조선에서 명에 보낸 방물의 물목과 그 경향의 변화

Items of Tributary Gifts (Pangmul 方物) Sent to the Ming Dynasty by Chosŏn and their Changing Trends

Article information

Int J Korean Hist. 2021;26(2):151-180
Publication date (electronic) : 2021 August 30
doi : https://doi.org/10.22372/ijkh.2021.26.2.151
*Research Fellow at the Northeast Asian History Foundation
Received 2021 May 10; Revised 2021 July 17; Accepted 2021 July 19.


이 글은 15~17세기 동안 조선이 명 황제에 보냈던 정기사행의 방물과 그 수량이 시기별로 어떻게 달라졌는지 추적하고, 그 의미를 살펴본 글이다.

국초 조선이 명에 보낸 방물은 고려-명의 방물을 일부분 계승했다. 조선 백성들이 金銀 납부의 고역을 호소하자, 세종은 明에 金銀 면제를 요청했고, 1429년 방물 구성이 변화하게 된다. 조선 조정은 당시 국고에 넉넉하게 보유하고 있는 마포와 특산품인 席의 수량을 늘리고, 紬와 말을 새로 추가했다. 구하기 어려운 표피, 달피는 추가하지 않았고, 인삼과 황모필은 황태자에게만 추가했다. 1430년에 정해진 방물이 16세기에도 계속되었다.

정기사행의 방물은 1592년 임진왜란으로 다시 변경되었다. 전쟁으로 방물 마련이 여의치 않자, 조선은 전시 상황에서 보다 쉽게 확보할 수 있는 물건을 방물로 선택했다. 기존 방물은 수량이 감소했고, 쥘부채(摺扇)와 종이(鏡面紙, 白綿紙, 油紙), 벼루(畵硯), 먹(眞墨, 油煤墨), 붓(黃毛筆) 등 문방구가 새롭게 황제의 방물로 추가되었다. 주목할 점은 이 물건들이 16세기 조선의 주요 수출품이었다는 점이다. 건국 후 약 200년이 지나며, 16세기 조선의 변화된 상품 생산 지형도가 황제 방물에도 영향을 준 것이다. 조선은 전쟁이 끝나고 안정을 찾으면서, 조선 초에 설계된 방물 관행으로 돌아가는 모습을 보였다. 하지만 온전하게 고정되지 않고, 15세기의 관행과 17세기의 여건을 오가며 유동적인 모습을 보였다.

조선은 방물의 관행을 준수하고자 하는 원칙 하에, 조선 백성의 폐해를 고려하고, 조선의 경제적 변화와 여건을 반영하며 시기에 따라 융통성을 보였다.

Trans Abstract

This paper examines changes and trends in tributary gifts (pangmul 方物) sent by Chosŏn regular envoys to the Ming Emperor during the 15th and 17th centuries.

First, pangmul items sent by the Chosŏn to the Ming were partially inherited from the Koryŏ era. Second, it examines how King Sejong’s 1429 request that the Chosŏn court pay its tribute by means other than gold and silver led the court to offer specialty goods as tribute instead of precious metals. It then moves on to explore how economic scarcity resulting from the Imjin Wars of 1592 led Chosŏn pangmul to be composed mostly of folding fans and stationery items such as paper (kyŏngmyŏnji, paekmyŏnji, and oil paper), inkstones (hwayŏn), ink (chinmuk and yumaemuk) and writing brushes (hwangmopil)–the dynasty’s common, major export goods. After the war, the Chosŏn dynasty regained stability and returned to its pre-war pangmul practices. However, the pangmul were not completely fixed and showed tentative patterns, going back and forth between the practices of the 15th century and the new circumstances of the 17th century.

In short, this paper explores how pangmul practices were not completely fixed, and how contingencies such as the war and the changing landscape of manufacturing in 16th-century Korea influenced the composition of Chosŏn pangmul.


Diplomacy between Chosŏn Korea (朝鮮; 1392~1910) and Ming China (明; 1368~1644) was carried out via envoys. Chosŏn envoys traveled to Beijing to hand over diplomatic documents and discuss state affairs. These envoys also presented ‘tributary gifts’ (pangmul / 方物) to the Ming imperial court and received some in return.1 The Chosŏn court paid particular attention to the composition of pangmul. Given the significance of these ritualistic diplomatic exchanges, pangmul were usually selected with care and made up of Chosŏn specialty goods. This paper explores how the type and quantity of goods included in Chosŏn pangmul reflected both the economic situation of the time and diplomatic relations between the Chosŏn and the Ming.

Before diving deeper, it is important to understand the different types of diplomatic envoys. Every year, the Chosŏn dynasty regularly dispatched chŏngjosa 正朝使 (or tongjisa 冬至使), sŏngjŏlsa (聖節使), and ch'ŏnch'usa (千秋使). Chŏngjosa were delegations sent to celebrate the Lunar New Year, seongjeolsa were sent to celebrate the emperor’s birthday, and ch'ŏnch'usa were sent to celebrate the crown prince’s birthday.2 Of these, ch'ŏnch'usa were rather rare since Ming princes were rarely proclaimed as heirs to the throne. The Chosŏn dynasty also dispatched envoys to deal with specific diplomatic matters such as the saūn (謝恩), chinha (進賀), and chumun (奏聞). These envoys also brought pangmul to the emperor, empress, etc.

Most studies of Chosŏn-era pangmul focus on detailed information on regular envoys given in the Veritable Records of the Chosŏn Dynasty (朝鮮王朝實錄), a document from 1430.3, Because most studies have focused on this document, research focuses primarily on early 15th-century pangmul. There are no studies that have examined the pangmul presented to the Ming dynasty by the regular envoys of Chosŏn in the 15th and 17th centuries.4, Other than these studies, studies have confirmed the types of fabrics included in pangmul5, and reviewed the quantity of ginseng in regular and special dispatches.6 This has led previous studies to accept that the basic tone of Chosŏn-era pangmul policy established in 1430 continued until the end of the Ming dynasty in the mid-17th century and overlook changes in these policies over time.

