ljlee: (peach_pissed)
I learned yesterday that evidently a bunch of jingoistic pseudo-historians (let's call them JiPHs for short) who claim to be "patriots" helped put a halt to the Early Korea Project, a joint publication project by Harvard University and (actual) historians of ancient Korea. The JiPHs' complaint? That the project put the site of one of the major Chinese colonies, Nakrang, in the Korean peninsula, as opposed to the Chinese continent where the JiPHs insist Nakrang was located.

Theories on the location of Nakrang
Different theories on the location of Nakrang: Most South Korean scholars (green), North Korean scholars (blue), so-called "irregular" scholars, i.e. JiPHs (red)

The JiPHs' argument, as always, is total baloney. The historical and most crucially the archeological evidence points to Nakrang being on the peninsula, around what is now Pyeongyang, North Korea. (Green area of map above) The JiPHs, however, insist that Nakrang was in modern China to the west of the Liao River (Red area of map) because Reasons because Korea wasn't centered on the Korean peninsula we were a continental power dammit and the Chinese could never have had a presence on the Korean peninsula and it's colonialist to say otherwise and wahhhhh why are their dicks so small.

That's their entire thing, that ancient Korea has to have been a continental power, no, a continent-spanning empire in order for our history to have any worth, the evidence must only be interpreted to support this conclusion, and any scholarship that says otherwise is imperialist treason to the Korean people and ughhhh I feel slimy just typing this wanky nonsense.

Like mainstream historical scholars tend to, I've regarded the JiPHs with amused tolerance because I assumed they were harmless though annoying cranks. But now, realizing they can get valuable, serious research shut down with their pseudoacademic crap and get members of the national legislature on their side, I realize they are a serious threat and need a stompdown.

This gives me more incentive than ever to finish and publish my novel which places Nakrang, obviously, squarely in the Korean peninsula where it belongs. I want with all my heart for this novel to gain enough influence that the idea of Nakrang in Pyeongyang becomes popularized and the JiPHs can only scream and cry while their "theory" goes down the toilet where it belongs. That's not the only JiPH sacred cow I'm slaughtering, so may their cryfest be bitter and long.

And sure, if that happens they'll start their usual campaigns of smears and harassment, tactics that people with actual proof and logic on their side don't have to resort to. And you know what? Bring it. I am so ready for these liars and cowards. They have gone too far and this means war.
ljlee: Queen... er, Lady Misil (misil)
Has it seriously been a month since I updated? o_O THE TIME WHERE DOES IT GO

My friends who have given me encouragements on the Soseono novel will be heartened to know that my obsession with the project continues apace. I've done a substantial amount of research on the politics of the period, at least in the internal politics among the heroine's people, so I've moved on to the daily lives including clothing, food, and architecture.

I've started on clothing first because it's the best researched and documented among the "daily life" topics. Goguryeoh in particular has a wealth of primary sources on these, because starting around the second or third century A.D. these people started painting elaborate tomb murals depicting everyday scenes like dancing, parades, cooking, fighting and so on. (In later periods the murals become more abstract and religious, closing this window into the material lives of their eras.)

There's a lot of research on specific subjects depicted in these murals. Recently I read an entire paper on men's headgear, for instance. Evidently Goguryeoh men wore caps, and noblemen wore feathers in their caps to denote their status. Feathered caps are shown in various murals including the following the third or fourth century depiction of a hunt.

pics below the fold )
ljlee: (soseono)
My heroine, the Lady Soseono, is a famous figure in Korean history and one of the most prominent women from ancient Korean history. She has appeared in numerous works of historical fiction, usually as a supporting character by her second husband's side but more rarely as a protagonist in her own right. Obviously I couldn't neglect the market research in this area, and I felt a combination of trepidation and anticipation as I searched for novels starring Soseono for comparison with my own ideas.

What I found, to my disappointment and admittedly a small thrill of delight, was that these novels did not in any way do her justice. Some combination of the words trashy, offensive, and pointless applied to all of them, and none of them showed the depth of linguistic and historical research that I was hoping for. Here are some of the works I've looked at, or at least skimmed because my patience only goes so far. I did get some ideas for my own novel from these, mostly in terms of what not to do, so at least it wasn't a complete waste of time.

