The History of Sea and the Records

Korea National Maritime Museum

The ancient maps and old records of Joseon include the recognition of territories, the names of the regions, the information about the geography, the status of ship utilization, the historical details related to the ocean and the like.

Korean Territory Shown on Ancient Maps
Maps contain the information about politics, societies, cultures, views and the like as well as the geography of the location. As you noticed on the chapter one, the nautical chart and journals produced and written by the people of the West depict the Joseon dynasty’s coastline and some references adopted new names to call Ulleungdo and Dokdo islands. The references depicting the boundaries of the East Sea and the Sea of Korea sometimes become the relevant evidences shich settle the territorial dispute over Dokdo island. By comparison, the records relating to the sea and the history of maritime activities of the Joseon dynasty have been rarely found, since the dynasty imposed an embargo on maritime activities at that time. The ancient maps in Korea were mostly produced during the era of the Joseon dynasty. Starting with the Honil Gangni Yeokdae Gukdo Ji Do(“Maps of Intergrated Lands and Region of Historical Countries and Capitals”,1402), Various types of maps were produced in the late Joseon dynasty.

Japan, 1837

A warning sign established by Japan on the coast of Nikata in 1837. The sign says that Ulleungdo Island and Dokdo Island are the territory of Joseon, therefore, navigation and fishing are prohibited.

Illustrated Descriptions of Three Countries
Hayashi Shihei (林子平) | Japan, 1786

Sangoku Tsūran Zusetsu [Illustrated Descriptions of Three Countries] is a 1786 geographical work by Japanese scholar Hayashi Shihei (林子平). In one of the book’s maps, “The Complete Map of Three Countries,” Joseon and Japan are distinguished by color (yellow and blue, respectively).

Ulleungdo Island and Dokdo Island are also colored in yellow, matching the color denoting Joseon, a clear sign of recognition that these two islands were Joseon territory. The Complete Map of Joseon also shows Dokdo Island drawn within Ulleungdo Island, signifying that Dokdo Island is part of Ulleungdo Island.

The Revised Complete Map of Japanese Lands and Roads
Japan, 1791

Kaisei Nihon yochi rotei zenzu [Map of Japan] is a map made in 1773 by Nagakubo Sekisui (長久保赤水) (1717–1801). This is the first color Japanese map to mark the lines of longitude and latitude, but no color has been added to areas outside of Japan (Joseon, Dokdo Island, and Ulleungdo Island).

In a subsequent revised version of the map published in 1791, Dokdo Island and Ulleungdo Island are again not colored and are situated outside the longitudinal and latitudinal lines. This indicates that Japan did not acknowledge Dokdo Island as part of its territory.

Japan, 1903

A detailed map of Asia, Europe, and Africa with accurate measures made in 1903 by the Japanese Imperial Army and Navy Survey Department.

A territorial boundary line between Joseon and Japan is depicted on the East Sea. Here, Takeshima Island (竹島, Ulleungdo Island) and Matsushima Island (松島, Dokdo Island), shown with their Japanese names, are designated as Joseon territory. The boundary separating Korea and Japan is marked halfway between Dokdo Island and Oki Island (隱岐), indicating that the Japanese government at the time recognized Dokdo Island as the eastern boundary of the Korean Empire.

The Japanese owner of the map at the time marked his route traversing the continent in red.

Hangeuljoseonjeondo / Map of Joseon Dynasty

The map is estimated to be the most ancient Korean map among the ancient Korean maps discovered. It was introduced for the first time in the thesis written by Gari Keith Ledyard, a renowned professor of Korean studies and it is expected to be used for toponymic studies. Depending on the size of the triangle shapes on the map, which imply mountains, it depicts the different size of mountains and mountain ranges. And the names of the places, major ports and islands are marked alongside the waterways. It clearly emphasizes the waterways rather than the land routes by drawing the waterways deep inside the lands. Also, Taemado (Tsushima) is marked with Korean islands such as Ulleundo, Usando (Dokdo), Jejudo and others.

the Late-Joseon Period

The map book is one of the revised versions of the map book written by a cartographer and Silhak scholar, Jeong Sang-gi (1678~1752), consisting of complete maps, regional maps and others, a total of 10 pieces.

Jeong Sang-gi produced a complete map of Joseon dynasty (Korea), Dongguk-daejeondo (Great map of Korea), and Paldo-bundo (Maps of Eight Provinces). Since the regional maps use the same scale, it can become a complete map when those are arranged together.

By making the maps, the inaccuracy of the maps of Pyongan and Hamgyong provinces located on the north of the Korean Peninsula was greatly corrected.

Also, the maps are still highly valued because it used the scale called “Baek-li-chuk” which helped calculate the distance, and enhanced the accuracy of the outline of the Joseon marking the towns, signal-fires, the name of the places and others on the map in detail as the scale of the map became larger and changed to 1 : 420,000. One of the kings of Joseon, Yeongjo, was greatly impressed with the maps in 1757, he gave an order to copy the maps for the government office.

Late 18th century

The comprehensive map book released in the era of Joseon consists of 3 volumes containing maps ranging from a western-style world map and the complete map of Joseon to various regional maps. Since one of Joseon’s administrative offices, Dohobu, which was newly established in 1787 (in the first year of King Jeongjo’s reign), is placed around Hamgyong province on the map, it is estimated that the regional map was made under the reign of King Jeongjo or after his reign.

