A Chronology in the Record of T’amna (1653)


The T’amnaji (“The Record of T’amna”) was a compilation done at the hand of the official Yi Wŏnjin 이원진 鎭 (1594-1665) during his time as Cheju’s prefect 목사 牧使 in 1653. Yi also has the unusual distinction of being one of the first Chosŏn Korean officials depicted in European literature as the benevolent and dedicated governor in Hendrik Hamel’s account of his captivity in Korea (Ledyard 1971). Aside from his merits as a skilled administrator, an important accomplishment during his time in office was to produce an annotated record of the island that continues to be of crucial importance to any student of Cheju seeking a window, however confined, into the island’s pre-twentieth-century past.

When one peruses through the T’amnaji one might notice the terse nature of its language – using the general format of Classical Chinese style official histories – and that its descriptions are often vague, leaving many more questions than answers. As is the case in most of the world including Europe until as late as the 18th and 19th centuries, most historical accounts are often elite-centered and it was often the case that non-elite people were depicted by sheer accident or coincidence. The most conspicuous feature of the “Chronicle” section itself is largely a political history with terse statements about new administrative offices placed, reorganized, or abolished. For the casual reader, this would be a dry history though for one interested in Korean political history, one may note a time lag between the development of local offices in the peninsula and their application to Cheju, a factor that runs contrary to some perspectives that Korean kingdoms were necessarily much involved in micromanaging Cheju. While there is no doubt that mainland rule did become oppressive to the point that rebellions were frequent on Cheju, the island’s relationship to the mainland rather seems ambiguous given that its native titles as well as the Mongol titles of “East and West Amak” appeared to have survived until as late as the early fifteenth century. In some instances, specific names of Cheju’s native leaders appear. The bare-bones nature of the history provided is also due to a fire in 1435 that destroyed most of Cheju’s earlier records. Yi suggests in an annotation that the duties and acts of previous mainland administrators as well as the Sŏngju 성주 星主 (T’amna’s ancient kings) had, until that tragic fire, their governing affairs recorded for “more or less a thousand years.” One might wonder if the T’amnaji, despite its obvious limitations, was an attempt to make up for this severe loss.

Nevertheless, given the dire lack of extant historical sources on early Cheju, the T’amnaji is indispensable. Its very short sections on Cheju history and local customs, despite an obvious mainland bias, do provide some clues about life in Cheju. Yi’s descriptions in the section on local customs that come some sections after the chronicle mention the pervasiveness of shamanic practice among Cheju men and women – including a note that male shamans were remarkably common (in contrast to the mainland where shamanism tends to be associated, however erroneously, as feminine) – as well as some of the earliest confirmed references to the worship of the Yŏngdŭng deity. Furthermore, the T’amnaji is an invaluable text for finding the earlier place names, historical sites now long-lost, notable figures that came out of Cheju’s elite such as the descendants of T’amna’s ancient “Sŏngju” Ko clan royalty, and miscellaneous details about the local economy.

The following is only a translation of the “Kŏnch’i yŏnhyŏk” (organizational chronology), which I have rendered as “Chronicle,” the short first section of the book. Typical of official histories, the “Kŏnch’i yŏnhyŏk” follows the basic style of dynastic chronologies and therefore draws from the Chosŏn dynasty histories, the Koryŏsa (The History of the Koryŏ Dynasty), and the Koryŏsa Chŏllyo (Essentials of the Koryŏ Dynasty History). Though Yi compiled this text in 1653, the chronology section ends only at 1469. The translation I provide below is an independent effort and thus there may be some awkward renderings.

