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

I think it’s partially because the early book clubs were made up of more advanced readers and the books were usually L30+.

I’ve found filling in the sheets useful for helping me concentrate, and it becomes active reading rather than passive, so I get more out of it. I’ll probably do it for other book clubs I’m in since it’s helpful. :smile:

It also might be because 장만 is limited in the type of activities he’s able to do (weaving), whereas 덕수 probably does physical labour. 장만 also feels guilty about not being able to contribute as much to the household as 덕수, so perhaps he also consciously limits what he eats to make himself less of a “burden”? :sob:


Yeah that makes sense to me. I guess 덕수 needs the calories and nourishment more. It’s sad for 장만 though! :smiling_face_with_tear:


I know for me, it’s just a lot of work to fill those out, especially if there’s few people contributing. And if you’re at a high enough level where looking up the word and moving on is a fairly quick process, it can be painful to slow yourself down to add potentially multiple words per sentence.


Have added some 한자 explanations to some of the 한자어 that came up on the doc (just for some really common 한자 to start with). Will keep doing so spontaneously throughout the duration of the club. :upside_down_face:


I’ve just finished adding the vocab and grammar for next week (chapters 2 and 3). No spoilers, but… my heart! :cloud_with_rain: :seedling: :smiling_face_with_tear:

I’ve added a summary sheet to the doc, which will contain a brief paragraph describing the contents of each chapter. People can use it as a reference before or after reading the chapter to make sure they caught all the important events.

I haven’t added any summaries yet, so it’s safe if you want to have a quick look and share your thoughts! :smile:


Man, that vocab document is really impressive, bibliothecary! You’ve put a ton of work into it!


Thank you! Hopefully I’ll be able to do the same for future book club reads. :grinning:


Finished the first chapter yesterday and… I definitely need to work on learning historical-adjacent vocab. :sweat_smile:

Did the chapter mention when the action is taking place? I know the Wiki page that was linked in the docs about the food provision officers said that they existed during the 조선시대… but the 조선 kingdom lasted 500 years :smile: So I was wondering if I had missed any information pertaining to that or if it’s just not mentioned anywhere yet.

Not so far, and since it’s a children’s book it might not indicate a more specific time period unless the story includes a (real) historical event.

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Week 2! :tada:

I’ve added summaries for chapters 1 and 2, chapter 3 will be up tomorrow (hopefully). They turned out longer than I anticipated… :sweat_smile:

Thoughts on Chapter 2

Another chapter, another bout of my heart being pummelled. :sob:

I feel so sorry for poor 덕수 being punished by his dad, and poor 장만, who feels terrible for getting his brother in trouble. It’s especially sad considering how happy and excited they both were, 장만 for being able to earn money and 덕수 for his talented brothers skills to be seen.

Then we find out how 장만 went blind when he was only 7, which must have been terrifying and confusing. When he starts learning medicine/acupuncture, things start looking up, only for everything to come crashing down again when his mother dies, the family is kicked off their farm, 장만’s education stops, and they move to a strange new place that 장만 has to navigate as a blind person.

Something I noticed is that 장만 doesn’t seem to talk much - in chapter 1, he only calls out for 덕수 when he’s trapped in the fire. In this chapter, he says what happened was his fault so his father will stop caning 덕수, but although he feels sorry towards his little brother, he can’t get the words out to apologise. It might just be his natural temperament, but it could also be because he doesn’t want to draw attention to himself, as his disability makes him vulnerable.

There was one long sentence that was a bit difficult for me to parse, so I’ll put a little breakdown here in case it helps anyone. Feel free to correct me if you spot anything wrong. :sweat_smile:

죽어라 농사를 짓고도, 가뭄이다 장마다 해서 거둘 것이 없는 농사꾼이 얼마며 종일 시장에 나가 물건을 내다 팔아도 손에 쥐는 돈이 없어서 배를 굶는 사람이 얼마냐며 어머니는 장만의 앞날을 걱정했다.