This paper attempts to fill this gap in the literature by comprehensively examining trends in the composition of Chosŏn-era pangmul to the Ming between the 15th and 17th centuries. It tracks changes in the types and quantity of pangmul given by regular envoys to the emperor and explores the meaning of the inertia and change we can observe in the presentation of pangmul over this period. It also includes a qualitative discussion of the characteristics of pangmul—a novel approach in the literature, which has largely focused on itemizing tributary offerings. This approach allows this paper to analyze how pangmul reflect Chosŏn-Ming relations and other historical contingencies, such as the effects of the Japanese invasions of 1592 (also known as the Imjin Wars) and the Chosŏn dynasty’s economic recovery from the war.

This paper proceeds as follows. First, it examines 15th- and 16th-century pangmul. It verifies the contents of pangmul given before and after 1430, when Chosŏn policy changed, and explores the quantity and commercial value of these pangmul. Second, it explores how the Imjin Wars changed the goods selected for pangmul. Although the details of regular envoys’ pangmul are rarely recorded in the Veritable Records of the Chosŏn Dynasty, the diplomatic documents between 1592 and 1608 are included in sadaemun'gwe (事大文軌). This paper uses this source to examine pangmul given after the Imjin Wars and, thus, examine the effects of the war in general.

This paper has the significance of research in the following aspects. First, by extending the history of pangmul of Chosŏn (where analysis has previously stopped at the 15th century (1430)) to the first half of the 17th century, the long-term trend of pangmul (about 250 years) as connected to the Chosŏn and Ming relationship can be confirmed. Second, this paper can confirm changes in the management of pangmul in Chosŏn according to the flow of times, and confirm the diplomatic methods and characteristics of Chosŏn toward the Ming Dynasty. Third, it is possible to check how the representative products of Chosŏn changed according to the time, and to find their economic meaning.

15th- and 16th-Century Pangmul

The Koryŏ (高麗; 918~1392) government decided on the items and quantities of pangmul that it sent to the Khitan (契丹 / 遼; 916~1125) and the Jin (金; 1115~1234). Since pangmul were a gift, such policies was not decided unilaterally by China but were instead made in the spirit of Koryŏ’s sincere tribute.7, We can surmise that the Chosŏn dynasty partially inherited the pangmul practices of the Koryŏ-Ming era (1368~1392) because their diplomatic practices followed those of the Koryŏ dynasty. During the Koryŏ era, pangmul consisted of gold and silver sent to the Khitan (Liao), Jin, Yuan, and Ming dynasties,8, while Chosŏn tried not to send gold and silver from the time of King T’aejong (太宗; r. 1400~1418). If the Chosŏn dynasty had redefined a new policy on tributary gifts after its founding, it would not have included gold and silver in the items. As will be described later, the gold and silver, colorful mats, ramie fabric, leopard skin, and otter skin sent by King Kongmin (恭愍王 r. 1351–1374) of Koryŏ to the Ming are similar to those of Chosŏn.9

In the Daming Huidian (大明會典), pangmul sent by the Chosŏn dynasty to the Ming dynasty are recorded. It is divided into two editions—the Zhèngdé huìdiǎn, compiled during the late 15th and early 16th centuries, and the Wànlìhuìdiǎn, compiled at the end of the 16th century. The former states that early Chosŏn pangmul included gold and silver tableware (金銀器皿), multi-colored ramie (各色苧布), white figured mats (白細花席), ginseng (人蔘), leopard skin, otter skin, weasel-tail hair writing brushes (hwangmop'il 黃毛筆), and high-quality white paper (paekmyŏnji 白綿紙).10, The Veritable Records of the Chosŏn Dynasty gives us some more detail here. For example, in 1401 (the first year of King T’aejong’s reign), Chosŏn saūn envoy gave Jiànwén Emperor (建文帝) 50 horses, four gold saddles, 200 pil (匹) of hemp-ramie, and 80 pil of hemp-ramie to the empress.11, These were simple pangmul for an irregular occasion. In contrast, in August 1419 (the first year of King Sejong’s reign), envoys took a more diverse variety of gifts—white fine ramie, black fine hemp, silk and hemp blended tabby fabrics, silk and ramie blended tabby fabrics, yellow-featured mats, various color-featured mats, featured blinds and mats, various featured woven cushions, colorful featured mats, ginseng, stone lanterns, weasel skin, and a variety of colored horses.12 These records both indicate that at the beginning of the Chosŏn dynasty there was no fixed policy for pangmul given by irregular envoys and that these pangmul were seen as significant enough that records of them were kept. The composition of irregular envoys’ pangmul were relatively flexible and changed to suit the occasion.

The earliest source that can clearly confirm the contents of regular envoys’ pangmul is an article from 1430, contained in the Veritable Records of the Chosŏn Dynasty. This document describes pangmul given by chŏngjosa, sŏngjŏlsa, and ch'ŏnch'usa to the Ming Emperor, Empress, Empress Dowager, and Crown Prince. There is no historical record of the items and quantities of regular envoys’ pangmul in the early Chosŏn dynasty, in part because the relevant policies changed dramatically during this time.13, In 1429, King Sejong’s court asked the Ming if it could exclude gold and silver from its pangmul and the Ming accepted.14, The Chosŏn court included various specialty items as substitutes for these precious metals. These are included in the Veritable Records after 1430 and listed in Table 1 below.

Changes in the list of tributary gifts of the Chosŏn dynasty before and after 1430

Table 1 emphasized changes in the quantity or character of items given as pangmul in bold face. The table can help us better comprehend changes in the quantity of pangmul given by regular envoys before and after 1430; specifically, it can help us determine which items were included as substitutes for gold and silver and, thus, considered representative or specialty products of the Chosŏn dynasty. Let us take a more detailed look at these items, one by one.

Ramie (苧布)

The majority of pangmul were fabrics and mats. Ramie (moshi in Korean)—an expensive Chosŏn textile—was the most common kind of fabric included here. In the 16th century, one pil of ramie was worth as much as 10 pil of cotton cloth.15, Chosŏn’s ramie was called sejŏp'o because the strand was very thin and required a great amount of effort to weave it.16 In 1577, an eminent Ming official suggested that because Chosŏn's “white ramie and yellow ramie are thin and durable, they are much better than those of southern China.” The textile of Chosŏn ramie was inevitably as fine as it was thin, and it was also remarkably durable.

