Existing research tends to treat the transition from Chosŏn-Ming relations to Chosŏn-Qing relations as an uninterrupted process and the two relations as equivalent to each other. This article will show, from Chosŏn's perspective, how relations between Chosŏn and Later Jin evolved between 1605 and 1636 and later influenced Chosŏn-Qing relations. While Chosŏn initially treated Later Jin as barbarians and not as an official state, after the establishment of Later Jin, equal interstate relations were established through the exchange of royal letters (kuksŏ 國書) and envoys (sinsa 信使) during the years 1627–29. Negotiations continued until the Second Manchu Invasion in 1636, during which time interactions with the Ming continued as usual but discussions with Later Jin through royal letters established bilateral relations. After 1636 and the establishment of the Qing dynasty, diplomatic documents followed the same format as Chosŏn-Ming relations, but Chosŏn still considered the Qing as barbarians and continued to express their loyalty to the Ming through covert actions affirming the Ming as the Heavenly Dynasty. Thus, Chosŏn-Ming relations and Chosŏn-Qing relations were qualitatively different and cannot be considered the same.
Ever since its establishment, Chosŏn (1392–1910) participated in a system of foreign relations with its neighbors, the most important being its sadae relations (事大, “serving the great”) with the Ming and the Qing. Chosŏn-Ming relations followed a strict set of regulations regarding diplomatic documents, royal seals, letters of investiture, and the dispatch and reception of envoys. Every aspect (reign dates, terms of address, the format of the letters, the title of the messenger, etc.) carried specific meaning and reflected the status of each state in their relations; in other words, it was necessary for Chosŏn-Ming communications to demonstrate the Ming's preeminent and exclusive status as the “Heavenly Dynasty.”1 Relations with other formally recognized states, or Neighboring Countries (in'guk 隣國), included Japan and Ryukyu.2 These relations, too, followed a defined format to express their equivalent status and bilateral relations. Chosŏn's policy toward the Jurchens, however, was of a totally different ilk. Chosŏn's “loose rein policy” utilized an irregular system of rewards and punishments for the indirect control of Jurchen chieftains living along the perimeter of Chosŏn's territory. This policy shows that Chosŏn viewed the Jurchens as barbaric tribes and not as an official state, since these tribes were scattered until their unification by the Jurchen chieftain Nurhaci (1559–1626) in the early seventeenth century as Later Jin.
Chosŏn was forced to modify its policies when Nurhaci demanded the establishment of official relations with Later Jin, which also meant Chosŏn's recognition of Later Jin as an official state.3 Due to its sadae relationship with the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), Chosŏn rejected official negotiations with the Jurchens because the Ming considered them as Subordinate Barbarians (sogi 屬夷) and Later Jin was not yet an official state. Similarly, from Chosŏn's perspective as the “Smaller Efflorescence” (sojunghwa 小中華, or “Little Central Efflorescence”),4 Chosŏn also regarded the Jurchens as barbarians (ijŏk 夷狄, “the Barbarians to the East and North”) and thus would not establish official relations with Later Jin. To Chosŏn, the Jurchen “state” established by Nurhaci was merely a new iteration of the Jianzhou 建州 Jurchens, and thus Chosŏn regarded Later Jin as an illegitimate political entity.5 It was not until the First Manchu Invasion in 1627 (known as chŏngmyo horan 丁卯胡亂) that Chosŏn acknowledged Later Jin as an independent sovereign state and official relations were established. The subsequent interstate relations between Chosŏn and Later Jin, which lasted for ten years, were historically significant because they influenced future Chosŏn-Qing relations, reflecting Chosŏn's rejection of Qing as the new cultural hegemonic power. While outwardly Chosŏn did accept Qing as the suzerain state or the “superpower” in the region and demonstrated this through ritual, internally it did not accept the Qing as the genuine Heavenly Dynasty (ch’ŏnjo 天朝) or as the imperial civilization equivalent to the Ming.6 This article will demonstrate how Chosŏn covertly expressed its repudiation of the Qing through subtle means such as terms of address in court debates, terms used to describe annual tribute and trade, and cessation of the salutation ritual toward the imperial palace (manggwŏllye 望闕禮) after the fall of the Ming, as well as the way in which Chosŏn continuously displayed its fidelity to the Ming by building shrines for the Ming emperors, using Ming reign dates in private letters, and inscribing the term “Ming Dynasty's Chosŏn” (yumyŏng Chosŏn'guk 有明朝鮮國) on epitaphs for royal family members.
Until recently, scholarly examination of Chosŏn–Later Jin relations has privileged the Chinese historical perspective through the use of the tributary system as the basic framework or through a focus on the Chinese worldview.7 Accordingly, scholars treat the Ming and Qing as the diplomatic counterparts of Chosŏn, and the Qing as the successor to the Ming, and rarely challenge the accepted view of the Qing as “China” from the perspective of Chosŏn in terms of civilization.8 Studies on Later Jin have focused on the “rise” of the Qing and Qing “state building” from a teleological perspective and rarely consider the progression of the Later Jin to the Qing dynasty as a contested process, especially from Chosŏn's perspective.9 From this perspective, Chosŏn–Later Jin interstate relations tend to be described as a relatively smooth transition from Chosŏn-Ming to Chosŏn-Qing relations, as Elder-Younger Brother relations after the First Manchu Invasion in 1627 and as Sovereign-Minister relations after the Second Manchu Invasion in 1636 (Ch'oe Soja 1975; Chen 1980; Ledyard 1983; Kim Chongwŏn 1999; G. R. Li 2002; Wei 2004; Han 2009). However, these interpretations equate Chosŏn-Ming and Chosŏn-Qing relations and assume that Chosŏn merely accepted the substitution of the Qing for the Ming after 1636. While some scholars acknowledge that Chosŏn had a different view of the Manchus from the Ming (Fairbank and Têng 1941; Naquin and Rawski 1987), this study will show how Chosŏn viewed the Qing as “China” on a stylistic level only and not culturally, by examining Chosŏn–Later Jin relations and analyzing them from Chosŏn's perspective. This shift in perspectives is crucial to interpreting the true nature of Chosŏn-Qing relations, which were qualitatively and fundamentally different from Chosŏn-Ming relations and consistently characterized the Qing as Chosŏn's cultural inferior.
As Clark points out, “the tribute system functioned relatively smoothly” between Chosŏn and the Ming because they shared mutual interests and subscribed to Confucian ideology (1998: 273). Recently, scholars have argued that the ideal nature of Chosŏn-Ming relations was an “exceptional” case (Kye 2009). On the other hand, Chosŏn-Qing relations were similar in stylistic aspects only, and Chosŏn continued to view the Qing as merely descendants of the barbarian Jurchens (Hŏ 2009). Although recent studies emphasize the mutual interactions between Chosŏn and Qing and even operate from a broadened Sino-centric perspective, these studies still do not demonstrate how Chosŏn–Later Jin relations evolved from equal interstate relations to relations that were contrived and continued to reflect Chosŏn's disdain for the Qing (Rawski 2015; Lee J. Y. 2016).10 Since the 1990s, with the increasing interest in new Qing history whereby the identity of the Manchus as the founders of the Qing Empire has been emphasized (especially in US academia), heterogeneous aspects of the Ming order and the Qing order have emerged (Kim Sŏnmin 2011). This article adds to this new research by presenting specific evidence showing how Chosŏn regarded the Qing as culturally inferior through its use of belittling terms, Ming reign dates, and the like.
