In the old histories it is said that Koryŏ people are usually very clean. It remains so to this day. They always laugh about how dirty the Chinese (Zhongguoren 中國人) are.… They gather in brooks and streams, without separating men and women, and all leave their clothes and hats on the bank. They do not find it strange to undress in the middle of the stream. (p. 159)

So observed Xu Jing (1091–1153), a celebrated calligrapher and eclectic scholar of late Northern Song (960–1127) China, in the summer of 1123 while on the envoy to Koryŏ (935–1392) commissioned by Emperor Huizong (r. 1100–1125). Marveling at what to him are the bizarre local customs of ordinary Koryŏ people, Xu Jing forms his self-identity as “Chinese,” as reflected in his conscious choice of the term “zhongguo ren.”

Xu Jing's Illustrated Account describes the various aspects of Koryŏ in its...

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