I. Preface

The renowned Neo-Confucianist scholar Zhu Xi (朱熹, 1130-1200) of the Song Dynasty (960-1279) was one of the most deeply revered figures among Joseon literati. The works of Zhu Xi were eagerly consumed and cherished by Joseon intellectuals, who often took his publications as the basis for their own literary and cultural works. For example, sixteenth-century Joseon literati avidly read Zhu Xi’s Records on Mt. Wuyi (武夷誌) and wrote poems appropriating the rhymes of his Wuyi Boating Songs (武夷櫂歌). The Wuyi Mountains (武夷山) are located in northern Fujian province (福建省), the province where Zhu Xi was born. One of Zhu Xi’s key poems about the region of Mt. Wuyi was entitled “The Nine-Bend Stream at Mt. Wuyi” (武夷九曲櫂歌), and this poem was often portrayed in paintings called Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi (武夷九曲圖), which were also deeply appreciated by the Joseon literati. In fact, veneration for Zhu Xi and this particular poem was so great that an independent subculture based on the “nine bends” arose in Joseon, as literati began to associate “nine bends” with paradise or utopia. Many writings on the topic were published, and many individuals even sought to recreate or identify further examples of the nine bends in their own surrounding landscapes, helping to expand and strengthen this interesting subculture.

This paper examines the “nine bends” culture of Korea, with particular emphasis on the status of Dosan (陶山), a mountain north of Andong, which served as the foothold of study and cultivation of Yi Hwang (李滉, 1501-1570), one of the most prominent Confucian scholars of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). In particular, this paper considers the significance and characteristics of visualizing Dosan through Dosando (陶山圖), or “paintings of Dosan,” a small subgenre of Joseon paintings that depict Yi Hwang’s retreat in Dosan (Yun Chinyong 2001, 7-34; Yoo Jaebin 2004).

At the age of 61, Yi Hwang settled in an area south of Dosan and built an academy at the site now occupied by Dosan Seowon (陶山書院). At the school, Yi Hwang taught many students and published many important works, enhancing his status as one of Joseon’s most accomplished scholars. As such, later scholars who followed Yi Hwang came to regard Dosan as the center of the Yi Hwang School, also known as the Toegye School of Thought (退溪學). Indeed, Dosan became a recognized symbol of the Confucianism of Yi Hwang and the entire Yeongnam region, which is located in the southeast of Korea (present-day North and South Gyeongsang Provinces).

The subgenre of Dosando includes any paintings that depict Yi Hwang’s retreat in Dosan. Over time, however, this category of paintings underwent important changes, as artists began to directly associate Dosan (i.e., the idyllic landscape of Yi Hwang) with the area of Mt. Wuyi (i.e., the idyllic landscape of Zhu Xi). As the tradition of Dosando developed, Joseon artists began to highlight the perceived “nine bends” of Dosan, just as Zhu Xi had celebrated the nine bends of the stream at Mt. Wuyi. On one level, Dosando paintings were intended to display the picturesque landscape of Dosan, but they also carried a symbolic meaning and value that went much deeper than their aesthetic beauty. Thus, these changes in the tradition of Dosando paintings directly reflect the ways in which Chinese paintings of Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi became acculturated into a new tradition of “nine-bends” paintings of Joseon.

The representative example of nine-bends paintings from Joseon is The Nine Bends at Gosan, which depicts the residence and academy of Yi I (李珥, 1536-1584). In the late seventeenth century, paintings of the nine bends at Gosan were widely distributed to promote and strengthen the Yi I school. Around that time, Dosando paintings began to be produced as a show of solidarity among the scholars following Yi Hwang. Significantly, the core elements depicted in Dosando paintings (i.e., the structures of Dosan Seowon and the actual nine bends at Dosan) are still extant. Furthermore, a wealth of documentation and information about the relevant historical figures is also available, thereby enabling us to deepen our understanding and appreciation of Korea’s nine-bends culture.

II. Yi Hwang’s Settlement in Dosan

Yi Hwang was born in 1501 in Onhye-ri, Andong, North Gyeongsang Province, and he lived in the vicinity of his hometown until he was in his late forties. After passing the state examination at age 34, he was appointed to various civil-service posts. Although highly regarded by the court for his work as an official, he preferred to focus on his own studies and self-cultivation. As a result, he served for only a relatively short period in each of his assigned government postings. He finally retired at age 53, at which point he returned home and spent the rest of his life writing and teaching.