  • 죽어라 농사를 짓고도, = die (while) farming (짓 act; 농사를 짓 the act of farming)
  • 가뭄이다 장마다 해서 거둘 것이 없는 = harvesting(거두다) during drought or rainy seasons
  • 농사꾼이 얼마며 = how many farmers
  • 종일 시장에 나가 물건을 내다 팔아도 = even though (they) spend all day at the market(시장) selling things
  • 손에 쥐는 돈이 없어서 = without holding(쥐다) money in (their) hand / without earning any money, and so
  • 배를 굶는 사람이 얼마냐며 = how many people starve(굶다), she asked herself as…
  • 어머니는 장만의 앞날을 걱정했다 = (his) mother worried about Jang-Man’s future(앞날)

There are a couple of cultural things I looked into in this chapter:

토란 (taro)

I had never heard of this before, but it’s a root vegetable that is usually used in soups or 찌개, especially during 추석. The hanja is 土卵 (흙 토; 알 란)… ground egg. :laughing:

In chapter 2, 장만’s father comes home intoxicated and smelling of 토란. In this context, it seems unlikely that he spent the night wolfing down taro stew. :rofl:

I discovered that 토란 막걸리 exists - 막걸리 is a traditional Korean alcohol, but I couldn’t find any info about whether 토란 막걸리 might have existed during the 조선시대 (admittedly, I didn’t spend much time looking :sweat_smile:). I don’t think it would be a stretch to believe it did - 막걸리 is the oldest alcoholic beverage in Korea, 토란 is native to Korea, and the 토란 is steeped in 막걸리 (at some point in the process, I can’t find where I read it now :persevere:) to make 토란 막걸리.

Interestingly, because there were food shortages after Korea was liberated from Japan, using rice to make 막걸리 was banned, so 소주 became the people’s alcohol of choice. It’s becoming more popular again thanks to it’s many health benefits (and probably its status as Korea’s traditional alcohol).

Anyway, can’t talk about 막걸리 without this coming to mind! :rofl:


In chapter 2, 장만 reminisces about when his family moved to his father’s hometown of 한양, the old name for 서울.

The 한자 for 한양 is 漢陽 (한수 한; 볕 양), “sun[ny place] on the Han [River]”, or “North of the Han [River]”:

한양이라는 지명은 한강(漢)의 북쪽(陽)에 있다는 데에서 기인했다. 양(陽)은 강의 북쪽 지역, 산의 남쪽 지역에 쓰이는 접미사이다. 북회귀선 이북의 북반구에서는 해가 항상 남동쪽에서 떠서 남쪽을 지나 남서쪽으로 지므로, 산의 남쪽은 거의 항상 양지이고 북쪽은 거의 항상 음지가 된다. 때문에 한양은 한강의 북쪽을 의미한다.

I’ve been trying to find a map of 한양 during the 조선시대. This one looks promising, but I can’t find better images (spent lots of time on 서울대학교 구장각한국확연구원 as they own it, but no luck :smiling_face_with_tear:).

You can see the 한양도성(漢陽都城) surrounding the capital, including the gates to the city, the main roads in red, and the stream, 청계천, represented by a dotted line.

경도오부 북한산성부도 (京都五部北漢山城附圖), 1731.

The enclosure to the north is 경복궁(景福宮), although the map writes it 宮景福. The collection of enclosures to the northeast is 창덕궁(昌德宮). Below is a beautifully detailed depiction of 창덕궁 from 1820 (open the full-sized image, it’s worth it! :heart_eyes:).


The road bisecting the city east to west (동대문/흥인지문 to 서대문/돈의문) is 운종가(雲從街, lit. street where people gather like clouds :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:), the centre of commerce. Below are some photos of 운종가 from the late 1800s.


서울역사박물관 (Seoul Museum of History) has a (presumably permanent) model of the area, which someone has documented with lots of photos in their blog, including the modern counterparts to each area. If you’d like to learn more, this article goes into more detail about the different shopping areas.

More images of old Seoul:

A couple of images of 서대문(西大門, lit. Great Western Gate), also known as 돈의문(敦義門, lit. Loyalty Gate), which is mentioned in chapter 3:

I’ll post about chapter 3 tomorrow. :grinning:

Further Reading



토란 막걸리



The summary for chapter 3 has been added to the doc. :slightly_smiling_face:

Thoughts on Chapter 3

Finally, a little bit of happiness! :smiling_face:

Needless to say, after the (upsetting) first two chapters, this one came as a relief. I was so happy the boys were allowed to go to the ceremony, and by the end of the chapter I was almost crying with happiness. Finally, there’s hope for Jang-Man, a path he can take, and what’s more, a prestigious government post! I am so ready for the boys to visit the temple so Jang-Man can start to develop that confidence in himself that he lost after he couldn’t continue with herbal medicine and acupuncture. :face_holding_back_tears:

There were a few lovely and apt metaphors in this chapter, the last one being my favourite, as it reflects the hope starting to blossom in 장만’s heart.

