Exchange through sea routes

Korea National Maritime Museum

The delegation, called Tongshinsa in Korean, was dispatched to Japan 12time from 1607 to 1811. The delegation made round-trip journeys from Hanyang(Seoul) to Edo(Tokyo) and the entire 3,000-killometer journey took almost 6months to a year. The members of the delegation, 4~500 people, were greatly welcomed and could enjoy the party given by the citizen in most of the towns they visited. It also played a huge role in promoting cultural exchange between the two countries. The peaceful and sincere relationship between the two countries lasted for about 200years leaving behind diverse cultures and historical references. To celebrate the historical memory, the both countries requested the UNESCO to add 333 pieces of historical relics from 111 cases to the Memory of World Register list with the title of “The records relating to the delegation of the Joseon dynasty”. As a result, the IAC made the final decision in its held on Oct 2017, designating it as the Memory of World Register. It included 4 pieces of relics preserved in KNMM. Also, seeing the records such as <pyohaerok, the record of castaway on the sea> and the like, the interrelation and exchange between the Joseon and Ming dynasties are noticed.

Antiphonal Poems

Exchange of poetry between royal envoy Seong Wan (成琬, 1639–?), an official litterateur sent to Japan in 1682 (second year of Tenna), secretary Yi Dam-ryeong (李聃齡, ?–?), and Yamada Genkin (山田原欽, 1666-1693).

UNESCO Memory of the World 2017

As expressed by the lines “A poet of Joseon came by ship and horse, such as a deity might ride, stirring new excitement around Japan (仙査驛馬載詩人 到處定知發興新),” for Japanese writers, literary interchange with Royal Envoys offered a variety of interesting and meaningful opportunities. Such Korean-Japanese literary interchange by Royal Envoys became a sort of tradition, establishing a literary genre called “envoy travel literature.”

Farewell Poems
Japan, 1811

A poem written by the Japanese upon sending off royal envoys in 1811 (11th year of Sunjo). In the Year of the Ram, the Joseon Royal Envoy departed Dongnae on the 12th of the leap month and arrived on the 29th at Bujoong (府中 Fuchū) on Daemado Island, returning to Busan on July 3rd. The farewell poem (奉別都護李君) is written by Matsuzaki Godo (松崎慊堂), the preeminent Confucian scholar of Japan at the time, who was sent by the Japanese government to greet the Royal Envoy. He wrote this extended heptasyllabic farewell poem for the envoy Yi Myeon-Goo (李勉求). The poem praises Yi Myeon-Goo’s character and calligraphy, as well as longing after the farewell. The following farewell poem (恭賦短律八章遙奉寄), a regulated heptasyllabic poem, was composed on March 15th, prior to his departure for Dongnae, and thus it is assumed that Ueki Akira (植木晃) composed it for the Joseon Royal Envoy who was to leave for Daemado Island from Dongnae. The poem conveys praise for the great mark the royal enjoy will leave on Japan, and wishes for amity between the two countries.

UNESCO Memory of the World 2017

Draft Poem
Donggang (東岡) Pi Jeong-jong (皮宗鼎) | 1811

A five-character poem written by Donggang (東岡) Pi Jeong-jong (皮宗鼎), a scribe of the Royal Envoy sent to Japan in 1811 (11th year of Sunjo). A scribe was a central government official in charge of recording various documents and works of literature. The topic of the poem is the fresh wind blowing from the south. Based on the phrase “the Donggang of Joseon,” written to the left, it is assumed that the poem was presented to Japan.

UNESCO Memory of the World 2017

Peach Blossom-and-Bird Painting
Yi Eui-yang | 1811

A bird-and-flower painting by Sinwon Yi Eui-yang (1768–?). A late Joseon court painter, he was and was known for painting landscapes, portraits, and birds and animals. His adult name was Yisin (爾信), and pen names included Sinwon (信園), Unjae (雲齋), and Palsonggwan (八松觀). In 1811, when he was 44, he went to Japan as part of the Royal Envoy. Like other court painters, he painted many pictures during his stay to satisy many requests from the Japanese. This painting, depicting two birds playing in the midst of cherry blossoms and camellias, was made at such a time in Japan. He inscribed his name “Joseon Yisin (朝鮮 爾信)” on one side of the painting, and affixed his seal.