Hemp (麻布)

In 1430, the most added fabric was hemp. Hemp was the most widely-collected good that the Chosŏn court collected as a tax from its people. The Sejong Sillok Chiriji (世宗實錄地理志) indicates that hemp was the most widely-produced fabric of 15th-century Chosŏn.17, The quality of hemp was classified according to the fineness of the strand. For instance, the Chosŏn court collected a tax of "the hemp with fineness of the strand" (osūngp'o 五升布). This was official cloth, called chŏngp'o (正布). When visiting Chosŏn in 1488, the famous Ming envoy Dong Yue (董越) observed, “Ordinary people wear many hemp clothes in layers. The clothes are usually white and thick” and that their “elaborate hemp clothes are thin and dense like silk.”18, This anecdote indicates that both loose and fine hemp were available and popular in the Chosŏn dynasty,19, and that the hemp sent to the Ming’s imperial family was fine-quality hemp.20, The Chosŏn people customarily called hemp “black hemp,” but its actual color was yellow, not black.21

Tabby Silk (Myŏnju 綿紬)

Myŏnju was added to pangmul in 1430.22, It was soft to the touch, but it was a silk fabric with little gloss and no pattern. Ming Chinese silk-making techniques were advanced enough to weave saranūngdan (紗羅綾緞), a high-quality silk fabric; by contrast, Chosŏn weavers only weaved middle-grade silk. High-ranking Chosŏn nobles mostly wore myŏnju. The quality of Chosŏn myŏnju was excellent.23, This is further proven by the fact that the Ming Emperor was also interested in nokchiūi (綠紬衣), a dyed-green silk fabric, and ordered it to be procured by the envoy Zheng Tong (鄭同).24

Mats (sŏk 席)

There were five types of mats: manhwasŏk (滿花席), manhwabangsŏk (滿花方席), hwanghwasŏk (黃花席), ch’aehwasŏk (彩花席), and yŏmsŏk (簾席). The “flower” (hwa 花) character is in the name here and connotes a colorful pattern, not a flower pattern.25, The manhwasŏk, hwanghwasŏk, and ch’aehwasŏk of mats were floor mats classified by pattern and color. The manhwabangsŏk was a single-person mat. Yŏmsŏk was a window blind. Mats were important because the Chosŏn people mainly sat on the floor without chairs. More elaborate mats were laid on the bed or living room floor, and rough mats were used for laying on the ground.26, By contrast, Ming people sat on chairs; therefore, mats were not as culturally important.27, This made Chosŏn mats a specialty item and an item of interest.28


Ginseng was originally sent in the following denominations: 50 kūn (each kūn is estimated to be 400 grams) to the emperor and 20 kūn to the crown prince. After gold and silver were removed from pangmul, the amount of ginseng given to the crown prince increased by 40 kūn. Since there always was an emperor but there was only a crown prince when the emperor designated one of his sons as the heir, about half the period of the Ming dynasty.29 Therefore, the decision to add ginseng only to the crown prince was effective in reducing the amount of ginseng sent as pangmul.

Animal skins

Animal skins, such as leopard and otter skins, were a common feature of pangmul. The quantity of these skins did not increase in 1430 and skins represented only a small portion of pangmul. Around 1448, the price of leopard skin was about 50 times more expensive than otter skin.30, In Chosŏn, the price of leopard skin was higher than that of tiger skin. The value of these skins can also be seen in the fact that, from its founding, the Chosŏn court forbade some pangmul items (including leopard and otter skins) to be exported privately to foreign countries.31

Weasel-tail hair writing brushes (hwangmopil 黃毛筆) and horses

Hwangmopil, or brushes made of weasel hair, was added to pangmul in 1430. The Chosŏn dynasty sent 20 such brushes to the Ming crown prince on his birthday each year. Horses were also added in 1430. Horses were expensive, but less difficult or dangerous to procure than gold or silver.32 In particular, there was a power struggle between the Jiànwén Emperor (建文帝; r. 1398~1402) and Yǒnglè Emperor (永樂帝; r. 1402~1424) in the early days of the Ming. The Ming also needed horses to sustain its conquest of Mongolia, so they were seen as valuable for both sides. Therefore, the Chosŏn government decided that horses were appropriate to replace gold.

In short, Chosŏn pangmul to the Ming in the early 15th century reflected the economic and diplomatic situation of the time. Although the Chosŏn dynasty inherited the diplomatic conventions of the Koryŏ era, the Chosŏn kings changed the nature of pangmul by emphasizing a people-first principle and removing gold and silver from pangmul. Items that were added to pangmul after 1430 were easy-to-get goods, specialty goods, or useful resources such as horses; extremely rare, valuable, or difficult-to-obtain items like animal skins were not added to the list.

The Chosŏn dynasty laboriously prepared tributary gifts, which they had to present to the Ming while preserving their quality. In light of this, packaging was important. The regulations regarding packaging for tributary gifts specified the following. First, items had to be sealed using oil paper.33, To prevent items from getting wet through exposure to rain or water, they were tightly packed in oil paper bags in summer,34, whereas beeswax wrapping cloth was used in winter when it was drier. Next, tributary gifts were wrapped again in oil seats.35, To wrap the gifts, thick oil paper, oil packaging bags, fur coat leather, and oil seats were largely used. After the Imjin Wars in the late 16th century, it was difficult to secure thick oil paper and oil packaging bags, so they invented the method of placing tributary gifts in a wooden box, wrapping it with cloth, and then coated in bitumen.36, The importance of packaging was emphasized by allowing all major vassals and ministers to attend the packaging process.37, As we can see from Table 1, the provisions of regular envoys’ pangmul regular gifts and the quantities continued into the 16th century.