Yi Hwang began searching for the best place to establish his retirement retreat in 1546, about seven years before his actual retirement. For a short time, he stayed in various small houses north of Mt. Yeongji and south of Ongye-ri (Fig. 1). However, finding the neighborhood a bit too noisy and crowded for his taste, he moved about one kilometer south to Dongnam, where he built Yangjinam, a hermitage-style residence where he could rest and study. A stream called Togye (兎溪, which can be translated as “rabbit stream”) ran in front of the building, which inspired Yi to name the place Toegye (退溪), or “retreating stream”, which also became his pen name. Then, in February 1550, Yi Hwang built Hanseoam, another hermitage-style residence to the west of Toegye. The following year, he constructed Gyesang Seodang, an academy, to the north of Hanseoam. He lived at these two nearby buildings—Hanseoam and Gyesang Seodang—for around ten years, and they continue to resonate with his life and activities during the period of his fifties.


Fig. 1. Map of sites related to Yi Hwang and the nine bends at Dosan.

Even so, Yi Hwang was never completely satisfied with the site of Gyesang Seodang, finding it too secluded and thus lacking in qualities needed to broaden the mind. He therefore began to search anew in the area south of Dosan, and eventually decided upon the site now occupied by Dosan Seowon. He spent five years constructing an academy named Dosan Seodang, paying strict attention to the structure, size, and arrangement of the academy buildings. It was completed in 1561, and he lived there for the last ten years of his life. Dosan Seodang was the realization of Yi Hwang’s dream to create the perfect retreat for his golden years.

In many ways, Yi Hwang’s life in Dosan closely parallels that of Zhu Xi near the nine bends at Mt. Wuyi. For example, after settling in Dosan, Yi Hwang wrote Collected Poems at Dosan, just as Zhu Xi had written Collected Poems at Wuyi Jingshe Academy (武夷精舍雜詠幷序) while at his Wuyi Jingshe Academy (武夷精舍). Thus, Yi Hwang’s choice of sites, based on the surrounding landscape, and his naming of the sites were almost certainly inspired by Zhu Xi’s Wuyi Jingshe Academy.

Yi Hwang was an avid follower of Zhu Xi, and he eagerly acquired and consumed any resources related to Zhu Xi that he could find, including the painting The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi. Obviously, however, he did not name his residence “nine bends,” nor did he attempt to directly reproduce Zhu Xi’s nine bends from Mt. Wuyi. In his writings, Yi Hwang never explained why he avoided making such an overt homage to Zhu Xi. Perhaps he considered himself unworthy of directly copying a great master like Zhu Xi, or perhaps he felt that making his own “nine bends” would somehow violate his admiration for Zhu Xi. In addition, the area around Dosan Seodang may not have been ideal for recreating the nine bends, as the location already offered an abundance of space for rest and contemplation. Moreover, many powerful literati families had established their clan villages near Dosan, mostly around the lower Nak River (present-day Nakdong River). In any event, Yi Hwang himself did not designate or openly refer to the nine bends at Dosan in any of his works.

Starting around the seventeenth century, however, various artists began depicting the landscape of Dosan in Dosando paintings. In total, seven Dosando paintings (Figs. 4-10) are extant, the earliest and most representative of which is Dosando (c. 1700, Fig. 4) by Kim Changseok (金昌錫, 1652-1720), now in the Yonsei University Library. A late-Joseon civil official from Andong, Kim was known to be well versed in the three arts (i.e., poetry, painting, and calligraphy). The album including Dosando also includes three texts.

Originally a handscroll painting, Dosando was divided into seven leaves when remounted as an album. The view is from the south, with the Nak River flowing from right to left in front of Dosan Seowon, which is placed at the center of the composition. The artist employed an aerial perspective to present the full landscape of the area around Dosan. Landmarks and notable elements are clearly marked by name, and the painting is composed so that none of these landmarks or their labels overlap. Kim Changseok’s Dosando became the model for all later Dosando paintings, which typically follow a similar format.

Kim Changseok’s Dosando includes an annotation written by Yi Hyeop (李浹 ,1663-1737), in which the author states that appreciation of paintings of Dosan was a way to express respect and admiration for Yi Hwang. In other words, these paintings offered a way to honor the memory and praise the achievements of Yi Hwang, similar to paying respects to his portrait, appreciating his works, or dedicating a tribute poem to him. Thus, the annotation equates owning and appreciating Dosando with other traditional ways of respecting sages, followed by such scholars as Zhu Xi.

III. Introduction of The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi

First produced in the late seventeenth century, Dosando paintings can be associated with the tradition of The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi, in that both involved paintings that depicted the retreats of venerated Confucian scholars. As such, Dosando may be seen as the direct result of the acculturation of The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi in Joseon.

