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A Study of Hypertexts of «Kuunmong» 九雲夢, Focusing on «Kuullu» 九雲樓 / «Kuun’gi» 九雲記

Nine Clouds in Motion


Dennis Wuerthner

This case study deals with late Chosŏn dynasty works of narrative fiction modelled after Kuunmong (A Dream of Nine Clouds) by Kim Manjung (1637–1692). The focus lies on a novel extant in two manuscripts: Sinjŭng Kuullu (Revised augmented edition of the Nine Cloud Tower) and Sinjŭng chaeja Kuun’gi (Revised augmented caizi edition of the Story of Nine Clouds), short Kuullu/Kuun’gi. While this study specifically discusses late premodern hypertexts of Kuunmong, it is also concerned with a set of broader questions regarding the diffusion, circulation, reception, and creative transformation of literary products of different languages on the eve of modernity in Sino-centric East Asia.

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1. Introduction


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1.   Introduction

Kuunmong 九雲夢 (A Dream of Nine Clouds or The Cloud Dream of the Nine),1 which is today considered the first full-fledged Korean novel, was written in 1687/1688 by Kim Manjung 金萬重 (1637–1692, pen name Sŏp’o 西浦),2 a prominent scholar officials of seventeenth century Chosŏn dynasty Korea (1392–1897).3 Belonging to the genre of dream-journey fiction,4 Kuunmong is structurally divided into a frame-narrative showing a “reality”, and a core-narrative depicting a “dream”: the initial part of the frame-narrative relates the story of the Buddhist monk Sŏngjin’s 性眞 fall from grace due to his liaison with eight Daoist fairies and his subsequent banishment from a heavenly Buddhist realm into earthly life; the core dream-narrative narrates the story of Sŏngjin’s human reincarnation Yang Soyu 楊少游 and his quest to assemble eight women around him in accordance with the rites and eventually lead a life of civil and military glory and success; while the closing part of the frame-narrative shows Sŏngjin being woken from his dream by his Master Yukkwan (Yukkwan taesa 六觀大師), and realizing the vacuity of human pursuit. Today the novel is considered an unsurpassed masterpiece of Korean literature, and studies on various aspects of Kuunmong are legion, both in Korea and the West.

Kuunmong was immensely popular in mid to late nineteenth century Chosŏn Korea. This can be seen, for example, in an entry in Oju yŏnmun changjŏn san’go 五洲衍文長箋散稿 (Scattered Manuscripts of Glosses and...

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