Three novels, many non-graphic mentions of rape because ugh. )

Even aside from quality issues, these books don't accurately portray the language or society of ancient Korea. "Soseono," for instance, was unlikely to be her given name but was probably a place name or title. Then again this lack of research is a flaw in all Korean historical fiction, not just these three novels, and that's something I hope to correct with my own work. These novels taught me what to do and especially what not to do along the way.
ljlee: Queen... er, Lady Misil (misil)
I'm reading a book called Ancient Korean Conceptions of Life and Death (고대 한국인의 생사관), which turns out to be a little bit of a misleading title--in fact the author Na Huira frankly admits that we can't know for sure how ancient Koreans viewed life and death. We have a better idea once they took on more cosmopolitan (and better-documented) beliefs, most prominently Buddhism. This doesn't help me a whole lot, though, since my story takes place centuries before Koreans became Buddhists. Besides, culture probably played a role even after the changes in religious faith, differentiating a Korean Buddhist's beliefs from, say, those of her Vietnamese co-religionist.

One wedding and one funeral, except not really? )

So this book, while slender and speculative out of necessity, is providing me with some good material. More than the information, though, I like the feel for the ancient Koreans I get from reading. The discussions give me the means to knit together information I already know, like with the Bear Woman myth and marriage as death-rebirth. For some reason I never thought of the myth in terms of a wedding ritual before, though the connection is obvious once I think about it. I look forward to what more I can learn.

Also I dug up a whole bunch of books on the details of Goguryeoh life, and I'm hitting the library so hard once I get a free day. Snoopy dance!

Yay! )
ljlee: (bursting)
I keep blowing my self-imposed deadlines on the novel, so I've decided to work on it a little every day--specifically at least one hour a day. I'll be blogging about that work, both as a way to leave notes to myself and to show that hey, it's alive!

She didn't eat rice, at least not a lot of it. )

I ended up checking out one book I hadn't seen before but had marked in my research notes, Traffic Routes and Footholds in Ancient China-Korea Relations. I need to get serious about spatial relations and trade/military routes and bases. I've placed most of the major locations in the story, but haven't figured out a pivotal one--the seat of the heroine's first husband. I do have a site I like very much, but I'll need to check and see if it's feasible.
ljlee: Queen... er, Lady Misil (misil)
I am not the first of my line to write about my heroine's times. The celebrated thirteenth-century writer Lee Gyubo (李奎報, 1168~1241) wrote the Lay of the King in the Eastern Light (東明王篇), an epic poem about the first king of Goguryeoh a.k.a. my heroine's second husband. Lee, also known as Master White Cloud (白雲居士) and Lord of Gentle Prose (文順公), is my distant ancestor and one of the founders of my house.*

Fully illustrated with amateur photography )

That's how I visited an ancestral grave to pay my respects and ask for help. Yes, I am that desperate. It was nice to reconnect with this part of my heritage, and I know whom to blame if this project doesn't pan out.

Postscript: Another ancestor, the 18th-century academic Lee Ik, came up in my research as a scholar on Yemaek groups and the origins of the Korean people. I appear to have a multi-generational obsession on my hands.
ljlee: (candle)
After another compulsive bout of reading last night, I finally learned where my heroine's home in the first century B.C. was likely to have been located. Here's what it looks like today:

Folded for pictures and rambling )

My heroine's ancient home is now underwater, which is a bummer but not a huge one. I still look forward to visiting Huanren and the dam; in addition to research it's going to be like a pilgrimage to a woman whom I consider a spiritual ancestor, and the people and way of life she was a part of until she found the courage to leave it all behind at nearly fifty years of age. Two thousand years later she still fills me with awe, something no amount of water can touch.
ljlee: why not? (conch)
As noted at the end of the notes on ancient names post, our modern pronunciation of ancient names probably doesn't match the way the ancient Koreans themselves pronounced these names. Either Chinese characters were used for their meaning instead of their sound, or the letters fulfilled phonetic functions that didn't involve sounding out the full letter.

For this reason the name of my heroine was a mystery for the longest time, and not just to me. Literally, in Chinese, it means call-west-slave (召西奴), but it's pretty obvious the letters were used to transcribe the sound of a Korean name and weren't used for their meaning.

Theorizing, googling, then inspiration! )
ljlee: (soseono)
"Sole reining queen and foundress in Korean history, she it was who built the two ancient kingdoms of Goguryeo and Baekje."
- Shin Chaeho, Ancient Korean History

Soseono (pronounced so-suh-no. 소서노 [召西奴]; 66 B.C.- 6 B.C.) was a part of the founding of two kingdoms in ancient Korea, Goguryeo and Baekje. She was the queen of the first king of Goguryeo and the mother of the first king of Baekje, but according to some she was far more than a wife and mother of founders but a founder and even ruling queen in her own right. The purpose of this post is to reconstruct the life of this remarkable woman based on reliable historical information.

* For a pronunciation guide and a note on the names see Korean Romanization and Notes on Ancient Names.

Reliable being a relative term here... )

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L.J. Lee

June 2016

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