UNESCO Memory of the World 2017

Falcon Painting
Yi Eui-yang | 1811

Falcon paintings brought by the delegations in the late Joseon dynasty were presented as diplomatic gifts to the countries. There is a picture of a falcon sitting on a branch on silk. It bears the signature of Yi Shin, the courtesy name of the painter, and his seal which shows the name of the painter, Yi Iui-yang, on the left side of the painting.

The falcon’s nature and hard eyes are fairly well depicted and its denticles are also clearly visible showing that the species of the falcon is a peregrine falcon which is also called Haedongchung in Korea. The skilled brush strokes create the feathers of its body and by using only a few strokes, it shapes the tail feathers. And the fact that the tail was pre-dyed to shorten the time to produce indicates that it used the method to meet the high demand of the time.

Many pieces of hawk paintings were produced while there had been cultural exchanges between Korea and Japan in history. Hawks were regarded as a symbol of bravery and a metaphor for the ruler of the country, wise men, heroic people and the like. Especially falconry was enjoyed only by the supreme ruler in Japan. Also, according to the old records, hawks were one of the most important items after rice in trade.

Clothing Painting

The painting classifies the types of the clothes, household goods and the like with the names and sizes of the materials.

Painting of Tongsinsa Vessel
Japan, Late-18th Century~Early-19th Century

Drawn by the Japanese artist Ishijaki Yushi (石崎融思, 1768–1846), this picture portrays a Korean, apparently a Joseon Royal Envoy, seated in a pavilion in the center; various articles, such as basins and a leopardskin chair, suggest they are from the Joseon era. The shape of the vessel does not seem like an ordinary envoy vessel, but through the decorations of dragons and haetae, a mythical unicorn lion, it can be assumed that the vessel represents Joseon.

The ship in the painting is known as Panokseon, Joseon’s board roofed ship, and it is decorated with splendid red and white colors. It has the raised roofed observation platform which is the same with the structure depicted in 『The procession of Joseon’s envoy』(1748) preserved in the library of Tokyo Keizai University. And it is also similar to the structure of the ships described in 『Dongsarok』 and 『Hwabangnusunsul (The description of the super structure of the ship decorated with paintings of flowers)』 written by Jo Gyeong, a deputy commissioner of the delegation dispatched in 1643. 14 members of the delegation are depicted in the painting.

Painting of Tongsinsa Vessels
Japan, 18th Century

An anonymous painting showing the Joseon Royal Envoy Vessels entering a port of Japan. At the bottom left are high officials of the envoy heading to shore after changing to a smaller boat. The Japanese wait for them on shore. This unattributed painting seems to combine two works by Kano Tanshin (狩野探信, 1785–1835), “The Joseon Royal Envoy vessels drawn on a Folding Screen” (朝鮮通信使船団図屏風), and is presumed to date from the 18th century.

Painting of Joseon Tongsinsa Procession
Japan, 19th Century

The painting reinterprets the painting of Joseon Tonginsa Precession produced in 1711. The deep-color pigment clearly appears on the painting and the facial expressions of the people and designs are expressed in detail. Characteristically, unlike the other pictures of the procession, the painting doesn’t include Busa and Jongsagwan, who are the major officials of the delegation.

Painting of Parade for Joseon Diplomatic Interpreters
Japan, 1839

The scroll painting depicts the parade for Joseon’s diplomatic interpreters (Munwihaeng) who visited Tsushima in 1838 passing Babasuji street in Izuhara, showing a horseman leading the parade, the group of people playing Korean traditional music, Daechwita, and a ministerial interpreters sitting on a sedan chair, but there is no official below third rank on the painting. And there are samurai officials, Bugyo, who escort the parade at the end of the group showing every major part of the parade for Munwihaeng. The clothes of horsemen, military officers, young entertainers called Sodong, the Korean traditional musical band, Chwitadae, and others are depicted including the red lacquered box which contains diplomatic documents, the black lacquered box holing an official hat, tablets carried by low-level interpreters and others, which help to see all parts of Munweihaeng.

