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Encounter: A Novel of Nineteenth-Century Korea

Translated by Ok Young Kim Chang
Copyright Date: 1992
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    This historical novel,Encounter(Mannam), by Hahn Moo-Sook, one of Asia's most honored writers, is a story of the resilience in the Korean spirit. It is told through the experiences of Tasan, a high-ranking official and foremost Neo-Confucian scholar at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Because of Tasan's fascination with Western learning, then synonymous with Catholicism, he is exiled to a remote province for 18 years. In banishment he meets people from various social and religious backgrounds-Buddhist monks, peasants, shamans-whom he would not otherwise have met. The events of Tasan's life are effectively used to depict the confluence of Buddhist, Neo-Confucian, Taoist, and shamanistic beliefs in traditional Korea. A subplot involves three young sisters, the daughters of a prominent Catholic aristocrat, and affords the reader vivid glimpses into Yi-dynasty women's lives, particularly those of palace ladies, scholars' wives, tavern keepers, shamans, and slaves. In contrast to the long-held Confucian stereotype of female subservience, this story illustrates the richness of women's contribution to Korean culture and tradition.Encounter's detailed narrative provides a broad and informed view of nineteenth-century Korea, making it a highly useful book for courses on Korean literature and society. It will also be an engaging read for lovers of historical fiction.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-91108-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. MAP
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Foreword: Saints, Sages, and the Novelist’s Art
    (pp. vii-xx)
    Don Baker

    Hahn Moo-Sook is a writer with a formidable reputation. She made her debut as an author in 1942 with the prize-winning novelTŭngbul tŭnŭn yŏin(A Woman with a Lantern) and has been a prominent presence in Korean literary circles ever since. Her five novels, three novellas, five collections of short stories, two plays, and three collections of essays have earned her recognition as a major contributor to modern Korean literature.

    In 1958 the Asia Foundation presented Hahn Moo-Sook with its Freedom Literature Award for her short story “Kamjŏngi innŭn simnyŏn,” translated as “In the Depths” in the English-language collection...

  5. Principal Characters in Encounter
    (pp. xxi-xxiv)
  6. Chapter One “Admonition on the Transitory”
    (pp. 1-52)

    Ha-sang arrived six days after Monk Hyejang had been cremated. Although Tasan was not unaware of this Buddhist practice, actually to witness the ritual for his friend Hyejang from the beginning to the end—first the placing of the body in the coffin, then the incineration, and finally the scattering of the ashes—was unbearably painful. Even for Tasan, a man hardened by the vicissitudes of his illfated life and no longer perturbed by ordinary worldly events, the experience was deeply shocking. Ten years younger than Tasan, Hyejang had been thirty-nine, in the prime of life. He had been born...

  7. Chapter Two Betrayal
    (pp. 53-80)

    Using the excuse of a sprained ankle, Francesco Kim had spent three days in a corner room of an inn, waiting anxiously for the Kwŏn household servant’s arrival from Ŭnjin. Apprehension had parched his lips and sunk his eyes deep into their sockets, making him appear to be suffering from more than a mere sprained ankle. Ha-sang had already left for Kangjin to see Tasan, and still the servant had not come.

    Situated at the entrance to the town of Nonsan, the inn was crowded with travelers who filled the tavern room, the rooms adjacent to the kitchen of the...

  8. Chapter Three Partings
    (pp. 81-104)

    The mineral-water spring was some forty paces away from the thatched cottage where Tasan lectured. A narrow mountain path led farther down to his residence, the eastern apartment. An early riser, each morning he slowly climbed to the spring. With a small gourd he scooped the water from the spring and drank the cold and delicious water, as good as any medicine. After brushing his teeth and washing his hands, he would view the sunrise. Depressed though he was by the loss of some of his teeth and by the discomfort of having to depend on his spectacles, each morning...

