Time in Korea

  • Nam Moon‐Hyon
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-4425-0_9337
Timekeeping was both a royal duty and a royal prerogative in Korea since the period of the Three Kingdoms (三國時代, ca. 37 BCE to 668 AD) of Silla, Baekje, and Goguryeo. Although sundials and clepsydras (water clocks) were the main timekeepers, there were also fire clocks such as incense sticks at temples. Chinese calendrical systems, instruments for astronomy, and timekeeping systems were introduced to the Korean peninsula in antiquity, while from 554 AD Baekje sent calendrical scientists to Japan to supervise calendar‐ and clock‐making there. Among the achievements of such missions was the water clock of the Japanese emperor Tenji (r. 661–671) which was made in 671. In Gyeongju, the capital of Silla, a royal observatory known as the Cheomseongdae (瞻星臺) was built in 647 and a water clock was constructed at the temple Hwangryongsa in 718; the latter was used to announce time by striking large bells in the bell tower, as was the case also with the bell shown in Fig. 1.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Al‐Jazari. The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices. Ed. and Trans. Hill. D. R. Dordrecht and Boston: Reidel, 1974.Google Scholar
  2. Hahn, Young‐Ho and Moon‐Hyon Nam. Reconstruction of the Armillary Spheres of Mid‐Chosun: The Armillary Clocks of Yi Minchol. Hanguk Kwahaksa Hakhoeji (Journal of the Korean History of Science Society) 19.1 (1997): 3–19 (in Korean).Google Scholar
  3. Hahn, Young‐Ho, et al. Astronomical Clocks of Chosun Dynasty: King Sejong's Heumgyonggaknu. Kisulgwa Yoksa (Journal of the Korean Society for the History of Technology and Industry) 1.1 (2000): 99–140 (in Korean).Google Scholar
  4. Hill, Donald. Arabic Water Clocks. Aleppo: Institute for the History of Arabic Science, 1981.Google Scholar
  5. Hyeonjong Sillok (Factual Record of [King] Hyeonjong, 顯宗實錄), 1669.Google Scholar
  6. Jungjong Sillok (Factual Record of [King] Jungjong, 中宗實錄), 1536.Google Scholar
  7. Nam, Moon‐Hyon. Chagyongnu: The Automatic Striking Water Clock. Korea Journal 30.7 (1990): 9–21.Google Scholar
  8. ‐‐‐. Korean Water Clocks: Jagyongnu, The Striking Clepsydra and the History of Control and Instrumentation Engineering. Seoul: Konkuk University Press, 1995 (in Korean).Google Scholar
  9. ‐‐‐. On the BORUGAKGI of Kim Dom – Principles and Structures of JAYEONGNU. Hanguksa Yeongu (Studies on Korean History) 101 (1998): 75–114 (in Korean).Google Scholar
  10. ‐‐‐. Jang Yeong‐Shil and Jagyeongnu – Reconstruction of Time Measuring History of Choseon Period. Seoul: National University Press, 2002 (in Korean).Google Scholar
  11. Nam, Moon‐Hyon and Jeon San‐Woon. Timekeeping Systems of Early Choson Dynasty. Proceedings of First International Conference on Oriental Astronomy, From Guo Shoujing to King Sejong, Seoul, October 6–11, 1993. Seoul: Yonsei University Press, 1997. 305–24.Google Scholar
  12. Needham, Joseph, G.‐D. Lu, John H. Combridge, and John S Major. The Hall of Heavenly Records: Korean Astronomical Instruments and Clocks, 1380–1780. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986a.Google Scholar
  13. Needham, Joseph, Wang Ling, and Solla Price, J. Derek. Heavenly Clockwork: The Great Astronomical Clocks of Mediaeval China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1960. 2nd ed. with supplement by John H. Combridge, 1986b.Google Scholar
  14. Nha, Il‐Sung and F. R. Stephenson. Proceedings of the First International Conference on Oriental Astronomy, From Guo Shoujing to King Sejong, Seoul, October 6–11, 1993. Seoul: Yonsei University Press, 1997.Google Scholar
  15. Rufus, W. C. Korean Astronomy. Transactions of the Korean Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 26 (1936).Google Scholar
  16. Samguk Saki (History of the Three Kingdoms, 三國史記).Google Scholar
  17. Sejong Sillok (Factual Record of [King] Sejong, 世宗實錄), Chap. 65 (1434 AD) and Chap. 80 (1438 AD).Google Scholar
  18. Su, Song. Xinyixiangfayao (The Appearance, Methods, and Importance of New Instruments, 新儀象法要), 1092.Google Scholar
  19. Wada, Yuji. Scientific Memoirs of the Korean Meteorological Observatory. Seoul, 1910.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg New York 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nam Moon‐Hyon

There are no affiliations available