The language of the chronicle is mostly straightforward, but I did encounter several difficulties in translating this otherwise terse document in handwritten Classical Chinese into English: 1) the terse nature of the original document; 2) a few parts of the original document were damaged by age and thus occasionally unreadable; and 3) the Sino-Korean official titles and ranks were not easily translatable into English. As a result, my translation is admittedly coarse. To address these issues, I cross-checked the handwritten characters in Yi Wŏnjo’s (1792-1871) Chŭngbo T’amnaji (Supplemental Record of T’amna) compiled during his term as Cheju prefect in 1841, and the KoryŏsaChosŏn wangjo sillok (Veritable Records of the Chosŏn Dynasty). On some occasions, Yi Wŏnjo’s document possessed some erroneous transcriptions. The source document I used is actually the complete photocopy of the book included as an addendum to the Yŏkchu T’amnaji (The Translated and Annotated Record of T’amna) edited and published by Cheju scholars Kim Ch’anhŭp, Ko Ch’angsŏk, Kim Hye-u, Kim Sangok, Cho Sŏng’yun, Kang Ch’angnyong, O Ch’angmyŏng, and O Sujŏng in 2002. The Yŏkchu T’amnaji was a translation into Korean and included glosses for certain terms and titles that the original source document did not explain. Although I occasionally referred to this Korean translation for more puzzling points of the document, I mostly translated directly from Classical Chinese into English as the grammatical structure of Chinese is more readily transferable to English than Korean. Since the aforementioned scholars and I appear to have parsed the document differently, my translation has some subtle differences though the content is generally the same. On the matter of official titles, I used John B. Duncan’s renderings in The Origins of the Chosŏn Dynasty (2000) when applicable and sometimes resorted to Charles Hucker’s Dictionary of Official Titles in Imperial China (1985). Where translations for titles were absent, particularly in regard to Cheju-specific titles, I attempted to supply my own translations.

The original document is written in long paragraphs, but I have chosen to re-represent it as a chronicle in part to mitigate the repetition. Entries are written with the year of the reigning king of the event as well as the sexagenary year (a system of defining years based on astrological concepts in 60-year intervals from classical Chinese time-keeping) after a comma. Yi Wŏnjin’s annotations are enclosed in parentheses under each entry while my annotations for clarity are in brackets.


The Record of T’amna

From the east side of Cheju 제주 濟州 [Cheju-ŭpsŏng, present-day Cheju City] to the boundaries of Chŏngŭi-hyŏn 정의현 定義縣 [present-day Sŏng-ŭp], [the land stretches] 80 li [1 li is approximately 1/3 mile]. From the west side to Taejŏng-hyŏn 대정현 大淨縣 it is 81 li. To the south to the sea it is 120 li while to the north [from the wall] it is 1 li. From Kwanduryang in Haenam [in present-day South Chŏlla Province] via the sea route, it is 970 li.


[Origin]: [This land] was originally one of the Nine Han. It was called T’angna 탁라 乇羅 (the Account of An Hong 안홍기 安弘記 lists it as the fourth of the Nine Han) or it was also called T’ammora 탐모라 耽牟羅. [The island] is in the middle of the sea to the south of Chŏlla Province and encompasses some 400 li.

In the beginning, there were the three brothers Ko Ŭlla 고을나 高乙那, Yang Ŭlla 양을나 良乙那, and Pu Ŭlla 부을나 夫乙那. They divided in succession their lands and made them their domains, calling them to 도 徒 [groups or tribes] (in the Augmented Geographic Survey 여지승람 輿地勝覽, it is rendered as “capital” 도 都).

During Silla times, Ko Hu 고후 高厚, Ko Ch’ŏng 고청 高淸, and their younger brother (his name is lost to us, therefore he is called “the younger brother”), crossed the sea on a ship and paid tribute to the court for the first time. [Ko] Hu was called the “Sŏngju” 성주 星主, [Ko] Ch’ŏng was called the “Wangja” 왕자 王子 [literally “prince,” but this seems to have meant chieftain for this case], and the youngest was called the “Tonae” 도내 徒內 [Retainer]. They were bestowed the country name of “T’amna” 탐라 耽羅. [Whether these titles were originally T’amna titles given Sino-Korean renderings and recognized by the Silla king or if they were actually given by the Silla court is unclear, but it seems that “Sŏngju” at least referred to the ruler of T’amna.]

2nd year of King Munju of Paekche, Pyŏngjin 百濟 文周王 二年 丙辰 [476]: After the previous events, they [T’amna] came to serve the Kingdom of Paekche. The emissary of T’amna [when he arrived at the Paekche court] was given the title “Ŭnsol” [title function unknown].