Changes in Pangmul during and after the Imjin Wars (壬辰倭亂 1592–1598)

The Imjin Wars destroyed daily life in the Chosŏn dynasty. The king left the capital of Hanyang and took refuge in the north, collecting taxes was infeasible, and, thus, it was difficult for the Chosŏn court to coordinate and prepare pangmul to the Ming. We can glimpse the situation in an article from February and March 1594, two years after the war began:

The Ministry of Revenue (hojo 戶曹) said, “There are only three manhwasŏks and four ch’aehwasŏks in the national warehouse of changhūng (changhūnggo 長興庫), and only one skin and 10 ginseng roots in the changhūnggo, and nothing else. Even if it is set in half, there is no way to prepare…”38

The Ministry of Rites (yejo 禮曹) said, “It would be appropriate to send the specified number of horses to this sŏngjŏlsa, but during the war, the horses were very emaciated because the proper number of horses was insufficient, and they could not be raised in advance as usual. Death on the way and incurring losses will surely be doubled than before.”39

These quotes indicate that the Chosŏn treasury and stock of horses were both depleted due to the war. As the war wore on, the Chosŏn court sought to maintain its diplomatic relations with the Ming by including items in pangmul that could be secured more easily under the stressful wartime conditions.40, It did not resort to exploiting the people when preparing the emperor’s pangmul. We can examine this deeper after considering Table 2, which lists pangmul sent to the Ming Emperor by the sŏngjŏlsa in June 1593.

List of Sŏngjŏlsa envoys’ Pangmul for the Ming Emperor (1593).

Table 2 indicates relative changes in the quantity of goods supplied in pangmul before and after the Imjin Wars. The table indicates that the Chosŏn dynasty endeavored in vain to sustain the existing pangmul system as much as possible but could not. Textiles suffered the biggest blow: yellow ramie, hemp, myŏnju could not be procured at all. They secured only white ramie among the textiles. The pangmul of 1593 contained about half the mats, half the horses, and one-fifth the animal skins of prewar pangmul. New gifts were prepared in their place. These include two tiger skins, 100 folding fans (paeksŏn 白扇), and many stationery items such as the finest paper like a mirror (kyŏngmyŏnji 鏡面紙), high-quality white paper (paekmyŏnji 白綿紙), hwangmopil, inkstones (hwayŏn 畵硯), and genuine ink sticks (chinmuk 眞墨). These were added in large quantities, for example, 40 sheets of kyŏngmyŏnji, 400 sheets of paekmyŏnji, 100 pieces of chinmuk, and 100 hwangmopil pens.41

The newly-added pangmul in 1593 have something in common. These are all main exports of state and private trade in the 16th century. This indicates that the Chosŏn court chose to compensate for the effects of wartime scarcity on pangmul by including its major commercial exports as tributary gifts. By examining which specific widely-stocked items were added to the 1593 pangmul, we can perhaps glimpse changes in the Chosŏn economic environment between 1430 and 1593.42 In this section, we will take a closer look at the newly added pangmul items after the Imjin War.

Finest Paper as a Mirror (kyŏngmyŏnji 鏡面紙) and High-Quality White Paper (paekmyŏnji 白綿紙)

Chosŏn’s kyŏngmyŏnji paper is very fine, robust, smooth, and glossy. It was often used to print diplomatic documents.43, This paper was one of the most durable and finest among all paper produced in East Asia at the time;44, it carried a reputation that it could last for more than a thousand years. The softness of the paper was such that as a way of praising the sophistication of Chosŏn paper manufacturing technology, the Ming envoys would suggest that it was made of silkworm cocoons.45, The Ming Jiajing Emperor (嘉靖帝; r. 1521~1567) in particular enjoyed Chosŏn paper—several times he suggested ways to add paper, 46, instead of hwamunsŏk, to the list of pangmul. In response, the Chosŏn court added 600–1,000 sheets of paper in the form of a “special gift” to prevent them from becoming a fixed item for regular envoys’ pangmul.47, The Ming court gave 100 yang (兩) of silver and various kinds of silk as a gift in return for this paper each time it was sent.48, Records show that other Ming officials also requested this kind of paper.49 In short, as Chosŏn’s material paper-making culture, technology, and production techniques deepened in the 16th century, Chosŏn paper was widely sought after by Ming Emperors, officials, and literati. Its reputation and popularity, therefore, made it a choice pangmul amid the scarcity brought on by the outbreak of the Imjin War, because it was popular, valuable, and already being produced.

Folding Fans

A folding fan is a folding fan with a featureless white background. The folding fan was made of sturdy Chosŏn paper and bamboo strips. At that time, the Chinese mainly used round fans that were not foldable, so they preferred Chosŏn’s folding fan, which was small enough to fit in one’s pocket. During the 16th century, these folding fans were actively exported to Ming China via state and private trade. Indeed, it was one of the most frequently-exported items of the 15th century.50 The popularity of these folding fans and the volume with which they were traded indicates that the Chosŏn treasury likely had many on hand. Folding fans were added to the emperor's pangmul because they were a special product of Chosŏn, easy to procure, and in high demand from Ming.

Hwangmopil, Hwayŏn, and Chinmuk

As mentioned earlier, hwangmopil are writing brushes made of weasel hair. These brushes were strong, short-haired, and could give writing a sharp and fine expression.51, They were recognized for their excellence during the Koryŏ era, and Chosŏn intellectuals such as Chang Yu (張維; 1587~1638) and Yu Tūkkong (柳得恭; 1748~1807) called them the finest brushes in the world.52, In the 15th century, these brushes were designated as pangmul for the crown prince. They were added as pangmul for the Ming Emperor during the Imjin Wars, and were part of the Pangmul sent to the Emperor of the Qing in the late Chosŏn dynasty as well as exported by the thousands each year to Japan. Interestingly, the Qing Chinese had sold weasel hair to the Chosŏn dynasty but were unable to make hwangmopil themselves.53 Hwangmopil production expanded and grew during the 16th century as one of the "four treasures of study" (brush, ink, paper, and inkstones 文房四友).

