Lee Evie Diary Feb 26 21: Korean history research, writing and thoughts

Here is a collection of thoughts and things from this week! πŸ™‚

Being inspired by the places I have visited

This above photo was taken near Busan in Korea, at a beautiful mountain Buddhist temple called Beomeosa.⁠

This place definitely inspired me, and actually, a fictionalised version of it found its way into my (very soon to be published) novel PROMISE DREAM as, at one point in the story, my main character – a gisaeng called Jan-sil – spends some time in a quiet mountain temple very much like Beomeosa. My heroine actually sits in an open pavilion that in my imagination was the same one shown in this picture!⁠
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When I was at Beomeosa, I visited the main temple complex first (so beautiful … and CROWDED!), and then went walking along the hiking trails that went even further up the mountain, through the forest and alongside a little stream. ⁠
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It was fairly steep for a long while and then the track split away into two. I was a little nervous to follow the path all the way to a gate I could see among the trees ahead, as I always worry I will intrude somewhere I am not meant to be! I was a tourist and this was an active temple.⁠
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But very kindly, a nice passerby explained (using hand signals because my Korean is too rubbish!) that it was okay to go up and walk around … and I was so happy I got to visit. ⁠
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This other mountain temple was smaller and the views were sweeping. I think I will always remember how quiet it was, and how beautiful.⁠
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It is why I like travelling so much. It is interesting which memories stick in your mind, usually attached to a feeling.⁠
It was a nice day πŸ™‚

Learning about the slavery system in Joseon Korea:

Do you enjoy reading about history?
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I really do, and my favourite period to read about is Joseon Korea. I am rather obsessed with reading and learning as much as I can about this period, which lasted from 1392 until the late 1800s.⁠

This month, I read about slavery in Joseon Korea … which is not a super positive topic … but if you are a kdrama fan (like me!) and watch historical drama (like I do!), you may already be familiar with the slave system (or nobi system) used in Joseon Korea. You will probably have seen maidservants serving their young lady, peasants toiling in the fields or court ladies scurrying around the palace. ⁠
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This essay I read (found within a book called Women and Confucianism in Joseon Korea) was really my first proper introduction to it. I learned A LOT! ⁠
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So I learned that Nobi (No = men and Pi = women) was a slave system inherited from an older Korean dynasty, when criminals would be forced into slavery for their lifetimes. After a while however, this morphed to even the children (and the children’s children) of those criminals having to be slaves for life, and thus a hereditary slave class was created. ⁠
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However, in about 1730, this policy was updated and slavery became a hereditary role inherited only through your mother’s side!⁠
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This actually meant that female slaves became one of the most important assets to own for both government offices and nobles (as female or house slaves were also markers of status). Female slaves were valued more highly than male slaves, because a woman could have children who would be born into slavery, and thus whoever owned her would become wealthier!⁠
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Interestingly enough, slavery is at odds with the moral ethics of Neo-Confucianism, which Joseon was founded on, so there were scholars who protested against it throughout the dynasty. But slavery was still in place in Joseon until the majority of government slaves were released in 1801, and finally slavery was abolished following the Gabo Reform and Donghak peasant uprising of the late 1800s. ⁠
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Yuck but also fascinating!⁠

My current computer screensaver!

What is your current computer or phone screensaver?⁠
Mine has been the same for well over a year now … and, as pictured, is a photo of Woo Do Hwan in the Korean drama MY COUNTRY: THE NEW AGE … which is one of my absolute favourite kdramas ever!⁠

Not only does that drama feature some very cool (and stabby!) history, charting the fall of Goryeo and the foundation of the new Korean dynasty of Joseon in 1392, it also features some very cool warrior dudes with some very cool flowy warrior hair running around and getting stabbed. Like … stabbed A LOT! Apparently, that is my favourite thing ever, haha.⁠
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You can also see in this photo (sort of! At the edge), a very beautiful painting that I love called ‘Ophelia’ by John Everett Millais, painted in the 1850s. I really love this one and used to have an enormous poster of it on my wall, and have even seen the real one in real life, wow!⁠
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I used to have beautiful paintings like Ophelia as my computer screensaver, but for the past year I have swapped out the beautiful paintings for a beautiful picture of beautiful Woo Do Hwan in full battle gear instead. I don’t regret it! πŸ™‚

Update on writing my historical fiction set in old Korea!

Finished anything cool lately?⁠
I sure have! And by finished, I mean … I finished one small part of the ongoing and totally unfinished edits of my manuscript titled AN ODE TO HUNGRY GHOSTS (which is the 2nd book in my Joseon Detective series).⁠
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And I am feeling pretty good about it … even though there is still SO MUCH WORK TO DO! Eeeek!⁠
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But it is all good, because I enjoy writing books, even though sometimes it feels like drowning in a river of confusion, haha. ⁠
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I am another step closer to getting this manuscript completed (first draft done! Second draft also done! Third draft done, too! Word searches completed! Second round of feedback soon to be received! And … lots more work to do, haha!). ⁠
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To celebrate the fact that I have inched one step closer to my goal, I thought I might be brave and share a teeny tiny sneak peak from this book. I do this sometimes for my monthly letters sent to my newsletter subscribers … but not so much anywhere else.⁠
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But I figured … why not? Today is a good day, so here we go! πŸ™‚ Snippet from my work in progress shared!⁠

This snippet is from one of my favourite scenes in the novel. Basically I like all the atmospheric and emotional stuff best, or at least, those are my favourite parts to write. And this scene is a big shift for my heroine Dan Ji, a police servant in Joseon Korea who is struggling to solve a very frightening murder … while an army advances on the city she lives in. This is the point where she realises she may not live through what she is facing … and, of course, when time is limited it becomes precious. ⁠
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Which reminds me of another quote I heard on a podcast recently, from the wonderful Joanna Penn. She said:⁠
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‘How do you want to spend this short and precious life?’⁠
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It got me thinking that I want to spend my time doing things that make me happy. And even though writing books is sometimes excruciatingly difficult, I still love it more than anything else. πŸ™‚

Thoughts on buying (too many) research books and mistakes made!

Bought anything lately that wasn’t quite what you expected when it turned up?⁠
I definitely did! I bought this book in the picture. It is okay though, as the book is still very beautiful … even though I may have sort of ordered the wrong thing! Oops. ⁠

So this was my own fault, as I ordered a book focusing on hanok buildings (a pictorial) and without ever reading the blurb, I randomly decided it must be a big book all about hanok (traditional Korean houses) that were very very very old … like a history book. I thought I was buying a research book about Joseon history!⁠
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But also … I didn’t read the blurb properly, haha.⁠
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It turns out this book is filled to the brim with photographs of hanok mainly built in Seoul in the 90s, in the traditional style, but with many adjustments for modern living (like fancy kitchens!). Although the book isn’t quite what I expected, it sure is filled with absolutely beautiful hanok houses, most of them gorgeous private homes, and I LOVE flicking through these pages. I am quite obsessed now. ⁠
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So I guess it all turned out well in the end! πŸ™‚ 😹

Thanks for reading my random thoughts this week!

Lee Evie.


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