20th year of King Tongsŏng of Paekche, Kyŏngsin 百濟 東城王 二十年 庚申 [498]: [The Paekche kingdom] sent a punitive force was sent because T’amna did not arrange for tribute. The army went as far as Mujinju (present-day Kwangju, Chŏlla Province) when the lord [of T’amna] heard of this. The [T’amna lord] sent an emissary to beg for forgiveness and the campaign was stopped.

1st year of King Munmu of Silla, Imsul 新羅 文武王 元年 壬戌 [662]: T’amna’s lord, then the Chwap’yŏng of Paekche (Ŭnsol and Chwap’yŏng are Paekche titles and when Paekche granted investiture to the T’amna lord he was made Chwap’yŏng [the functions and meanings of these titles are unknown], came to Todongŭmnyul and submitted [to Silla suzerainty].

20th [21st] year of King T’aejo of Koryŏ, Musul 高麗 太祖王 二十年 戊戌 [938; the original text erroneously puts this as the 20th year when Musul is actually the 21st year]: The lord of the T’amna kingdom dispatched his Crown Prince Mallo 말노 末老 to the Koryŏ court. As was the case previously [in Silla], titles Sŏngju and Wangja were again bestowed [and recognized].

10th year of King Sukong of Koryŏ, Ŭryu 高麗 肅宗王 十年 乙酉 [1105]: T’angna (another name for T’amna) was changed to T’amna Prefecture 탐라군 耽羅郡.

Reign of King Ŭijong of Koryŏ 高麗 毅宗 [1146-1170]: The prefecture title was abolished and [T’amna] was made into a county 현 縣. A magistrate 령 令 was dispatched.

Reign of King Kojong of Koryŏ 高麗 高宗 [1213-1259]: A Deputy Commissioner 부사 副使 was dispatched.

8th year of King Wŏnjong of Koryŏ, Chŏngmyo 高麗 元宗王 八年 丁卯 [1267]: The petty criminal Mun Haengno 문행노 文幸奴 raised a rebellion. Deputy Commissioner Ch’oe T’ak 최탁 崔托 mustered an army to strike them down.

11th year of King Wŏnjong of Koryŏ, Kyŏngo 高麗 元宗王 十一年 庚午 [1270]: The rebel Kim T’ongjŏng 김통정 金通精 lead the Three Special Units [Sambyŏlch’o 삼별초 三別抄] to relocate to Chindo Island.

12th year of King Wŏnjong of Koryŏ, Sinmi 高麗 元宗王 十二年 辛未 [1271]: The Three Special Units invaded and plundered [Cheju]. The Sŏngju Ko Injo 고인조 高仁朝, Wangja Mun Ch’angu 王子 文昌祐, and some others came over to inform [the Koryŏ court of this matter.]

14th year of King Wŏnjong of Koryŏ, Kyeyu 高麗 元宗王 十四年 癸酉 [1273]: The king ordered Kim Panggyŏng 김방경  and others to join with the Yuan (Mongol) imperial army to crush the rebels.

15th year of King Wŏnjong of Koryŏ, Kapsul 高麗 元宗王 十五年 甲戌 [1274]: An overseer (Ch’ot’osa 초토사 使 [also known as the Darughachi 達魯花赤]) from the Yuan Empire was assigned [in Cheju].

1st year of King Ch’ungnyŏl of Koryŏ, Ŭrhae 高麗 忠烈王 元年 乙亥 [1275]: The Yuan restored the name “T’amna” [the Koryŏ court had previously renamed the island with the pejorative name “Cheju,” the “district over the water”; this is not mentioned in Yi’s account nor is there any explanation on the circumstances though the name first appears in Korean records in 1223].

2nd year of King Ch’ungnyŏl of Koryŏ, Pyŏngja 高麗 忠烈王 二年 丙子[1276]: The Yuan Empire established [in Cheju] a General Military and Civil Office 군민총관부 府.

