Sources: Choe Namseon’s “Bulham-munhwa-ron” – The great lineage of Joseon sindo 神道

Below is a translation of another representative chapter from Choe Namseon’s Bulham-munhwa-ron. This chapter was not so easy to render into English and so the translation should be understood only as giving the basic impression of what was originally written.

In addition to what’s already noted in the previous post, text struck through denotes words in the Korean translation which do not comfortable fit into English syntax.

There are two words I haven’t yet been able to translate, myeonpa (面怕) and joyeon (助緣) – any suggestions are welcome.

The term minjok (民族) translates as ‘ethnic group’ or ‘people’ as in ‘the Korean people’; in this sense it corresponds to the Latin gens.

Chapter 10: The great lineage of Joseon sindo (神道 ‘way of the gods’ / ‘divine way’)

Taigăr (대갈) representing the sky and Taigam (대감) its personification (인격형), and Părk (ᄇᆞᆰ) representing god and its personification of Părkăn-ai (ᄇᆞᆰ은애) are all originally religious [concepts]. In fact, from ancient times an extremely clear doctrine (宗旨) based on these was established and a theocratic (제정일치) world appeared; this formed a single expansive cultural area (문화권). [From this] sinseondo (神仙道 ‘way of gods and xian‘/’divine way of xian‘) was a Chinese development [whilst] susindo (隨神道 ‘following the way of the gods’) was a Japanese branching, however, it seems to have been what belonged to Joseon that was at the centre of its distribution and maintained a comparatively [more] pure true-aspect (진면목).

In Joseon, with Părk as the original root, [the term] also became Părkăn, and changed to Pukun (부군) or was simply called Pur (불). For a long it became buried and dropped out of people’s (世人) attention (주의), however, if one carefully investigates, the teaching (가르침의 모습) and tradition (法脈) [become] comparatively clear; at times like a great river, at times like an underground spring, it threads (관통) its way through Joseon history and its permeation within society can clearly be observed both in textual sources and actuality.

In textual sources, the [most] directly expressed extent evidence is the first section (서문) of the Nallang-bi stele (鸞郞碑) [inscription by] Choi Chiwon (崔致遠) recorded in the Samguk-sagi (Book 4, King Jinheung 37th year [576CE]).

“The country has a mysterious way (道) called Pung-ryu (風流). The root which bestowed this teaching is contained in the Seon-sa (仙史 ‘History of Seon [mountain sage/immortals]’) and so it includes the Samgyo ‘Three Teachings’ (三敎 [Taoism, Buddhism and Confucionism]) and enlightens (교화) all living things as it comes into contact [with them]. Further, entering at home [there is] filial piety, going out [there is] loyalty to the country and this is the true meaning of Confucius’s teaching; progressing through life without doing anything and teaching without words, this seems to be the primary root purport of Laozi; [finally] not behaving in any evil manner and holding aloft good actions, this seems to be the enlightenment (교화 [in the educational sense]) of [Buddha] Shakyamuni.”

 {NB The syntax of the follow paragraph is particularly garbled so the following is only an approximation of the meaning.}

Thus [he] transmitted the teaching (가르침의 양상). However, aside from this one passage, there are no other written sources that pass on the religious nature (상태 lit. ‘state’) [of Părk]; to be sure, together with the facts of Wonhwa (源花) introduced there [in the same entry of the Samguk-sagi {or in the Sillaguk-gi}], [implicit reference of Părk as the Hwarang order 花郞] was recorded in the text of the Xinluoguoji (新羅國記 K. Sillaguk-gi ‘Record of Silla’) [by] Ling Hucheng (令狐澄 fl.860?) of Tang [China]; // looking [only] briefly [at the original Xinluoguoji description] it may have seemed [to compilers or readers of the Samguk-sagi entry] that [Părk/Hwarang] was [just] a normal social institution for cultivation (교화) and with its name as ‘Pung-ryu’ it [seemed just one particular] religious group; // [consequently] it would have been easy [for readers] to have neglected the point that it was likely the highest religious order (宗門) in the country.

