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  • The Foresight of Dark Knowing: Chŏnggamnok and Insurrectionary Prognostication in Pre-modern Korea by John Jorgensen
  • Richard D. McBride II (bio)
The Foresight of Dark Knowing: Chŏnggamnok and Insurrectionary Prognostication in Pre-modern Korea, translated, annotated, and with an introduction by John Jorgensen. Korean Classics Library: Philosophy and Religion. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2018. vii + 451 pages. $72.00.

John Jorgensen's scholarly introduction to and annotated translation of the Chŏnggamnok represents a monumental piece of scholarship that makes accessible for the first time in English a body of material describing the hopes of aspirations of non-educated and disempowered Koreans stretching back to the Chosŏn period (1392–1910) and beyond. The Foresight of Dark Knowing is essentially two books bound together in one: Part I, the Translator's Introduction (pp. 1–202), is basically a monograph on the history of premodern Korean prognostication and geomantic techniques within its East Asian cultural milieu. Part II, Translation (pp. 203–317), comprises thirty-two seemingly discrete texts that together are known by the title Chŏnggamnok 鄭鑑錄. The remainder of the book consists of an appendix on the sexagenary (kapcha) cycle (p. 319), abbreviations and notes (pp. 321–432), a works cited list (pp. 433–443), and an index (pp. 445–451).

Jorgensen's introduction to the translation is actually a detailed monograph on the various kinds of prognosticative and geomantic beliefs [End Page 214] and activities that circulated in Korea from premodern times. Jorgensen starts with the history of the mantic arts in early China, specifically "political propaganda/prognostications" (Ch. tuchen,K. toch'am 圖讖; p. 19) and geomancy (Ch. fengshui,K. p'ungsu 風水; p. 24), and then discusses the developments in the Korean Three Kingdoms period up to the Koryŏ period (pp. 39–50) and the explosion of mantic beliefs and mantic practices in the Koryŏ period (pp. 50–82). Jorgensen questions the veracity of certain widely-held and popular narratives, such as purported writings of Ch'oe Ch'iwŏn (857–d. after 908) that link to the Koryŏ founder Wang Kŏn (877–943) (see p. 44) and much of the material associated with the late Silla geomantic monk Tosŏn (trad. dates 827–898), who, following other Western scholars, he asserts was appropriated and reinvented as a supporter of the Koryŏ dynasty in the twelfth century (pp. 50–58). The section on the Chosŏn period (pp. 82–182) demonstrates how both Korean elites (yangban) and the disenfranchised (ch'ŏnmin) placed lots of faith in mantic practices, from Yi Sŏnggye's (1335–1408) founding of the dynasty through all of the important historical and court dramas and peasant rebellions spanning the Chosŏn period.

Although those who believe in the antiquity and authenticity of the Chŏnggamnok will find it unpalatable, Jorgensen makes a compelling case that the received corpus of texts that presently comprise the Chŏnggamnok were probably brought together in the second half of the nineteenth century (pp. 3–7, 175–202). Earlier manuscripts called Chŏnggamnok were in circulation, perhaps since the time of the rebellion of Chŏng Yŏrip (1546–1598) that occurred in the troubled reign of King Sŏnjo (r. 1567–1608), which saw the erosion of the prestige of the royal Yi family due to corruption and the devastating Imjin War with Japan (Hideyoshi invasions, 1592–1598). Jorgensen does not disagree with the "pioneering historians of this literature" who suggested that the Chŏng Yŏrip revolt was the inspiration for the Chŏnggamnok, based on a document dated 1787 (p. 110, 351n605). However, Jorgensen makes a plausible argument that many of the smaller texts that comprise the Chŏnggamnok, which had been in circulation since at least the 1780s, were in part reedited and emended nearly a century later in the late nineteenth century becoming a new Chŏnggamnok corpus fueling anti-Japanese resistance (pp. 182–187) and new Korean religious traditions (pp. 187–189). The Chŏnggamnok was first published by Hosoi Hajime (1886–1934) in 1923, following manuscripts collected by Ayukai Fusanoshin (1864–1946) and called Chŏnggamnok because it was the title of the first text in...


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