“Crossing the Yalu River” and “Tales from Shenjin” Review


“Crossing the Yalu River” and “Tales from Shenjin” Review Students are free to write about what they liked or disliked in the text, what they think is the text’s main point, and if they agree or disagree with the approaches of the text. Original and creative ideas and readings will be greatly appreciated. The primary […]

Pak Chi-won’s Crossing the Yalu River Article Essay

I found the author’s voyage to Jehol in the “Crossing the Yalu River” and “Tales from Shenjin” informative due to the depiction of his travel to China in the late eighteenth century. The writing appeals to me as it reviews the Korean culture and history, and provides a scathing, mostly satirical demonstration of his society’s shortcomings. I find the author’s coverage of Chinese methods in comparison to Korean methods progressive (Chi-won 22). For example, he expounds on the advantages of Chinese brick construction as compared to the use of stone by Koreans. The author suggests that Koreans have much to learn in such fields as trade, brick-making, poetry, history, engineering, calligraphy, politics, astronomy, and famous legends. However, although his analysis shows the merits of Koreans adopting beneficial foreign technologies, his comments border on obsession which could point to an underlying problem of inferiority complex which is unbecoming for his ambassadorial position. Thus, Chi-won uses his diary to highlight Korean shortcomings in relations to Chinese advancements.

Chi-won’s works aim at challenging the Korean people to adopt practical improvements in their society. The author achieves this goal by attacking outdated ideologies held by literati establishments (Gowman). For example, Chi-won describes advancements in wheel technology in detail. He later explains that the literati officials idolize the world of ancient sages at the expense of progress. I agree with the author’s viewpoint. Most societies hold on to outdated views and avoid liberal thoughts at the expense of growth. The author explores the journey with admiration as he realizes that the wisdom of the day in Korea hampers its progress making its people impoverished.

Chi-won seeks to absorb much knowledge to use his expertise in enhancing his people’s life back home. The author’s diary exemplifies how society would benefit from adopting more advanced ideologies.

Works Cited

Chi-won, Pak. The Jehol Diary: (1737-1805). Global Oriental, 2010.

Gowman, Philip. “Pak Chi-won’s Jehol Diary: An Amiable Bore Abroad.” London Korean Links, 2019.

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Published On: 01-01-1970

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