Week 10 of 소리를 보는 소년 👁👂 Korean Fiction Book Club 🇰🇷

Glad you guys are enjoying it! :grinning:

I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface, and there’s so much more I could look into just from what’s been mentioned in the reading so far… I had to kinda force myself to stop at some point and just post, but I could’ve researched all the historical stuff for hours. Korean History Book Club, anyone? :rofl:

Honestly I’ve been feeling a bit intimidated at the thought of F&B since it seems like historical people and events play such a big part… But judging by how much I’ve been enjoying this, I’ll probably have a lot of fun with F&B, too. :grin:

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First volume’s not too bad, at least! There’s stuff to look up, but it’s not too overwhelming imo.

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Finished with this week’s reading!

Chapter 2

How tragic is this book, though?! The boys dad gets angry at them and then we had 장만s very sad backstory of how he became blind, started learning acupuncture for a chance at making a living, and then lost his mother and was forced to give up. :scream: The reality is that it probably was very difficult to live as a blind person back in the Joseon era, but my heart…why are books for younger audiences sometimes so bleak?! :face_holding_back_tears:

On a language note, I found this chapter a bit easier than chapter one, since the vocabulary was daily-life related. :+1:t2:

죽어라 means to do something desperately or crazy as if you are going to die, so the nuance is they are basically breaking their backs and putting everything into farming but due to droughts or monsoons, there isn’t much harvest. :smiling_face_with_tear:

I wonder what 토란 막걸리 tastes like? :thinking: I love the classic 막걸리, so I’d be interested in trying this one day!

That’s right! I actually went there earlier this year and would recommend it! I learned so much about the history of 한양/서울 and all of the models were really cool.

Just a few pics:

Recreation of a calligrapher’s studio from the Joseon era

There is a full size replica of modern 서울 built to scale and it was super cool!



Chapter 3

Finally a bit of happiness in this chapter! It was nice seeing 장만 excited about something after reading so much about all the tragedies that he has encountered so far. :smiling_face_with_tear: Looking forward to the next chapter to see what he can find out about becoming 통명시! I also was interested in the 기우제 and all the descriptions. I’m always wowed by shamanic rituals and ceremonies in Korean movies or dramas so I had fun trying to imagine what the 기우제 sounded like based on the descriptions in the book. :popcorn:

@bibliothecary thanks for the interesting write up and pics of all the instruments, especially the 나팔! Was wondering what it looked like.

If I have some time I may do a pass on the google doc and add some common 한자. :slightly_smiling_face:


People are often surprised when they reread books they loved as children at how dark they can sometimes get. Maybe we’re all wearing rose-tinted spectacles. :laughing:

Love the calligrapher’s studio, they have such great exhibits! :heart_eyes:

I came across a (paywalled :sob:) musicology research paper about what the songs from the 조선시대 would have sounded like. There would be chanting and singing, but there wasn’t enough information surviving to reconstruct the chants.

I am curious as to the way the chanting was described by 장만, as he felt it was so different to shamanic 굿 and Buddhist sutra chanting. :thinking:

There’s so much to explore, everything I look into branches off into several more interesting things… Not that I’m complaining, it makes the reading so interesting! :smile:

You can add an extra column if it would be easier. :slightly_smiling_face:


Thoughts on Chapter 4

I was positively glowing after reading this chapter - 장만 is one step closer to his dream!

After the disappointment of finding the temple all closed up, 장만 reluctantly plays the hero, curing a girl’s sudden illness with acupuncture, and her grateful father happens to be a blind man who knows an expert in Buddhist scripture, which 장만 needs to learn to enter 명통시!

The serendipitous meeting with the blind man gives 장만 hope and maybe a bit more confidence in himself, as the man tells him “그런 선한 마음과 용기라면 뭐든 해낼 수 있을 거야.” :face_holding_back_tears: (The fact we learn the names of these characters, 김소경 and his daughter 연우, makes me think they’ll reappear later in the story.) It’s especially heartwarming as 장만 was so reluctant to offer help to the girl, even though he had the knowledge and skills to relieve her illness, because of how he had been treated in the past.

