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Korean Phonetic Guide from 1806 Japanese Atlas

March 8th, 2007 . by Gerry-Bevers

The following is a chart from an 1806 Japanese atlas that seems to be a pronunciation guide for Korean letters. I am posting it just because I find it interesting:

Link to the atlas

I do not know much about the history of either the Korean or Japanese writing systems, but there are Japanese who claim that hangeul was based on an old Japanese writing style called “Ahilu”(神代文字 — 신대문자), which you can read about in Japanese here. By the way, I do not know what the Japanese is saying, but here is one person’s opinion in English:

The “Ahilu” alphabet is an ancient Japanese alphabet (“Jindai Moji” 神代文字) that was transmitted to the Urabe-Abiru (占部阿比留) Family in Tsushima (對馬 situated in [the] South of Japan).

[Chart is inserted.]

As  you can see, the “Ahilu” alphabet looks very similar to the “Hangul” alphabet. This resemblance has been pointed out several times before in the Japanese history academic circles but it has not been widely accepted. The mainstream of the Japanese history academic circles believes that there was no alphabet in Japan before the arrival of the Chinese character, thus considers that any so-called ancient Japanese alphabet, including the “Ahilu” alphabet, is a forgery. To them, the “Ahilu” alphabet is an alphabet made based on the “Hangul.” I disagree with the said mainstream.

The “Ahilu” alphabet is composed of two parts, the right side where the vowel is placed, and the left side where the consonant is placed. On the other hand, the “Hangul” is composed of of at least three and at most four parts, the left, the right, the bottom and the top parts where either a vowel or consonant can be placed??? The “Hangul” is clearly more evolved than the Ahilu alphabet, thereby it would be more natural to conclude that the “Hangul” was made based on the “Ahilu” rather than the opposite.

The “Ahilu” alphabet as an ancient Japanese alphabet can not be dismissed based merely on the academy’s assumption that there were no Japanese alphabets in the ancient times before the arrival of the Chinese ideograms.

As Tsushima is situated right in front of the Korean peninsula, with a strong link to and active interaction with its Korean neighbor, it is very plausible that the “Ahilu” alphabet was either transmitted to Korea or that the Koreans found it in Tsushima.

The mystery of the rapid creation of the “Hangul” would thus be resolved if the “Ahilu” alphabet was used as the model for its creation.

King Sejong invaded Tsushima (Daemado) in 1419 A.D., and Hangeul was “invented” in 1443. Is it possible that King Sejong’s soldiers found something in Tsushima that helped him create Hangeul?

I am not sure of the credibility of the Japanese claim, but some of the letters from the 1806 Japanese atlas do look very similar to the 神代文字 (신대문자) in the chart below, which suggests that the alphabet was not a forgery:


28 Responses to “Korean Phonetic Guide from 1806 Japanese Atlas”

  1. comment number 1 by: pacifist

    Gerry,

    Why do these hanglu alphabets look differnt from usual ones? Did hanglu change in 200 years?

    To follow is a modern hanglu characters corresponding to Japanese pronunciation.
    http://www.geocities.jp/p451640/moji/skm/gjo/gjo_02.html

  2. comment number 2 by: myCoree

    Some of those are not ancient Hangeul. Is it the origin of Hangeul? And, I can’t find such characters within the link you made.

  3. comment number 3 by: Gerry-Bevers

    Pacifist,

    Yes, hangeul has changed over the centuries, including within the last 200 years, but I do not know much about its history. However, some of the letters from the writing in the atlas look similar to what is called 神代文字 (신대문자), which is supposedly an old Japanese style of writing that some Japanese claim hangeul is based on. I don’t know.

    MyCoree,

    After you click on the link to the 1806 Japanese atlas, click on “04.” That will take you to the page where you will find the pronunciation chart, which is in among all the other writing on the page.

  4. comment number 4 by: GarlicBreath

    Gerry,

    Dont foget that Sedong the Good also plagerized hanggul from phanspa , at leaset according to Gary Leland who is Sejong Professor of Korean History Emeritus at Columbia University.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Ledyard

    By the way, it was the Japanese that forced Korea to use Hangul in the schools.