There are only a few works that focus on the continuity of Chosŏn–Later Jin relations and Chosŏn-Qing relations and provide new interpretations (Liu J. 1986; Suzuki 2017). There is a view—found mainly in Chinese academia—that stipulates the characteristics of relations between the two countries after the First Manchu Invasion and the relations thereafter as a quasi-suzerain-subordinate system (zhun zongfan 準宗藩; or ban fanshu 半藩屬), through which the suzerain-subordinate (zongfan 宗藩) relationship between Chosŏn and Qing was established (Song Huijuan 2003; Song and Hou 2003; Wang Z. 2017). Furthermore, one study views Chosŏn–Later Jin relations as a “Quasi-Zongfan Order,” arguing that the Qing dynasty was able to construct its identity as the “Central Efflorescence” (Zhonghua, 中華) vis-à-vis its relationship with Chosŏn (Wang Y. 2015). Nevertheless, this research does not address the contested process that characterized the establishment of relations with Later Jin or how the process of negotiations influenced Chosŏn-Qing relations.
As seen above, existing research tends to treat Chosŏn-Jin relations as an intermediate step to Chosŏn-Qing tributary relations. However, the diplomatic protocols for the exchange of royal letters (kuksŏ 國書) and envoys (sinsa 信使) were not established until 1629 and were borrowed from Chosŏn-Japan protocols, symbolizing equal interstate relations.11 This article will show how relations between the two states evolved between the First and the Second Manchu Invasions, how Chosŏn-Qing relations were the result of protracted negotiations starting with Chosŏn–Later Jin bilateral relations, and how Chosŏn-Qing relations continued to reflect Chosŏn's view of the Manchus as inferior.
From Barbarians to Recognition as a State by Chosŏn, 1605–1622
Chosŏn first encountered the Jurchen tribes near its northern border (the Yalu [K. Amnok 鴨綠] and Tumen [K. Duman 豆滿] Rivers) in the fifteenth century. From Chosŏn's neo-Confucian point of view, these scattered and decentralized tribes were uncivilized barbarians and thus were called “men of the wild” (yain 野人). To control these tribes, the Chosŏn government granted them certain posts and stipends (nokpong 祿俸).12 These tribes became “subordinate Jurchens” (pŏnho 藩胡) to Chosŏn in the mid-sixteenth century (Bohnet 2015: 31–32), thus taking a lower position in the Chosŏn foreign relations hierarchy.13 On the other hand, the Jianzhou Jurchens, one tribe of “the deep-dwelling Jurchens” (shimch’ŏ yain 深處野人), gained power in the late sixteenth century, asserting dominance over other subordinate Jurchens and causing military tensions. It was the first time for Chosŏn to interact with the Jianzhou Jurchens, but they were also treated as pŏnho, or subordinate (Chang 2020b).
Chosŏn communicated with the Jianzhou Jurchens from 1595, but Chosŏn's responses were sent by the frontier official and thus were not part of a regular exchange of royal letters.14 This meant that Chosŏn–Jianzhou Jurchen relations were not equal interstate relations, that Chosŏn did not consider the Jianzhou Jurchen as a formal state, and that the Jianzhou Jurchen occupied a subordinate position to Chosŏn.15 As such, the format, terms, and content of Chosŏn's communications with Jianzhou Jurchen were not regularized or established for the simple reason that their relations were not regularized or established. Chosŏn was satisfied with this arrangement until Nurhaci began sending letters in 1605 in which he called himself “king” (wang 王) of Jianzhou, thereby implying that Jianzhou was a formal state.16 This was problematic for Chosŏn because from Chosŏn's perspective, Jianzhou was subordinate to the Ming and not an independent state. If Chosŏn's king were to reply with a royal letter, this would suggest that Chosŏn acknowledged Jianzhou as a formal state and Nurhaci as its king, which violated its established principles with the Ming and could prove potentially costly to Chosŏn.
In 1607, Nurhaci sent two more letters referring to himself as the king, one of which was sent directly to the Chosŏn king.17 The Chosŏn court deliberated on how to reply to the letter and eventually sent a letter addressed from the Manp'o garrison commander. This meant Chosŏn did not consider Nurhaci of equal status—a requisite for exchanging letters with the Chosŏn king—and conveyed Chosŏn's intention to adhere to its established protocol with the Ming.18
After the formal establishment of Later Jin in 1616, Nurhaci sent royal letters using a more systematized format. From 1617 until the Battle of Sarhu in 1619, Nurhaci sent at least five royal letters to Chosŏn in which he referred to himself as the Khan of Later Jin. Beginning with the second royal letter, he started to pressure Chosŏn to ally with him by revealing his plan to attack the Ming.19 After Nurhaci attacked the Ming, he sent more than three royal letters addressed directly to the Chosŏn king. In the third through fifth royal letters, Nurhaci tried to win over Chosŏn, threatening that if Chosŏn supported the Ming, Later Jin would retaliate militarily.20 The Chosŏn court once again deliberated over how to respond and again communicated through the Manp'o garrison commander. Moreover, the messages were delivered orally through interpreters (t'ongsa 通事) rather than through letters.21
After the Battle of Sarhu, Later Jin continued to send royal letters to Chosŏn. Nurhaci had successfully broken the Chosŏn-Ming alliance but demanded a truce with Chosŏn. Between the Battle of Sarhu and the fifth lunar month of 1622, Later Jin sent seventeen letters, twelve of them royal letters, from Nurhaci. The format and contents were inconsistent in each case—some letters used the Tianming (1616–26) era name and were sealed with Manchu text signifying “the Tianming Emperor of Later Jin” (後金天命皇帝) (letters 6 and 7), while others changed “the Khan of Later Jin” (後金國汗) to “the Khan of the Great Jin” (大金國汗) (letters 14–17). On the other hand, in the ninth and thirteenth royal letters, the honorific expression chŏnha (殿下) was used for the recipient, to gain favor from the Chosŏn king.
Although the format was irregular, there was a consistent demand on the part of Later Jin for royal letters from Chosŏn and for their delivery by an envoy rather than by a lowly interpreter.22 Except for the seventh and eighth royal letters (of which the full text is no longer extant), from the ninth royal letter onward the format changes to the ch'isŏ (致書) format, which was the letter format used between equal states.23 The consistency in using the format of ch'isŏ, along with exchanging favorable expressions in the royal letters, shows that Nurhaci hoped to establish equal interstate relations with Chosŏn (Chang 2020a). This also reveals Nurhaci's desire to be recognized as equal to the Chosŏn sovereign and that Nurhaci as the Later Jin sovereign would no longer negotiate with Chosŏn officials and would only exchange royal letters with the king of Chosŏn—sovereign to sovereign. It was a simple request but only acceptable if Chosŏn formally recognized Later Jin as a state, which it did not. In actuality, Nurhaci demanded the official establishment of bilateral relations through the exchange of royal letters.