It’s heartbreaking that 장만 lives with the scars brought about by others’ prejudice, constantly hiding, shying away, wanting to escape, lest he be the target of scorn and ridicule. So far we’ve seen him cover his eyes with his 패랭이, avoiding other people, holding back from speaking his mind or speaking up for himself, flinching when anyone notices he’s blind, and even controlling his expressions. It’s a bittersweet moment when he finally allows himself to smile at the end of this chapter. :mending_heart:

I wondered for a moment how likely it would be for 장만 to meet another blind person like that, but the proportion of people with disabilities of all kinds would no doubt be much higher than modern times, with all our medical advancements (I wonder if there’s any data on this?). Perhaps that explains why there were certain occupations that were reserved for disabled people, as being blind (for example) was so common.

The title of this chapter is 귀인 (貴 귀할 귀; 人 사람 인). These are the definitions provided by Naver’s dictionary and the Korean Learner’s Dictionary:

  1. 신분(身分)이 높은 사람.
  2. 존귀(尊貴)한 사람.
  1. nobleman
    지위나 신분이 높은 사람.
    A person of high position or rank.
  2. assistant; helper
    중요한 일이나 어려운 일이 있을 때 도움을 주는 사람.
    A person who gives a hand when there is an important or difficult job to be done.

김소경 also calls 장만 a “귀한 사람”, precious/valuable person. I think it’s obvious that the definition “nobleman” isn’t applicable in this context, but I did find it interesting that 귀인 can also mean a person who helps with an important task, considering 장만 cures 연우 using acupuncture.

I’m looking forward to 장만 meeting the Buddhist scholar 하태수 (in the next chapter?), who will hopefully take 장만 on as a student. I’m picturing a loveable curmudgeon, who’ll demand a lot of 장만, but will be an excellent teacher who will come to care about him. :smiling_face:


Although 판소리 is only mentioned in passing in this chapter, I’ve been interested in finding out more about it for a while, so I’ve taken this opportunity to explore the subject a little. :grinning:

In a nutshell, 판소리 is the performance of an epic story (typically lasting between 3 and 6 hours, although 춘향전 clocks in at 8.5 hours :exploding_head:) by two people: the 광대(廣大), or 창자(唱者), who stands while singing and performing gestures (발림), and the 고수(鼓手), who sits while drumming and occasionally uttering exclamations (추임새).

Here’s a (very short!) performance to give you a taste of 판소리 (coincidentally, this is part of the traditional story of 흥부, which we’ll be reading shortly: 흥부전 Book club home thread).

The ‘소리’ of 판소리 refers to the singing, and the performer moves between this and a style of dramatic speech delivered in free rhythm, known as 아니리. There is also a certain element of audience participation: 추임새 are exclamations uttered by both the drummer and the audience during the performance, . The term comes from 추어주다, meaning “to praise to the skies”, and typical phrases used are: 얼쑤, 좋다, 얼씨구, 절씨구, 지화자, 이야, and 허이야.

“평양도”, depicting 모용갑, one of the 대명창 (great master singers) of the 조선시대.

There’s a lot of conflicting information on the early history of 판소리, which isn’t particularly surprising as it was predominantly a form of entertainment for the common people, which is reflected in the stories. It is thought to have emerged in the 17th century, having evolved from shamanic rituals, in which the 무당 would sing and her husband accompany her on the drum (although there are many other theories about its origins).

신윤복 ‘무녀신무(巫女神舞·18세기 후반~19세기 전반)’, 종이에 채색, 28.2x35.6㎝, 간송미술관 소장
(a better version of the image from last week, depicting a shaman performing with musical accompaniment)

판소리 became popular among the nobility in the 18th century, although many of the stories appealing to the common people (especially the bawdy and humorous ones) were lost in favour of those that appealed to the upper classes and their mores, such as the filial piety displayed in 심청가.