Hwayŏn or inkstones were also a favorite item of Chinese bureaucrats. Chosŏn bureaucrats often presented inkstones to Ming envoys and bureaucrats as gifts or upon request.54, Even those who would not receive gifts from Chosŏn officials were willing to receive an inkstone from Chosŏn officials.55, Inkstones were exported to Ming China at high prices during the 16th century.56

Chinmuk refers to an ink stick of high quality. Chosŏn chinmuk were usually yumaemuk (油煤墨), made from soot burned with oily animal or plant fats—perilla oil in this case.57, Songyŏnmuk (松煙墨) made from soot produced by burning pine trees, was also a representative ink stick in Chosŏn. However the Chinese seem to have preferred yumaemuk for its clear and glossy color, like oil-based ink.58, Even in the late Chosŏn dynasty, the government sent yumaemuk as a pangmul for the Qing (淸) dynasty.59

In short, the Imjin Wars interrupted and changed the pangmul policies and practices that the Chosŏn court had continued since 1430. It forced the Chosŏn dynasty to include popular trade items in pangmul because these were already being produced and, thus, could be procured more easily amid wartime scarcity. As such, the inclusion of these items indicates that production priorities in the Chosŏn era, centered around exporting the “four treasures of study,” heavily influenced the composition of pangmul.

However, as Table 2 shows, the offerings of sŏngjŏlsa were not fixed. The composition of pangmul changed throughout the war. Let us take the following examples:

(C-1) 20 pil of white ramie; 20 pil of myŏnju; 5 hwanghwasŏk; 5 manhwasŏk; 5 manhwabangsŏk; 5 ch’aehwasŏk; 30 kūn of ginseng; 2 tiger skins; 2 leopard skins; 2 deer skins; 3 pieces of hwayŏn; 100 hwangmopil pens; 50 yumaemuk; 100 folding fans; 10 variegated colored horses. -- In 1596 (29th years of King of Sŏnjo's reign)60

(C-2) 10 pil of white ramie; 20 pil of myŏnju; 2 yŏmseok; 5 manhwasŏk; 5 chapch'aehwasŏk; 30 kūn of ginseng; 2 tiger skins; 2 leopard skins; 10 otter skins; 5 copies of thick oil paper (yŏllyuk huyuji 連陸厚油紙); 2 pieces of hwayŏn; 100 hwangmopil pens; 100 folding fans; 10 variegated colored horses. -- In 1597 (30th years of King of Sŏnjo's reign)61

All of the sources in (C) are lists of items the tongjisa sends to the emperor. In (C-1), only myŏnju increased, but decreased for all pangmul in 1593. They were unable to prepare any paper. The year 1596 was the fifth year of the war, and it seems that the protracted war made it more difficult to secure goods. There are also slight differences between (C-1) and (C-2). For instance, there are more white ramie and otter skins in (C-2), and fewer mats. Yŏllyuk huyuji, a type of paper, appeared in the list. In the early years of the Imjin Wars, kyŏngmyŏnji, which could be regarded as the finest kind, was sent as a tributary gift, but it was replaced with chŏmyukchang huyuij (粘六張厚油紙), yŏllyuk huyuji, and the like.62, The process for creating kyŏngmyŏnji was lengthy since it required a lot of time to tap the outside of the paper to soften the surface. It thus seems that it was subsequently replaced with thick oil paper (huyuji 厚油紙).63, Paper was also consumed more heavily in Chosŏn during the war (for example, in the making and wearing of paper clothes).64 Ultimately, it can be confirmed that there was a difference in the items that could be procured in each period, and that they increased or decreased accordingly.

Pangmul after the Imjin Wars

Table 3 gives us an idea of how pangmul practices for regular visiting envoys, sŏngjŏlsa and tongjisa, changed after the Imjin Wars as Chosŏn society regained stability.

List of Sŏngjŏlsa Pangmul for the Ming emperor (1600, 1603, and 1606).

The table shows that even after the end of the Imjin Wars, pangmul slightly varied rather than being firmly fixed. This is because the postwar recovery of Chosŏn society was greatly prolonged. From 1593 to 1603, yellow ramie and hemp almost disappeared. As mentioned, hemp had the status of official cloth (chŏngpo) in early 15th-century Chosŏn and was used as pangmul and an export. By the end of that century, cotton emerged as a real currency and its use in Chosŏn’s domestic economy greatly decreased. Cotton was cultivated in three southern provinces (Ch’ungch’ŏng, Kyŏngsang, and Chŏlla), and hemp was produced in less-productive northern provinces (such as P’yŏngan, Hamgyŏng, and Hwanghae).65 Through the 16th century, as the value and production of hemp declined, the amount of hemp in the Chosŏn government’s possession also decreased. This led hemp to be excluded from the wartime pangmul lists.

However, the pangmul lists of 1606 practically became almost the same as those of the 15th and 16th centuries. About eight years after the war ended, the old practices were restored. Then we also need to look at tongjisa envoys' lists for the years 1605–1608 (Table 4).

List of Pangmul given by Dongjisa envoys to the Ming emperor (1605–1608).

Table 4 indicates that the Chosŏn dynasty’s economic recovery led to the restoration of its pre-war pangmul policies. However, there were a few differences between 1606 and pre-war pangmul. The 1606 lists did not include myŏnju and ginseng, and only half as many mats compared to pre-war levels were included. This shortfall was replaced with folding fans, paper, hwangmopil, hwayŏn, and chinmuk. The Chosŏn dynasty tended to adhere to old pangmul practices, but when it was difficult to prepare the old tributary items, it replaced these with popular items such as folding fans and stationery items.

All pangmul sent during the reign of King Injo (仁祖; r. 1623~1649) to the Ming (1623–1637) are not specified in available sources, but the patterns identified in Tables 3 and 4 seem to have persisted during this period. This is because white ramie, myŏnju, mats, folding fans, oil paper, leopard skins, and otter skins were being identified as pangmul during this period.66, The folding fans usually appeared as a substitutes for gifts to the Qing dynasty in the late Chosŏn period.67

It is noteworthy that folding fans still appear on the pangmul list of the reign of King Injo. This indicates the changing production and distribution of goods in the 17th-century Chosŏn dynasty and further suggests that it was difficult to replicate the composition of early 15th-century pangmul because of this changed economic focus and the lingering effects of the war. In addition, the Chosŏn court was able to make changes to the pangmul list in the 17th century through the experience of flexibly preparing pangmul during the Imjin Wars.


