Space and Location in the Circulation of Knowledge (1400–1800)

Korea and Beyond

by Marion Eggert (Volume editor) Felix Siegmund (Volume editor) Dennis Würthner (Volume editor)
©2014 Conference proceedings 162 Pages
Series: Research on Korea, Volume 1


In response to the recent surge of interest in studying epistemic transfers and changes, this volume assembles an interdisciplinary range of articles that look at the production, consumption and dissemination of knowledge in East Asia, centering on Korea, under the paradigm of knowledge circulation. Applying this heuristic tool offers new perspectives on pre-modern Korea and beyond. It allows for flexibility of scale and thus facilitates the identification of shared processes of appropriation, digestion and re-distribution of ideas, regardless of whether the exchanges take place between states and nations, between social groups, or even between individuals. The articles in this volume stress the spatial and social aspects of the process of knowledge circulation in particular: the role of location and of social networks in the production, evaluation and dissemination of new knowledge.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Preface: Circulation of Knowledge as Theme and Method in Korean Studies – Marion Eggert
  • Introduction Knowledge as a Subject of East Asian History – Felix Siegmund/Dennis Wuerthner
  • Works cited
  • Early Chosŏn Painting, Social Reorganization, and the Knowledge of Chinese Literati Arts – Burglind Jungmann
  • Glossary
  • Bibliography
  • The Circulation of Military Knowledge and its Localization. Some Notes on the Case of Military Techniques in Late Chosŏn Korea – Felix Siegmund
  • Theory and practice of military knowledge
  • The sources vs. tradition
  • The Great Blending
  • Qi Jiguang in Korea
  • The actors in military knowledge
  • Adaption and/or Translation
  • Adaptation: Spreading the Texts
  • Drill and Military Education Systems
  • Guns and Wagons
  • Local men and local books as factors in military knowledge
  • Periphery and center
  • Regional adaptation and military geography
  • Conclusion
  • Glossary
  • References
  • A Study on the Assimilation of Qing Military Technology in Chosŏn during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries – Kang Seok Hwa
  • Introduction
  • Contacts and Conflicts: The years 1590 – 1630
  • The Japanese Invasions
  • The Jurchen Attacks
  • Warnings and Preparations: The years 1640–1730
  • Exchange and Reception: The years 1740–1790
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Media and Migration: Qing Imperial Approaches to Technological Knowledge Circulation – Dagmar Schäfer
  • Abstract
  • The Institutionalization of Craft Production during the Ming and Qing era
  • Technology: Material Production, Social Systems and the State
  • Consumption in and beyond the Court
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • The Prohibited Sect of Yaso: Catholicism in Diplomatic and Cultural Encounters between Edo Japan and Chosŏn Korea (17th to 19th Century) – Pierre-Emmanuel Roux
  • Catholicism in the Tokugawa shogunate foreign policy
  • Official cooperation and officious refusal: Korea’s response to Japan in the seventeenth century
  • The “Sect of Yaso”: From Japanese requests to Korean curiosity (eighteenth century)
  • The repression of a dangerous and mysterious sect
  • Korean uses of the Japanese prohibition
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Text and Orality in the Early Reception of Western Learning within the Namin Faction. The Example of Sin Hudam’s Kimunp’yŏn – Marion Eggert
  • 1) Sin Hudam and his Kimunp’yŏn
  • 2) Locations and social networks
  • 3) Books and Conversations
  • Conclusion
  • References

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Circulation of Knowledge as Theme and Method in Korean Studies

Marion Eggert

In the course of the last decade the theme of knowledge, be it knowledge production, knowledge transfer or epistemic changes, has gained ever more prominence in the (historical and contemporary) study of cultures – a development that closely mirrors the increase of interdisciplinary work in this field and the ensuing willingness to no longer study societal sub-systems like literature, arts, academia, and politics in isolation, but to look at the larger systems of knowledge that inform them all, albeit in different ways. This volume of essays is one of the outcomes of a research project which, being part of this wave, sees its task in testing, and therefore temporarily privileging, the heuristic metaphor of knowledge circulation, as it encapsulates a number of useful ideas and notions:

 It helps to conceive of knowledge as constantly in motion. Knowledge can be realized as such only when it is communicated, be it linguistically or by putting it to use; in a fundamental sense, knowledge can be stored, but not immobilized.

 The constant transfer thus posited as a defining element of knowledge is visualized by this metaphor as a non-linear, process in which the roles of donor and receiver of knowledge are constantly in flux and potentially interchangeable.

 Although it is not expressly part of the linguistic image, the idea of knowledge being inevitably transformed in the process of circulation has become part and parcel of the metaphor’s academic usage. Speaking of the circulation of knowledge thus entices the study of the intricate processes by which social communities constantly re-formulate their intellectual underpinnings in the act of integrating or rejecting new items of knowledge.

Under the paradigm of circulation, the production, consumption and dissemination of knowledge are looked at as a single, close-knit process which invariably leads to dynamic transformations of both objects of knowledge and their (social and intellectual) context, and which unfolds both within and beyond circumscribed social communities. Using the metaphor of knowledge circulation as a heuristic tool in the study of culture therefore tends to lead to certain methodological ← 7 | 8 → preferences. The most conspicuous among these is the tendency towards flexibility of scale: Knowledge circulation can be perceived as taking place between states and nations, but also between individuals; it is best studied when asking questions pertaining to both levels, as well as those in between. Research along these lines, while not leading towards disregarding national or state borders, strengthens resistance against allowing the latter to define or even limit one’s scope of inquiry. These methodological pre-configurations seem to us particularly useful for the study of Korea, both past and present.

