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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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6. Markets, mosaics, and Nine Clouds in motion


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6.   Markets, mosaics, and Nine Clouds in motion

In nineteenth century Chosŏn Korea, KUM was received by members of various social strata, though the extant sources, as well as the printing history of the work, suggest that the majority of its premodern readers consisted of the traditionally educated, who knew how to enjoy the work in Literary Chinese. It was demonstrated in this study that KUM was popular, particularly during a time marked by a heightened interest in, demand for, and circulation of narrative literature in prose – a time in which Korean and Chinese novels were avidly consumed. The popularity of the novel as a form spawned, and was itself intensified by, the growth of commercial publishing, which in turn led to a growing book market, in which context KUM seems to have been extensively sold in shops or on markets, and given out by booklenders and circulating libraries. This commercial aspect, as well as the fact that novels were oftentimes read out loud and performed, underpin the theory that in late premodern Korea, novels were not savored as high art, or read for their religious or philosophic meaning, but rather consumed as an entertaining, exciting pastime. This appears to have applied to KUM as well: on the one hand, in the obviously commercially-successful editions, such as the later Kyehaebon-editions, the story’s romantic, fantastic elements were enhanced while its original conclusion, deeply rooted in religious beliefs, was increasingly distorted; on the other hand,...

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