3rd year of King Ch’ungnyŏl of Koryŏ, Chŏngch’uk 高麗 忠烈王 三年 丁丑 [1277]: The Yuan assigned East and West Amaks 아막 阿幕 [technically Pasture Attendants, but also de facto strongmen to maintain Mongol rule] to manage the cattle, horses, donkeys, and sheep pastures. A Darughachi 다루가치  [Overseer] was also sent to direct them.

10th year of King Ch’ungnyŏl of Koryŏ, Kapsin 高麗 忠烈王 十年 甲申 [1284]: The Yuan dismantled the general administrative office in order to install the Military and Civil Pacification Commissioner 군민안무사 軍民按撫使.

20th year of King Ch’ungnyŏl of Koryŏ, Kabo 高麗 忠烈王 二十年 甲午 [1294]: King [Ch’ungnyŏl] requested at the court to the Emperor that T’amna be returned [to Koryŏ rule]. The Secretariat Director 丞相 of the Yuan Empire Wan Ze and some others informed the Emperor. The Emperor granted his approval and [T’amna] was returned to our country.

21st year of King Ch’ungnyŏl of Koryŏ, Ŭlmi  高麗 忠烈王 二十一年 乙未 [1295]: [The name T’amna] was changed to “Cheju” 제주 濟州 and [the court] dispatched a Prefect 목사 牧使 and Administrative Assistant 판관 判官.

26th year of King Ch’ungnyŏl of Koryŏ, Kyŏngja 高麗 忠烈王 二十六年 庚子 [1300]: [Cheju] was divided into east and west counties 동서도현 東西道縣. (County villages were listed as follows: Kwiil, 귀일 歸日, Konae 고내 高內, Aewŏl 애월 涯月, Kwakchi 곽지 郭支, Kwidŏk 귀덕 歸德, Myŏngwŏl 명월 明月, Sinch’on 신촌 新村, Hamdŏk 함덕 咸德, Kimnyŏng 김령 金寧, Hoch’on 호촌 弧村, Hongno 홍로 洪爐, Yerae 예래 猊來, Sanbang 산방 山房, Ch’agwi 차귀 遮歸, and so on. Large villages had three headmen 호장 戶長 and one fortress steward 성상 城上, medium villages had three headmen, and small villages had one [headman]. Thinking about it, it was previously established that in Silla times when Ko Hu was given investiture, the villages were established [as administrative units]. During the reign of King Ŭijong of Koryŏ, they were further divided amongst counties. When the Three Special Units were crushed during King Wŏnjong’s time [the island] was merged into a single district. Up to this time, county towns were further established. Whether this logically corresponds to the era [in which the villages were established as such] is unclear.)

In the same year, Dowager Empress Ki 기황후 奇皇后 of the Yuan Empire sent imperial horses to [Cheju’s] pasture.

28th year of King Ch’ungnyŏl of Koryŏ, Imin 高麗 忠烈王 二十八年 壬寅 [1302]: The Yuan dispatched a Myriarch 군민만호부 軍民萬戶府 to Cheju.

31st year of  King Ch’ungnyŏl of Koryŏ, Ŭlsa 高麗 忠烈王 三十一年 乙巳 [1305]: Cheju was returned to our country.

5th year of King Ch’ungsuk of Koryŏ 高麗 忠肅王 五年 戊午[1318]: Petty criminals Sayong 사용 士用, Ŏmbok 엄복 嚴卜, and others raised an army to rebel. The Wangja of Cheju Mun Kongje  王子 文公濟 along with others mobilized an army to crush them. This matter came to the Yuan court’s attention and they again dispatched administrators.

11th year of King Kongmin of Koryŏ, Imin 高麗 恭愍王 十一年 壬寅 [1362]: The Yuan stables manager 목자 牧子 appealed to the Yuan imperial court to request that a Myriarch be again dispatched [to Cheju]. The empire made Deputy Commissioner Mun Adanburhwa 문아단불화 文 阿但不花 the administrator 정치사 整治事. (Adanburhwa came to Cheju with a Korean bound servant, Kim Changno 김장노 金長老, to flog the previous Myriarch Pak Toson 朴都孫 and toss him into the sea.)