{Alternative interpretation of the latter part of the above paragraph.}

// [for the original author of the Xinluoguoji ] observing [only] briefly [the circumstances of Silla] it may have seemed that [the Hwarang he described] was [just] a normal social institution for cultivation (교화) and with its name as ‘Pung-ryu’ [to have been just one particular] religious group; //

{According to a footnote of the Korean translation, the Sillaguk-gi was a first hand account of Silla compiled by Gu Yin 顧愔 who was part of an official embassy in 768. This in turn was quoted from by Ling Hucheng and this, apparently is all that survived although it doesn’t say in which of his writings.}

In any event, through ethnic universalism and national veneration, at first it was a solemn (장엄) and large ritual (의식 or ‘consciousness’), but in later times for various reasons the old meaning (古義) was entirely lost, and because traditionally it ended at the succession of the physical form (형체) it subsequently became like an annual event and the [original] sacred meaning (진의) was increasingly obscured.

However, this [reference to] ‘wonhwa’ also, [represents just one] social application and one [particular] circumstance (상태) of ceremony, not the entirety [of Părk]. Further, the phrase ‘pung-ryu’, too, is simply phonetic with no relation to the characters’ (문장) meaning. It was only much later that I came to this idea (이에 생각이 미쳤고), and only on account of this did the beginning and end [points] of this research link together.

As it [otherwise] becomes to complicated, I will simply state the results of [my] investigation. Părk was practiced on the [Korean] peninsula since ancient times and gradually assumed a national hue; in Silla, from its foundation it was transmitted by a class of ritual [specialists] called Pak (朴 Bak). The ceremony (제사) was called Părkăn (ᄇᆞᆰ은) and the priests (祭司) Paksu (박수); [those] made leaders were [termed] Geoseogan (居西干), Chacha’ung (次次雄), Isageum (尼師今) and Maripgan (麻立干); [there was] the religious order (교단) ‘wonhwa’ (hwarang, Părkăne) and the era Părknui (불구내 bulgunae ).

Because society was centered around ritual (제사), at first the priests were the rulers, but together with the development of society, politics and religion became separated and the belief systems of pung-ryu (풍류 pur) or na’eul (奈乙 nar) became the independent religion; the [subsequent] development of this religion becomes gradually [more] noteworthy. Concerning doctrine, sacred texts (聖典) such as Sinji (神誌), Seonsa (仙史), Bisa (秘詞) and Book of Jeong Gam (鄭鑑의書 {refers to Jeonggam-nok 鄭鑑錄 ‘Record of Jeong Gam’}) were compiled. Concerning practice, [both] secluded mountain practice as well as temporary mountain pilgrimages occurred, [both] had music as one aspect. The societal activities of the Wonhwa (separately the guk-seon 國仙; later there is the name hwarang ) become visible, giving strength to Silla’s national circumstances (국가정세).

Later, [Părkăn] flourished (융섭) alongside the introduction of Buddhism, [with which] it synthesized; Părkăn sacred rituals (聖儀) were practiced under the name of Palgwanhoe (Joseon pronunciation ‘Parkwanhoi’) [which was based on] similar sounding characters. But as Buddhism flourished (융성) it [began] gradually to dominate and the famous mountains of superior topography (승지) that had been the spiritual grounds of Părk all became lands of garam [sangharama] (伽藍) and nan’ya [araṇya] (蘭若) [temples], the guksin (國神 ‘national gods’) and their sasa (社祠) shrines barely managed to maintain their remaining life within the shadow of the character bul (佛) [of Buddhism].

However, the reason [it] was protected by the state and [the fact it was a] custom which had permeated folk traditions {or had itself been permeated by folk} meant that it could not be entirely obliterated (소멸) by foreign ideos (사상). Consequently the Palgwan (八關) rituals of the courts of [both] Taebong (泰封 aka Later Goguryeo) which continued from Silla, and Goryeo which succeeded Taebong, were consistently held on a grand scale; when the sinsa (神事 ‘divine matters’) were increasingly neglected because of this kind of Buddhism, it was such that on several occasions the state issued royal decrees (칙명) admonishing this and giving warnings.

