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The Historical Reliability of the Korean Musical Treatise, Akhak Kwebŏm

  • Song Bang-song


The Akhak kwebŏm, the most comprehensive Korean musical treatise of the early Yi dynasty, was compiled in 1493 by a team headed by Song Hyŏn (1439–1504) and other editors, at the order of King Sŏngjong (ruled 1469–1494). Consisting of nine chapters (kwŏn or chüan) in three fascicles, the treatise describes and classifies musical instruments (for aak, tangak, and hyangak), musical theory, sacrificial and ritual music, costumes and ceremonial accessories for court musicians and dancers, and tangak and hyangak court dances (chŏngjae), including dancing and singing. It is an invaluable source not only for the study of Korean music theory and history, but also for the study of Korean dance, literature, and language.



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1. Kishibe Shigeo, “Gakugaku kihan no kaihan ni tsuite,” in Tanabe sensei kanreki kinen tōa ongaku ronso (Tokyo: Yamaichi shōbo, 1943), pp. 213–44. Yi Hong-jik, “Imjin chŏnp'an ŭi Akhak kwebŏm,” Han'guk kodae munhwa non'go (Seoul: Ŭryu munhwasa, 1954), pp. 239–57. Kim Chi-yong, “Akhak kwebŏm haesŏl,” Akhak kwebŏm (Seoul: Inmun kwahak yŏn'guso, Yŏnse University, 1968), pp. 1–6.

1. Yi Hye-gu, Kugyŏk Akhak kwebŏm, 2 vols. (Seoul: Minjok munhwa ch'ujinhoe, 1979 and 1980).

3. For a bibliographical study of the Chou-li-t'u, see Robert C. Provine, “The Chou-li ching-t'u: a Chinese Source Consulted by Early Yi Dynasty Writers on Rites and Music,” Papers Presented at the 6th Annual Conference of AKSE, held in Seoul, Korea (Seoul: Korea Research Foundation and Korean Traders Scholarship Foundation, 1982), pp. 267–81 (English) and pp. 499–507 (Korean). Dr. Provine's essay was presented at the 6th Annual Conference of the Association for Korean Studies in Europe in August, 1982, after the present paper had been completed. The Chou-li-t'u will therefore be excluded in this paper, but it will be examined in a later supplementary study of the Akhak kwebŏm.

4. For a survey of the Yüeh-shu by Ch'en Yang, see Rulan C. Pian, Song Dynasty Musical Sources and Their Interpretation, Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series, 16 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967), pp. 46.

5. A facsimile edition of the 1876 print has recently been released by the National Classical Music Institute, Korea, in the series Han'guk ŭmakhak charyo ch'ongsŏ, volumes 8–10. For a bibliographical examination of the Yüeh-shu, see Song Bang-song, “Kungnip kugagwŏn sojang Aksŏ haeje,” Aksŏ (Seoul: Kungnip kugagwŏn, 1982), VIII, 3–9.

6. Morohashi Tetsuji, Dai kanwa jiten, 13 vols. (Tokyo: Taishūkan shōten, 1955–1960), V, 572 (item no. 313).

7. Ma Tuan-lin, Wen-hsien t'ung-k'ao (Taipei: Hsin-hsing shu-chü, 1959), k'ao 1152 -k'ao 1233.

8. Song Dynasty Musical Sources and Their Interpretation, pp. 79; and Dai kanwa jiten, IV, 828 (n. 56).

9. Hsing-li ta-ch'üan-shu (Taipei: Taiwan shang-wu yin-shu-kuan, 1974), chüan 22. la-32a and chüan 23.1a–55a.

10. The present study is based upon a microfilm made from the original copy preserved in the Library of Congress, Washington, D. C.

11. Yang Chia-lo, ed., Chung-kuo yin-yüeh shih-liao, 6 vols. Facsimile edition (Taipei: Ting-wen shu-chü, 1975), V, 1788–1815.

12. Song Dynasty Musical Sources and Their Interpretation, pp. 1415, and Dai kanwa jiten, III, 935 (n. 106).

13. Erh-shih-wu-shih, 50 vols. Facsimile edition (Taipei: Yee Wen Publishing Co., 1956).

14. Dai kanwa jiten, II, 929 (n. 127).

15. Dai kanwa jiten, VII, 783 (n. 66).

16. Dai kanwa jiten, VIII, 505 (n. 110). The Li-shu is believed to have been completed in 1090 by Ch'en Hsiang-tao (1053–1093), for which see Provine, “The Chou-li ching-t'u,” Papers Presented at the 6th Annual Conference of AKSE, held in Seoul, Korea (1982), p. 279 (note 18).

17. Dai kanwa jiten, XI, 947 (n. 12).

18. Dai kanwa jiten, XI, 411 (n. 83).

19. Dai kanwa jiten, XII, 336 (n. 331).

20. Erh-shih-wu-shih, Vol. 18.

21. Wang Hsien-ch'ien, Shih-ming shu-cheng-pu (Taipei: Taiwan shang-wu yin-shu-kuan, 1968), pp. 327–34.

22. Cheng Hsüan, Chou-li Cheng-chu (Taipei: Taiwan Chung-kuo shu-chü, 1970).

23. Ch'en Hsiang-tao, Li-shu (Taipei: Taiwan shang-wu yin-shu-kuan, 1974).

24. Yang Chia-lo, Chung-kuo yin-yüeh shih-liao, III, 481–686.

25. Ying Shao, Feng-su t'ung-i (Taipei: Taiwan Chung-kuo shu-chü, 1970).

26. Kim Pu-sik, Samguk sagi, Han'guk kojŏn ch'ongsŏ, 2 (Seoul: Minjok munhwa ch'ujinhoe, 1973).

27. Chŏng In-ji et al., Koryŏsa, 3 vols. (Seoul: Tongbanghak yŏn'guso, Yŏnse University, 1973).

The Historical Reliability of the Korean Musical Treatise, Akhak Kwebŏm

  • Song Bang-song


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