16th year  of King Kongmin of Koryŏ, Chŏngmi 高麗 恭愍王 十六年 丁未 [1367]: The Yuan Empire fell and the Ming Empire was established. Emperor Taizu 大明 太祖 restored [the rights to] Cheju to our country. At the time, the Yuan stable managers were strong and fierce and they rebelled against the several Myriarchs sent by the [Koryŏ] state. Kim Yu 김유 金瘐 suppressed them and informed the king. He requested that the horses be sent [as tribute goods] as in the past. The Ming Emperor accepted this.

18th year of King Kongmin of Koryŏ, Kiyu 高麗 恭愍王 十八年 己酉 [1369]: For the first time, Kim Sebong 김세봉 金世奉 was made a Pacification Commissioner 안무사 按撫使.

21st  year of King Kongmin of Koryŏ, Imja 高麗 恭愍王 二十一年 壬子 [1372]: Sŏkkaŭlbi 석가을비 , Ch’odobogae 초도보개 , and others declared themselves the East and West Overseers 동서하치 東西 and slew the [Koryŏ] administrators. The Wangja Mun Sinbo 왕자 문신보 王子 文臣輔 sent his brother Sinp’il 신필 臣弼 to inform the [Koryŏ] court of this matter.

23rd year of King Kongmin of Koryŏ, Kabin 高麗 恭愍王 二十三年 甲寅 [1374]: The King sent the Commissioner of General Command Ch’oe Yŏng 도통사 최영 都統使 崔瑩 to destroy the Overseers and made Kim Chunggwang 김중광 金仲光 both Myriarch 만호 萬戶 and Prefect 목사 牧使.

7th year of King U of Koryŏ, Sinyu 高麗 王 七年 辛酉 [1381]: For the first time, an Administrative Assistant 판관 判官 [of our country] was dispatched [to Cheju].

6th year of King T’aejo of Chosŏn, Chŏngch’uk 朝鮮 太祖王 六年 丁丑 [1397]: [The court] abolished the office of the Myriarch they established a Prefect 목사 牧使 and Garrison Commander 첨절제사 僉節制使 at the same time.

1st year of King T’aejong of Chosŏn, Sinsa 朝鮮 太宗王 元年 辛巳 [1401]: The Pacification Commissioner 안무사 按撫使 was placed along with a Prefect 목사 牧使.

2nd year of King T’aejong of Chosŏn, Imo 朝鮮 太宗王 二年 壬午 [1402]: Cheju’s Sŏngju Ko Pongnye 성주 고봉례 星主 高鳳禮 and Wangja Mun Ch’ungse 왕자 문충세 王子 文忠世 among others requested that their titles be changed. They felt that their ranks seemed excessive. The Sŏngju was named the Senior Regional Administrator 좌도지관 左道知管 while the Wangja was named the Junior Regional Administrator 우도지관 右道知管.

8th year of King T’aejong of Chosŏn, Muja 朝鮮 太宗王 八年 戊子 [1408]: The offices of the East and West Pasture Attendants (Amak) 동서아막 東西阿幕 were abolished. A Directorate of Pastures 감목관 監牧官 was set up [in their place].

13th year of King T’aejong of Chosŏn, Kyesa 朝鮮 太宗王 十三年 癸巳 [1413]: The court dispatched a separate Instructor 교수 敎授 [Instructor in Confucian governance and morality].

16th year of King T’aejong of Chosŏn, Pyŏngsin 朝鮮 太宗王 十六年 丙申 [1416]: Pacification Minister O Sik 안무사 오식 按撫使 吳湜 informed [the court] that the two [additional] counties of Chŏngŭi and Taejŏng were designated. [Because of Hallasan in the middle, dividing the island into three districts made governing more efficient.]

10th year of King Sejong of Chosŏn, Musin 朝鮮 世宗王 十年 戊申 [1428]: The Directorate of Pastures 감목관 監牧官 was abolished and combined with the [duties of] the Administrative Assistant 판관 判官.