  5. comment number 5 by: pacifist

    I didn’t know about the relation of hanglu with Japanese old characters.
    In particular, the characters ウ and ム look similar to the corresponding hanglu characters.
    Wow!…
    .
    I won’t say that this is another Korean culture originated from Japan, but it maybe a proof that we, Japanese and Koreans, are similar kind of far east asians. Why don’t we get together without hatred?
    .
    Korean people, please stop hating Japan and get along with each other.

  6. comment number 6 by: myCoree

    Are there any Japanese who can translate the sentence from ○朝鮮ハ唐音を to the end? In my opinion, Hangeul was made by 90% imitation and 10% creation. But, that still was a great invention. Thomas Edison said that a genius is made by 1% inspiration and 99% imitation(perspiration?). ^_^
    .
    pacifist
    Anyway, regardless of the similarity between Korea and Japan as you said, this is the very time to apologize and reconcile to each other. About my major interest Dokdo, I think it can(should) be the best tool to solve the friction between two counties.

  7. comment number 7 by: Gerry-Bevers

    MyCoree wrote:

    pacifist
    Anyway, regardless of the similarity between Korea and Japan as you said, this is the very time to apologize and reconcile to each other. About my major interest Dokdo, I think it can(should) be the best tool to solve the friction between two counties.

    MyCoree, 

    Do you really think South Korea will apologize for stealing Takeshima (Dokdo)?

  8. comment number 8 by: kojibomb

    i heard of this before…神代文字 (신대문자)
    so small number of Japanese people believe that hangeul was based on this ancient writing system after all…
    umm
    Believers
    Ando Kensetsu believes that 神代文字 is not only Hangeul’s origin, but origin of all languages. She thinks that it was created 230000 years ago and is from UFO. lol

    Saji Yoshihiko guarantees 神代文字 is the origin of Hangeul and it was created 12 000 years ago. Also, he thinks it was used before the introduction of Kanji. 神代文字 has 70 columns of letters, but the main one is very similar Hangeul.

    Historical evidences
    In Sakura Jinja(Tokyo), inherited ????(sth that those jinja ppl read) has 神代文字 in it but the reader, Yoshimura Masanori doesn’t know the meaning. Also, he says that 神代文字 was written in in the middle of Meiji jidai (late 1800s).
    In Shikoku Tokushima ken, there is a poem monument in 神代文字, but this was also made in 2nd yr of Meiji era(1868). I think it is called Iwakumo Hanaka.
    Also in front of Akagi jinja in Kunma ken, there is also a 神代文字 monument(built in 3rd year of Meiji era).
    Most evidences are from Meiji era…
    There are some people who claim that there are 神代文字 evidence before the Meiji era… for example, Gosaki? Kosaki? written in 12 AD or mirrors and copper weapons inscripted with 神代文字.
    Hie Jinja (Tokyo), which claims that it has mirrors and copper weapons with 神代文字 on it, does not display any of them to the public nor for research. So…

    Non-Believer
    Okimori Takuya, a professor in Rikkyo uni, says those evidences before the Meiji era are all lies. Saji Yoshihiko believes that 神代文字 was used before Kanji but… How can Kanji replace 神代文字 when 神代文字 is just phonetic representation but Kanji also has meanings? The other way, 神代文字 replacing Kanji, makes more sense. Also, he suggests that in a historical material from 807, it starts out as sth like… there are still no letters in Japan. Mr. Okimori also adds that if 神代文字 was an ancient Japanese letters, why did Japanese people burrow shapes from Kanji to make Kana? Why didn’t they just use their own letters?

    Then he goes on about Hirata Atsutane who prob made 神代文字 up to get more people to believe/get interested in Shinto.

  9. comment number 9 by: jion999

    myCoree
    Do you really think South Korea will apologize for stealing karate, fabricating 2000 years teakwondo history, and deceiving people in the world?
    The mistake of some Koreans is to believe that they can ask for apology to someone but they do not have to apologize for anything for reconciliation.