Nevertheless, Chosŏn rejected Later Jin's demands and wanted to maintain the preexisting form of negotiations through frontier officials, thereby continuing to refuse to acknowledge the Later Jin as a formal state and Nurhaci as an equal sovereign. Although Chosŏn refused to send formal responses to the first through fifth royal letters, Chosŏn sent an envoy (ch'agwan 差官) to deliver a reply to the sixth royal letter of Nurhaci after the Battle of Sarhu; this letter was written in the name of the P'yŏngan provincial governor rather than the Chosŏn king.24 The response of the P'yŏngan governor was sent to an unspecified minister in Jianzhou (jianzhouwei mafa 建州衛馬法), which signified that Chosŏn considered Later Jin as a polity subordinate to the Ming and not an independent state.25 Sending a response to a Jianzhou mafa thus reduced the form of negotiations to that between ministers rather than between sovereigns. Chosŏn also added the affix chokha (足下), an expression used for someone of lower or equal rank. This was an indirect indication that Chosŏn would not accept Nurhaci's demand for a royal letter.26
However, Chosŏn did not completely reject negotiations with Later Jin. For example, Chosŏn's use of the P'yŏngan governor, a higher rank than the manp'o ch’ŏmsa who used to manage negotiations with the Jianzhou Jurchens and Later Jin, indicates a certain degree of compromise. Moreover, while the recipient was inscribed as jianzhouwei, in the text Later Jin is called kwiguk (貴國 “your esteemed country”). The terms aguk (我國 “our country”) and yangguk (兩國 “both countries”) were both used, and moreover, Later Jin was called in'guk (隣國 “neighboring state”), a grudging acknowledgment of Later Jin as a state. The difference in the format and the text was intentional and was the result of intense court deliberations in order not to provoke both the Ming and Later Jin.27 However, Ming intelligence discovered Chosŏn's response, so Chosŏn avoided replying to Later Jin royal letters and returned to the use of interpreters for oral negotiations.
The situation changed significantly after Later Jin captured Shenyang and Liaoyang in 1621, causing an influx of Han-Chinese refugees to Chosŏn. In the fifth lunar month, the Later Jin army crossed the Amnok river into Chosŏn territory to capture these refugees and in the seventh lunar month the Ming general Mao Wenlong 毛文龍 (1576–1629) was dispatched to recapture the Zhenjiang Yamen but then fled to Chosŏn territory after being defeated by the Later Jin army. The Later Jin army once again crossed the Amnok river in search of Mao and slaughtered and captured hundreds of Han-Chinese who had taken refuge in the region. Nurhaci then sent a royal letter to Chosŏn demanding the extradition of Mao, but Chosŏn could not comply and thereby risk its relationship with the Ming. Instead, to avoid all-out war with the Later Jin, Kwanghaegun 光海君 (r. 1608–23) eventually compromised by sending a royal letter to Nurhaci. This was the first instance of a royal letter sent by the Chosŏn king directly to Nurhaci, but this step was taken solely as an emergency measure to avoid military conflict. Nurhaci never responded to this letter and thus there was no exchange of letters.
The first Chosŏn royal letter sent in the eighth lunar month of 1622 was written in the format of ch'isŏ. The sender was the Chosŏn king, and the issue was whether to inscribe the recipient as jianzhouwei or the Later Jin State.28 After much court debate, Chosŏn decided to use the formal name of the state, Hugŭmguk (後金國 “the Later Jin State”).29 The royal letter at this time was written to indicate the equal status of Chosŏn and Later Jin, both in its format and in its text. At the end of the letter, the Ming era name was inscribed, and a new Royal Seal was created, stating kyorin i sin chi in (交隣以信之印, “the seal of maintaining exchange with neighbors through trust”).30 The royal letter of Chosŏn was delivered to Later Jin by an envoy formally dispatched by the central government rather than transmitted through a local official. However, due to the Mao issue, a response letter was authored by Nurhaci's ministers, rather than by Nurhaci himself, indicating that Nurhaci was dissatisfied with Chosŏn's royal letter, so again there was no exchange of royal letters.31
Even though Nurhaci did not respond with a royal letter, the general opinion in the Chosŏn government was that sending royal letters was inevitable and that it would be necessary to open up the possibility of future negotiations. Sending the royal letter meant that Chosŏn now acknowledged the Later Jin State as an independent state, not as a jianzhouwei subordinate to the Ming. Another reason that Chosŏn was cautious about sending royal letters was this would leave a paper trail exposing Chosŏn's official recognition of Later Jin as a formal state, in violation of its established protocols with the Ming.
To summarize, Chosŏn historically viewed the Jurchens as a group of barbarian tribes, not an official state, and thus within the hierarchical system of foreign relations Chosŏn occupied the higher position. Even after the consolidation of the Jurchen tribes by Nurhaci and the establishment of Later Jin, Chosŏn continued to regard it as an unofficial polity. After Later Jin defeated the allied forces of the Ming and Chosŏn in the Battle of Sarhu in 1619, Chosŏn was pressured to change its policies to avoid further military confrontation. In 1622, Chosŏn sent the first ever royal letter to Later Jin, thereby acknowledging it as a formal state, but since the Jin did not respond, there was no formal exchange of royal letters. All forms of communication between the two were further hampered by the political turbulence caused by Injo's coup d’état in 1623 and did not resume until 1627.
The Establishment of Bilateral Relations, 1623–1629
The changing geopolitical landscape due to the aforementioned military conflicts with Later Jin also had an influence on internal Chosŏn politics. King Kwanghaegun's openness to negotiations with Later Jin became a flashpoint and was used as a pretext for his removal from the throne after Injo's coup d’état in 1623. Injo 仁祖 (1595–1649; r. 1623–49) had forcefully taken the throne from his uncle and required acknowledgment from the Ming as the legitimate ruler of Chosŏn. Consequently, Injo tried to curry favor with the Ming by supporting Ming general Mao Wenlong's plans to attack Later Jin and cutting off all communications with the Jin.
By 1627, relations between Chosŏn and Later Jin had deteriorated to the point where the Later Jin army decided to attack and crossed the Amnok River, eventually seizing P'yŏngan province and stationing its main troops there. The Chosŏn court rallied soldiers to the Imjin River, the gateway to Kyŏnggi province, to prevent any further advance by the Later Jin army. With Hwanghae province as a buffer, a stalemate ensued, and negotiations for a truce began.
There were heated discussions within both the Chosŏn government and the Later Jin command (Kim Yonghŭm 2006: 172–75; Song Miryŏng 2008: 164–72). But truce negotiations began almost immediately, and it took only seven days for the Later Jin letter calling for a truce to arrive at the Chosŏn court after the invasion was reported to the central government. The Chosŏn government decided to grant Later Jin's request to send a royal letter to reach a conditional agreement for a truce. However, since this letter used the Ming imperial era name, Later Jin not only refused the letter but imposed an additional demand that Chosŏn sever relations with the Ming and refer to the elder brother–younger brother relation between Chosŏn and Later Jin.32 Chosŏn sent another royal letter through an official stating that it would agree to the truce but would not sever ties with the Ming.33 Chosŏn also was not interested in entering into a “brother”-type relationship with Later Jin but chose not to mention this in the letter so as to focus on solving the more serious issue of the truce and Chosŏn-Ming relations.
After more negotiations, Chosŏn decided to avoid Later Jin's demand to sever relations with the Ming by sending the younger brother of the king, offering sep'ye (歲幣 “annual gifts”), and writing a royal letter in the format of an informal message (kech’ŏp 揭帖).34 As the official truce process continued between Chosŏn and Later Jin, Wŏnch'anggun, who had visited Later Jin and met Hong Taiji 洪台極 (the second khan of Later Jin, 1592–1643), returned with a Later Jin royal letter. For the first time, the Chosŏn king sent a royal letter to the Khan of Later Jin in reply.35 The Chosŏn ch'agwan who had delivered this royal letter returned with all the captives from the Battle of Sarhu. The two states finalized the truce after the complete withdrawal of the Later Jin army in the ninth lunar month of 1627.
