UNESCO Memory of the World - “Honchonjondo”
Following the inscription of our national classic “Muyedobothongji” on the UNESCO Memory on Oct 30, Juche 106(2017), the astronomical chart “Honchonjondo” was inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World International Register on May 24, Juche 112(2023).
The astronomical chart, “Honchonjondo” was newly made in the 18th century by Kwansanggam (astronomical observation office) during the rule of Yongjo, 21st King of Feudal Joson Dynasty, as a succession and development of the ingenious traditional astronomical charts of Korea such as “Sokgakchonmundo” of Koguryo, “Chonsangryolchabunyajido” (1395), revival from the rubbed copy of “Sokgakchonmundo”, and “Chonmunryucho” (of the first half of the 1400s) of the period of King Sejong of the feudal Joson Dynasty.
As the name “Honchonjondo” means “total picture of the whole sky”, it is a projected transcription of the stars of the then night sky on one sheet of paper that recorded various astronomical phenomena with explanations and astronomical constants.
At the upper part of “Honchonjondo”, there is the description of the Sun, the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Mercury with pictures under the heading of “Chiljongjuchondo”, and of the 24 fortnightly periods, the precise sunrise and sunset times on those days and solar and lunar eclipses under the heading of “Ilwolgyosikdo” (diagrams of the solar and lunar eclipses).
At the bottom of the chart, there is a list of the meridian stars at dusk and dawn on the days of 24 fortnightly periods and pictorial description of the structure of solar system based on the traditional geocentric theory, variation of the Moon shape and a new solar system.
In the centre of the chart, there are inscribed 2037 stars of 6 ranks depending on their brightness with the 278 traditional Korean names of constellations within a circle of 57.6 ㎝ in diameter.
The new solar system represented here under the name of “Chiljongsindo” reflects the original theory on the structure of the solar system uniquely evolved by Hong Tae Yong (1731-1783) – a representative realist, famous astronomer and mathematician of the 18th century.
Though it hadn’t reached the level of the Copernicus’s heliocentric system of Europe, it was a refection of astronomer Hong Tae Yong’s unique helio-geo-centric theory, an amazing outlook on the universe for that time. Especially, the fact that “Honchonjondo” reflected Hong Tae Yong’s theory on the structure of the solar system is a strong evidence that this astronomical chart represented the astronomical development of the then Korea.
Description of 4 satellites of Jupiter and 5 satellites of Saturn, a ring of Saturn, puddles of the Moon and the surface appearances of Venus and Mercury in this chart were the reflection of achievements of the Western astronomy, for they were the objects that could be observed by Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), the Italian physician and astronomer, who used a telescope in the astronomical observation for the first time in 1609.
As seen above, the historical chart, “Honchonjondo”, made in the process of astronomical development peculiar to our country, is a precious astronomical heritage that shows the features of astronomical development of our country at that time.
“Honchonjondo”, the UNESCO Memory of the World, is now preserved in the Grand People’s Study House, DPR Korea.