Korean Books in Japan From the 1590s to the End of the Edo Period

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Peter Kornicki



This article examines the evidence for the importation of Korean books into Japan, including texts of both Korean authorship and Chinese authorship. Although Korean books had certainly reached Japan well before the 1590s there can be little doubt that the Japanese invasions of Korea in the last decade of the sixteenth century resulted in the widespread looting of Korean books and the arrival in Japan of Korean books on an unprecedented scale. However, there is both documentary evidence and the evidence of extant books in Japan to show that Korean books continued to be imported into Japan after 1600 and that they were highly valued there, particularly medical works of Korean authorship. Although there is little evidence of Japanese engagement with Korean vernacular writings, Korean writings in Chinese were frequently reprinted in Japan and these reprints are evidence of the esteem Korean texts enjoyed in Japan during the Edo period.

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