Putting these assumptions to the test, the Korean Studies institutes at Ruhr Universität Bochum and Freie Universität Berlin have jointly conducted a research project titled “Circulation of Knowledge and the Dynamics of Transformation: Korea and Beyond”, funded by the Academy of Korean Studies, since 2009.1 The present volume builds on the project’s first conference, held in May 2011 under the title “Social Networks and Location in the Circulation of Knowledge” at Ruhr Universität Bochum. In this conference we explored the intertwined aspects of physical and social spaces in the spread, use, and transformation of knowledge, asking “where” and “by whom” knowledge is set in motion. Subsequent conferences have focused on the metaphor of translation as a heuristic device to describe the way in which knowledge is transformed during the transfer process, thus asking about the “how” of knowledge circulation (“Lost and Found in Policy Translation”, Berlin 2012), and on the ways in which knowledge is accepted, digested, re-distributed and re-configured, inquiring into the results and effects of the processes in question (“Integration processes in the circulation of knowledge”, Bochum 2013). Naturally, these different aspects of the knowledge circulation process cannot be neatly distinguished in individual contributions that study specific cases, using a methodology rather than reflecting on its implications. Still, the focus of this volume on spatial and social aspects can be clearly recognized. To further provide for coherence, we have decided to include only pre-modern case studies in this publication.

We are grateful to those conference participants who presented papers on modern and contemporary themes and greatly enriched our discussions with their insights; they are Eric Ballbach (Berlin), Sukman Jang (Seoul), and Eun-jeung Lee (Berlin). Special thanks are due to Catherine Jami (Paris) who served as a discussant and from whose insightful comments we have all learned very much. The same holds true for Dagmar Schäfer who, in addition to her own paper, also served as a discussant. ← 8 | 9 →

Without the support of the Academy of Korean Studies (AKS), neither the conference nor this publication would have been possible. For further institutional support, we are grateful to the Center for Religious Studies (CERES) at Ruhr University.

My personal thanks go to Dennis Wuerthner and Felix Siegmund (both Bochum), who bore the brunt of the organization work for the conference, were the driving force behind the publication of this volume, and took upon themselves the arduous task of providing it with an introduction. This volume is, first and foremost, their achievement.

1 AKS Overseas Leading University Program for Korean Studies, AKS-2009-MA-1001.

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Knowledge as a Subject of East Asian History

Felix Siegmund/Dennis Wuerthner

Starting from the general assumptions about processes of knowledge transfer and transformation as outlined in the preface, this volume aims at highlighting the spatial dimension of knowledge circulation, in conjunction with the social dimension. Thus, our main questions concern the sociology of knowledge. Who are the most important actors in the physical circulation of new knowledge (importers of books, art objects, technical appliances), who are the main transformers (interpreting the items of knowledge in the light of the known and in the light of societal and intellectual needs), who are the main distributors, and how are these (different or not so different) actors connected? Can we describe local, regional or transregional networks in the exchange and dissemination of knowledge? How do local experiences and specific needs impact on the circulation process? To what extent is spatial disjunction a barrier to knowledge circulation, and can the latter be better understood by delineating the limits of social networks? What role do aspects of social status and gender play in these processes?

Knowledge is a very broad category which can include all aspects of social existence and it cannot exist in any other context than a social one. As the Chosŏn literatus Chŏng T’ak (1526–1605) remarked: “Books do not travel by themselves. They depend on humans to make them travel.”1 Social contexts on the other hand are necessarily bound to specific spaces and locations – even in our age, where the term “social network” has begun to take another meaning. But social networks existed long before the development of worldwide communications that allowed for the creation of a global village of the more privileged layers of the world population (again, location here is a compelling reality). This volume is about the workings of knowledge in North East Asia – mostly Korea – in times when travel was difficult and restricted, when communication was done either orally or by writing on inconvenient materials, and when knowledge was nevertheless circulated quite vibrantly over long spatial distances, developing under different conditions in different locations, and both crossing and constructing social separations. ← 11 | 12 →


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (June)
Knowledge Transformation Knowledge Adaption Knowledge Circulation
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 162 pp., 1 table

Biographical notes

Marion Eggert (Volume editor) Felix Siegmund (Volume editor) Dennis Würthner (Volume editor)

Marion Eggert is professor of Korean Studies at Bochum University (Germany). She has published on Korean and Chinese literature, especially travel literature and intellectual history, as well as on literary and intellectual transactions within East Asia. Felix Siegmund currently teaches Chinese history at Bochum University. He researches on military knowledge in northern East Asia in the 17th century and has published on Korean agrarian history and on Manchu translations. Dennis Würthner is a researcher and lecturer for Korean Studies at Bochum University. His research interests include the modes and forms of pre-modern literary transformation of Korean texts.


Title: Space and Location in the Circulation of Knowledge (1400–1800)
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162 pages