Engraving Virtue: The Printing History of a Premodern Korean Moral Primer


In Engraving Virtue, Young Kyun Oh investigates the publishing history of the Samgang Haengsil-to (Illustrated Guide to the Three Relations), a moral primer of Chosŏn (1392–1910), and traces the ways in which woodblock printed books contributed to shaping premodern Korea.
Originally conceived by the court as a book with which to instill in its society Confucian ethics encased in the stories of moral heroes and heroines as filial sons, loyal subjects, and devoted wives, the Samgang Haengsil-to embodies various aspects of Chosŏn society. With careful examinations of its various editions and historical documents, Oh presents how the life of this book reflected the complicated factors of the Chosŏn society and how it became more than just a reading material.

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Young Kyun Oh, Ph.D. (2005), University of Wisconsin-Madison, is Assistant Professor of Chinese and Sino-Korean at the School of International Letters and Cultures, Arizona State University. He has published several articles on Sino-Korean cultural and linguistic connections.
'This book is an invaluable companion to the history of the early and mid-Choso˘n period, which combines new insights of material culture studies with solid textual scholarship to present a convincing explanation for the specific format and popularity of a key text from this period.'
Sem Vermeersch (Seoul National University), Seoul Journal of Korean Studies (2014) 27/1

'This is a book that delivers more than it promises. The author is well read in comparative book history and appreciates that there is more to books than their printing history. (...) this book is an authoritative, subtle, and wholly satisfying exploration of an emblematic moral primer and Oh contextualises it superbly. It is book history at its best, and that means in the Korean context that it also tells us much about thesocial history of the Choso˘n dynasty.'
Peter Kornicki (University of Cambridge), Sungkyun Journal of East Asian Studies (2014) 14/1
All interested in the print culture and its implications on social changes, Korean studies, literary and intellectual history of Asia, and Confucian transformation of Korea and East Asia.
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