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Monday, 22 April 2013

Inside Changdeokgung, Part I: Gyujanggak - The Royal Library of Joseon Dynasty

Gyujanggak Royal Library at Changdeokgung Palace Grounds, Seoul Jongno-gu.
The Kyujanggak (Hanja: 奎章閣), was the royal library of the Joseon Dynasty. It was founded in 1776 by order of King Jeongjo the Great of Joseon, at which time it was located on the grounds of Changdeok Palace.

Today known as Kyujanggak Royal Library or Kyujanggak Archives are maintained by Kyujanggak Institute for Korean Studies at the Seoul National University, located in Daehak-dong, Seoul Gwanak-gu. It functions as a key repository of Korean historical records and a centre for research and publication of an annual journal titled Kyujanggak.

Gyujanggak Institute for Korean Studies (KIKS), Seoul National University Gwanak Main Campus, Seoul Gwanak-gu.
Another starting kick for Korean Studies GEEKS.
It is named after imperial calligraphic works stored there, the kyujang (奎章), which literally means "writings of Kyu", a scholar-deity, but has come to refer to divinely inspired writings, in particularly, the emperor's. In 1782, the Outer Kyujanggak library (known as Oegyujanggak) was built in the ancient royal palace on Ganghwa Island, Incheon Metropole to accommodate an overflow of books from the main Kyujanggak library at Changdeok Palace in Seoul, where the royal viewing copies were kept, and most of the viewing copies were transferred there.

The library's role underwent various changes after the Gabo Reforms of 1894. In 1922, it was moved under the jurisdiction of Keijo Imperial University, which later gave rise to the Seoul National University. The library moved to its present location in 1990 and became independent of the Seoul National University Central Library in 1992.

In 1866, during the Byeong-in French Invasion against Korea, the troops attacked Ganghwa Island and seized a vast amount of silverware, royal artifacts, and 297 volumes of royal Uigwe from the Outer Kyujanggak library and burned down the building. The Korean Government tried to retrieve the royal documents through a permanent lease, since French law prohibits national assets to be transferred abroad. In 2010, a Seoul-based civic group spearhead the return but the request to exclude illegally-obtained property from its list of national assets was rejected by a Paris court. An agreement was made by President Lee Myung-bak and President Nicolas Sarkozy at the 2010 G-20 Seoul summit to return the royal documents on a five-year renewable loan basis. From April to June 2011, 297 volumes with 191 different Uigwes, were shipped back in four separate installments and subsequently kept at the National Museum of Korea, Ichon-dong, Seoul Yongsan-gu.

The collection has over 260,000 items, with many of them digitized and available online. Notability the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty (Korean: Joseon Wangjo Sillok/조선왕조실록/朝鮮王朝實錄), Daily Records of the Royal Secretariat (Korean: Seungjeongwon Ilgi/승정원일기/承政院日記) and Uigwe or "Royal Protocols" of the Joseon Dynasty, that were not looted and remained in Korea. They are among the National treasures of South Korea and are inscripted in UNESCO's Memory of the World Programme. 

In addition, it has royal, government, private documents, such as land transactions and power of attorney and maps on natural geography and the state of society of Joseon Dynasty. The antique maps include a provincial map of 1872, a plotting-paper map stamped by Bibyeonsa/비변사/備邊司, a Joseon map, and an eight-province map. It also has a database of Government records with 110 volumes in ten kinds kept by each provincial and gun office, 99 collections of compiled official documents, foreign diplomacy documents kept by each province, 149 volumes of foreign trade-related materials, 180 volumes of court proceeding records. The materials depicts how the nation took modernization policies and coped with aggressions of Western powers. The court proceeding records, from 1894 to 1910, provide information on life style of people from various walks of life, their way of thinking, and acts of the State. It also includes book titles plates and Naegak illyeok/내각일력/內閣日曆, at 1,249 volumes, a daily record of affairs kept by the Gyujanggak Royal Library from 1779 to 1883. Its' contents not found in other chronological documents covering the same period.