A Place to Live brings together in a single volume an introduction to Yi Chung-hwan’s (1690–1756) T’aengniji (Treatise on Choosing Settlement)—one of the most widely read and influential of the Korean classics—and an annotated translation of the text, including the author’s postscript.
Yi composed the T’aengniji in the 1750s, a time when, despite King Yŏngjo’s (r. 1724–1776) policy of impartiality, the scholar-gentry class continued to identifiy strongly with literati factions and to participate in the political scene as such. A prominent secretary who had his career cut short because of suspected involvement in one of the largest literati purges at court, Yi endured long periods of living in exile before finishing the T’aengniji in his early sixties. The treatise, his only substantial work, is based largely on his travels throughout the Korean peninsula and presents not only his views on the desirability of places for settlement, but also his opinions on contemporary matters and criticism of government policy. As a result, the T’aengniji circulated as an anonymous work for many years. Employing the latest research on T’aengniji manuscripts, translator Inshil Yoon maintains in her introduction that the original title of the treatise was Sadaebu kagŏch’ŏ (Livable Places for the Scholar-Gentry); she goes on to discuss in detail its reception by premodern and contemporary scholars and the treatise’s ongoing popularity as evidenced by the numerous versions and translations done in this and the previous century, its having been made into a novel, and current usage of “t’aengniji” as a noun meaning “regional geography” or “travelogue.”
The present translation is based on the Chosŏn Kwangmunhoe edition.
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