With the fall of the Ming in the 1700s, Joseon underwent a cultural revival. Like most of the rest of the world, commercial capitalism was beginning to overtake the agrarian economy. Western technology and influence began to infiltrate Asia. King Jeongjo embraced transition and overcame factionalism to become one of the most outstanding monarchs of the Joseon Dynasty, comparable only to Sejong, creator of the Hangul alphabet.
Jeongjo was “an ardent bibliophile.” The day after he was enthroned, Jeongjo ordered that a library, Kyujanggak, be built. China, at the time, had ten national libraries, and Jeongjo “thought the lack of a royal library system was a glaring omission to be rectified immediately.” For the first five years, he left administrative duties to an advisor, in favor of studying in the library and planning policy. Like his grandfather, Yongjo, Jeongjo continued the tradition of thrice-daily lectures on Confucianism. However, when the advisor overstepped his authority, Jeongjo gave one final lecture and ceased the practice. He put the civil servants employed at Kyujanggak to work in other administrative offices, and implemented a system of providing special training to the best and the brightest. Kyujanggak essentially transitioned to become his cabinet.
The library complex consisted of several buildings in addition to Kyujanggak, including Yonghwadang, the pavilion where civil service examinations were conducted; Yolgogwan, the library for old books; Kaeyuwa, a storehouse for all books, Sogo the West library; and Ihyanggak, a center for airing the books. A number of administrative offices existed for the purpose of managing documentation that likely had their own collections, yet didn’t quite qualify as libraries. These include Yemun’gwan, the Office of Royal Decrees; Hongmun’gwan, the Office of Special Advisors; and Sungjongwon, the Office of Royal Secretariat, along with the former military headquarters, which became “Imunwn,” the building for compiling writings.
(360 Tour of the palace grounds, including view of Kyujanggak from across the pond.)
From its establishment in 1776 Kyujanggak survived over 100 years, through the looting and destruction of the library annex on Ganghwa Island, until Kyujanggak was dissolved under Japanese colonial rule in 1910. After WWII the texts fell under the management of Seoul National University. Eventually, Kyujanggak merged with the Korean Research Center to become the Kyuganggake Institute for Korean Studies. For a more detailed timeline, see the history page of the KIKS website.
As for the texts that would make up the collection, the Asian system of classification, drawing from the Confucian system of organization of the universe, divided texts into one of four categories: classics, history, masters, and collections of writings. Kyuganggake would have contained examples of all of these types, especially after the contents of the four mountain archives were moved to Kyuganggake in 1908. Shin Byung-Ju writes in “Court Life and the Compilation of Uigwe During the Late Joseon” that the Kyujanggake outer archives would have housed 6,000 books including Uigwe, royal genealogies, the king’s own writings, and other items.
Obviously, the titles below represent a very small sample of what the collection might have contained. Added to them could be the titles on the spreadsheet linked in Actio 3.4, especially as they pertain to a significant number of writings by the previous king, Jeongjo’s grandfather, Yongjo.
Han jungnok (A Record of Sorrowful Days), an account of the execution of Crown Prince Sado, written by his wife, Lady Hong.
Ch’unjorok Record of the Days of the Crown Prince, a record of the lessons Jeongo was given on Confucianism by his teachers (shiganggwan).
Ilsongnok, Records of Daily Reflection, Jeongjo’s royal diary.
Jeongjo Shillok, The Annals of Jeongjo, compiled after his death from detailed records created by royal scribes.
Hwanggukp’yon, Book of Emperors.
Muyedobo t’ongji, Comprehensive Illustrated Manual of Martial Arts. Begun by Crown Prince Sado and finished by Jeongjo in the fourteenth year of his reign.
Pyonghakt’ong, Manual of Military Science. One of six more volumes of military strategies and tactics compiled or edited by Jeongjo.
P’abungdang, Anti-factionalism, an essay written by Jeongjo.
Manch’on Myongwol Chuinong Chaso, a book defining Jeongo’s political philosophy and his relationship as monarch toward the people a bright moon (the monarch) reflected in countless streams of water (the people), based on Confucian ideology of “brightening man’s inherent virtuous nature.”
Kyongsa kangui (Lectures on the Classics)
Taehak ryuui, edited by Jeongjo from three books: Daxue, Daxue Yanyi, Further Explication of Daxue; and Daxue Yanyibu, Supplement to Daxue Yanyi.
Of course, the Four Books and Five Classics would be part of the collection here, too. They are:
The Great Learning,
The Doctrine of the Mean,
Classics of Poetry,
Book of Documents,
Book of Rites,
Spring and Summer Annals.
Collections of Writings:
Taejon t’ongp’yon, the Comprehensive National Code.
Kyunyokpop, the Equalized Tax Law, as revised by Yongjo.
The above titles are very representative of any library of the Joseon Dynasty, grounded as its culture was in Confucian practices of record-keeping. However, these titles particularly represent Jeongjo’s reign, not only in the titles that relate to his personal life, but also in those titles that expressed his political philosophies and his belief that “Lectures on the literary classics, lectures on military affairs, composing literary works and the martial arts—they are like the wheels of a wagon or the wings of a bird. No one side can gain advantage over the others.”
This assignment is supposed to include a comparison to the collection analysis of a classmate. I don’t feel it fits with the rest of this article. So I’m going to splice it off into its own post, and probably remove it once I’ve finished the course.
“Chongjo.” Encyclopedia of World Biography, Gale, 1998. Biography in Context, link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/K1631001358/BIC1?u=inspire&xid=0603266c. Accessed 27 Apr. 2017.
Shin, Byung-Ju. “Court Life and the Compilation of Uigwe during the Late Joseon.” Korean Journal. Korean National Commission for UNESCO, 2008. Web. 29 Apr. 2017. <https://www.ekoreajournal.net/issue/view_pop.htm?Idx>.
Yi, Tae-Jin. “King Chongjo: Confucianism, Enlightenment, and Absolute Rule.” Korea Journal, vol. 40, no. 4, Winter2000, p. 168. https://www.ekoreajournal.net/sysLib/down.php?file=..%2FUPLOAD%2FT_articles%2FPDF4046