Painting of Joseon Tongsinsa's Route from Tokyo to Joseon
Japan, Ikeda Teisai

The 2 pieces of scroll painting offer a panoramic view of the journey from Edo(Tokyo) to Joseon. One piece of the panoramic map reaches 10m. The volume 1 depicts the journey from Edo to Kyoto through Nagoya and the volume 2 displays the sea and land routes from Kyoto to Joseon including the geographic information of Japan’s major towns, temples, shrines, famous sites and others. The scroll painting preserved by KNMM is considered an important relic which helps advance the research on the history of the relationship between both countries and art, since it shows the entire journey from Edo to Joseon in detail.

The names of the regions marked on the volume one are Edo, Sinagawa, Oiso, Odawara, Seikenji, Ejiri, Fuchu, Shizuoka, Arai, Yoshida (Toyohashi), Akasaka, Nagoya and others.

There are also the names of the regions on the volume two along with the path taken by the delegation fleet dispatched from Joseon. The major names of the regions on the map are the Lake Biwa in Kyoto, Osaka, Yodo, Hyogo, Murotsu, Ushimado, Tomoura, Kamagari, Kaminoseki, Shimonoseki (Akamagaseki), Aino Island (Aishima), Iki, Joseon and others. There are red lines along with the path from the coast of the Seto Inland Sea to Kanmon straits, which indicate that the members of the delegation fleet were transferred to small vessels at the major bases and branches of the rivers on the map.

Potrait of Park Ju-Bu
19th Century

The scroll has a portrait of a person sitting in a chair and long phrases at the top. The rectangular-shaped scroll which distribute the spaces for phrases and a portrait.

The style of painting and phrases in the scroll clearly show the characteristic. The phrases at the top are written by Park Jae-chang(1649-1720 or later) whose courtesy name is Do Gyeung. The phrases and the seal at the end of the phrases indicate the background to the situation, the time it was written and others. He was one of major interpreters of the delegation, Munweihaeng, dispatched to Daemado (Tsushima ruled by Japanese ruler, daimyo) by one of Joseon’s administrative agency, Yaejo, in 1713.

Since the type of the official uniform which has a rank badge on its chest and the belt the person in the painting wears were worn by the officials of Joseon and Ming dynasty, it indicates where the painting was produced.


Yi Duk-hyung (1566~1645) whose courtesy name is Juk Cheun was dispatched to Ming dynasty to ask for approval to install Injo (reigned, 1623-1649) as a legitimate king of Joseon in 1624. The document contains the record of the first half of his diplomatic journey from June 20, 1624 to October 13 of the same year centering on the major events happened during the dates. The records which describe the journey from July 24 to September 23 of the year are about sailing the ocean. According to the record, there were three major officials in the delegation. The envoy called Jungsa was performed by Yi Duk-hyung, Oh Suk(1592-1634) served as deputy commissioner in the delegation and Hong Ik-han(1586-1649) carried out the role of secretary. The journey started from Seonsapo harbor in the Korea’s province of Hamgyong and sailed to Deungju in China’s Shandong province with 400 sailors and 6 ships. It was a 3,760 li journey (about 1,476 km).

Japan, 1719

The book documents conversations among the officials of the delegation dispatched from Joseon dynasty to celebrate the inauguration of Tokugawa Yoshimune. Hong Chi-jung (envoy), Hwang Sun (deputy commissioner), Yi Myeong-eon (chief administrative officer) and Shin Yu-han (official litterateur) are involved in the conversation and the content of the conversation was transcribed by a Japanese man of letters, Hatta Sekiken in 1719 (in the 45th year of King Sukjong’s reign).

They exchanged their poems telling about themselves and asked about whether they have another pen names and issues of interpretation and others.

Drifting Records
18th Century

A book by Choe Bu (崔溥, 1454–1504), recording his trajectory from being washed ashore in Zhejiang Province of Yeongpa-bu in China and his return to Uiju.

He was later ordered by the King to write a journal of his experiences China and North Korea (中朝見聞日記) in which he recorded details of of the contemporary Ming Dynasty, including its politics, social system, military, transportation, environment, cities, and customs. The book not only reveals information about the 15th century Ming Dynasty, but also describes conversations between Choe Bu and Ming intellectuals, providing a precious resource for learning about aspects of cultural exchange between the two countries during early Joseon.

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