Ŭng Kol Pang, a 14th century Korean treatise on falconry

falconUng Kol Pang, a 14th century Korean treatise on falconry

By Myung Sun Chun

Feathers, grit and symbolish: birds and humans in the ancient, old and new worlds, edited by Gisela GrupeGeorge McGlynn and Joris Peters (2005)

Abstract: It is not easy to find out where, when and how falconry developed and spread into Korea. The oldest evidence for falconry in Korea is found on a wall-painting in the tomb of Sham Shil Ch’ong dating from the Kokuryŏ-dynasty (c. 5th century AD). In medieval times a treatise entitled Ŭng Kol Pang or Book on Hawks and Falcons was written by a government official named I Cho Nyŏn (1266-1343). In this treatise birds of prey were classifi ed into hawks and falcons. However, owing to the lack of detailed depictions of the birds, it is not clear what kind of species exactly are meant. The Ŭng Kol Pang is devoted to the breeding of falcons and to the treatment of their diseases. As will be illustrated, the methods and therapies applied in medieval Korea are based on traditional Chinese or Korean medicine and folk remedies.

Introduction: It is commonly accepted that falconry originated in the Asian steppe and that it developed alongside with horsemanship. According to Canby, falconry was known in ancient Anatolia about 2000 BC. Gerdessen comments on an anecdote about falconry during the reign of the Chinese King Wen (689-675 BC), which is mentioned in the earliest work on falconry in Japan. If this citation is correct, the Chinese might have known falconry already in the first millennium BC. According to Epstein, falconry was introduced from Korea to Japan in the 4th century AD, with a governmental office being set up for falconry by the emperor. However, owing to the lack of historical records, it is not easy to trace, where, when and how falconry developed and spread into east Asia.

The earliest evidence for falconry in ancient Korea is found on a 5th-6th century AD tomb wall at Jilin Sheng. To date located in China, this region once formed part of the Kokuyrŏ Kingdom (37-668 AD), the territory of which included the whole of Manchuria and the northeastern part of China. The tomb named Sham Shil Ch’ong (the tomb with three rooms) belongs to an unknown aristocrat of the Kokuryŏ dynasty. The wall painting depicts a man riding a horse with a falcon on his fist.

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