A bronze statue of 송흥록, one of the 대명창 and considered the 가왕(歌王) of 판소리, at his birthplace of 남원시.

You may be familiar with the tourism campaign “Feel the Rhythm of Korea” featuring music which merges traditional and modern elements. The 판소리 accompanied by modern music and the dancers’ clothes - a fusion of traditional and modern dress - serve as a fitting complement to the backdrop of 서울, with its historic sites and modern architecture.

The full live performance can be seen below. As an aside, if you’re interested in exploring Korean music (beyond Kpop :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:), this channel is a treasure trove.

The song, 범 내려온다 (Tiger Came Down), is a reinterpretation of a section of 수궁가(水宮歌), although you may be more familiar with it by another title, 토끼전. The rest of the band’s album follows in the same vein, taking excerpts from 수궁가 and setting them to modern music.


장만 and 덕수 visit 남산골 to find 명통시. As the name suggests, 남산골 is located at the foot of 남산(南山; Southern Mountain), and 골 can have the meaning of “valley” - it seems reasonable to assume this is part of the meaning of the name. Here you can see 남산골 at the top of the map marked with the red pin:

If we bring back our map of 한양, you can see 남산 at the very bottom - notice that the 한양도성 section on the mountain is also marked on the modern topographical map above.

Today you can visit the 남산골한옥마을 (Namsangol Hanok Village), where traditional Korean houses (한옥; 韓屋; 한국 한, 집 옥) have been restored.

There is also a performance venue called the 서울남산국악당 (Seoul Namsan Traditional Music Center).

And of course, being a traditional music center, there will of course be… 판소리! Earlier this year, there was a performance by a 판소리 teacher and her students. What made this event particularly noteable is that the students were non-native Korean speakers!

There is a playlist of individual performances, as well as a group performance, available online.

The teacher has lived in various parts of Europe over the years, teaching 판소리 (who knew there would be the demand? :hushed:), and the students that performed included a Korean translator, a musicologist, and a researcher of Korean history, all of whom have advanced Korean language skills.

There is a review of the show that goes into more detail. The author compares 판소리 to Italian opera (“그것이 곧 이탈리아의 판소리가 아니겠는가”) and hopes more foreigners can learn 판소리 and bring their own style to their performances.

To bring things back on topic… :sweat_smile: This is a photo of 남산골 from the 1880s, taken from 남산. I think the mountain on the left is 북한산, with 광화문 just visible below. :thinking:


At the start of the chapter, it says that the boys head out from the town to find 명통시. I was a little confused, since they live in 한양 and 명통시 is also supposedly located there. Later, it’s revealed that they’re in 남산골, and it suddenly dawned on me that 한양 was a collection of towns and villages surrounded by defensive walls, rather than a single city.

The photo above shows the view from the foot of 인왕산 looking towards 목멱산 (the old name for 남산). Let’s have a brief digression and look at the name 목멱산(木覓山): this is apparently the Sino-Korean transcription of the pure Korean 마뫼 (木/마 - 앞; 覓/뫼 - 산), meaning “the mountain in front” (making the 산 in 목멱산 redundant). I suppose this is because the city “faces” south due to Korea being located in the northern hemisphere, with the important buildings (경복궁, 창덕궁) facing the sun, making modern 남산 the mountain in front of the city. During the Japanese occupation, the name was changed by the Japanese to 남산.

남산이라는 단어도 뜻이 앞산으로 마뫼와 같다. 요즘은 南을 주로 남쪽이라는 뜻으로 쓰지만 전에는 南을 '앞’을 가리키는 곳에도 적었다. 그러므로 南山은 앞산을 한자로 쓴 이름이다. 흔한 산이 앞산이다 보니, 우리나라 산 이름 가운데는 남산이 많다.

A shrine to the mountain god, 목멱신사(木覓神祠) - also known as 국사당(國師堂) - was built when the capital moved to 한양. The shrine still exists today, although it was moved during the Japanese occupation to 인왕산.