Towards the end of Goryeo Confucianism arose and following the success of the Yi dynasty revolution, a policy was taken to suppress [both] sin (神 ‘gods’) and Buddhism for the sake of plotting (도모) political stability. As a result, leaving aside [the similar circumstances of] Buddhism, sindo (神道 ‘the way of the gods’) was [now like] ‘a once mighty bow down to its last arrow’ (强弩?) appearing clearly lonesome. Further, during the period of Taejo, sinseo (神書 ‘divine books’) were burnt bringing the loss of much literature on this subject [of Părk]. Only fragments which prophesied the fate of the Yi dynasty such as the Book of Jeong Gam (鄭鑑의書) which had been the most powerful, were secretly transmitted, [albeit] with later corruptions in the text.

However, during the Yi dynasty the Buddhist term palgwan [used] since early Goryeo, changed its makeup (얼굴 모습) to the Confucian term bukun (Pukun) [whilst] the old appearance (모습) of the sinsa shrines were preserved throughout [the country] by government offices (官府) and station inns (驛院). Concealed by the deep myeonpa (面怕), Pukun-harmöi (부군-할머이) fortunately continued the public/official (공적) belief [system] and in the form of Purki (呼旗 {hogi }) and Pukun-kut (府君굿 {bu’gun-gut }) the national Palgwanhoe has maintained the reverence of the people (민중적) until today.

Consequently, national instability and social discontent were treated as joyeon (助緣) and the phenomenon of belief (religious behaviour) arose connected to such [texts] as Book of Jeong Gam. [A picture of] the ideal world of ‘South Joseon’ (南朝鮮) was drawn, and all manner of big and small [events like] ripples [across] (波紋) were transmitted through history. Within this meaning, whilst in actuality having disappeared (망실), approaching the modern era the Way of Părk (ᄇᆞᆰ道) can be seen to have [undergone] a spiritual revival and has formed the core of [our] minjok‘s way of life with a vigour it previously had lacked.

For example, [amongst] Donghak (東學; later [named] Cheondo-gyo and Sicheon-gyo), Heumchi-gyo (吘哆敎 우치교; later Tae’eul-gyo 太乙敎), Bocheon-gyo (普天敎) and other similar religious groups that have appeared with various names, there is not one that is not based on this [Way of Părk]. The reason that such [new religions] as these have been easily established and that they (오느 것이나) have developed to a considerable degree is not due to the personality of the founder (敎祖) or the profundity of their [particular] doctrines, but [because] they have caused a response in the Joseon minjok’s single traditional spirit/soul (정신) that lay submerged in the people’s (민중) hearts, transmitted from ancient times. In truth, the ‘Way of Părk’ never died, it is living in the present and is the reality [of the] currently active generation (일대 현실). [Just] the people (민중) are not so conscious [of it in] themselves.

Source for the translation:
Choe Namseon 최남선, translated by Jeon Seonggon 전성공. 2013. 불함문화론ㆍ살만교차기 (최남선 한국학 총서8). Seoul: Kyung-in Publishing 景仁文化社.

See also a translation of the concluding chapter.

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Sources: Choe Namseon’s “Bulham-munhwa-ron” – last chapter

The following is a translation of the concluding chapter of Choe Namseon’s Bulham munhwa-ron (不咸文化論 불함문화론 ‘discourse on Bulham culture’) completed in December 1925 and first published in August 1927. The original was written in Japanese whilst this translation is based on the modern Korean translation. Trusting that the Korean translation is faithful to the Japanese, hopefully not too much will be different. For the most part, my translation aims to reflect the Korean syntax as closely as possible at the expense of more natural English; only when the syntax becomes impossibly garbled do I try to break down the sentences. In the original Korean, most paragraphs are made up of just one or two long sentences.

Sino-Korean hanja (漢字) characters in parenthesis are either present in the Korean translation or added by myself; obviously the original Japanese would always have used characters, though it would be interesting to know if any had furigana or special readings attached. Hangul (한글) words in parenthesis are left in by myself, either when the hangul form of the word is important or if the English does not so directly or exactly translate the original Korean word (or to prove what was originally written!) It seems the premodern Korean hangul vowel known as arae-a (아래아 ‘lower a‘) cannot be rendered in hangul unicode, the syllable block is broken up with the arae-a appearing as an interpunct.