This paper has traced how the composition and quantity of tributary gifts (pangmul 方物) sent by Chosŏn regular envoys to the Ming Emperor changed over time between the 15th and 17th centuries and examines the meanings of these changes. It has added to the literature by examining pangmul practices beyond the year 1430, showing the effects of the Imjin Wars on these practices, and proving that the quantities and compositions of these gifts were not fixed.

Pangmul conventions of the early Chosŏn period were a continuation of Koryŏ-era practices. However, as a response to the difficulty faced by his subjects to pay in gold and silver, King T’aejong and Sejong appealed to the Ming to allow the Chosŏn court to send specialty items as tribute instead of gold and silver. Since the 11th century, Koryŏ and Chosŏn have sent gold and silver as a gift to the Chinese dynasty. This practice was abolished after 400 years by the efforts of King Sejong of the Chosŏn dynasty in the 15th century. It, however, would reappear in the form of Annual Tributary Payments (歲幣) after the 1636 Qing (淸) invasion of Chosŏn.

The composition of the pangmul also changed in 1430. The Chosŏn dynasty increased the quantity of hemp and Chosŏn specialty products such as mats, which were largely held in the government treasury at the time. Silk and horses were also added. Horses were expensive but procuring them was easier, as opposed to precious metal mining—the decision to exclude gold and silver from the pangmul list was not an economic one, but a response to the people's suffering. Of the existing pangmul items, leopard skin and otter skin, which were difficult to procure, were not added. The Chosŏn dynasty also decided to send yellow ramie, white ramie, hemp, myŏnju, manhwasŏk, manhwabangsŏk, hwanghwasŏk, chaehwasŏk, ginseng, leopard skin, otter skin, and horses during this period, which continued into the 16th century when Japan invaded Chosŏn Korea during the Imjin Wars.

After the outbreak of the war, the Chosŏn court found it difficult to procure pangmul and included folding fans and new stationery items such as paper (kyŏngmyŏnji, paekmyŏnji, and oil paper), inkstones (hwayŏn), ink sticks (chinmuk and yumaemuk), writing brushes (weasel-tail hair) to compensate for the lack of conventional specialty items. This change also reflects changes in Chosŏn economic and social life, as these items were easily procurable and producible even in wartime. These were major trade (both official and private) and export items of the Chosŏn dynasty in the 16th century. Moreover, after 200 years since the founding of the dynasty, the inevitable change in the product mix of the 16th-century Chosŏn also influenced the Ming Emperor's tributary gifts.

After the war, as the Chosŏn dynasty regained stability, it attempted to replicate its earlier pangmul practices; however, it was unable to reproduce them exactly and went back and forth between the 15th century practices and the 17th century conditions. In short, this paper has demonstrated how Chosŏn pangmul to the Ming was relatively flexible, and that it both accounted for and reflected willing (technological, etc.) and unwilling (e.g., wartime scarcity) changes to economic circumstances.



Shen Shixing, Daming Huidian, 116.


From 1531 (26th year of King Chŏngjong), Chŏngjosa was changed to Tongjisa to celebrate Tongji—winter solstice (Doyoung Koo, 2013).


Shin Sŏkho (1959); Kim Kujin (1990); Yoo Seungjoo (1989); Koo (2013).


Changes in the quantity between the 15th and 17th centuries were examined only for ginseng among the tributary gifts (Koo, 2020).


SimYeonok and Keum Jongsuk (2013).


Park Pyeongsik (2008).


Jung Donghun (2018).


Koryŏsa 20:14 (Aug. 16, 1321); Koryŏsa 24:57 (Jun. 18, 1374); T’aejo Sillok, 29:17 (Dec. 12, 1388); Jung Donghun (2018).


Koryŏsa 24:57 (Jun. 18, 1374).


Xu Pu, Daming Huidian, fasc. 97, tribute 2, Chosŏn.


T’aejong Sillok, 1:35a (Jun. 19, 1401).


Sejong Sillok, 5:9a (Aug. 25, 1419).


T’aejong Sillok, 17:4b (Jan. 21, 1409); T’aejong Sillok, 12:11a (leap month of Jul. 18, 1406); T’aejong Sillok, 17:35a (leap month of Apr. 28, 1409); Sejong Sillok, 7:12b (Jan. 25, 1420).


Sejong Sillok, 45:14a (Aug. 18, 1429); Sejong Sillok 46:18a (Dec. 13, 1429).


Myŏngjong Sillok, 2:93a (Nov. 17, 1545).


Hakpong Ilgo and Choch’ŏn Ilgi, May 1, 1577.


Cho Sangjun (2020).


Dong Yue (2012).


Sejong Sillok, 1: 18a (Sept. 8, 1418); Sejo Sillok 1:25b (leap month of Jun. 29, 1455); Sŏngjong Sillok, 52: 7a (Feb. 8, 1475).


Hakpong Ilgo and Choch’ŏn Ilgi, May 1, 1577.


Hakpong Ilgo and Choch’ŏn Ilgi, May 1, 1577.


Kosach’waryo, Mallyŏk (Wanli) Year 9 (14th year of King Sŏnjo).


Cho Hyosook and Lee Eunjin (2011).


Yejong Sillok 4:16b (leap month of Feb. 24, 1469).


Through the Chosŏn dynasty portraits, one can see the various mat patterns, including the dragon, tiger, ten longevity symbols, lotus, and various geometric patterns (Kim Sunghee, 2017).


Xuanhe Fengshi Gaoli Tujing, Kongjang 1, a figured mat.


Hakpong Ilgo and Choch’ŏn Ilgi, May 1, 1577.


Chungjong Sillok 100:63b (May 8, 1543).


Koo, 2020.


Sejong Sillok, 122: 2a (Oct. 8, 1448).


Kyŏngguk Taejŏn, Criminal Codes and Prohibited Articles. In addition to leather, exports of mats and papers were also restricted.


Kim Soonja (2000).


Sejong Sillok, 64:4b (Apr. 9, 1434).


Sŏngjong Sillok, 238:2b (Mar. 4, 1490); Sŏngjong Sillok, 239:6b (Apr. 15, 1490).