The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi became widely known in Joseon during the sixteenth century, around the same time that Zhu Xi’s Neo-Confucianism was being further absorbed, understood, and promoted. At that time, various books about Zhu Xi and his philosophy were introduced to Joseon society, serving as an important catalyst for deepening the Joseon literati’s understanding of Zhu Xi and Neo-Confucianism. As studies of his writings progressed, Zhu Xi began to command ever more respect and admiration as the founder of Neo-Confucianism. Joseon literati avidly read Zhu Xi’s Wuyi Boating Songs (武夷櫂歌) and Records on Mt. Wuyi (武夷誌), which naturally led to increased awareness of and interest in the paintings of The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi.

Yi Hwang and his fellow sixteenth-century scholars were the first in Joseon to be exposed to The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi paintings, and they expressed their deep appreciation of these works and their fierce admiration for Zhu Xi in various writings. Above all, for Joseon literati, the landscape of Mt. Wuyi depicted in these paintings came to symbolize Zhu Xi and their scholarly devotion to his ideas, while also allowed them to vicariously experience the ideal place of their master with their own eyes.

Exemplifying the Joseon reverence for The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi, Yi Seonggil(李成吉, 1562-1621) painted his own The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi (Fig. 2) in 1591, making a copy of the original Chinese painting. Yi Seonggil’s handscroll painting depicts the nine representative scenes (i.e., the nine bends) at Mt. Wuyi, capturing each location in detail. The painting is specifically organized to enable viewers to progress from the first bend to the ninth, as if on an actual journey through the landscape. All of the buildings and important sites are labeled, and the depictions of their locations and characteristics are based on the actual view. In the center of the painting is the fifth bend, where Wuyi Jingshe Academy is depicted (Figs. 2a and 2b). The academy is shown in three-quarter view, with Dayinping Peak (大隱屛) rising behind it like a screen. A few boats appear here and there on the stream to indicate the direction in which the water flows. With its numerous details, elaborate description, and exceptional composition, Yi Seonggil’s The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi clearly demonstrates the considerable talent of the artist. This version of The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi was further copied and distributed to the various provinces, so that Confucian scholars and students in outlying regions could take inspiration from the work.


Fig. 2. The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi (武夷九曲圖) by Yi Seonggil (李成吉, b. 1562). 1591. Ink and light colors on silk, 33.5×398.5 cm. (National Museum of Korea).


Fig. 2a. Wuyi Jingshe Academy (武夷精舍) and Dayinping Peak (大隱屛) of the fifth bend, from The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi (武夷九曲圖) by Yi Seonggil (李成吉, 1562-1621).


Fig. 2b. Wuyi Jingshe Academy (武夷精舍) and Dayinping Peak (大隱屛).

Another notable copy of the Chinese original is The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi of Zhu Xi (朱文公武夷九曲圖, Fig. 3), now in the collection of the Yeungnam University Museum. Significantly, this work is known to have been given to Yi Hwang by his colleague Yi Dam (李湛, 1510-1577). This painting is believed to be a copy of a copy of the Chinese original, produced by a regional painter. Yi Hwang added his annotation to the painting (Fig. 3a) and made it into a handscroll, adding a portrait of Zhu Xi and other relevant information. With its simple style, this work reflects the relatively limited skills of an unknown artist, but it nevertheless demonstrates that Confucian scholars and students away from the capital—including Yi Hwang—revered and took great inspiration from The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi.


Fig. 3. The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi of Zhu Xi (朱文公武夷九曲圖), artist unknown. c. 1564. Ink and light colors on paper, 34.7 × 587.7 cm. (Yeungnam University Museum).


Fig. 3a. Annotation on The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi of Zhu Xi.

As The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi and the work of Zhu Xi continued to be disseminated throughout Joseon society, scholars of the seventeenth century came to associate “nine bends” with an ideal place or utopia. As such, an interesting new practice arose, with people seeking to identify other examples of nine bends at famous scenic locations in Joseon and producing “nine bends” paintings of those sites. Such paintings are the direct result of attempts to assimilate The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi into Joseon culture as an innovative way of paying tribute to the Chinese original.

As mentioned, Kim Changseok’s Dosando (Fig. 4) remains the representative example of Dosando paintings. Kim’s painting follows the general format of The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi of Zhu Xi (Fig. 3), the local Korean copy of Zhu Xi’s original work, but it depicts the landscape of Dosan, rather than Mt. Wuyi. Key similarities between the two paintings suggest that Kim Changseok likely modeled his work directly on the local copy of the Chinese original.


Fig. 4. Dosando (陶山圖) by Kim Changseok (金昌錫, 1652-1720). c. 1700. Ink and light colors on paper, 39.0×27.5 cm. (Yonsei University Library).

First and foremost, the rendering of Dosan Seowon (Fig. 4a) in Kim’s painting matches that of Wuyi Jingshe Academy (Fig. 3b), the centerpiece of The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi of Zhu Xi. Both paintings show the respective academies from an aerial perspective, with the buildings having a straightforward, rectangular outline.


