New version of Yorha Ilgi discovered

It’s always exciting when something new and exciting is discovered getting dusty in a forgotten corner of a library somewhere. This time it’s an early nineteenth century version of Pak Chi-won’s (朴趾源) Yorha Ilgi (熱河日記), a travelogue of the writer’s journey to Beijing in 1780, when he accompanied his older brother on a diplomatic mission. What makes this different is that it’s written in vernacular Korean. In other words, it’s a very early translation of the original text written in literary Chinese. In fact it’s the only complete translation of the text found to date. According to the Korea Times it was discovered in the library of Tokyo University by a Seoul National University professor. We have a few of these han’gŭl manuscripts at SOAS, mostly very well-thumbed late nineteenth-century novels, but could there be a lost treasure among them?


  1. “Local bookmaker Greenbee Publishing produced an English book “A Philosopher’s Journey Into Rehe” last year, which is a translation of a Korean book on Pak’s literature and journey to China.” This Korean book was an attempt by our great contemporary Korean “critic of modernity”, Dr. Ko Misuk, to destroy the old myth that Pak Chiwon was a “harbinger of modern development”, a “modernity-oriented sirhak thinker” and so on. As Aladdin shows us, Ko Misuk’s bold rereading of Park Chiwon became a bestseller – and was eventually translated into English at the government’s expense, as one of 100-something books to represent Korea at Frankfurt. But my feeling was that the translation badly needed some editing – and more thorough comments. I hope SOAS library has a copy?

  2. We certainly have a copy of the original book at SOAS. I expect the English translation is in one of the many boxes awaiting [my] cataloging. I’ll be sure to check it out when I come across it.

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