Returning to the old photograph further up, this is a modern view from higher up (I couldn’t find a good view from the same vantagepoint).

It’s no surprise that the city has grown exponentially since the 조선시대, spilling out far beyond the city walls, although according to the illustration below, it only seems to have expanded beyond the city walls during the 20th century.

It does make me wonder about the population density and the layout of 한양, though - how many towns were there, how far would you walk between them, how many people lived there?

I’ve had a look about for some numbers, and although there do seem to be well-documented historical records (1724 - 5k people make a living from selling beef; 1736 - 10k people make a living from selling beef!), the actual population by year is proving elusive, so I’ve just gathered some data from different sources:

Year Population
1392 55,490
1400 57,300
1500 94,120
1600 117,220
1700 143,590
1800 184,430
1900 170,820
1910 174,270
1950 1,021,000
1960 2,361,000
1970 5,312,000
1980 8,244,000
1990 10,518,000
2000 9,879,000
2022 9,410,000

Apparently the city walls were built with the expectation of the city holding up to 100,000 people. :sweat_smile:

수선전도 (首善全圖), 1830s

I have more notes, so I might research and write up more later in the week. :sweat_smile:

Further Reading



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Looking at that population table for 한양, man, what a population explosion at and after 1910.

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Korea was under Japanese rule from 1910 to 1945, and “economic output in terms of agriculture, fishery, forestry and industry increased by tenfold”. (source)

I’d guess that, plus the general shift away from an agrarian society and technological advancements all contributed to the population explosion.


Done with the reading for week 3! :slight_smile:

This chapter was heart warming and healing after all the sadness of the past few chapters. Really glad 장만 could finally have some positive experiences and is starting to have hope in his life again! :face_holding_back_tears: It feels like we are starting to see where the story will go (장만 becoming a Buddhist chanter?) and I am excited to see how we get there and learn more about the process.

I have to say, though, I kind of laughed at the scene about the girl getting 급체 and immediately falling over and needing acupuncture. I’ve seen similar scenes in webtoons etc. with people getting sudden indigestion like that and needing their finger pressed/acupuncture or they will be sweating and dying……… but I must say, that has never happened to me just from indigestion?! Even if it is sudden?! Hahahaha. Next time my stomach hurts I will remember to try and press my pointer finger to relieve the indigestion though, just to see if it works. :thinking:

As always, your write up on the history and culture was really interesting, @bibliothecary. I haven’t had a lot of free time in the past week or so but when I have time I also want to make some anki cards out of the vocab in the google doc. :heart_eyes:


That part made me pause, too. I’ve never experienced it myself, and I’ve always thought indigestion just caused some minor discomfort. I ended up googling it and I guess it can be pretty severe in some cases, with pain, nausea, and vomiting. The fact it was a child experiencing it may have made the situation more dangerous, especially in an age when it was more common for illness to result in life-long disability or death.

Glad you’re enjoying the research! :grin:


Finished with this week! :slightly_smiling_face:

장만 was able to become a 독경 apprentice! :partying_face: Good for him! And we were introduced to a new cast of characters. 한주 seems very nice and I was interested by his warning about 춘택 at the end of the chapter. He seems like he will be a spoiled 도려님 type character from a rich household, but let’s see - like 한주 said, 읽다 보면 알겠지. :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes: Eagerly awaiting further interactions between him and 장만 and also learning a bit about 독경 myself as he begins training.

The mistress of the house seems unpleasant, but I wonder if that is because she lost her child to in childbirth or to the infectious disease that’s going around? It was hinted at that when it was mentioned 김소경 helped her when she was bedridden after giving birth (page 63 - 그리고 자네가 산욕으로 다 죽어 갈 때, 진즉 누구 때문에 살았는가?) and 한주 mentioned at the end that only 4 people live in the house. :thinking: I could be wrong, though.