To proceed with this new form of relations between Chosŏn and Later Jin, and since Chosŏn still covertly regarded Later Jin as barbarians (ijŏk 夷狄), it was necessary to specify the ritual procedures for Later Jin's changed status as an ‘in'guk’ 隣國 or neighboring state.36 First, the title of the sovereign had to be decided for the establishment of bilateral relations.37 Customary titles included hwangje (皇帝 “emperor”) and kugwang (國王 “king”) but not the term han (汗 or 可汗 “khan”), which indicated the head of the northern ethnic tribes. In Manchu, han referred to monarchs, including the King of Chosŏn and the Ming Emperor.38 On the other hand, in Chosŏn records the head of the Jurchens was called ch'u (酋 “chief”). Rather than using wang (王 “king”), Chosŏn coined the title kukhan (國汗 khan of the state) to distinguish the leader of Later Jin as an equal head-of-state entity.
When the Chosŏn government created the standard for bilateral relations with Later Jin, it was based on its history of relations with Tokugawa Japan, not with the Ming. Between Chosŏn and Japan, the figure corresponding to the Japanese king was the shōgun (將軍 “general”) of the Bakufu (幕府 Shogunate). However, the Chosŏn government inscribed the imaginary, nonexistent title ilbon kugwang (日本國王 “king of Japan”) in royal letters to the Shogun, since the Chosŏn king would never exchange letters with a changgun (將軍 “general”).39 Likewise, Chosŏn's prefixation of kuk (國 “state”) to the title for the Khan of Later Jin indicated bilateral relations. Hence, the royal letter took the format of a ch'isŏ, which was used when a letter was sent to a sovereign of equivalent rank.40
After several months of negotiations, stipulations on the reception of envoys were also established, but these followed precedents from Chosŏn's exchanges with the Liaodong Yamen 遼東衙門 and not with Ming imperial envoys. This is significant because Chosŏn maintained its relations with the Ming and could not receive Jin envoys in the same manner as Ming envoys. By applying Liadong protocols to the reception of Jin envoys, the hierarchy of foreign relations could be preserved. Chosŏn referred to the envoys of Later Jin as kŭmch'a (金差 “deployed officials from the Jin State”).41 The reception of kŭmch'a was managed by the kŭmch'a kugwanso (金差句管所 “management center for Jin officials”), and the selected officials managed various preparations, including the guesthouse and varieties of banquets. In addition, officials called yŏnghugwan (迎候官 “officials for greeting upon arrival”) were assigned to escort Later Jin envoys, and chŏptae chaesin (接待宰臣 “ministers for reception”) were allocated to areas near the capital such as Pyŏkchegwan and Mohwagwan (Chang 2020a: 365–70). Again, all these indicate the exchange of envoys between equal states.
As seen above, Chosŏn and Later Jin settled status issues surrounding royal letters and envoys to develop bilateral relations. These laid the foundation for interstate relations between equals and were regularized relatively early. But the most important aspect was the royal letter: it was a symbol of equal relations, was closely related to the dispatch and reception of envoys, and through such letters it was possible to negotiate practical matters such as sep'ye (歲幣 “annual gifts”). Thus, to understand the essence of relations between the two countries, it is necessary to examine how relations were formed around the royal letters, as most issues were discussed formally through the exchange of these letters.
Bilateral Relations as Demonstrated through the Exchange of Royal Letters, 1629–1636
After the First Manchu Invasion in 1627, the royal letter of Chosŏn was written in the informal style of kech’ŏp. From 1627 to early 1629, none of the royal letters from Chosŏn marked the sender and the recipient, which shows that the royal letter of Chosŏn maintained the kech’ŏp format for some time after the truce. On the other hand, the royal letters from Later Jin partially changed in format, but consistently utilized the formal style of ch'isŏ. Acceding to Later Jin demands, Chosŏn composed royal letters in the format of ch'isŏ starting with the ninth lunar month of 1629.42 From 1629 to 1636, the royal letters of Chosŏn from the King of Chosŏn to the Khan of the Jin State were written in the forms of ch'isŏ 致書 and pongsŏ (奉書 “to present a letter”) and pongdap (奉答 “to present a reply”), using phrases that signified equal status. In the royal letters of Chosŏn and Later Jin there is no usage of the honorific terms kakha 閣下 and chŏnha after the ninth month of 1629, suggesting that both countries had agreed to exclude them. Letters conclude with valedictions such as pulsŏn 不宣, pulbi 不備, and pusil 不悉, all of which mean “[I] close,” or kŭnbaek 謹白, which means “[I] humbly relate.” The era name does not appear anywhere, and it can be assumed that the date used the sexagenary cycle, just as in royal letters to Japan, especially since the formats were identical. When Chosŏn sent ch'isŏ documents to Japan, these concluded with pulsŏn and pulbi.43
Chosŏn even utilized the same Royal Seal on the royal letters to Later Jin as it did in royal letters to Japan. Records on the Royal Seal used for the royal letter are first found in the tenth lunar month of 1629,44 and the timing coincides with the point when the format was changed from kech’ŏp to ch'isŏ. The royal letter sent to Later Jin was stamped with wijŏng i tŏkpo (爲政以德寶 “seal of governance by means of virtue”) instead of with kyorin i sin chi in, which was used during Kwanghaegun's reign,45 and the former was the same Royal Seal imprinted exclusively on royal letters to Japan.46 That is, Chosŏn sent royal letters sealed with wijŏng i tŏkpo to both Japan and Later Jin.
The question is whether Later Jin used a consistent format in their royal letters as well. Prior to 1627, around twenty royal letters from Nurhaci were written in the format of ch'isŏ but showed differences every time. Nor did the letters from his successor Hong Taiji follow any uniform or regularized format. This indicates that there was no consistent format in their royal letters to Chosŏn until 1629.47 The royal letters from Later Jin after the ninth lunar month of 1628 consistently used the ch'isŏ format, stating, “The Khan of the Jin State reaches out with a letter to the King of Chosŏn” and “The Khan of the Jin State presents a letter to the King of Chosŏn.”48 Similarly, the royal letters from Chosŏn were addressed, “The King of Chosŏn reaches out with a letter to the Khan of the Jin State.”49 Thus, Later Jin initially attempted to establish a hierarchical order but accommodated Chosŏn's position according to regulations in bilateral relations.
Chosŏn and Later Jin settled on the official format (chŏngsik 定式) of the royal letter beginning in 1629, which signified equal relations through the exchange of respect through royal letters. The royal letters from Later Jin also included terms signifying equal relations. Despite the treatment in previous studies that depict Later Jin demeaning Chosŏn,50 the royal letters from Later Jin were written in polite language. Aggressive expressions do occasionally appear, but from the stylistic perspective the letters consistently include terms signifying equal relations. Both countries called themselves aguk/woguo 我國 and referred to each other individually as kwiguk/guiguo 貴國 and mutually as yangguk/liangguo 兩國. Chosŏn frequently used the respectful term p'yebang (敝邦 “our humble country”) as an expression of modesty, and Later Jin also deployed the same term in its royal letters.51Pongsŏ—the equivalent to ch'isŏ but more respectful—was used in royal letters from both Later Jin and Chosŏn. In addition, polite expressions such as fuwei jianna (伏惟鑒納 “prostrating humbly to be granted”) to notify the receipt of ritual presents from the Chosŏn king and chenghuishu (承惠書 “indebted for your gracious letter”) to refer to the Chosŏn royal letter can be found in the royal letters from Later Jin.52 Furthermore, Later Jin referred to ritual presents (yemul 禮物) from Chosŏn as lidan 禮單 and to reciprocal gifts as t'oŭi 土宜, a Manchu idiom of respect when granting an indigenous product as a ritual present.53
The term chŏnha in the royal letters from Later Jin was an honorific term for Chosŏn. As seen above, Nurhaci wrote chŏnha twice in his royal letters to Chosŏn. In the second lunar month of 1629, the Later Jin royal letter added the term chŏnha to the title of the King of Chosŏn and was written in the format of pongsŏ.54 The term is not found hereafter as the format was regularized, but by way of comparison, Chosŏn used the term kakha, a term one level below chŏnha, in its own royal letters to Later Jin.55 Considering that it was the regular format to use chŏnha in royal letters to the Shogun of Japan, it is possible to interpret this as Chosŏn rather belittling Later Jin.56 After the format of the royal letters was regularized in both countries, none of the honorific titles or idioms were utilized. Thus, the conventional explanation that Later Jin disrespected Chosŏn in its letters does not accord with the historical sources. Rather, the royal letters between Chosŏn and Later Jin were written using terms that signified equal relations, at least in format.
