Historians of late premodern Korea have tended to regard it as a hermit kingdom, isolated from its neighbours and the wider world. In fact, as Ro argues in this book, Korean intellectuals were heavily influenced by both Chinese Neo-Confucianism and the European Enlightenment in the late 18th and 19th centuries.
In the late Choson period the regime felt threatened by the new, more empirical, approaches to knowledge emerging from both the East and the West. For this reason many Korean intellectuals felt it necessary to work in the shadows and formed secret societies for the study of nature. Because of the secrecy of these societies, much of their work has remained unknown even in Korea until recent years. Ho looks at the work of these intellectuals and analyses the impact their thinking and experimentation had on knowledge production in Korea.
A fascinating insight into the largely overlooked story of how globalization affected intellectual life in Korea before the 20th century. This book will be of great interest to students and researchers of Korean history and of Asian intellectual history more broadly.
Table of Contents
1. Measuring the Old Universe with New Math 2. Observing the Animal Kingdom 3. Evolution of Korean Agrarian Writing 4. A Banished Man and Morphology of Fish 5. Daoist Alchemy and Female Empirical Knowledge
Sang-ho Ro is Assistant Professor of Korean and East Asian Studies in the Division of International Studies at Ewha Woman’s University.