  10. comment number 10 by: kojibomb

    myCoree
    yea I think Hangeul was copied from some other letters but not 神代文字
    神代文字 is a fabrication made by Hirata Atsutane

  11. comment number 11 by: Kaneganese

    I heard somewhere that 神代文字 is just a fiction. I am not sure, but I don’t think it is a major theory in academic history field at all.

    myCoree,
    Welcome back ! I was busy this week (it is a tax time in Japan) and couldn’t do any research until now. Did you see the original 『蔚陵島事蹟』 in Dokdo Museum? Was it the same with Mr.half-moon’s PDF file? If so, which page?

  12. comment number 12 by: myCoree

    Gerry.
    This is not the proper thread to talk about Dokdo(Takeshima). But, I have an opinion that Korea should not ignore Japanese claim. And, Korean historians should reflect upon their own claims objectively which will be the key to solving the dispute about the islet.
    I don’t think Korea have stolen the islet. I just think that she(Korea) doesn’t have enough evidences to prove her claim and has many unreasonable and impractical logic. About your claim, I partly agree with you.
    Anyway, it’s not the right thread and I’m not an English native but a Korean native. There will be many chances to express my thought. At the next chance, I will say my trip to Dokdo.
    See you.

  13. comment number 13 by: myCoree

    Kaneganese

    Did you see the original 『蔚陵島事蹟』 in Dokdo Museum? Was it the same with Mr.half-moon’s PDF file? If so, which page?

    I’ve got the full text printed in 16 pages. The curator said that the original probably is possessed by Korea Univ. in Seoul. It has the same pages you’ve got. I want to show it to you later. Let’s stop about it on this thread. Enjoy your supper.

  14. comment number 14 by: Gerry-Bevers

    Kojibomb wrote:

    yea I think Hangeul was copied from some other letters but not 神代文字
    神代文字 is a fabrication made by Hirata Atsutane

    The 1806 atlas includes letters that look very similar to Hangeul, yet are different from King Sejong’s original. That suggests a separate script.

    Hirata Atsutane lived from 1776 to 1843, which means he would have had to create and then promulgate the useage of 神代文字 before he was thirty in order to get the script mentioned in the atlas. That seems unlikely, especially given the problems with communications back then. If it were fabricated, it would have probably had to be fabricated sometime before Hirata. But then the question still remains, “Why fabricate such a script?” Was there cultural jealousy back then, too?

  15. comment number 15 by: kojibomb

    Gerry-Beavers
    I dunno much about Japanese history so… can’t really answer ur question but,

    Hirata Atsutane (平田篤胤, Hirata Atsutane?) a scholar of the Kokugaku philosophy following the Edo period (also known as the Tokugawa period) of the 17th century of Japan. Hirata was relatively a part of the famous Shintoist Rites Research Council, in which the creator of this certain council noted: “We should research the ancient Shinto rites in detail and consider their application in administrative affairs in general and the common life of the nation.” Hirata greatly assisted in this research cause, being a pupil of Motoori Norinaga. Throughout Hirata’s attempt’s towards the wanted superiority of the Shinto religion, his actions became part-inspirational for later Japanese nationalism and imperialism.

    this is from wiki… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hirata_Atsutane

    I think its not cause of cultural jealousy, but he wanted Shintoism to spread more maybe? If Japanese people learn that there was an ancient letter, 神代文字, which was the origin of all languages, people would believe in Shinto more…

  16. comment number 16 by: Kaneganese

    myCoree,
    Thank you !! I really apprecite it. Please scan them and put them in database Matt created later.And I agree that we should stop discussing this issue on this thread. But please let us know about your trip to Ulleundo.
    I wish Gerry would create new thread about new article about Gerry’s findings that someone (Infinum?) posted on other thread.

  17. comment number 17 by: Gerry-Bevers

    Hi MyCoree,

    I do not know much about Japanese history either, even though I did take a semester of it in college about twenty-five years ago.

    So you have the full printed text of the『蔚陵島事蹟』? That is great, but I would love to get a translation in either Korean or English. Do you have a translation?

    I do not understand why I cannot find a full translation on the text on the Internet or in any books I have. That seems like an important historical document. It does not make sense.

    Kaneganese,

    I am not sure what was posted on another thread, but the only new findings I have are a few small, but interesting, things that I have learned from commentors here at Occidentalism. They have helped me to get a better understanding of the history of Ulleungdo and its neighboring islands. I am a little busy these days, but I will try to summarize some of my thoughts on Dokdo/Takeshima this weekend.

