JEONG CHEOK MAP OF KOREA’S CAPITAL PROVINCE

Map of the capital province, Joseon Korea.

Korea, first half of 18th century.

£2,750

Hand-drawn map, first half of the 18th century, depicting the capital (gyeonggi 京畿) province of Joseon Korea. It is fourth of the eight provinces of Joseon Korea (Joseon paldo 朝鮮八道, which were reorganised into the 13 modern provinces in 1896.) It states the administrative classification of each district or outpost, as well as how many days of overland travel are required to reach it from the capital. It was intended to aid scholar-officials holding government civil service positions in planning their journeys. This map was produced by an unknown Joseon Korean cartographer in the celebrated and highly distinctive “Jeong Cheok” style, and it is a superb example of this quintessential pre-19th century cartographical tradition.

Mounted within thin oriental wood, framed and glazed, on bamboo paper, measuring 45cm x 39.3cm, including fabric border of 6.1-6.7cm. The map itself is 32.2cm x 27.1cm. Text border on all sides, however all but the outer border have been cropped. The border that remains is 0.9-1.2cm deep, with a slither remaining along the top. The paper has occasional faint darker areas, however none diminish the legibility or artistry. The map was folded into twelve parts, leaving two horizontal and three vertical creases, with very slight wear, including a small hole in the lower centre of the map at the intersection of two creases. Small tear in the far lower left, however the area affected is only ocean. There is also a small black smudge in the ocean just off the tip of the north-western peninsula.

The map has been produced in the style of Jeong Cheok (정척/鄭陟, 1390– 1475), a successful 15th century cartographer, himself a scholar-retainer who served several Joseon kings. The modern concepts of latitude and longitude were not understood in Korea until the early 19th century, and the flatness and distortion of the land in Jeong Cheok-style representations reflect this. Nonetheless, the shape, layout, and topographical properties of the provinces are depicted with impressive accuracy, enabling an overland traveller to plan the most direct route avoiding natural barriers. “Jeong Cheok” maps bear a number of distinct stylistic characteristics. First, further information is added in a text border surrounding the map. Second, natural topographical features are highly simplified; mountains are indicated symbolically as a jagged row of uniform peaks, and coasts and waterways are low-detail. Third, districts – always with two-syllable names – and military bases are represented by uniformly sized bubbles. In this map, these bubbles are pink; the district name is written down the centre of the bubble; to the right is the number of days of overland travel required to reach it from the capital, and to the left is its administrative classification. The capital city (gyeong ) bubble is circled twice. The Joseon administrative classification system includes, from largest to smallest, the bu (provincial capital city), mok (mid-level city), gun or su (county or prefecture), and finally lyeong or gam (small town).

The lines and text of the map are drawn in black ink. Land is uncoloured, while water is depicted in a light blue wash. Strikingly, water is coloured darker blue where it meets land. Mountains are coloured brown and labelled. Islands, also named, are depicted as white ovals in the ocean. Land-based outposts (yeogdo 驛道) and offshore ocean settlements are marked in white boxes. There is a title box with “Capital – [province] four” (gyeonggi sa 京畿四) in the top right corner. Within the text border running along the top, left, and right sides, there are remarks about what lies beyond the map in these directions.

L1755

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