Sŏngjong Sillok, 282: 8a (Sept. 5, 1493).


Sŏnjo Sillok, 200: 20a (Jun. 20, 1606). Yŏkch’ ŏng is natural asphalt or tar, which was used as waterproofing paint.


T’aejong Sillok, 6:24b (Nov. 2, 1403); Chungjong Sillok, 17:4a (Oct. 10, 1512).


Sŏnjo Sillok, 48:27a (Feb. 22, 1594) “戶曹啓曰聖節使進獻可合之物 長興庫只有滿花席三張彩花席四張 濟用監只有豹皮一張人參十斤 餘皆無有 折半定數萬無措備之路.”


Sŏnjo Sillok, 49:2a (Mar. 2, 1594) “禮曹啓曰 今次聖節貢馬 所當量宜封進而賊變之後 非但可合之馬 厥數不敷 且不得依平時前期預養 瘦亦甚 中路倒損必倍於前.”


Sŏnjo Sillok, 49:2a (Mar. 2, 1594); Sŏnjo Sillok, 127:24b (Jul. 16, 1600).


There is a study claiming that the kyŏngmyŏnji and the paekmyŏnji are the same (Jung Sunyoung, Research on paekmyŏnji, Bibliographic Research, 41, 2008), but this author disagrees. As shown in Table 2, the Chosŏn court sent the two separately.


Koo (2018).


Hagok Choch’ŏngi, Jun. 7, 1574.


Kim Hosŏk, et al. (2019).


Dong Yue (2012).


Chungjong Sillok 100:62b (May 8, 1543); Chungjong Sillok 100:63b (May 8, 1543); Chungjong Sillok, 100:73a (Jun. 10, 1543); Shìzōng Shílù of Ming, 59:10 (Oct. 21, 1546).


Chungjong Sillok, 100:64b (May 12, 1543); Chungjong Sillok, 100:77a (Jun. 29, 1543); Myŏngjong Sillok, 5:24b (Feb. 20, 1547).


Chungjong Sillok, 101:45b (Nov. 22, 1543); Shìzōng Shílù of Ming, 59:35 (Jan. 17, 1547); Shìzōng Shílù of Ming, 60:24 (Jul. 24, 1547); Shìzōng Shílù of Ming, 69:96 (May 26, 1553); Myŏngjong Sillok,18:10a (Feb. 9, 1555); Shìzōng Shílù of Ming, 73:09 (May 3, 1555); Myŏngjong Sillok, 18:64a (Jun. 16, 1555); Myŏngjong Sillok, 20:5b (Jan. 17, 1556).


Sŏngjong Sillok, 9:4b (Jan. 10, 1471); Sŏngjong Sillok, 17:2b (Apr. 9, 1472); Myŏngjong Sillok, 2:85b (Nov. 3, 1545); Myŏngjong Sillok, 19:6b (Jul. 14, 1555); Hagok Choch’ŏngi, Jun. 7, 1574.


Koo (2019).


Park Changseon (2020).


Jang Yu, Kyegokchip. fasc. 4, View; Yu Tūkkong, Kyŏngdo Chapchi.


Lee Seungmin (2020).


Hoesanjip and Choch’ŏnrok, Jul. 23, 1537; Chungjaejip and Choch’ŏnrok, Oct. 28, 1539; Chungjaejip and Choch’ŏnrok, Nov. 4, 1539; Chungbongjip and Choch’ŏn Ilgi, Jul. 20, 1574; Hakpong Ilgo and Choch’ŏn Ilgi (Apr. 12, 1577).


Hoesanjip and Choch’ŏnrok, Aug. 5, 1537; Chungjong Sillok, 90:32b (Apr. 13, 1539); Injong Sillok, 2:45a (May 4, 1545).


Chungbongjip and Choch’ŏn Ilgi, Aug. 3, 1574; Chungbongjip and Choch’ŏn Ilgi, Aug. 1574; Chungbongjip and Choch’ŏn Ilgi, Sept. 10, 1574.


Yi Sukwang, Chibong Yusŏl. Database of the Institute for the Translation of Korean Classics. https://db.itkc.or.kr/; Pok-yongbu and Kiyong.


Han Chiyun, Haedong Yŏksa and Mulsanji I.


Tongmunhwigo, additional version, fasc. 3, Sept. 17, 1638. Pangmulchŏn; Tongmunhwigo, original version, fasc. 49, pŏmwŏl 1, People of Our State, Jan. 22, 1653. Pangmulchu; Tongmunhwigo, original version, fasc. 41, Ch’ikyu, Jul. 20, 1679. Pangmulchŏn; Tongmunhwigo, original version, fasc. 48, border, Apr. 19, 1746. Pangmulpyo.


Sadaemun'gwe, fasc. 17, Tongjihap’yo (Nov. 3, 1596).


Sadaemun'gwe, fasc. 22, Tongjihap’yo (Nov. 13, 1597).


Sadaemun'gwe, fasc. 22, Tongjihap’yo (Nov. 13, 1597); Sadaemun'gwe, fasc. 35, Sŏngjŏl’hapyo (Aug. 17, 1600); Sadaemun'gwe, fasc. 42, Sŏngjŏl’hapyo (Aug. 17, 1603); Sadaemun'gwe, fasc. 47, Tongjihap’yo (Nov. 23, 1606).


Kim Hosŏk, et al. (2008).


Sŏnjo Silok 31:1b (Oct. 3, 1592).


Park Pyeongsik (2018); Cho Sangjun (2020).


Kwanghaegun Ilgi, 114:11b (Apr. 26, 1617); Sūngjŏngwŏn ilgi, 56:85b (Feb. 28, 1637); Sūngjŏngwŏn ilgi, 57:70a (Apr. 14, 1637); Sūngjŏngwŏn ilgi, 57:108a (Apr. 21, 1637).


Man’giyoram, uses of property 5, Tributary Gifts, Annual Tributary Gifts, Winter Solstice.