The regularized format established around 1629 lasted until 1636, when Hong Taiji became emperor in the third lunar month of 1636 and started to send royal letters in which he demeaned Chosŏn. The royal letters between Chosŏn and Later Jin were formal diplomatic documents, stamped with the Royal Seal of the King and the Khan. The difference was in the format of the response letter (tapsŏ 答書) used for the Chosŏn royal letters. This was a means to distinguish irregular royal letters delivered by the hoedapsa (回答使 “envoys for response”) from regular royal letters conveyed by the sinsa envoys. In this manner, while Chosŏn sent four to five royal letters a year, it was possible to officially maintain the principle of twice a year. That is, Chosŏn had a stronger desire to regularize interstate relations compared to Later Jin, as a countermeasure to restrain Later Jin demands and to emphasize that the Ming dynasty was the only superior state Chosŏn acknowledged in its rituals.
In fact, relations between Chosŏn and Later Jin were severed because of a unilateral revision of the format by Hong Taiji in 1636. Hong Taiji's self-proclamation as the emperor of the Great Qing Empire in 1636 presented a dilemma for Chosŏn because it could only acknowledge one emperor (the Ming emperor). The standard understanding is that the severing of relations was triggered when Yi Hwak 李廓 (1590–1665) and Na Tŏkhŏn 羅德憲 (1573–1640) refused to perform the ritual of salutation during the ascension of Hong Taiji to the imperial throne and discarded his royal letter on their return to Chosŏn. In the same year, the truce ended when the envoys of Later Jin escaped from Chosŏn and acquired “the Royal Edict for Severing the Truce and Preparing for Defense” (Chŏrhwa piŏ kyosŏ 絶和備禦敎書) from the Chosŏn king. Although this narrative holds that ties were severed because Chosŏn did not acknowledge Hong Taiji as emperor, the real reason is because Chosŏn refused to receive his royal letter because it did not follow the regularized format.
Na Tŏkhŏn specified that he discarded the Qing emperor's royal letter because it was unacceptable in the format of royal letter, was different from previous letters, and used disrespectful expressions such as iguk (爾國 “your country”).57 As the status of Hong Taiji rose from that of Khan of Later Jin to emperor of the Qing dynasty, Hong Taiji revised the format of the royal letter without consulting with Chosŏn, and thus Na clarified that he could not accept the letter. As ministers subject to the Chosŏn king, it was impossible for Chosŏn envoys to voluntarily deliver to their sovereign a letter from “the Emperor of the Qing” 淸國皇帝 rather than “the Khan of the Jin State” 金國汗. After the termination of interstate relations, Chosŏn sent a letter of exhortation (kyŏksŏ 檄書) to the Qing, emphasizing that the two countries maintained relations according to equal status58 and denouncing the unilateral revision. The official position of Chosŏn was that it would acknowledge its relationship with “the Jin State” 金國 but not with “the Qing State” 淸國 (Ku 2020). This was also symbolized by Chosŏn sending a letter of exhortation rather than a royal letter. This time, the Qing refused to accept the letter, thereby terminating ten years of Chosŏn–Later Jin interstate relations. In the winter of the same year, Hong Taiji personally led an expedition to revise its relations with Chosŏn. As a result, equal interstate relations between Chosŏn and Later Jin transformed into relations stylistically resembling Chosŏn-Ming relations.
Chosŏn's Rejection of Qing as the Heavenly Dynasty
After the Second Manchu Invasion, equal interstate relations between the two states were terminated. The Manchus demanded that Chosŏn serve the newly formed Qing dynasty following the precedents of the Ming dynasty (myongjŏ kurye 明朝舊例). Chosŏn had no choice but to accept this, so royal letters were replaced with memorials and petitions in the same format as those that had been sent to the Ming (p'yojŏnju 表箋奏).59 The title for Qing envoys was changed from Later Jin envoys (kǔmch'a 金差) to imperial envoys (ch'iksa 勅使)60 and the Chosŏn royal seal granted by the Ming emperor was replaced with a seal from the Qing emperor. Furthermore, Chosŏn was forced to adopt Qing-era names not only in diplomatic documents but also in formal documents.
Although these stylistic elements of Chosŏn-Qing relations resembled those of Chosŏn-Ming relations, the essence was not the same because Chosŏn intellectuals never believed that the barbarian Qing had gained the same status of Heavenly Dynasty like the Ming. For example, one of the rituals expressing Chosŏn's devotion to the Ming was the salutation ritual toward the imperial palace (manggwŏllye 望闕禮) performed by the Chosŏn king himself. However, while Chosŏn continued to perform this ritual regularly to the Ming, it was performed to the Qing only twice between 1637 and 1895.61
Another example demonstrates a more outright display of Chosŏn's disdain for the Qing. In 1726, the Chosŏn envoy Yi Yo 李橈 (1687–1756) described an incident that occurred at the Chosŏn court before his travels to Beijing. He explained that in 1713 he heard some Qing people (literally, 彼國 or “people from that country over there”) ask why Chosŏn referred to the Ming as the “Imperial Dynasty” 皇朝 or “Heavenly Dynasty” 天朝 but called the Qing the “Great Dynasty” 大朝. To avoid any friction, the Chosŏn envoy replied that Chosŏn's usage of “Great Dynasty” was related to “serving the Great” but this was in fact not true. Chosŏn's avoidance of referring to the Qing as the “Imperial” or “Heavenly Dynasty” was deliberate, as these terms were reserved for the Ming exclusively.62
In fact, Chosŏn continued to display its fidelity to the Ming by building additional altars to commemorate past Ming emperors. The “All-Streams-Flow-to-the East” shrine (mandongmyo 萬東廟) was built by a group of Confucian scholars in Ch’ŏngju, Ch'ungchŏng province, in 170363 to perform rituals for the last Ming emperor, Chongzhen 崇禎 (r. 1627–44). This ritual was performed by the Chosŏn king, but because this became impossible after the establishment of the Qing dynasty, it was held in private at the Mandongmyo and the shrine was given royal recognition in 1716. In 1704, King Sukchong constructed the Altar of Great Gratitude (taebodan 大報壇) in one of the royal palaces to perform rituals to the Ming emperor Wanli 萬曆 (r. 1572–1620). It is important to note that these were rituals that were not performed during the Ming dynasty but created sixty years (one sexagenary cycle) after the fall of the Ming dynasty.