Week 5

This week we got to see 장만 start his training and got some insight into how chanting is learned. Thinking about it, it seems extremely difficult as 1) the words in the chants are Buddhist terms and not everyday words, so hard to remember, 2) 장만 cannot read them in written form to study due to his blindness, 3) it was the Joseon era so there weren’t recordings he could listen to. I guess the only way is to listen very well to your master when he chants and try to memorize the words and rhythm as best as you can. :cold_sweat:

The events with 춘택 and 장만 getting beaten were a bit sad. It seems like 장만 really can’t catch a break when it comes to how he is treated, especially when it’s always someone else’s fault. :cry: But the following chapter with 한주 made up for it and his care for 장만 and their mountain hike/walk was 힐링 so it made up for it! :blush:

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Week 6


This chapter was short, but we got some intrigue and new info about several characters. We found out some more about 태수’s past and that something happened with the others at 명통시 (regarding jealousy?) that caused him to leave. He must have been quite high ranking or talented at chanting if the crown prince wants him to return. :open_mouth: 뭐지 뭐지!?
장만‘s interaction with 연우 and him blushing after finding out from 한주 that she’s beautiful was cute, haha. :smiling_face: Nice to see 장만 acting like a normal kid his age.

무너진 꿈

What was this chapter?! How awful! :smiling_face_with_tear::sob: If it really was 춘택 that caused him to miss the 명통시 exam (I’m sure it was), I hope he finally gets smacked with some karma this time. :triumph:

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Very late, but finished Chapter 5 - 남산골! I think that’s week 4 done…? :joy:

I found it so sweet in the flashback that little 장만 disobeys his father and sneaks into his mothers room every night to wipe her down and look after her (the way she did for him when he was ill… :face_holding_back_tears:). And then it’s so heartbreaking when he notices she isn’t in bed one morning and thinks she must have recovered… :sob:

So happy that things are finally moving: 하태수 has been found, 장만 is living in his house as a student, finally he’ll start learning 독경! I was worried a little when 덕수 left and 장만 suddenly feels full of fear - he does try to be strong, but I felt some relief when 한주 appeared.

Looking forward to the 독경 lessons! :smiling_face:

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I fell slightly behind schedule, but I am happy to say that I am now done with the book! I really liked the ending and was surprised and happy overall with the direction the story went and the depth of it, despite this being a story for younger audiences. :+1:t2: If anyone didn’t finish this yet or wants to get to it sometime, I would certainly recommend it.

The review I wrote:


I just checked out the preview again, and everything seems so much easier than it was almost 3 months ago when I first tried reading it. At the time, it took me ~50 minutes just to read the first preview page because I was stumped on almost every single sentence. And yet I just read that again in a couple of minutes. Three guesses as to what I’ve been doing since November that’s helped me improve so much?

So, that being said, I’ll be joining the bookclub late! Hopefully I can catch up!


I wouldn’t worry about “catching up” - the book club has technically finished and @bungakushoujo is the only one who managed to read the whole book. Glad to have you here, though! Hopefully this gives me a push to get back to 장만’s story. :sweat_smile:


After almost 4 hours, I’m done with week 1! According to my current reading speed, that means it’ll take me 32 hours to finish the whole book!
I can already tell that this is quickly going to become one of my favorite reads in Korean. Because I was limiting myself to simpler content before, this is the first time I’ve come across something so emotion filled in Korean. Even with the obvious language barrier from all the unknown vocab, I could still feel the emotions of 장만 and 덕수, their close relationship, the hapiness at 장만 finally getting a job and the fear of the fire, of the unjust punishment.
I was absolutely not expecting the ending, even after reading the book summary. I do feel like there may be a theme in novels happening in the 조선 시대, so far I’ve seen someone get flogged unjustly in two different books!
The one thing that I’m not fully understanding is the involvement of the grandma. She vouched for 장만, saying that he didn’t cause the fire, but they flogged him anyways?

