Korea through western cartographic eyes.

(unabridged version of an article written by Henny Savenije © which is released in the spring issue of  Korean Culture published by Korean Cultural Center, Los Angeles, e-mail webmaster at henny-savenije.pe.kr) (Korean culture Vol. 21 No. 1 Spring 2000 page 4~19. Reprinted with the permission of the Korean Cultural Center, Los Angeles.) Pictures on this website are watermarked and copyrights are deposited at Digimarc
  1. Introduction
  2. The age of the discoveries
  3. Dutch cartography
  4. Van Linschoten
  5. Ortelius and Texeira
  6. Jodocus Hondius
  7. Willem Jansz. Blaeu.
  8. Martinus Martini.
  9. Hendrick Hamel.
  10. French Cartography
  11. d'Anville and his Korean source.
  12. Korean developments.
  13. Map overview
  14. Bibliography.
  15. Timeline of Western publications about Korea
  16. High quality scans of the pictures
  17. Links


Western cartography starts with the revival of knowledge of Claudius Ptolemy's Geographia soon after the year 1400 AD. Greek manuscript copies made in the twelfth to fourteenth centuries, were brought by scholars to Italy from Constantinople and subsequently translated into Latin and widely studied. Ptolemy lived in the 2nd century AD in Egypt. He divided the world in 360 degrees and introduced a method to establish meridians and parallels and projected the round shape of the world on a flat surface. Geographers and astronomers were influenced by his work for about 1500 years. Nothing of his original work remains and we can only see his maps by the diligent work of monks who copied his works and probably made their own small contributions and interpretations as well. The coincidental invention of Gutenberg, the art of printing, made large numbers of copies possible. On the available copies from the maps of Ptolemy we can find no mentioning of Korea.

ptolemy.jpg (125209 bytes)Another far reaching impact was that the Turks conquered Constantinople and Europe was cut off from its trade routes to the far-east, which had always passed through Constantinople. This made it necessary for Europeans to look for other ways to look for the supplies they needed (For all the thumbnails [the small pictures] you can click on it to see the complete map, it will open a new window, the new window closes when you click on the map again)

The first explorer to name Korea was Marco Polo in the end of the 13th century. He describes the battle of Kubilai Kahn against Najan, who tried to grasp the power from his uncle. When Kubilai defeated Najan, Polo mentioned that the barons and soldiers of Najan pledged loyalty to Kubilai and they were representing four provinces: Djurtsjet, Kauli, Barskol and Sikintingin. Kauli is believed to be Korea whether this word refers to the state or Koryo or the Korean peninsula as a whole. The northern part of Korea was conquered by the Mongolians as early as 1231. (Il Millione The original travel accounts by Maria Bellonci Torino Edizioni RAI Radiotelevisione Italiana, 1982)

We will see further on, that we still find the name Kauli on some maps. Obviously someone made the connection between Polo's Kauli and Korea.

Martin Waldeseemüller, was born c. 1470 in Radolfzell, Württemberg and died ca. 1518-1521 in Saint-Dié, Lorraine.
Tabula Superioris Indiae & Tartariae Maioris from Claudius Ptolemy, Geographia, Strassburg 1522. Japan is shown as a trapezium shape. Actually the world image of Ptolemy only reached to the "backside of India". Waldeseemüller has thus taken the information from Marco Polo about Tartary and Zipangri, translated it into a map and added the worldmap of Ptolemy.

waldeseemueller1522.jpg (440856 bytes)After that for some time nobody from the West knew or wrote about Korea. For long Gregorio de Céspedes (1550-1611) was believed to be the first westerner to visit Korea (Ledyard, the Dutch come to Korea, page 102-103), though he wrote no account of the country. He actually did visit Korea -- he arrived on December 27, 1593 in Korea, invited by the Christian 'daimyo' Konishi Yukinaga (alias Augustin Arimandono), one of the three leading generals of the Japanese invasion army. Céspedes was a Jesuit. (Gompertz, G.St.G.M. "Some Notes on the Earliest Western Contacts with Korea." Transactions of the Korea Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 33 (1957): 41-54). He stayed until April 1594 in Korea. It was reported by a letter of Father Luís Fróis (1532-1597) that around 300.000 Korean prisoners of war -- mostly "slaves" it seems -- were brought to Nagasaki as converted Christians. In Francesco Carletti's 'Discourses' we find that Carletti in 1597 bought 5 of them, according to him, for ridiculously low prizes: "The country of Korea is said to be divided into nine provinces, the names of which Cioseien, which is the capital province and gives it's name to the city in which the King resides, Quienqui, Conguan, Honliay, Cioala, Hienfion, Tioneion, Hanquien, Pianchien. From these provinces, but particularly from those nearest to the coast, had been brought as slaves a large number of men and women of all ages, among them some quite pretty children. These were all being sold indifferently at a very cheap price, and I bought as many as five for a litle more than twelve scudi." One of Carletti's converted Korean pupils later went together with Carletti to Holland and later to Rome, Italy and lived there -- the first Korean to visit Europe -- his name was Antonio Correa (1578?-1626). In the 1610s the Vatican send him to Manchuria to reenter Korea as a missionary, but he wasn't successful.. He seemingly married an Italian girl! -- his grandgrandgrandgrand....daughter visited Korea in the late 1980s. At least that's what the people in Albi, Italy thought, however a chromosome test proved that they had no Korean blood. (You can find the article here

However, Céspedes wasn't the first westerner to enter Korea. This was a man to which Korean sources refer to as   "Pingni" or "Mari," who landed together with some Chinese on Cheju-do in spring of 1582. He was immediately deported to China.

To part 2: The age of the discoveries.

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