20th year of King Sejong of Chosŏn, Kyehae 朝鮮 世宗王 二十年 癸亥 [1443]: The Pacification Commissioner 안무사 按撫使 served as both the Prefect 목사 牧使 and the Director of Pastures 지감목사 知監牧事.

27th year of King Sejong of Chosŏn, Ŭlch’uk 朝鮮 世宗王 二十七年 乙丑 [1445]: The titles of Senior and Junior Regional Administrators 좌우도지관 左右道知管 [the local leaders of Cheju] were abolished. (The titles of Sŏngju and Wangja were what they [Cheju leaders] used when they were granted investiture from the Silla king. These were customary titles for generations. This history carried on into Koryŏ times. As rebellions broke out, however, their generosities were divided and they sometimes obeyed or sometimes betrayed. At the same time, the [Korean] state dispatched Commissioners of Pacification 안무사 按撫使 / 선무사 宣撫使 / 순무사 巡撫使, Commissioners of Directives 지휘사 指揮使, Frontier Defense Commanders 방어사 防禦使, Deputy Commissioners 부사 副使, and Prefects 목사 牧使. The Yuan Empire likewise sent Bandit-Suppression Commissioners 초토사 招討使, Overseers 다루가치 赤, Judges 단사관 斷事官, and Myriarchs 만호 萬戶 as their Pacification Officers 초무사 招撫使. The Sŏngju and Wangja each had their own administrative centers set up and maintained their customs and devotion to contributing tribute goods [to the Korean kingdom and to the Mongols]. It is known that in the times of this dynasty [Chosŏn], to request a lesser title is worthy of praise. After [the Cheju leaders’ request to do so], the administrative titles were abolished. Only the knowledgeable  among townspeople were made High or Deputy Garrison Commanders 상진무 上鎭撫 / 부진무 副鎭撫 to take on matters of defense. For more or less a thousand years, the district administrators have recorded these matters. But in the seventeenth year of King Sejong [1435], during the time of the Pacification Minister Ch’oe Haesan 안무사 최해산 按撫使 崔海山, the government office was lost in a fire. All historical records were sadly lost in that disaster.)

2nd year of King Tanjong of Chosŏn, Kapsul 朝鮮 端宗王 二年 甲戌 [1454]: The Pacification Commissioner 안무사 按撫使 served as the Director of Pasture Land 감목사 監牧事.

12th year of King Sejo of Chosŏn, Pyŏngsul 朝鮮 世祖王 十二年 丙戌 [1466]: The Pacification Commissioner 안무사 按撫使 office was reformed to served as the Director of Pastures 감목사 監牧事 as garrisons 진 鎭 were established. The Army and Navy Commander 병마수군절제사 兵馬水軍節制使 doubled as the Commandant and Director of Pastures  감목절제사 監牧節制使.

1st year of King Yejong of Chosŏn, Kich’uk 朝鮮 睿宗王 元年 己丑 [1469]: A Prefect 목사 牧使 was again dispatched to double as the Army and Navy Commander 병마수군절제사 兵馬水軍節制使 while Administrative Assistant 판관 判官 doubled as the Commandant and Director of Pastures 절제도위감목관 節制都尉監牧官.


Duncan, John B. 2000. The origins of the Chosŏn dynasty. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Hucker, Charles O. 1985. A dictionary of official titles in imperial China. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Ledyard, Gari. 1971. The Dutch come to Korea. Seoul: Royal Asiatic Society, Korea branch.

Yi Wŏnjin. 2002/2007 (1653). Yŏkchu T’amnaji. Kim Ch’anhŭp, Ko Ch’angsŏk, Kim Hye-u, Kim Sangok, Cho Sŏng’yun, Kang Ch’angnyong, O Ch’angmyŏng, and O Sujŏng, translators. Seoul: P’urŭn yŏksa.

Yi Wŏnjo. 2007 (1841). T’amnaji ch’obon (sang-ha). Ko Ch’angsŏk, Kim Ch’anhŭp, O Munbok, Kim Hye-u, Kim Sangok, Kang Ch’angnyong, O Ch’angmyŏng, and O Sujŏng, translators. Cheju: Cheju National University.


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