Drifting Across the Sea: A Record of Ming China

Choe Bu (1454-1504) was a Korean official during the early Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). He is most well known for the account of his shipwrecked travels in China from February to July 1488, during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Choe's diary accounts of his travels in China became widely printed in the 16th century in both Korea and Japan. Modern historians also utilize his written works, since his travel diary provides a unique outsider's perspective on Chinese culture in the 15th century and valuable information on China's cities and regional differences. The attitudes and opinions expressed in his writing represent in part the standpoints and views of the 15th century Confucian Korean literati, who viewed Chinese culture as compatible with and similar to their own. His description of cities, people, customs, cuisines, and maritime commerce along China's Grand Canal provides insight into the daily life of China and how it differed between northern and southern China during the 15th century. (Wikipedia)

"Choe Bu is determined to prove himself a good Confucianist and Korea a great Confucian state. Not only do the Koreans impress the Chinese with their behavior, but they are also well on the way to proving that they are respectable people. Good manners and Choe's Confucian learning save their lives." (Choe Bu's Diary, From the Introduction by John Meskill)

*Note all connection descriptions are from the travel diary of Joseon Official Choe Bu. (Choe Bu's Diary: A Record of Drifting Across the Sea)

Connected Sites

Site Rationale Link
Grand Canal "His description of cities, people, customs, cuisines, and maritime commerce along China's Grand Canal provides insight into the daily life of China and how it differed between northern and southern China during the 15th century." wiki
Great Wall 6th Day, Fifth Month. Fair. "Mt. Chueh was north of the wall, and at its very peak stood Shanhaiguan. It was a strategic point between barbarians and Chinese. The Great Wall built by the Qin general Meng Tian was projected from the waist of Mt. Chueh, passed as the east wall of the garrison, and extended to the sea. In the wall was Tung-men Transfer Station. Everyone going east or west was inspected and allowed or forbidden to pass."
Imperial Palace 20th Day, Fourth Month. Acknowledging Graciousness in the Palace. This day was cloudy. "The outer gates of the Imperial City had already been unlocked, and the ministers of daily attendance were entering in order. Compelled by the circumstances, I put on festive dress and entered the palace. Troops were drawn up smartly, lights burned brightly. Li Hsiang seated me in the central courtyard. Soon, drums were beaten at the left end of Wu Gate and bells struck at the right end. Three arched gates opened, and at each gate two big elephants stood on guard, their forms spectacular. Just before daylight, the officials of the Court lined up by ranks in front of the gate. Li Hsiang led me to my place in the Court ranks and then led Chong Po and the others to form a separate group. After the five genuflections with three kowtows each, we went through Tuan Gate and passed through the Gate of Cheng-tian, which was inside Ta-ming Gate. We went to the east, passing out though Chang-an Gate again, and I put back on my mourning clothes. We passed Chang-an Street and returned to Jade River House."
Jeju (Departure from Jeju Island) 3rd day, Intercalary First Month, 1488. [February 15th] At Sea. This day was cloudy and sometimes rainy. The wind was from the east and slightly favorable. "Chol-lyo and Tung-nye tried to stop me from going, saying, "We old men were born and grew up by the sea lanes. When it is changeable on Mt. Halla, now cloudy, now rainy, the wind is sure to shift, and it will be impossible to sail boats."
West Lake 6th day, Second Month. Arrival at Hanzhou. This day was cloudy. "In the west we saw Liuhe Pagoda, overlooking the river bank. We went past Yen-shang Temple and Che-chiang Station and came to the south gate of the wall of Hanzhou." ***General comment on West Lake - "The mountains and rivers there are beautiful. It is a pleasure resort where singing and music are heard on every side." (It should be noted while Choe Bu observed briefly some of the splendors of Hanzhou he laments the fact he had little opportunity to explore the famous sights.)


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