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[Audio Books]Ep. 13 - A Forbidden Land: Voyages to the Corea, Part 13

A Forbidden Land: Voyages to the Corea
by Ernest Oppert
New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1880

 

Part 13

 

Among the nations of the universe who claim to have attained a certain degree of culture, and profess to live in a state of civilization, there is none whose literature shows a greater incompleteness and deficiency about its own origin and history than that of the Coreans. It appears almost as if not one of Corean scholars had been willing or able to write a record of the history of the country, or that the accounts left by Japanese and Chinese historians were considered sufficiently complete; for we should actually know nothing whatever of its historical past if it had not been for the Japanese and Chinese historians, whom alone we have to thank for any accounts which have reached the next generations. The fullest and best details of Corean history can be found in Japanese writings, especially of the middle ages and the subsequent centuries. They are from both close observation and mostly from hostile connection.

 

Until the beginning of the 17th century, Corea has almost incessantly been the scene of interior feuds and disorders, and of the thirst of conquest of her nearest neighbors, who settled there either their own disputes between each other, or tried to possess themselves of the supremacy over the country itself. Since the conclusion of the last war with Japan only, and after China had finally stopped from fruitlessly attempting to reduce Corea to submission, this hard-tried country has enjoyed a longer time of peace, of which the population, nearly ruined and decimated by continual wars and disorder, was only too much in need.

 

Of those Japanese works, which partly in recording their own history, have taken notice of the events occurring in the neighbor country, and partly directed their attention to the history of Corea alone, there are three which deserve special mention.
They are---
“Nipponki.” Chronicle of Japan from 660 B.C. to 696 A.D. Published 740 A.D. 30 vols.
“Nippon-wodai itsi-van.” Summary of Events of the Japanese Government, 661 B.C. to 1611 A.D. Osaka, 1795. 7 vols.


“Tsjo-sen Monogatari” history of Tchaosien. Jedo, 1750. 5 vols.

Later historical works on Corea, of Chinese, or Japanese origin, do not appear to exist; at all events, it is very questionable if any such have ever been published. This is easily explained by the circumstance that the intercourse with other nations after the wars gradually became more and more restricted, until it ceased almost altogether, in consequence of the isolation policy of the Corean Government; and as no political events of moment or of interest to the outer world have since taken place, no foreign historian has thought it worthwhile to record them.

 

The first mention of the inhabitants of Corea we find in old Chinese chronicles about 2350 B.C., at which period some of the northern tribes are reported to have entered, after many conflicts, into a tributary connection with China. It does not, however, appear as if this dependent position had existed for long period at any time, and in the course of the next thousand years we find the same, at times completely subjugated, at others again quite independent, carrying on successful wars and invasions into Chinese territory, during which they had even taken possession, in the 16th century B.C., of the provinces of Leautong and Kiang-nan.

 

The first really reliable accounts of Corea of historical value, however, commence only with the 12th century B.C., at which time the north-westerly part of the peninsula stands out from the dark first. 

 

These accounts are divided into several sections, according to the part of the country, namely the northern part next to China, and into those of the three kingdoms of Kaoli(Goguryeo 고구려), Petsi(Bekje 백제), and Sinra(신라), the first authentic information upon which only dates from the year 60 B.C. During the reign of the Chinese emperor Tcheou, of the Chang dynasty, at the beginning of the 12th century B.C., one of his relations, called Kitse or Kitsu, who lived at court, had made himself obnoxious to the emperor by the frankness with which he censured the tyrannical action of the Government, and by his attempts to induce the sovereign to adopt more lenient measures. Thrown into prison, Kitsu was detained a captive until Tscheou was deposed and killed in the rebellion headed by Vouvang, who overthrew the Chang dynasty. The new emperor set Kitsu free, showed him great favor and wished to retain him nearby as adviser; but Kitsu could not be induced to serve the man who had deprived his family of the throne. He resolved to quit China, and to emigrate, crossed the Yalou (Aprok, 압록강), and settled on the shores of the river Pai-shui (the Tatung, or Pieng’an 평안 of today), where he founded a new kingdom, selecting the town of Pieng’an as capital. This new state, he named Tschao-sien. 

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