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Article information Continued

Table 1

Changes in the list of tributary gifts of the Chosŏn dynasty before and after 1430

Regular envoys Chŏngjo (tongji) Sŏngjŏl Ch’ ŏnch’u
Pangmul Emperor Empress Empress dowager Crown prince Emperor Empress Empress dowager Crown prince
As of 1430 Before After Before After Before After Before After Before After Before After Before After Before After
Textile (Unit: pil) yellow ramie 10 - - - 10 - - -
white ramie 20 20 20 15 20 20 20 16 20
red ramie - 10 10 - - 10 10 -
Hemp 20 40 - 30 - 30 15 20 70 - 40 - 40 16 60
Ramie and hemp blended tabby - - - - 10 - - -
Mŏnju - 20 - 10 - 10 - 10 - 20 - 10 - 10 1 10
Mats (Unit: chang) Manhwasŏk 20 8 10 8 10 2 10 - 7 10 7 10 10 15
Yŏmsŏk - - - - 2 - - -
Makhwabangsŏk 10 20 - - 5 10 10 20 - - 10 15
Hwanghwasŏk 10 20 - 10 - 10 10 10 20 10 10 - 5
Ch’aehwasŏk 10 20 10 10 10 10 20 10 10 10
Medicinal Ginseng(kūn) 50 - - 20 40 50 - - 20 40
Small furniture Small mother-of-pearl boxes - 1 1 - - - -
Skins (Unit: chang) Leopard skin 10 - - 6 10 - - 6
Otter skin - - - - 20 - - 10
Stationery Weasel-tail-hair brushes - - - - - - 20
Horses Horses - 30 - - - 4 - 40 - - - 10

Source: Sejong Sillok, 47:23b (Feb. 26, 1430); Sŏngjong Sillok, 274:12b (Feb. 27, 1493)

Table 2

List of Sŏngjŏlsa envoys’ Pangmul for the Ming Emperor (1593).

Type of items Envoy Before the Imjin Wars Year 1593 Relative increase or decrease
Textiles Yellow ramie 10 0 −10
White ramie 20 20 0
Hemp 70 0 −70
Ramie and hemp blended tabby 10 0 −10
Myŏnju 20 0 −20
Mats Yŏmsŏk 2 2 0
Manhwabangsŏk 20 5 −15
Hwanghwasŏk 20 8 −12
Ch’aehwasŏk 20 20 0
Medicinal Ginseng 50 50 0
Horses Horse 40 20 −20
Skins Leopard skin 10 2 −8
Otter skin 20 5 −15
Tiger skin - 2 +2
Fans Folding fan(白扇) - 100 +100
Stationery Kyŏngmyŏn paper (鏡面紙) - 40 +40
Paekmyŏn paper (白綿紙) - 400 +400
Hwangmopil (黃毛筆) - 100 +100
Inkstones (hwayŏn 畫硯) - 2 +2
Genuine ink stick (chinmuk 眞墨) - 100 +100

Units of existing tributary gifts omitted. See Table 1 for tributary gifts units.

Table 3

List of Sŏngjŏlsa Pangmul for the Ming emperor (1600, 1603, and 1606).

Type of items Envoy Before the Imjin Wars After the Imjin Wars
Pangmul 1600 1603 1606
Textiles Yellow ramie 10 0 10 10
White ramie 20 10 20 20
Black hemp 70 0 0 70
Tabby silk 10 0 0 0
White tabby silk 20 10 20 20
Yellow tabby silk 0 10 40 0
Mats Yŏmsŏk 2 2 2 2
Manhwasŏk 0 5 0 0
Manhwabangsŏk 20 5 20 20
Hwanghwasŏk 20 5 20 20
Ch’aehwasŏk 20 5 20 20
Medicinal Ginseng 50 50 50 50
Horses Horses 40 10 20 20
Skins Leopard skin 10 0 10 10
Otter skin 20 5 20 20
Tiger skin 0 2 0 0
Fans Folding fan 0 100 100 0
Stationery Chŏmyukchang huyuji 0 10 8 10
Hwangmopil 0 100 0 0
Hhwayŏn 0 3 0 0
Genuine ink stick 0 50 0 0

Units of tributary gifts omitted. See Tables 1 and 2 for tributary gifts’ units.

Sources: Sadaemun’gwe, fasc. 35, Sŏngjŏl’hapyo (聖節賀表) (Aug. 2, 1600); Sadaemun’gwe, fasc. 42, Sŏngjŏl’hapyo (聖節賀表) (Aug. 17, 1603); Sadaemun’gwe fasc. 47, Sŏngjŏl’hapyo (聖節賀表) (Aug. 17, 1606).

Table 4

List of Pangmul given by Dongjisa envoys to the Ming emperor (1605–1608).

Type of items Envoy Before the Imjin Wars After the Imjin Wars
Pangmul 1605 1606 1607 1608
Textiles Yellow ramie 10 10 20 10 10
White ramie 20 20 20 20 20
Black hemp 40 40 30 40 40
Myŏnju 20 20 0 20 20
Mats Yŏmsŏk 0 2 0 2 2
Manhwasŏk 20 20 10 20 20
Manhwabang-sŏk 20 20 10 20 20
Hwanghwasŏk 20 20 10 20 20
Chaehwasŏk 20 20 10 20 20
Medicinal Ginseng 50 50 0 50 50
Horses Hemp 30 20 10 30 30
Skins Leopard skin 10 10 0 10 10
Otter skin 0 0 0 0 0
Tiger skin 0 0 0 0 0
Fans Folding fan 0 0 100 0 0
Stationery Chŏmyukchang huyuji 0 0 10 0 0
Hwangmopil 0 0 100 0 0
Hhwayŏn 0 0 3 0 0
Yumae inkstick 0 0 50 0 0

Sources: Sadaemun’gwe, fasc. 45, Tongjihap’yo (冬至賀表) (Nov. 12, 1605); Sadaemun’gwe, fasc. 47, Tongjihap’yo (冬至賀表) (Nov. 23, 1606); Sadaemun’gwe, fasc. 48, Tongjihap’yo (冬至賀表) (Nov. 4, 1607); Sadaemun’gwe, fasc. 51, Tongjihap’yo (冬至賀表) (Nov. 15, 1608).