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The Annals of King T’aejo

The Annals of King T’aejo

Founder of Korea’s Chosŏn Dynasty

ISBN 9780674281301

Publication date: 06/23/2014

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Never before translated into English, this official history of the reign of King T’aejo—founder of Korea’s long, illustrious Chosŏn dynasty (1392–1910 CE)—is a unique resource for reconstructing life in late-fourteenth-century Korea. Its narrative of a ruler’s rise to power includes a wealth of detail not just about politics and war but also about religion, astronomy, and the arts.

The military general Yi Sŏnggye, posthumously named T’aejo, assumed the throne in 1392. During his seven-year reign, T’aejo instituted reforms and established traditions that would carry down through the centuries. These included service to Korea’s overlord, China, and other practices reflecting China’s influence over the peninsula: creation of a bureaucracy based on civil service examinations, a shift from Buddhism to Confucianism, and official records of the deeds of kings, which in the Confucian tradition were an important means of educating succeeding generations. A remarkable compilation process for the sillok, or “veritable records,” was instituted to ensure the authority of the annals. Historiographers were present for every royal audience and wrote down each word that was uttered. They were strictly forbidden to divulge the contents of their daily drafts, however—even the king himself could not view the records with impunity.

Choi Byonghyon’s translation of the first of Korea’s dynastic histories, The Annals of King T’aejo, includes an introduction and annotations.


  • Another masterpiece from Choi Byonghyon. Integrating a remarkably wide range of expertise in classical Chinese, Korean history, Confucianism, geography, and East Asian political structures, Choi offers an accessible translation for modern readers and a model for the rest of the vast ‘veritable records’ of the Chosŏn Dynasty. This book brings to life King T’aejo’s Sinicizing and yet profoundly Korean late fourteenth-century world. Readers can follow T’aejo and his court through the hopes and challenges of the dynasty’s founding era, including national reconstruction, state formation and legitimacy, ideological transformation, and the nature of leadership. The Annals of King T’aejo is a treasure trove for anyone interested in Korean and East Asian history.

    —Byung-Kook Kim, Korea University


  • Choi Byonghyon is Professor of American Literature at Honam University.

Book Details

  • 1056 pages
  • 6-3/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press
  • Translated with commentary by Choi Byonghyon