Romanization of Korean words which do not match the Revised-Romanization system (e.g. Părk and Taigăr) are original to the Korean text.

For a good discussion of Choe Namseon’s historiography, namely his influential analysis of Dan’gun and the Bulham hypothesis, see:

Allen, Chizuko T. 1990. “Northeast Asia Centered Around Korea: Ch’oe Namsŏn’s View of History.” Journal of Asian Studies 49.4:787-806.

Bulham is a classic in the genre of hyperdiffusion theories popular at the time and periodically so since. The initial inspiration and term ‘bulham’ (不咸) Choe seems to have acquired from Shiratori Kurakichi (白鳥庫吉 1865-1942) who as early as 1900 had suggested it as a Chinese transcription of ‘Burkhan’ attested as an oronym (mountain name) in the Shanhaijing (山海經).

Anyway, here’s the translation.

Chapter 18: The Bulham Cultural Region and its Linchpin (楔子)

The above is an insufficient inquiry, but [from it we] could get a general view of [just] how deep roots the Părk centered culture existed with and over [just how] expansive a region it [was spread].

And consequently in the Shanhaijing (山海經) wherein one would think that [Părk/Bulham] had not been transmitted after the Qin [dynasty – due to its lack of explicit mention], the name Bulham (Părkăn) is [instead] recorded [as] ‘Dae’in’ (大人) and ‘Baek-min’ (白民), whilst in the Hanshu (漢書), that which in present day Joseon [aka Korea] is called baeksan (白山 ‘white mountain’) is mentioned as Bun-ryeo-san (分黎山; Păr); [these both] show that through textual sources also the longevity (오래됨) of ‘Părk (ᄇᆞᆰ)’ and ‘Părkăn (ᄇᆞᆰ은)’ can be observed.

In the Weishu (魏書), the record of the beliefs of the Wuhuan (烏丸) people states that when a human dies their soul (혼백) returns to a spirit-land (靈地) called Jeok-san (赤山 ‘red mountain’), and that they send off the deceased to Jeok-san furnishing them with dogs and cows. Through this abbreviated (간략형) [notion of] Jeok-san or Daegal (Taigăr), and its correspondence both in name and actuality with [mountains] such as Tae-san and Geumgang-san, the universalism of the ‘Daegal (Taigăr)’ belief [system] can be appreciated.

The foundation myth of the Mongols recounts that a blue wolf (蒼浪) who had received the celestial mandate (天命 lit. ‘command’) and his wife, a white deer (白牝鹿), resided in Burhan (不兒罕山) mountain and [there] gave birth to the country’s founder; the foundation tale of the Manchu, meanwhile, tells of the strange (기이한) exploits of the red fruit of Bulhūri lake (布勒瑚哩地) beneath the Bukūri mountains (布庫哩山) to the east of Jangbaek-san [長白山 Ch. Chángbáishān, aka K. Baekdu-san 白頭山] mountain, [and so we cannot but] be surprised at the universalism of these [myths] possessing the traditional philosophy (사상) of the lineage of Bulham culture.

In Mongolian, gods and Buddhas (神佛) alike are called burikan (부리칸) or burhan (부르한) (burkhan); in every house of the Oroqen people (鄂倫春人) they set up a sacred alter (神壇); in Sollon (率倫人 Ch. Lǜlún) people’s homes they worship ‘borohan’ (보로한); amongst the Gilyak there is the name bad (바드) for mountain gods (山神); [thus] together with Joseon’s veneration of Bugun (府君; Pukun or Taigam), Japan’s various schools of different types of Shintō, and Ryukyuan worship in front of the sun (in Ryukyuan language ‘sun’ is fi or pi ), it can be surmised that the various ethnic groups and states of the east have tacitly developed (자라다) within a shared culture up until the present. How can the explication (자아냄) of the scholarly interest in Părk (ᄇᆞᆰ) thought simply stop with history? As one who is [trying to] vaguely explicate on Asian-ism, or as that spiritual (정신적) support, there is the need to look into (돌아보다) this [further].