The map preserved by the museum is the second volume of the map book which has the maps of eight provinces of Korea and it is arranged in the order of Gyeonggi, Chungcheong, Jeolla, Gyeongsang, Gangwon, Hwanghae, Pyeongan and Hamgyong provinces. The regional maps are mostly copied from one of the most accurate maps at that time, Donggukjido, and the scales of some of the copied maps are reduced.

Coastal Map of Hamgyeong-do
the Late-Joseon Period

A folded color map consisting of 35 panels showing the coastal areas from Dancheon (in Hamgyeong-do Province) to Wonsan after the 1870s.

The records transcribed at the top and bottom of the map face from the direction of land to sea and vice versa. These notations provide a detailed record of the coastal geography and the appearance of villages, including the distance from each village to the main town (eup), the length of the sea route between each region, the number of houses, the depth of the water, and key facilities like storehouses and salt films. Details on the depth of the water are also subdivided according to close to the shore and the furthest from the shore.

the Late-Joseon Period

This is an early version of the Haejwajeondo (海左全圖), made during the Joseon dynasty. The periphery of the map depicts the history and geography of Old Joseon through Joseon. The map shows such features as mountain ranges, rivers, land routes, and boundaries of ‘Do’ (provinces). Notably, it also represents the seaways from the mainland to Dokdo, Ulleungdo, and Jejudo Islands.

the Late-Joseon Period

A small atlas of 16 leaves (32 pages both front and back) comprising eight maps of the provinces (do) and accompanying regional information. The front sides of the leaves show Gyeongsang, Hwanghae, Pyongan, and Hamgyong, while the verso sides show Gyeonggi, Chungcheong, Jeolla, and Gangwon. Each Province has its own entries for records. The very first part has maps indicating the locations and names of mountains, place names of each region, and rivers. The next section shows stations (yeok驛), garrisons (jin鎭), forts (bo堡), and fortresses (sanseong山城). Under stations are post stations (yeokcham驛站), with place names inscribed below. Next is the number of inhabitants’ dwellings, fields, number of vessels belonging to naval bases (suyeong), and number of commoners providing tax support (boin保人). The document also records the histories or the origins of important regions and distances from Seoul, among other details.

Frictiograph of Joseon Celestial Planisphere

Cheongsang-YeolchaBunya-Jido is astronomical chart engraved on the stone in King Taejo of Joseon 4th December. This Collection is very rare artefact taken a rubbing of a stone inscription on the back of the National Treasure NO.228. What is unique is that the shapes of letters, lines, and dots shown in this document are clearer than those of the back side of National Treasure NO.228. Various records such as sky, constellation, cosmology, production process, etc is shown on the marble constellation chart and the middle part of the stone, 305 constellations and 1,467 stars are depicted as well.

The Records of The Taxation System
Based on the taxation system of the time, the products were collected from each region and shifted to the capital city. The royal government installed transport infrastructure and warehouses on the riverside and seaside. Using the vehicles prepared, the collected products were transported to the warehouse in the capital city within the period. Also, the passages were connected to the point of departure, destination and the port of call in the middle. The system enabled the transport of the massive amount of necessary supplies. The system was considered important seeing the records of the system in Gyeonggukdaejeon(a complete code of law, 1485), Sokdaejeon(the supplement to the national code, 1746) Deajeontongpyeun(1785) and the like.

19th Century

The colored manuscript map book has a total of 11 maps including the complete map and the maps of 8 provinces of Joseon dynasty (Korea).

Each map has the information about towns, counties, roads, stations, major temples, mountains and streams as well as ports, docks and the like including the numbers of marines, warships and defence ships docking in each garrison. The red lines on the map seem to indicate the sea routes used for tax grain shipments.

The statistical record on the back seems it is the record copied from the early edition of the map produced by Jeong Sang-gi. However, seeing the style of the handwriting and the effect of light and shade of the ink, it is estimated that the map was produced in the late 19th century.

Johaengilrok(Officer’s Diary)
Im gyo-Jin | 1863

A journal on maritime transport kept by Im Gyo-Jin (林喬鎭).

In May 1862 (Cheoljong year 13), Im was appointed as both Hamyeol county superintendent and Iksan’s granary tax transport official, in charge of grain paid as taxes, stored at a state-run granary that held rice contributions collected from eight towns (eup) of the Honam region. Im Gyo-Jin kept daily records on details of grain taxes and itineraries while managing their transport. It is Korea’s oldest existing maritime transport journal.

Gwanmun of Seonhyecheong(Official Document)

An official document sent by the office created to administer the Uniform Land Tax Law (Sŏnhyech’ŏng, 宣惠廳) to the civil governor of Chungcheong-do Province.

When a ship on its way to Seoul, loaded with grain tributes, sank near Okgu county in Jeolla-do Province, the Okgu county superintendent reported it to the Governor of Jeolla-do Province, and he in turn reported it to the Ministry of Taxation (hojo). The document is a record of the discussions between the parties involved in an effort to resolve the matter.

the Late-Joseon Period

A book presumed to be a transcription of “Haedoji” by Wee Baek-Gyu (魏伯珪, 1727–1798) of Jangheung. The first part includes detailed records on the size of an island south of Jangheung, lakes, land taxes, tributes and such, as well as markings of waterways. Following the first part are records for the post stations of Dangjin, Yongam, Naju, Chilsanhae, Suwon, Hwanghae Province, and Pyongan Province, which are in the direction of the west coast waterway from Dangjin to Pyongan Province. The east coast waterway starts with Jangheung, followed by post stations along Heungyang, Suncheon, Goseong, and Namhae. The book also records various types of vessels and information on currents and tide times.

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