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1850 Korean Map of Hwanghae Province

[Hwanghae]. - Main View

1850 Korean Map of Hwanghae Province


An early atlas map of Hwanghae Province, ground zero of the Korean War.


  1850 (undated)     10.5 x 12.75 in (26.67 x 32.385 cm)     1 : 600000


This is a unique c. 1850 map of Hwanghae Province (黃海道) published in Korea during the late Joseon period (1392 - 1897). It provides a wealth of geographic and administrative information on Hwanghae, one of the eight traditional provinces of Joseon, now located in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea).
A Closer Look
This map was produced using a combination of engraved woodblock printing and hand-coloring. The names of towns, cities, and other administrative units are either circled or written in a box. Those that are circled include a number (using the traditional Chinese system 一, 二, 三, and so on) followed by a character (府, 守, 監, 令, 營, 官) referring to the presence of government offices and/or garrisons. The names of mountains, islands, and sub-provincial administrative units are also noted. Large characters meaning 'well' (井) and demon or ghost (鬼) appear towards top-left and bottom-right, respectively. In this case, they correspond to the Twenty-Eight Mansions (二十八宿) zodiac system, though their exact purpose here is unclear. Text in the margins indicates what features are located in those directions (waterways, mountains, neighboring provinces).

A major road is indicated by a black line at bottom, though as Hwanghae Province was largely maritime in nature, there was a relative paucity of roads. The road here leads from the provincial capital Haeju (海州) eastwards toward Gyeonggi Province (京畿道), which included the capital Hanseong (漢城, also known as Hanyang 漢陽), today's Seoul. Near where the road terminates in the west is the Ongjin Peninsula (瓮津), which falls below the 38th Parallel despite being connected by land to North Korea. Consequently, the area became a major flashpoint as North and South Korea separated in the late 1940s and was in effect where the Korean War began. Hwanghae, including the Ongjin Peninsula, ended up in North Korea when the armistice was signed in 1953, making it the southernmost portion of the country. The de facto border between the two Koreas at the demilitarized zone lies just to the east and southeast of the area depicted here. The coastal islands seen here have been contested between the two states and remain sites of tension, though islands administered by South Korea that extend dozens of miles north of the land border have also become popular tourist destinations in recent years.
Late Joseon Korea
This map most likely dates from the latter period of the Joseon Dynasty (see discussion below), a period when Korea encountered one crisis after another. Famines, uprisings, factional infighting at the court and among officials, and foreign invasions struck in succession or simultaneously. Capable governance and limited reforms allowed Joseon to stave off some of these threats, even defeating back-to-back French and American military expeditions in 1866. But Korea's isolationist policies and lack of more thoroughgoing reform left it vulnerable, and Japan gradually expanded its economic, political, and military influence until Korea became a virtual colony and then was annexed outright in 1910.
Publication History and Census
The exact provenance of this map is unclear. The phrase Yeojido (or in Chinese Yu ditu, 輿地圖), which could be translated as 'atlas,' was common in the title of maps and map collections at least since the Yuan Dynasty in the 13th-14th centuries CE. There are several works published in Korea bearing the title Yeojido dating from the 17th to the late 19th century that contain maps resembling this one. Often these collections contained maps of China, Japan, and other East Asian territories (usually under the title 大東輿地圖 or 天下輿地圖). These collections, very rare themselves, are held by the Library of Congress, Harvard University, the National Library of Korea, and the Nichibunken (International Research Center for Japanese Studies).

This map most closely resembles those in two collections held by Harvard University: the first, titled World Atlas (天下輿地圖, Cheonha Yeojido, OCLC 1252343134) was published in the early 18th century, and the second, titled Atlas of Korea (韓國輿地圖, Hanguk Yeojido, OCLC 37161862), was published in 1893 by Kim Hong-gyu (金鴻圭, 김홍규). However, the present map differs somewhat from the maps of Hwanghae in those works in several respects, including the coloration, the elaboration of mountains and waterways, and other similar details. While it could date to as early as the 17th century, given the relative high level of elaboration, it more likely was produced at some point in the early-mid 19th century. The text evident in the background here is not see-through from the verso but left by offsetting from another page. Unfortunately, this text is mostly illegible, lending no help in identifying the map.


Good. Some marginal wear at bottom. Text visible in white space due to offsetting.