동국통감 | Tongguk t'onggam | 東國通鑑
This book is a chronological history of Korea encompassing the era of Park Hyeokgeose, the founding monarch of Silla, to that of King Gongyang of the Goryeo Dynasty which was published by Seo Geo-jeong and others under the royal order of the King Seongjong in 1485. It was printed on movable metal type (Gapjin type) with 56 chapters bound in 20 volumes.
The compilation of this book began in 1458 with the royal order of King Sejo until it was suspended with his death in 1468. The compilation of this book resumed in 1483, reached completion in 1484, and was printed in 1485 supplemented with historical essays written by the compilers with Gapjin type into 56 chapters bound in 28 volumes.
King Sejo’s original intention was to systematically organize the history of Korea from ancient times and to publish a chronological history resembling the Comprehensive Mirror to Aid in Government (資治通鑑) of China.
Following the first edition printed in 1485 with Gapjin type, many copies of this book have been made in both movable metal type and woodblock print editions. The McCormick Collection edition is complete with 56 chapters bound in 20 volumes and was published during the 16th century with re-cast Gabin type. Although one volume from 44 to 46 is supplemented with a manuscript, the re-cast Gabin type edition is a rare artifact known to be held in Korea solely by the Kyujanggak Institute for Korean Studies.
The book begins with“Preface to Complete Mirror of the Eastern Kingdom (東國通鑑序)” by Yi Geuk-don, “Explanatory Notes for Complete Mirror of the Eastern Kingdom (東國通鑑凡例),”which consists of 12 articles that explain the principles upon which the book was written, “Foreword to the King for Complete Mirror of the Eastern Kingdom (進東國通鑑箋)” by Seo Geo-jeong and others, and “Table of Contents.” Next, a section titled “Other Periods (外紀)” briefly describes the Dangun Joseon (檀君朝鮮), Gija Joseon (箕子朝鮮), Wiman Joseon (衛滿朝鮮), Sagun (四郡), Ibu (二府), and Samhan (三韓) eras.
Chapters 1 through 8, “Period of the Three Kingdoms (三國紀),” ranges from the establishment of the three countries to the year 669 (9th year of King Munmu’s reign of Silla), Chapters 9 through 12, “Period of Silla Dynasty (新羅紀),” extends from 669 to 935 ,“Period of Goryeo Dynasty (高麗紀),” stretches from 935 to the period under the reign of King Gongyang of Goryeo.
The time before the formation of the three kingdoms was only explained briefly under “Other Periods” since a genealogical or chronological account of that period was impossible due to the lack of historical resources. Also, “Period of Silla Dynasty” was published as a separate section to emphasize the unification of Silla, while at the same time taking care not to afford Silla special recognition and providing an equal account of the three countries.
A total of 382 historical essays are included in this book. Most historical essays feature critiques of the status quo and emphasize Joseon’s duty to serve China as a vassal state. Furthermore, many of the essays commend Gangsang ethics (三綱五常): the Three Bonds (morals between king and subject, father and son, husband and wife) and Five Constant Virtues (benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and fidelity), praising adherence to such values. The intention of these essays was to uphold the hierarchy between king and subject, father and son, men and women and in reality to consolidate the political status of the King and royal authority.