Yet another example of Chosŏn's adherence to the Ming is the inscription of the term “Ming Dynasty's Chosŏn” (yumyŏng Chosŏn'guk 有明朝鮮國) on the epitaphs of members of the royal family.64 Until the nineteenth century, the literati of Chosŏn saw the Qing as descendants of the Jurchens and regarded the Qing as descendants from “the line of barbarians.”65 At the same time, Chosŏn considered the Ming dynasty the legitimate heir to civilization, venerating it as “the Imperial Dynasty” 皇朝, and viewed themselves as the rightful successor to the Ming. This recognition was signified as chonju taeŭi (尊周大義 “the great righteousness of revering the Zhou dynasty”), a metaphorical expression alluding to fidelity to the Ming, as shown in the historical text Compilation of Reverence toward the Zhou Dynasty (Chonju hwip'yŏn 尊周彙編), in which early nineteenth-century Chosŏn scholars divided the time line of history into hwangjo kinyŏn (皇朝紀年 “the recorded era of the Imperial Dynasty”) and pon'guk kinyŏn (本國紀年 “the recorded era of our country”). That is, Chosŏn literati shared the recognition that Chosŏn must preserve the Culture of Central Efflorescence as successors to the Ming.66 The Qing, from Chosŏn's perspective, was not the successor to the Ming but merely a descendant of barbarians who physically ruled the Central Plain of China.
Considering this perspective of the Chosŏn intellectuals and court, it is necessary to recognize that the similarities in Chosŏn-Ming relations and Chosŏn-Qing relations were merely stylistic and to reevaluate the notion that Chosŏn-Ming and Chosŏn-Qing relations were a continuation of the “model” tributary system. There are numerous examples in court documents, private letters, and altars where Koreans continued to affirm the Ming as the Heavenly Dynasty and indicate Chosŏn's continued perception of the Qing as barbarians.
Conclusion: From the Treatment of Barbarians (待夷之道) to the Way of Neighboring States (隣國之道)
The relationship between Chosŏn and Qing was hierarchical from 1637, based on rituals between sovereign and minister (kunsin 君臣), whereby Chosŏn served the Qing and Qing protected Chosŏn. The Chosŏn king formally sent envoys each year and through the envoys delivered regularized royal letters to the Qing emperor. The Qing envoys sent to Chosŏn were received with extreme hospitality as Imperial Envoys who delivered Imperial Edicts. Economic trade also proceeded, not to mention more realistic negotiations on practical agenda items such as border transgressions and demarcations. The formal rituals of Chosŏn-Qing relations resembled those of Chosŏn-Ming relations.
However, from the perspective of Chosŏn, the underlying attitudes toward the Qing were different from those toward the Ming. At least until the early nineteenth century, the Chosŏn literati regarded the Manchus as barbarian descendants of the Jurchens. Even after the Ming dynasty collapsed and the Central Plain came under Qing control in the late seventeenth century, Chosŏn intellectuals and officials did not recognize the Manchus as the legitimate successors to the Ming and believed Chosŏn was obligated to preserve and pass down the Central Efflorescence. Unlike under Chosŏn-Ming relations, the ritual of sadae in Chosŏn-Qing relations was pro forma and between the seventeenth century and nineteenth centuries, Chosŏn texts used derogatory terms to refer to the Qing such as p'iguk (彼國 “that Country”), iguk (異國 “the different country”), t'aguk (他國 “the other country”) and called the Manchus p'iin (彼人 “those people”), a phenomenon never found in Chosŏn-Ming relations.
In later Chosŏn society, there was a coexistence of the ideal orientation for “loyalty to the Ming” (taemyŏng ŭiri 對明義理) and the political reality of “submission to the Qing” (taech’ŏng sadae 對淸事大). This was possible because Chosŏn acknowledged the ritual of sadae based on Chosŏn-Ming relations but still regarded the Qing dynasty as (uncivilized) successors to Later Jin. Regularizing relations with Later Jin meant that although Chosŏn recognized the barbaric Jin as a Neighboring State (in'guk 隣國), the Ming could still occupy its exclusive status as the Heavenly Dynasty. The royal letters between Chosŏn and Later Jin were written under the format of ch'isŏ and used the terms aguk, kwiguk, and yangguk. This was the stylistic format of equal relations between neighboring countries. Therefore, the term kukkyo 國交, or bilateral relations, is more suitable for describing the relations between Chosŏn and the Later Jin up to 1636 and is more accurate compared to research that emphasizes the perspective of Later Jin (i.e., elder brother–younger brother relations and the Maengyak 盟約 system) or that view Chosŏn–Later Jin relations as simply the antecedent to Chosŏn-Qing relations (i.e., suzerain subordinate).
The ten years of bilateral relations between Chosŏn and Later Jin bookended by the two Manchu Invasions influenced Chosŏn-Qing relations. However, during this decade Chosŏn maintained its relationship with Later Jin separately from its relationship with the Ming. From Chosŏn's perspective, the Qing dynasty was the successor to Later Jin and merely a barbarous dynasty that had absorbed the territory of the conquered Ming, not the legitimate successor to the Ming dynasty. From this perspective, as the Qing could not inherit the Central Efflorescence, the idea emerged that the legitimacy of the Central Efflorescence would naturally pass from Ming to Chosŏn. This demonstrates the necessity for further balanced research including the perspective of Chosŏn alongside Qing-centered analyses.
Before the First Manchu Invasion, there were only two states that were officially recognized as in'guk by Chosŏn: Japan and Ryukyu (Okinawa). See Kukcho oryeŭi, 5: 311. original text: “隣國 如日本琉球國之類.”
In this article, “Later Jin” refers to the Jurchen state, established by Nurhaci from the Jianzhou Jurchens, by consolidating the nearby Jurchen tribes in 1616. At first it was named “Amaga Aisin Gurun,” which can be translated as “Later Jin State” (後金國), and was later renamed “Amba Aisin Gurun,” the Great Jin State (大金國). The term Aisin Gurun, or Jin State, appears more frequently in Qing sources. However, in the letters from the Jurchens (including from Nurhaci himself) to Chosŏn in the original sources from Chosŏn, the Records of Diplomatic Documents (Imun tŭngnok 吏文謄錄) and Records of Reports (Kyerok 啓錄), the term Later Jin is used from 1619 to 1621 and the term Great Jin from 1621 to 1628. The term State of Jin (金國) became the standard after bilateral relations were stabilized in 1629 in the royal letters from both the Jin and Chosŏn. Although the majority of existing scholarship does not distinguish between these different names and terms, this article argues that it is necessary to make a distinction between “Later Jin,” “Great Jin,” and the “State of Jin” to fully understand the true nature of Chosŏn-Jin relations and the importance of their eventual bilateral character. By contrast, the Qing dynasty (1636–1911) refers to the Manchu state, which included the Manchus, Mongols, and Han Chinese.
In general, the concept of sojunghwa evolved over time and initially meant that Chosŏn was an instrumental participant in Chinese civilization. After the demise of the Ming and/or the establishment of the Qing dynasty, this term came to mean that Chosŏn was the legitimate guardian of Civilization. Implicit in this is the assumption that Chosŏn was civilized and anyone outside this orbit was barbarian (such as the Qing). See Chŏng O. (1998) and Hŏ (2009).
Chosŏn regarded the Jurchens as barbarians, based on the Confucian “civilized” versus “barbarian” dichotomy (hua yi lun 華夷論). However, this article focuses more on the practical relations between Chosŏn and the Jurchens than on ideological distinctions. Both Chosŏn and the Ming implemented a loose-rein policy (kimich'aek 羈靡策) to control Jurchen tribes by conferring official posts and economic profit. Thus, from Chosŏn's perspective, even a unified Jurchen polity could only be regarded as an illegitimate state.