  9. Chapter Four Shaman’s Daughter
    (pp. 105-126)

    The squalid, weather-beaten inn was packed with travelers who filled the grimy tavern-room, the community guest room, and the kitchen; even the storage shed was occupied. But the commotion did not rise among the travelers who had come in from the downpour. It started with the shriek of the innkeeper woman, calling frantically among the unexpected, jostling crowd. “Chŏm-soe! Chŏm-soe! Where are you?”

    At her screech, a pigtailed young servant emerged from the shed. “What?” answered the boy blankly only when he approached the tavern-room.

    The woman roared in rage, “Taking a nap again, eh? Why did you leave the...

  10. Chapter Five True Principles of Catholicism
    (pp. 127-154)

    As Ha-sang sat apart in a corner of the room and watched the elders respectfully hovering over the epistles, reading them with the deepest emotion, he found himself feeling ashamed and forsaken. Even while he was carrying the letters, he was unable to comprehend a single word of them; then as now, his ignorance pained him. Remembering that his cousin’s husband, Hwang Sa-yŏng, had passed the Lower Level Examination with first place honors at the age of fifteen, he felt unworthy of membership in a clan celebrated for its learning. He resolved that the first thing he must do now...

  11. Chapter Six Sowing
    (pp. 155-176)

    “Please, have mercy. You can’t take that, too. Without it, the children can’t survive the winter.” Old Sin’s entreaty was mixed with sobs.

    “Christians never get hungry. They have magic, I hear. We Koreans can’t live without grain. Why? Do you prefer the taste of flogging just to save a handful of millet and potatoes?”

    “Catholics?” Coming out from behind a mud hut just at that moment, Ha-sang stood still, as if he had seen a serpent.

    “You didn’t know, did you? But we knew all along that you are Catholics. Reporting you to the authorities is as easy as...

  12. Chapter Seven Pondering
    (pp. 177-210)

    As the nutmeg forest on the slope of the mountains began to come into sight, Tasan could hear the tumultuous music of folk instruments. Even from this distance, he could already feel the village air thick with an eerie intoxication. Although he was still too far away to distinguish the incantation, he knew a shaman rite must be in progress. Tasan grimaced with annoyance. A Sirhak scholar, he considered shamans to be priestesses of a promiscuous cult, who agitated ignorant people. Their audacity in disturbing the gravesite of the noble and distinguished Yun clan made him even more indignant. His...

  13. Chapter Eight The Winter Solstice Mission: Journey to Peking
    (pp. 211-248)

    More than a month after they had left Seoul on October 24, the day of the river crossing finally arrived. The mission had been staying in Ūiju for about ten days, busying themselves with many necessary details before they began the journey for entering Peking. They carefully examined the royal tribute to the Chinese court, gifts of articles indigenous to Korea, which they sealed in wooden crates. They inspected numerous attendants, completed provisions for the horses, and replaced and supplemented servants and grooms. The military officers had been kept busy thoroughly searching the bundles and packages of the peddlers who...

  14. Chapter Nine Embrace
    (pp. 249-282)

    Teresa Kwŏn was the youngest daughter of Kwŏn Il-sin, Francesco Xavier, who was one of the first Catholics in Korea. Her mother had died when she was only six years old. A renowned Sirhak scholar and a devout Christian, her father had been banished to Cheju Island in 1791. However, Francesco was a filial son. When his mother became critically ill at the age of eighty, there was no other choice left for him but to recant his faith so that he could return home to look after her. Ironically, weakened by torture, he died on the journey home. Thus...

  15. Chapter Ten Encounter
    (pp. 283-325)

    Two ritual tables for the household gods stood in the main hall of the house, the smaller one set with a white porcelain wine cup filled with unrefined wine and a couple of dried whitings as the only offerings, the larger one still bare. On a straw mat in front of the table, the shaman Man-nyŏn sat with Butterfly, luminous in her white costume. She prayed, rubbing her hands together, as two slave women carried in a large earthen steamer filled with rice cake generously garnished with red beans from which the steam rose like smoke. The women placed it...