차가운 빗방울이 와 닿는 순간, 겨우내 얼었던 땅을 녹이는 봄비처럼 장만의 몸에 생기가 돌았다.

I thought this one was also interesting, given that they are in a crowd of people at 서대문, which is at one end of 운종가 (although I may be reading too much into it :sweat_smile:):

뿌연 연기를 걷어 내는 차가운 바람처럼 주위의 잡음이 순식간에 걷혀 나갔다.

장만 describes the chanting as resembling the ripples in a pond after a pebble is tossed into it, growing louder and louder:

잔잔한 샘물에 돌멩이 하나가 떨어져 파장을 일으키는 것 같았다.

The image struck me as very Buddhist:

Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects. —Dalai Lama

I recall a lesson by Buddha where he asks a student to throw a pebble into a pond. The water ripples. He then asks the student, “Where do the ripples come from?” to which the student replies, “the pebble.” Buddha then asks the student to put his hand into the water and stop the ripples. The student puts his hand in the water but only creates more ripples.

“What if you had stopped the pebble from entering the water to begin with?” Buddha smiled and continues, “The next time you are unhappy with your life, catch the stone before it hits the water. Do not spend time trying to undo what you have done. Rather change your act before you do it.” Being Better Humans

The first thought that came to mind wasn’t the action of an individual - I imagine the pebble representing 장만’s fever, resulting in his blindness, and through the book we follow the resulting ripples, good and bad.

But the idea can be applied to other situations that we’ve seen, one being his mother’s perseverance when trying to persuade the man running the herbal medicine shop to teach 장만. Although 장만 was embarrassed by his mother’s behaviour, he saw how her determination paid off when the man finally relented. The ripples that followed saw 장만 learning to make medicine and do acupuncture, treating neighbours’ ailments, and gaining confidence… And I suspect there will be further good results from that little pebble. :slightly_smiling_face:

Buddhism and folk beliefs (Shamanism) existed side-by-side in 조선, as mentioned by the man in the crowd who talks to 덕수 and 장만, who mentions this intreguing fact:

사대문에 무당이며 스님은 아예 들어오지도 못하잖아.

Here, 사대문 symbolises “within the walls of the city” (I admit, I did wonder whether it meant they could only use the small gates to enter… :sweat_smile: ).

장만 briefly mentions familiarity with both:

무당이 굿을 하기 전에 외는 주문이나 스님의 불경과도 비슷한 것 같았다.

He also mentions the 기우제 back in his hometown, which was much more modest compared to 한양’s ceremony. It suddenly occurred to me that 덕수 mentions that a 기우제 would be held several times a year out in the countryside, and perhaps it was more important there since that’s where all the farms were, but wouldn’t the boys have experienced a 기우제 in 한양 before?

I remember they stayed in their hometown for a while (I assumed 6 months or so) after the mother died before moving to 한양. 장만 was 10 when she died and is now 15… Either I misunderstood and they stayed in their hometown a lot longer than I thought, or the boys haven’t ever been able to see a 기우제 in 한양 because they’ve been working… :thinking:

The sutra, unsurprisingly, gave me trouble.

향현변복 삼천계 정현능가 팔만물 유원상불 대자비 문차심형인법회
(분향진언. 향을 피우며 외는 경문.)


  • 焚 불사를 분 - burning
  • 香 향기 향 - incense
  • 眞 참 진 - truth
  • 言 말씀 언 - words

The dictionary gives a definition of 부처(Buddha)의 말 for 진언.

I’m sure it’s not particularly important to understand it, and I’d imagine the common people wouldn’t understand due to its Sanskrit origins via Chinese (perhaps similar to Latin for Christianity).

