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Frontiers of Literary Studies in China

Front Liter Stud Chin    2013, Vol. 7 Issue (3) : 396-421
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The Conceptualization of Qing-Era (1644–1911) Chinese Literature in Nineteenth Century Chos?n (1392–1910) Korea
Gregory N. Evon()
School of Humanities and Languages, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia
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In a poem composed in 1832, the Chos?n-Korean polymath Ch?ng Yagyong (1762–1836) declared his fidelity towards Confucian literary principles. Ch?ng’s poem was a product of an elite education, and in both form and content, it embodied the ideals of the Chos?n elite: written in classical Chinese rather than Korean, it was an expression of cultural self-confidence. From the point of view of nationalism and its emphasis on vernaculars, it seems strange to define oneself through a cosmopolitan written language. But Ch?ng was no nationalist. He was a Confucian conservative, and the sense of distinction and difference that animated Ch?ng’s poem was Confucian and literary. His articulation of such ideals manifested unease over the erosion of Confucian literary values in China and the prospect of the same occurring in Chos?n under Chinese influence. The source of that influence was books imported from China. What Ch?ng was reacting against was, at root, the commodification of literature and all that had entailed in Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) China. Although such concerns had grown increasingly urgent a half-century before, they had a long pedigree in Chos?n, stretching back to debates that had arisen in relation to Ming China and the principal emblem of the commodification of literature: commercial bookstores. This paper examines some of the principal differences between Chinese and Korean literary cultures that were embodied in Ch?ng. It therefore begins with a brief overview of Ch?ng and his poem, before turning to a discussion of some key sociopolitical and intellectual features that distinguished Chos?n’s literary culture from that of China. Sixteenth-century attitudes towards bookstores are discussed to contextualize subsequent worries over Chinese books, with special attention given to the historical and historiographical dimensions of the question, before concluding with an assessment of the final moments of direct Chinese literary influence in Korea.

Keywords Ch?ng Yagyong      Chinese literature in Chos?n Korea      literary commercialization      Ming-Qing China      Chos?n Korea     
Corresponding Authors: Gregory N. Evon,   
Issue Date: 05 September 2013
 Cite this article:   
Gregory N. Evon. The Conceptualization of Qing-Era (1644–1911) Chinese Literature in Nineteenth Century Chos?n (1392–1910) Korea[J]. Front Liter Stud Chin, 2013, 7(3): 396-421.
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