Heavenly Dynasty (天朝) and Imperial Dynasty (皇朝) were terms literally indicating “the Court of the Son of Heaven” or “the Court of the Emperor,” which referred to the Ming Court and its legitimacy. For Chosŏn, these terms were reserved only for the Ming, and Chosŏn deliberately avoided addressing the Qing as the same “Heavenly Dynasty” or “Imperial Dynasty,” even after its subjugation in 1637. The comparison between the original version of the Chosŏn royal letters sent to the Khan of Later Jin and the edited version in the official chronicle sources of Qing shows a contrast in the recognition of Chosŏn and that of the Qing toward the Ming. In the Recorded Letters from Chosŏn (Chaoxianguo laishubu 朝鮮國來書簿), the Chosŏn king called the Ming the “Heavenly Dynasty,” and this expression was modified to “Ming Dynasty” (明朝) in the Veritable Records of Qing Taizong (Qing Taizong Shilu 淸太宗實錄). Moreover, sources from the imperial documents shown in Letters from the Chosŏn King (Chaoxianguo wanglaishu 朝鮮國王來書) referred to the Qing as the “Great Dynasty” (大朝) and “Grand State” (大國), not “Heavenly Dynasty” or “Imperial Dynasty.” However, these terms indicating the Qing are revised as “Heavenly Dynasty” in the Veritable Records of Qing Taizong.
Examples of such scholarship include Fairbank and Tȇng (1941), G. R. Li (2002), Liu X. (1995), and Hong (2014). Ever since Fairbank coined the expression “the Chinese World Order,” research on Chinese foreign relations, including Sino-Korean relations, has utilized the “tribute system” framework, whereby China was situated at the center and vassal states on the periphery (Fairbank 1968). Scholars have described Chosŏn as the “model tributary state” and have only recently reconsidered this viewpoint (Cha 2011).
One exception to this standard narrative is Wang Y. (2015). However, Wang too tends to treat the Qing as equivalent to the Ming, particularly in Qing-Chosŏn relations (96n7).
In Early Modern China and Northeast Asia, Rawski (2015) moves away from the paradigm of a China-centered system to a cross-border perspective and discusses Korea's important role in shifts in regional power. However, Rawski's narrative is primarily focused on how non-Chinese entities influenced what happened in China. This article attempts to provide more balance by shifting the perspective even further to prioritize Chosŏn's views of the Jurchens before the putative rise of the Manchus and before they became the Qing.
Sinsa, or t'ongsinsa, in the case of Japan, were envoys dispatched to Japan carrying the royal letters of the Chosŏn king to the shogun of the Bakufu. This was a symbol of kyorin 交隣, whereby the Chosŏn king became a diplomatic counterpart to the shogun, the entity equivalent to the king of Japan. The mission of the t'ongsinsa envoys was to deliver the king's will and then the response of the shogun upon return. Thus, this style of diplomacy through these envoys and royal letters signifies that the sovereign of the two countries communicated as equals in status (Yi H. 2019: 6–7).
Regarding Chosŏn's view of the Jurchens, see note 3.
These tribes were also known as “the Jurchens at the Foot of the Fortification” (sŏngjŏ yain 城底野人).
In the late sixteenth century, Nurhaci sent a letter regarding border transgressions; Chosŏn's response was sent not as a royal letter but instead from the garrison commander of Manp'o (manp'o ch’ŏmsa 滿浦僉使).
Throughout this article, the authors use the term equal in reference to the ranking system used during the Ming and Chosŏn dynasties, whereby the Ming was the Middle Kingdom and “the Chinese emperor was considered superior to all other rulers” who were relegated to varying positions of inferiority (Clark 1998: 223). Within this system, Chosŏn ranked higher than the Jurchens.
Documents of Serving the Great (Sadae mun'gwe 事大文軌), Wanli 萬曆 33/11/11 (year of reign/lunar month/date).
Documents of Serving the Great, Wanli 35/4/21.
This principle is derived from the Book of Rites (Liji 禮記) and is known as ‘私交’ or ‘人臣無外交.’ According to this, ministers must report directly to their sovereign and were forbidden from conferring or negotiating with each other. Occasionally, this principle was applied to vassal states, in which case Chosŏn would have avoided direct contact with the Jurchens. See Kim Ch'angsu (2019).
Kwanghaegun ilgi, Kwanghaegun 10/5/29, 10/11/5.
Chosŏn sent interpreters instead of regular officials when negotiating with Jurchens on the border, as the Jurchen tribes were not considered as regular bureaus or offices (Pak C. 2015).
The sixth Later Jin royal letter reveals the format, which, despite inconsistencies, signifies exchange between sovereigns of equivalent rank. The sixth and seventh royal letters were “proclamation letters” (sŏdal 書達) in the format of ch'isŏ (致書, “to reach out with letters”) or pongsŏ (奉書, “to present a letter”) but structured as if the Khan of Later Jin addressed the king of Chosŏn. Imun tŭngnok, Wanli 47/5/n.d.; Wanli 47/8/n.d.
See Chŏng T. (2010: 148–54).
Kwanghaegun ilgi, Kwanghaegun 11/4/9, 11/4/13. The fact that Chosŏn sent an envoy and not an interpreter (which was of lower rank) was in itself a compromise. However, ch'agwan still ranked lower than envoys sent to the Ming (sasin).
Kwanghaegun ilgi, Kwanghaegun 11/4/16. The title Jianzhouwei was granted by the Ming weisuo (衛所) system, indicating that they were under Ming control, while the title “Later Jin” implied that they were descendants of the Jin dynasty of the twelfth century, denying the dominance of the Ming. For the weisuo system, see Pak W. (2002).
Chokha 足下 is a lower-ranking honorific title compared to chŏnha 殿下 and hapha 閤下. From a diplomatic standpoint, Chosŏn used this same term chokha to refer to the Lord of Taemado/Tsushima, which was a lower rank and title than the Japanese shogun (Yi H. 2011: 38–39). By referring to Nurhaci's minister as chokha in 1619, Chosŏn implies that it does not recognize Later Jin as an official state and considers it of equal rank to Taemado.
Kwanghaegun ilgi, Kwanghaegun 11/7/1.
Kwanghaegun ilgi, Kwanghaegun 14/8/28.
Kyerok, vol. 土, Imsul 壬戌/8/n.d., 24–25. Original text: “朝鮮國王致書于云云後金國.”
Kwanghaegun ilgi, Kwanghaegun 14/8/8.
The date is estimated to be around the late ninth lunar month to early tenth lunar month of 1622, as the record concerning the envoy's return is seen on the seventh day of the tenth lunar month (Kyerok 土).
Injo sillok, Injo 5/2/2.
Injo sillok, Injo 5/2/5.
This is a private style/format, in which reign dates are not used or used only between states of equal status. Official letters from Chosŏn to the Ming never used this style but used “Memorials and Petitions” (p'yojŏnju, 表箋奏) instead.
Injo sillok, Injo 5/6/2.
See note 2.
Chaoxianguo laishubu, Tiancong 4/6/28, original text: “惟是兩國 各有封域 各有民人 . . . 况兩國之君 各爲百萬生靈計 可容如此耶.”
For example, in Manchu sources from the reigns of Nurhaci and Hong Taiji, solho i han indicated the king of Koryŏ/Chosŏn, and the Wanli emperor (萬曆帝) of the Ming was called wanli han.