In short, an ethnic group (민족 minjok) who possess a Părk based belief [system] and social organization is distributed in a line [starting from the region between] the Caspian Sea and the Tian Shan mountains which [constitute] the northeast branch of the Pamir mountains; [this line then] follows the Altay mountains, the Sayan mountains and Yablonoi mountains, and then incorporates the Xing’an and Taihaeng mountains to the south, and I’yeok (夷域 ‘yi territory’), Joseon, Japan and Ryukyu to the east. Leaving aside [the question of] the racial (종족적) relationship [between them], culturally they form a [long] chain of connections.

[Along this chain] some division emerged between [those more] civilized and [those more] primitive (야만) [depending on] the period of migration out of the original homeland (본원지) and environmental conditions (제약) in the [various] places of settlement. However, taking the legends that had diverged from the original same root as the history of the founding of [their individual] countries and transmitting them in a fragmentary fashion, [they] preserved a single culture (문화적 현상 lit. ‘cultural phenomenon’) [unified] by a single belief [system] that was both universal and strong and constituted its [own] root of origin. Because it was originally based on an immovable conviction, a model for the best way of living, even whilst being constantly oppressed by stronger cultures [they] successfully maintained a living lineage (계통적 생명) across east and west and throughout past and present.

The lineage of Bulham (Părkăn) culture constitutes a northern lineage of eastern culture that contrasts with the two southern lineages of China and India. [Amongst both] the peoples (minjok) and countries that belong to this [northern] lineage, until a certain period [we can say] they had no special [individual] histories, [and] a feeling (감정) has flowed [across place and time] of such shared commonality and correspondence that it has constituted its own distinctly colored (특색) [cultural] area. Corresponding to [the original] Părk (ᄇᆞᆰ) and [since] protected within Taigăr (대갈), both [their] actual and ideal way of living (생활) is to obtain comfort and satisfaction. Consequently, that which constitutes [both the] clear[est] proof, and [represented] an extremely important opportunity (계) [for maintaining Părk] has been [the legends of] Dan’gun and Buru (夫婁), and the teaching of ‘the Way of Pung-nyu’ (風流道) [which all belong to] Joseon history.

Today in East Asia, the northern people’s source of branching and [their] constituent cultural content (문화 구성 내용) still belongs to virgin territory [in] scholarship and it is difficult to suddenly grasp the truth and details [of it all], however, it seems [now in this writing] through [our] investigation of this Părk (ᄇᆞᆰ) philosophy, we have glimpsed the broad outline of the original source. Having pursued (더듬다) this, recently I am thinking that perhaps based on this a true explanation of the ancient culture of East Asia has been achieved.

[On the basis of] comparative research of religion and language, and [utilizing] anthropology and folkloristics, [Dan’gun is] thought to be the secret key to East Asian culture [and so] whenever I see Dan’gun slandered by those who cannot know, relying on ignorant (一知半解) uninformed (상식적) scholars [as they do], I feel nervously troubled (아슬아슬) and frustrated. And when East Asian culture is discussed, whenever I see [they] treat everything as pertaining either to Chinese or Indian [cultural] spheres and speak as though attributing value [only] to these, I cannot help but lament that the lack of progress in Oriental Studies owes to these preconceived notions (기존 인식) and preconceptions.

Recently a research tradition in the humanities (인문 과학) and folkloristics has gradually gained popularity (성행) and a new scholarly paradigm (신국면) is opening up. For the sake of the original (本地) truth of East [Asian] culture which [has been] being buried, I am truly delighted and cannot welcome [this development] enough. Consequently [it] must be said that expectations for the immediate future lie solely in this direction. We [Japanese and Koreans] are [merely] one inconspicuous part (일면) of East [Asian] culture, or [even of] all humanity; the focus of that comprehensive observation can be understood as Părk (ᄇᆞᆰ) ideology. If the secret of this ideology is [further] developed by many intelligent scholars, and its structure and nature becomes clearer, it will herald in an enormous new light which can illuminate [wider] human culture.

Source for the translation:
Choe Namseon 최남선, translated by Jeon Seonggon 전성공. 2013. 불함문화론ㆍ살만교차기 (최남선 한국학 총서8). Seoul: Kyung-in Publishing 景仁文化社.

 See all a translation of Chapter 10: The great lineage of Joseon sindo (神道).