  18. comment number 18 by: tomato

    I just think that she(Korea) doesn’t have enough evidences to prove her claim and has many unreasonable and impractical logic.

    How is this different from Korea lacking any legitimate claim on the island? It’s a wonder how you seem to understand this but still think the islands should belong to Korea. Is “Dokdo is Korean” like believing a religious deity to you- that belief is all that’s needed and any doubts thereto count as blasphemy?

  19. comment number 19 by: tomato

    I thought the Shindai-moji was like Atlantis- a created myth, one of those funny stories amongst weird circles. It’s surely not the mainstream thought in Japan, so don’t start believing that the Japanese are claiming to have invented Hangul or something. Just in case.

  20. comment number 20 by: infimum

    Gerry,
    Kaneganese is probably referring to my comment here (see No. 43). It’s a long article written in Japanese, but your name in the Japanese writing appears and it briefly touches upon your rebuttal.

  21. comment number 21 by: Kaneganese

    Yes, infimum. That is the one I was talking about. I noticed it few days later, so I couldn’t thank you for posting it. Thank you. I think it is hilarious that Korean counterpart and press started to insinuate him not to stirr up the issue anymore.

  22. comment number 22 by: MikeRossTky

    From Wiki:

    江戸時代にはその実在を信じていた学者も少なからず存在したが、近代以降の日本語学界をはじめとするアカデミックの世界では、現存する神代文字は古代文字などではなく、すべて近世以降に捏造されたものであり、漢字渡来以前の日本に固有の文字は存在しなかったとする説が広く支持されている。

    This “alphabet” is considered to be “Fake” and created toward the end of the Edo period to eraly Meiji. The Japanese did not have their own writing scheme prior to the arrival of the “Kanji”.

  23. comment number 23 by: pacifist

    myCoree,

    Thank you for your postings, I felt you are a honest kind of Korean.
    .

    this is the very time to apologize and reconcile to each other

    .
    I agree with you. We should be friends each other. But there was a chance to be so a few years ago when Hanryu was booming but that was crushed by the president Roh, making an objection to Japanese textbooks and Takeshima’s day.
    .
    So Takeshima is the key as you say.
    .

    I don’t think Korea have stolen the islet. I just think that she(Korea) doesn’t have enough evidences to prove her claim and has many unreasonable and impractical logic

    .
    Even if you don’t have clear evidence, why don’t you think Korea have stolen it?
    I can’t understand your logic.
    .
    If you find somebody have a fountain pen, which looks like yours, do you grab it without asking him and making sure it was really your fountain pen?
    If you act like this, you can be called as a thief. Don’t you think so?
    .
    If you have some agreement in Gerry’s postings, why don’t you speak in your society that there are some inconsistencies in Korea’s claim?

  24. comment number 24 by: happyRiceField

    Hey

    I’m Japanese.
    I’m almost 100% sure that hangeul isn’t based on the “Ahilu” alphabets. I like your researches and arguments about revisionism, but this is not worth taking care.

  25. comment number 25 by: tman

    I do not know much about the history of either the Korean or Japanese writing systems,

    Some expert. Claims he knows everything, yet he starts out by saying he doesn’t know much about what he claims to know. You’re right, you don’t know much about it.

  26. comment number 26 by: myCoree

    Pacifist,

    Sorry. I will answer your question.

    Even if you don’t have clear evidence, why don’t you think Korea have stolen it?
    I can’t understand your logic.

    My logic? When A is false, it is not good condition for B to be true.
    ‘not A’ is just ‘not A’. Think about it.

    If you have some agreement in Gerry’s postings, why don’t you speak in your society that there are some inconsistencies in Korea’s claim?

    Good question. It will not be long before the ‘break-out(??)’.

    Today will be a busy day in my office. So, understand my long absence.

  27. comment number 27 by: surabaya johnny

    There is fairly extensive research on this topic. The Korean language was not created out of whole cloth, but rather followed principles of other asian alphabets and syllabaries of its day. Off the top of my head I don’t know if the language you cite is one of them. (see the book by Gari Ledyard for an English explanation)

  28. comment number 28 by: General Tiger

    *Yawn*

    Can I get some actual arguments here?