The Japanese rulers were the shogun and the emperor (天皇), but in diplomatic letters, Chosŏn created and used the term Japanese king (日本國王) in order to demonstrate equal status between the two states and because in the Confucian order there can only be one emperor (the Chinese emperor). Also, since shogun translates to “general,” which is a lower rank than king, the term Japanese king had to be created and was only used in diplomatic letters. About the format of the diplomatic letters sent to Japan, see Yi Maenghyu, Ch'un'gwan chi, vol. 2, “Kuksŏsik (國書式, “the format of the Royal Letter”).”
Regulations on the dispatch of envoys were arranged as well. Initially, Later Jin requested the exchange of envoys more than twice a year, while Chosŏn insisted on once a year. The finalized agreement followed Later Jin's demand (Liu W. 2002: 9; Ch'ae 2019: 39); sinsa (信使, “regular official envoys”) were dispatched twice a year, every spring and autumn, and hoedapsa (回答使, “envoys for response”) were utilized for the discussion of special occasions. The envoys were officially called sinsa from 1629, both in Later Jin and Chosŏn. What is notable about this exchange is that it was the result of negotiations between the two countries. The regulation of the frequency of envoy visits was mutually agreed upon and not forced unilaterally by one onto the other.
Previously in Chosŏn, the envoy of Later Jin was called hoch'a (胡差, “deployed barbarian official”).
Chaoxianguo laishubu, Tiancong 3/9/18.
Yi Maenghyu, Ch'un'gwan chi, vol. 2, “Kuksŏsik.” It is identical in both cases that the taejehak 大提學 or grand academician was responsible for letter writing. Though the Office of Diplomatic Correspondence (Sŭngmunwŏn 承文院) was in charge of foreign documents, in principle the taejehak wrote a draft of the royal letter to Japan, the neighboring state. The royal letter to Later Jin was also managed by the taejehak, and thus the format was similar, suggesting that Chosŏn developed its relations with Later Jin in reference to Japan. Sŭngjŏngwŏn ilgi, Injo 13/7/25.
Sŭngjŏngwŏn ilgi, Injo 7/10/23.
Sŭngjŏngwŏn ilgi, Injo 13/1/19.
Kim Kŏnsŏ, Kyorin chi, “Kuksŏsik” (國書式, “the format of the royal letter”); Kim Chinam, T'ongmungwan chi, vol. 6, “Kyorin” (交隣, “maintaining exchange with neighbors”), “Kuksŏsik” (國書式, “the format of the royal letter”); Yi Maenghyu, Ch'un'gwan chi, vol. 2, “KuksŏsikYukchŏn chorye, vol. 2, “Ijŏn” (吏典, “Code of Personnel”), “Sangsŏwŏn” (尙瑞院, “Office of Royal Seals”), “Saebo” (璽寶, “Royal Seals”), original text: “以德寶 用於通信國書.”
After the first invasion, Hong Taiji addressed the recipient as “Younger Brother, King of Chosŏn” (朝鮮國王弟). In the eighth lunar month of 1627, he wrote, “the Khan of the Great Jin State reaches out with a letter to his Younger Brother, King of Chosŏn,” revealing his intention to put Later Jin in the superior position. However, Chosŏn's royal letter response stated kŭmgukkan (金國汗, “the Khan of the Jin State”), excluding the term tae (大, “Great”). The royal letter of the second lunar month of 1628 stated that “the Khan of the Jin State reaches out with a letter to his Younger Brother, the King of Chosŏn.” Hereafter the term tae is not found in any royal letter from Hong Taiji, suggesting that Later Jin accepted Chosŏn's stance. A similar revision can be found in the royal letter of the eighth lunar month of 1628, in which the term che (弟, “Younger Brother”) was omitted: “the Khan of the Jin State reaches out with a letter to the King of Chosŏn.” Injo sillok, Injo 6/8/16, original text: “金國汗致書朝鮮國王.”
Gexianggaobu, Tiancong 2/11/8, original text: “金國汗致書朝鮮國王”; Tiancong 4/8/6, original text: “金國汗奉書朝鮮國王.”
Original text: “朝鮮國王致書金國汗.”
The reason for this common view can be traced back to the modification of sources in the Veritable Records of Qing Taizong (Qing Taizong shilu 淸太宗實錄). For example, Chosŏn called themselves p'yebang, but in the Veritable Records of Qing Taizong, it was modified to sobang (小邦, “the small country”). The modification can also be found where Later Jin called Chosŏn iguk. These modifications in the sources are explained by Ku Pŏmjin (Ku 2020). There are fifteen royal letters in Various Articles of Scripts and Documents where the text remains close to its original form, and there is only one case where Chosŏn is called iguk, combined with the word kwiguk (Gexianggaobu, Tiancong 4/5/16). Chosŏn called themselves sobang after the Second Manchu Invasion in 1636, when Hong Taiji addressed himself as the emperor in his royal letter to Chosŏn (Chaoxianguo laishubu, Chongde 崇德 2/1/3).
Gexianggaobu, Tiancong 5/1/23.
Gexianggaobu, Tiancong 2/11/8; Tiancong 5/intercalary 11/2.
Gexianggaobu, Tiancong 5/2/16, original text: “倂致土宜冀照諒.”
Chaoxianguo laishubu, Tiancong 3/9/18, original text: “朝鮮國王答書金國汗閣下.”
Kim Kŏnsŏ, Kyorin chi.
Chaoxianguo laishubu, Tiancong 10/5/9.
Injo sillok, Injo 14/6/17.
On the format of the Chosŏn-Ming Diplomatic documents, see Chŏng (2010: 151).
On the transition of Later Jin envoys into Qing Imperial Envoys and how these differed from the Ming imperial envoys, see Li X. (2021). On the other hand, the title of Chosŏn delegations was changed from sinsa to yŏnhaengsa (燕行使), which means the delegations to Yanjing, as compared to the delegations to the Ming, which were called choch’ŏnsa (朝天使, Delegations to the Heavenly Dynasty).
It was not until 1649 that the ritual resumed, but it was performed by the Crown Prince Sohyŏn, not by the king himself, and the salutation was for the Lord of the Qing (Ch’ŏngju, 淸主), not the Qing emperor. In the next century, the first and the last salutation ritual was conducted by King Yŏngjo, where the Chosŏn king saluted the Qing emperor, and this was an exceptional case. In both cases when Chosŏn salutations were conducted for the Qing, the Qing envoys were present on the scene, showing the nature of the ritual as performative. For a case study of salutation rituals toward the Imperial Palace, see Yun (2013: 168–70).
This record describes a court debate over which term to use to refer to the Qing. The conclusion was that Chosŏn envoys were to use “Imperial Dynasty” to avoid any friction, but to avoid using “Heavenly Dynasty” since this was to be used exclusively for the Ming. Sŭngjŏngwŏn ilgi, Yŏngjo 2/2/8.
On the construction of the shrines and altars by the Noron sub-faction of the Sŏin, see Bohnet (2020: 183–84).
On yumyŏng Chosŏn'guk, see Yi Sŏnggyu (2005: 115–18).
Yi Ŭijun, Chonju hwip'yŏn, “Ŭirye” (義例 “Righteous Rules”), original text: “The Qing people are a tribe of the Jurchens (淸人卽女眞之一部族也).”
On the intellectual succession of civilization in the late Chosŏn dynasty, see Hŏ (2009: 194–206).