[A-Z April Blogging] [J] Joseon Korea

NB— All Korean names below are followed by their Chinese transcription

Ancient Korea corresponds to the provinces of Inner Manchuria and Korea on the map on p28 of The Celestial Empire. However, Ancient Korea can hardly be considered as a single entity in the time period corresponding to scope of TCE. Under the Táng, Ancient Korea is divided into several warring kingdoms whose people do not even always share a common culture and a common language. This period ends with the unification of the Korean Peninsula (i.e., Korea proper) by the Goryeo/Gāolí (高麗) dynasty, whilst the northernmost part of Ancient Korea (i.e., present-day Inner Manchuria) falls to the Georan/Qìdān empire (契丹, p30-1 of TCE), forever lost to the Koreans.

The Goryeo/Gāolí dynasty, which is more or less contemporary with the Sòng, introduces a Chinese-style administrative system and Chinese customs; place-names and peoples' names are Sinicised. Hanmun/Hànwén (漢文, Classical Chinese) is the medium of choice for formal writing among members of the élite. Eonmun/Yànwén (諺文, vernacular script) is the least prestigious and the least consistent, and is the province of women. The middle classes use a mixed script consisting in Chinese phrases with Korean conjunctions linked by Eonmun/Yànwén particles [Chinese and Korean have completely different word order and grammar]. Under the Goryeo/Gāolí dynasty, Buddhism flourishes.

In 1232, Korea becomes a province of the Mongol empire, and shares the fate of Mongol-dominated Yuán China. Korean troops and ships provide the bulk of the Mongol invasion force that unsuccessfully attempts to invade Japan, in two ill-fated attempts in 1274 and again in 1281.

Under the Míng, Korea becomes independent again under the Joseon/Cháoxiān dynasty (朝鮮, 1392-1910), a long period of unification and of stability (except for the devastating Imjin/Rénchén wars with Japan, 1592-8). Even though it is a sovereign kingdom, Joseon/Cháoxiān Korea is a tributary state of Míng and then of Qīng China, always considering herself as the 'daughter' of Greater China. The Joseon/Cháoxiān period is considered the height of classical Korean culture, trade, science, literature, and technology.

Joseon police constable

I am providing a few guidelines below to play Korean characters in Joseon/Cháoxiān Korea. As a long, stable and Sinicised country, a Korean setting under the Joseon/Cháoxiān dynasty can be satisfactorily approximated with the TCE rules, as long as said guidelines are taken into account.

Status (p79 of BRP) is paramount in Joseon/Cháoxiān Korea, which is a highly stratified society, with very strictly-enforced sumptuary laws (regulating the dress of each social class):

Status — Social Class
01‒10 — Nobi/Núbì (奴婢): slave
11‒20 — Baekjeong/Báidīng (白丁) or Cheonmin/Jiànmín (賤民): "vulgar commoner"
21‒50 — Sangmin/Chángmín (常民): commoner
51‒60 — Jungin/Zhōngrén (中人): middle class
61‒100 — Yangban/Liǎngbān (兩班): nobility

Relations between men and women are also strictly controlled because of the Neo-Confucian ideals of Joseon/Cháoxiān Korea. Female characters can only join female professions. This limitation must be even more strongly enforced by the GM than in a 'standard' game of The Celestial Empire (p9-10 and p42 of TCE).

Player Character Characteristics

Please use the following:
Male characters: SIZ 2D6+6
Female characters: SIZ 2D6+5

Religion & Allegiance

Even though most Koreans are deeply Buddhist (several Joseon/Cháoxiān kings have written very beautiful Buddhist hymns), the state itself is officially and strongly Neo-Confucian. Throughout the history of Joseon/Cháoxiān Korea, Neo-Confucianism is always strongly enforced as the only state religion, and Buddhism is often suppressed. As a result, Buddhist monks reside in large monasteries far from city life to avoid involvement in politics, and to avoid harassment by the authorities. Buddhist priests are rare. Daoism is restricted to the odd hermit or alchemist.
Korean folk religion is similar to Chinese folk religion mixed with Shamanism, which is still strong in Korea, especially in the countryside. Monotheistic religions are absent until the introduction of Catholicism at the end of the 18th century.

Religion Availability Table (replaces the one on p48 of TCE)
Buddhism (common)
Confucianism (common)
Korean folk religion (common)
Daoism (uncommon)
Christianity [post-1786] (very uncommon)
Esoteric Buddhism/Tantric Buddhism (very uncommon)

List of Professions
Male characters
Assassin-retainer – identical to TCE
Buddhist Monk – identical to TCE
Constable – identical to TCE
Fortune-teller – identical to TCE, except Status: 20%
Geomancer – identical to TCE, except Status: 20%
Gukseon/Guóxiān (國仙) – a kind of mountain ascetic; use the 'Esoteric Buddhist Monk' template from TCE, except Allegiance: Korean folk religion 20 points; replace Knowledge (Religion: Esoteric Buddhism) with Knowledge (Religion: Korean folk religion); replace Perform (Sing) with Perform (Dance); replace Language (Manchu/Mongolian) with Language (Chinese); restrict magic to Battle Magic only, add the spells Dark and Farsee.
Hwarang/Huāláng – see the relevant post.
Magistrate – identical to TCE, except Status: 65%
Merchant – identical to TCE
Outlaw – identical to TCE
Scholar – identical to TCE, except Status: 60%
Slave – use the 'Slave' profession from p20 of Dragon Lines
Soldier – identical to TCE
Yangban/Liǎngbān (兩班) – use the 'Noble' profession from p18 of Dragon Lines

Female characters
Assassin-retainer – identical to TCE
Damo/Chámǔ (茶母) – Damo are female servants working for the police: only they can enter women-only residential areas for investigation and interrogation. These are strong, intelligent, and arms-trained women. In the history of Joseon/Cháoxiān Korea police investigations, it has been demonstrated that Damo often played major roles. In spite of this, they were ill-treated by their male counterparts. Use the 'Constable' template from TCE, except Wealth: Poor, and Status: 10%.
Gisaeng/Jìshēng (妓生) – Gisaeng are female entertainers very similar in role and accoutrement to Japanese Geisha. Use the 'Entertainer' profession from p15 of Dragon Lines; add Perform (Play: Instrument) and Perform (Sing) to the list of Primary skills. Status: 15%
Outlaw – identical to TCE
Shamaness – identical to TCE, except Allegiance: Korean folk religion 20 points, Status: 20%
Yangban/Liǎngbān (兩班) – use the 'Noble' profession from p18 of Dragon Lines


Etiquette – Base chance: 20%. Etiquette is paramount in Neo-Confucian Joseon/Cháoxiān Korea.
Firearm – Base chance: 20%. No Status skill penalty for using a firearm (they are slightly more common than in China).
Knowledge (Religion) – Base chance: 10% for common religions, 5% for uncommon religions, 0% for any other religion.
Language (Chinese) – All Yangban characters speak Chinese with a Base chance equal to EDU×3.

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