration system and the [Sinchanpaldo geographic atlas] was completed. Further, in the 9th year of the reign of King Seongjong, after the reign of Kings Sejo and Yejong, the [Paldo geographic atlas] was completed. In the 12th year of the reign of King Seongjong, the [Paldo geographic atlas] and [Dongmunseon] were merged to publish 50 books of [Donggukyeojiseungram], which literally means ‘a book that enables viewing of all the geographical features of our nation’, and was further amended and expanded 3 times for the completion and publication of the 25 volumes and 55 books of [Sinjeungdonggukyeojiseungram] in the 25th year of the reign of King Jungjong (1530AD).

Government compiled the national geographic atlas in the late stages of the Joseon Dynasty

During the reign of King Sukjong, approximately 150 years after the completion and publication of [Sinjeungdonggukyeojiseungram] in the 25th year of King Jungjong (1530), there were active discussions on the compilation and publication of a new national geographic atlas, which continued to the time of the reign of King Yeongjo. In the 46th year of King Yeongjo (1770), [Donggukmunheonbigo] was compiled and published, and was composed of 100 books in 40 volumes that categorized and organized various system and cultures of Joseon. Throughout the reigns of Kings Jeongjo, Sunjo and Heonjong, continuous attempts were made for the amendment and expansion of [Donggukmunheonbigo], as well as compilation and publication of a new national geographic atlas, but they did not materialize.

A privately compiled and published national geographic atlas in the latter stages of the Joseon Dynasty

Yoo, Hyeong-won was the first individual in Joseon to compile and publish a national geographic atlas on his own. He compiled and published [Donggukyeojiji], composed of 9 books in 10 volumes, on the basis of the contents of [Sinjeungdonggukyeojiseungram] in 1656. Moreover, Shin, Gyeong-jun compiled and published a national geographic atlas for several themes including [Ganggyeji], [Dorogo], [Sansugo], [Sayeongo], etc. Kim, Jeong-ho, the producer of the best maps in Joseon, compiled and published the largest numbers of national geographic atlases for each of the municipalities, and compiled and published 1 book of [Yeojipyeongo], 20 books of [Dongyeojido], 5 books of [Yeodobiji] and 15 books of [Daedongjiji]. Oh, Hoing-mook was the last individual from the Joseon Dynasty to compile and publish a national geographic atlas for each of the municipalities in the traditional format. He compiled and published [Yeojaechoalyo], which combined world geography with Joseon geography.

Geographic atlas for each of the provinces in the latter stages of Joseon Dynasty

In the latter stages of the Joseon Dynasty, which continued to be a powerful centralized authoritarian state, individual geographic atlases were produced for each of the provinces that systematically organized the conditions of the municipalities that belonged to the province, although there were not many of them published. The oldest is the 1 book of [Bukgwanji] compiled and published by Lee, Sik followed by the compilation and publication of [Gwandongji], [Gyeongsangdoeumji], [Chungcheongdoeupji], [Gyeonggiji] and [Gwanbukji] (in that order) in the 1800’s.

A Single volume of municipal atlases for each community

In the 1600’s, the municipal atlases for the communities in the provinces including Gyeongsang-do, Jeolla-do, Chungcheong-do, Gangwon-do, Gyeonggi-do, Hwanghae-do, Pyeongan-do and Hamgyeong-do, etc. were manifested independently. In the 1700’s, the single volume municipal atlases for each community were further proliferated throughout the nation and continued to be compiled and published until the 1910’s during which Japan invaded Joseon forcibly. The basic system of the single-book atlases of municipalities followed that of the [Sinjeungdonggukyeojiseungram] with the addition of new items, including information on taxation and personalities as well as poetry and prose. In particular, the addition of information on taxation imparted noticeable influence on the compilation and publication of central government-led national geographic atlases in the latter part of Joseon Dynasty such as [Yeojidoseo].

Lectures on ancient literature

In this lecture, concepts and types of geographic atlases, compilation and publication, as well as the significance of national geographic atlases in the Joseon Dynasty, compilation, publication, types and changes of each of the eras of municipal atlases, emergence of a geographic atlas for each of the themes, and the compilation and publication of a national geographic atlas by Gosanja Kim, Jeong-ho will be reviewed. Focus will be placed on the geographic atlases that formed the most significant trends in the traditional geography of Korea. Moreover, the contents and significance of the traditional geography of Korea will be examined through the geographic atlases that were produced in abundance during the Joseon Dynasty in order to confirm that Korea was a nation of geographic atlases.

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