독경의 유래는 난해한 한문경전을 되풀이하여 여러 번 소리 내어 읽음으로써 그 뜻을 명확하게 파악한다는 데서 출발하였으며 그 뒤 음성이 차지하는 중요성이 강조되면서 차차 의식화되었다.

I couldn’t find anything searching the specific line in the book, or even a couple of words at a time. Trying to look up the sutra’s title returns passages where it’s only briefly mentioned, and things like this:

나막사만다몯다 남 나막사만다안다 바사 사리리 야 야다타 아다

So I’ve given up trying to find the full sutra, but I might return to try to puzzle out the meaning of the sentence later on.

One more minor thing, was the mention that help is provided to the blind people of 명통시 in the form of 노비, which is given the definition of “servant, slave”. My cursory search didn’t provide an answer to which was more likely, but I may try to find out whether there was slavery during 조선, and if so, how common it was. Given the way the story may progress, we might find the answer at some point during our reading anyway.


I came across a blog called 조선시대 생활상 which has lots of old pictures documenting different rituals and superstitions, but fair warning, it’s the stuff of nightmares.

Further to the fact mentioned above (somewhere), Buddhist monks were banned from entering 한양, a Confucian city (the previous capital, 개경 - modern 개성, DPRK - was a Buddhist city in 고려). The ban was only lifted in 1895, and the first Buddhist temple within the city walls was 각황사, built in 1910:

Shamans were also prohibited from entering the capital:

조선왕조는 무속 금압의 일환으로 무격들의 도성 내 거주를 제한하고 도성 밖으로 축출하였다. 물론 거주 제한의 범위는 시대에 따라 달랐다. 조선 초기에는 사대문 안이었으나 조선 후기에는 한강 안이었다. 1785년(정조 9)에 편찬된 『대전통편』 호전 잡세조에서 “경성 내의 무녀는 강외(江外)로 쫓아낸다.”라고 규정되어 있는데, 여기서 강이란 한강이다. 이것은 서울의 범위가 시대에 따라 확대되어 가고 있음을 보여 준다. 그러나 사대문 안이든 한강 안이든 간에, 이러한 규정은 도성 밖에서의 무업을 인정하는 의미가 된다.


There are a few musical instruments mentioned in the chapter: 경쇠(bell), 나팔(horn), and 북(drum). The 나팔 was used to announce the arrival of the king. A couple of surviving examples from the 조선시대:

There are different types of 경쇠; the one 장만 hears is probably one similar to this:


판수가 경을 읽을 때 흔드는 작은 방울을 가리키는데, 그 방울은 놋종지 비슷하고 안에는 치는 추가 달리고, 위에는 노끈을 꿰어 손잡이를 만들었다.

판수 blind person who recites sutras, tells fortunes, perform rituals, etc; 경 sutra; 놋 brass; 종지 bowl; 노끈 cord, string

Surviving examples of 북 from 조선시대:

Both 경쇠 and 북 can be seen in the images of 판수 below:

I have a feeling we may be reading more about 판수… :smiling_face:

I also came across the story 장만’s mother tells him:

1419년(세종 1년), 사냥을 참관한 뒤 발길을 돌린 세종 임금의 어가가 개성의 영빈관에 이르렀다. 개성유후 한옹이 지역 유지들과 회회인(이슬람계 백성)들을 인솔하고 국왕을 영접하러 나왔다.

그 틈에 소동이 일어났다. 맹인(盲人·시각장애인) 114명이 어가 앞을 막아선 것이다. «세종실록»은 “맹인들이 어가 앞에서 궁핍함을 호소했다(告窮乏于駕前)”고 기록했다.

“전하, 배고파 도저히 살 수가 없사옵나이다.”

“상(임금)은 그들의 호소를 듣고 유후사에 명하여 쌀 40석을 주었다.”

I haven’t been able to find out where 명통사 was located - I would have thought a temple’s location would have been recorded, even though it may not exist today. I couldn’t even find an illustration of it. :slightly_frowning_face:

Anyway, looking forward the the next chapter! :grin:

Further Reading

조선 종교






Man bibliothecary; you’ve been putting so much work into this! I’ve been having a great time reading along and learning, haha. Something tells me you’d have a lot of fun doing research for historical stuff Flesh&Blood references, haha.


Seconded! I’m learning a lot of new things!! :smile:


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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