Level wise, vocab is pretty hard for me, as expected. I added a couple more words to the google sheet, chapter 1 is now at 266 words! The grammar is nice however, because although I had to look up a couple grammar points that were pretty much completely new to me, the sentences were mostly still easy to understand. So weirdly, while the grammar points here are technically more advanced than in my other bookclub, 또다시 같은 꿈을 꾸었어 | L24, it’s still a lot easier to understand.

I would say the only moment where I had a little brain fart and struggled a bit was with the straw. For some reason I could only think of plastic straws, so I was really confused for a while.

Doesn’t this just look like a very well handcrafted strawhat? :joy:

Grammar questions (spoilers for week 1)
  • Here (page 8) is the grammar point used at the end of the sentence 는 척하다?
    장만은 움찔해 뒷걸음질 쳤지만, 덕수는 아무렇지 않은 척 말을 이었다. Doksu spoke like/pretending that nothing had happened?
  • What’s happening here with that verb ending? I can’t make sense of what the 다 is doing here. Is it an older verb ending?
    오늘 멍석을 짤 일꾼이 필료하다셨지요.
  • page 9 배포가 얼마나 좋은지 장만도 혀를 내두를 정도였다.
    I saw Brandon comment this in the google sheet, but is the meaning of 배포 really distribution here? How does that make sense in the context of the sentence?
  • What sort of sound is 타닥대던 소리? Is it simply a 타닥 sound?
  • page 14, “그러게 예빈시 관청을 홀랑 다 태워 먹을 뻔했구먼.” Does 먹다 here relate to the government building being almost eaten/destroyed by the fire? And is there a dropped 서 in 태워? Does this sentence imply putting the blame onto 장만?
  • Do you know about the grammar point ㄴ/을 판에/판이다? I couldn’t really find much about it online. page 16 자칫하면 불을 낸 범인으로 모릴 판이었다.

Wow, amazing job! Crazy effort! :clap:t2: It’ll get easier to read in no time!

To answer your grammar questions:

  • -ㄴ 척하다 is a grammar formation that means to pretend to do something, like you thought. :slightly_smiling_face: Whatever verb you attach it to is what you are pretending to do… like 잔 척하다 is to pretend to sleep.

  • I don’t have the full context of that sentence because I can’t remember it :sweat_smile: but there are a few verb endings happening that look confusing stuck all together like that:

  1. -다 at the end for quoting or transmitting something someone said
  2. -시 honorific for when someone lower speaks of someone higher (Lesson 39: Honorific ‘시’ ending, Honorific words)
  3. -지 ending for getting affirmation or agreement from the listener
  • So with all those things together, I would assume the context was about something the lord at the palace had said. :slightly_smiling_face:

  • I don’t remember the context of this and can’t find it in my digital version, but could it be that this was in the section talking about the work that 장만 and 덕수 were going to get paid for and that 배포 refers to the compensation? 배포 literally means something handed out, so it could be money in this case.

  • I think it’s like a steady clapping sound, there is also 타탁타탁하다 which is translated as clickity clack. It is onomatopoeic, so just say 타탁타탁타탁 a bunch and I think you will understand what kind of sound it is. :laughing:

  • 먹다 can be combined with other verbs to make a kind of compound verb situation. It means to eat normally, but also to be consumed, to be devoured by etc. for emphasis. So you can think here that it was consumed by fire. If it had 서, it would indicate a cause and effect relationship like “it got consumed because it burned”, instead of describing it getting consumed by the burning. Does that make sense? (My grammar explanations are horrible, sorry!) I don’t have enough of the context without going back and reading to tell if it assigns blame, but that sentence alone doesn’t.

  • ㄹ 판 means a situation where the thing before is happening or about to happen. So it’s saying something like it’s a situation where you can be known/accused of being the criminal who started the fire at the slightest provocation.


The woman appeared while 장만’s punishment was being carried out; they stopped flogging him because of her testimony.

Good job making such quick work of the first chapter! :smile: