(Translation) 劉鮑問答

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"Yupo mundap [Questions and answers with Hallerstein and Gogeisl]" is a short script from Hong Daeyong (洪大容 MR:Hong Taeyong, 1731-1783)'s Record of an Embassy to Beijing 燕記 included in his anthology Damheonseo [MR: Tamhǒnsǒ 湛軒書]. It describes his encounter with two Jesuit missionaries, Ferdinand Augustin von Hallerstein (1703-1774 劉松齡) and Anton Gogeisl (date unknown 鮑友官), in the Southern Church in Beijing, which took place on the 9th day of the 1st month of 1766. The record includes his observation on western architecture, paintings, the world map, astronomical devices, musical instruments and other products as well as his comments on the two missionaries.

This travelogue is significant as it reveals the direct introduction of western learning to Joseon court through the channel established in Qing China. Hong mentioned the fact that his company Yi Deokseong (李德星 MR: Yi Tǒksǒng, date unknown) was ordered by the court to go visit these two missionaries, ask questions about the western calendar and to purchase astronomical devices. Such interest on Western Learning from Joseon court already appeared in the early reign of King Yeongjo(英祖 MR: Yǒngjo r.1724-1776) since the existing calendar did not match the reality.[1] Nonetheless, there were still objections to adopting new knowledge influenced by Western Learning.[2] Eventually in the 15th year(1791) of King Jeongjo(正祖 MR:Chǒngjo r.1776-1800), 30 years after Hong's visit to Beijing, those books were officially adopted by the court by the command of the King to be used as textbooks for civil examinations.[3]

Another importance is that we can see Hong's departure from sinocentrism supported by his admiration to the precise western astronomy, calendar and meteorology. He found these knowledge from the West fulfilling the lack of the existing calendric calculation from the Han and Tang which did not accurately solve the precession of equinoxes. In addition, his criticism on other Koreans who behaved inappropriately in the church with much disrepect to the missionaries depicts an interesting picture of Korean responses toward the West at that time.

In this sense, this record shows Hong's practical attitude as a Silhak [MR: Shirhak] scholar who actively advocated new learnings from Qing China, contrary to then existing notion of revering Ming and rejecting Qing 崇明排淸. The fact that he voluntarily joined the group of envoys to Beijing to confirm his knowledge on the Western Learning by personally observing new books, stores, customs and famous sites influenced by westerners, and that he made personal interpretations and comments without relying on classical allusion reveal his practical character.

Original Script

Image Text Translation



Ferdinand Augustin von Hallerstein (Liu Songling 劉松齡) and Anton Gogeisl (Bao Youguan 鮑友官) are all from Western Sea. During the reign of the Emperor Manli(萬曆 r.1573-1619) of Ming Dynasty, Matteo Ricci(Li Madou 利瑪竇, 1552-1610) came to China. Thereby exchanges with the Westerners began. They[The Westerners] propagate their teachings by the means of mathematics, they are also skilled in astronomical devices. Their astronomical and meteorological observations are miraculously accurate. As for the delicacy of their calendar and meteorology, there was nothing like that since the era of Han and Tang dynasties. After the death of Li Madou, those who crossed the sea toward East never stopped coming. China also highly regarded them and utilized their skills. Those who are fond of meddling / Curiosity-mongers often revered their learning. In the later period of Emperor Kangxi [康煕, r.1662-1722], even more westerners came to China. The Emperor collected their skills and composed the book Shuli jingyun [數理精蘊, Essence of Numbers and their Principles] to pass it to the Imperial Board of Astronomy 欽天監. Indeed, this book became profound basis of calendar and meteorology. The Emperor also constructed four churches inside the capital and thereby provided them a residence bestowing the title Tianxiangtai (天象臺). Because of this, Western learning flourished [in China] and all those who concern astrology referred to the western technology. 。............translation ongoing.................. Since the reign of Emperor Kangxi (康煕, r.1661-1722), Korean envoys to Beijing would visit the church and ask for an observation. Then those westerners would gladly welcome and lead them into the church, let them tour inside showing them exotic paintings, icons and ritual vessels. Besides, the Westerners would present them extraordinary products from the West as gifts. Thus these envoys covet their products, delight in the exotic view and cultivated a habit of yearly visits. It is only the Korean custom that makes the people behave arrogantly and haughtily toward these Westerners without proper manners. Some even did not repay their hospitality. In addition, some ignorant servants who followed these envoys would often smoke and spit inside the church and carelessly touched those ritual vessels ignoring their sacred nature. In recent days, the Westerners hated such behavior even more. They would always refuse our request of meeting them, and even if they accepted a meeting, they would treat us without sincerity. Liu Songling and Bao Youguan reside in South Church. Their knowledge on calculation is superior, and the architecture of their residence is the best among the four churches [in Beijing]. Koreans would always come and go to visit there. Fifth minister Yi Deokseong (李德星 MR: Yi Tǒksǒng, date unknown) is an official of the Astronomical Institute who has a general knowledge on calendar. Upon this travel to Beijing, he had an order from the court to pose a question to those two westerners about the calculation of the movement of the five stars as well as about the accuracy of their calendar. Besides, he was ordered to purchase all kinds of observatory devices. I promised him to accompany in those matters.



  • Discussion Questions:

Q1. What was the impact of Hong's record to Joseon society?

Q2. Did it make any change in Joseon court's attitude toward western learning?

Q3. What impact did this encounter with missionaries do to Hong?

Q4. Hong's perception on the West - how is it different from that of Yi Sugwang?

Further Readings

Saje, Mitja. “The Importance of Ferdinand Augustin Hallerstein for Cultural and Political Relations with China and Korea,” Asian Studies III (XIX) 2 (2015): 13–32.

Kim, Minho. "One from the East, One from the West: the uneasy encounters between Hong Tae-yong and Augustin Hallerstein in mid-eighteenth century Beijing," Acta Koreana (20) 2 (2017): 501-528.
  1. cf.http://sjw.history.go.kr/id/SJW-F13040040-04300
  2. http://sjw.history.go.kr/id/SJW-F42040200-01500
  3. http://sillok.history.go.kr/id/kva_11510027_003