Fig. 4a. Dosan Seowon (陶山書院) from Dosando.


Fig. 3b. Wuyi Jingshe Academy (武夷精舍) from The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi of Zhu Xi.

Second, the manner in which the title of the two paintings is written is also quite similar (Figs. 3c and 4b). In both cases, the title is written on a colored background. In addition, just as Wuyi Jingshe Academy includes several texts relating to Zhu Xi, Dosando includes texts by Yi Hwang, such as Writings at Dosan (陶山記) and Collected Poems at Dosan (陶山雜詠).


Fig. 3c. Title calligraphy of The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi of Zhu Xi.


Fig. 4b. Title calligraphy of Dosando.

Third, like The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi of Zhu Xi, Kim’s Dosando features the landscape around Dosan, focusing on the Nak River, and it indicates the names of sites relevant to Yi Hwang. This composition clearly shows how scholars and students after Yi Hwang created Dosando paintings to directly reflect the Zhu Xi painting that Yi Hwang himself owned and deeply admired. Furthermore, the mounting of the later painting also follows that of The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi of Zhu Xi.

Moreover, Kim Changseok’s Dosando also features a number of other key elements. When Kim made this painting, the culture of “nine bends” had not yet come to be associated with Dosan. As such, Kim did not attempt to designate, let alone to highlight, nine bends in the Nak River. However, the final work does portray the area that Kim’s followers would eventually (i.e., in the late eighteenth century) declare to be the fourth, fifth, and sixth of the nine bends at Dosan. At the left of the painting, near the area of the fourth bend, is a house called Bungangchon (汾江村), which was one of the main homes of the family of a mid-Joseon scholar named Yi Hyeonbo (李賢輔, 1467-1555). In addition, at the right of the painting, near the sixth bend, we can see Wollanam Pavilion (月瀾庵), an important site where scholars often held literary gatherings, frequently led by Yi Hwang and Yi Hyeonbo. These two sites mark the eastern and western boundaries of the painting.

Another interesting element of the painting is the subtle inclusion of Hanseoam (寒棲庵), the home where Yi Hwang lived before moving to Dosan (Fig. 4c). The small house can be seen at the right of the painting, at the end of a small stream that branches off from the Nak River. Notably, unlike other landmarks in the painting, Hanseoam is not labeled, likely because it was not actually located in this area. In general, the artist attempted to present an actual view of the area by adopting a natural perspective, but the inclusion of Hanseoam represents a conspicuous departure from this approach. Of course, Hanseoam is one of the most important sites related to Yi Hwang, being the house where he lived while he was in his fifties; as mentioned, he even took his pen name of Toegye from the stream that ran in front of the house. Therefore, it is believed that the artist took the liberty of modifying the landscape to include Hanseoam because of its significance in Yi Hwang’s life.


Fig. 4c. Hanseoam (寒棲庵) from Dosando.

Finally, it is important to note how Zhu Xi’s The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi and Dosando paintings were collected. Scholars after Yi Hwang are known to have collected both Dosando paintings and The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi. For example, records show that Kim Changseok had both a copy of Zhu Xi’s painting and his own Dosando painting in his home. Another record states that the late Joseon scholar Yi Ik (李瀷, 1681-1763) asked artist Kang Sehwang (姜世晃, 1713-1791) to paint a version of The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi, followed by a Dosando painting. In addition, several annotations written about the two paintings indicate that such paintings were often collected as pairs. These annotations include “On Paintings of Mt. Wuyi and Dosan” (武夷陶山二圖跋) from Collected Writings of Yi Hwijae (雲山集) and “On Paintings of Mt. Wuyi and Dosan from the Collection of the Family of Han Cheol” (族弟重吉漢喆家藏 武夷陶山圖屛跋) from Collected Poems of Jo Hongbok (望雲集). The literati who wrote these annotations viewed Yi Hwang’s landscape of Dosan as the successor to Zhu Xi’s nine bends at Mt. Wuyi as an ideal place, so it only made sense for them to collect and appreciate both paintings. A work now in a private collection shows the landscapes of The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi and Dosando side by side on two facing pages (Fig. 5), thus demonstrating that the two were often united as an inseparable pair.


Fig. 5. The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi (武夷圖) and Dosando (陶山圖), artist unknown. Late nineteenth century, ink and light colors on paper, 106.7 × 77.0 cm. (Private collection).

IV. Development of Dosando Paintings in the Late Joseon Dynasty

Most extant Dosando paintings were made after the eighteenth century. Although they generally follow the format established in the late seventeenth century, the extant works are painted in diverse styles, indicating that there was demand for Dosando from various sources. As mentioned, Kim Changseok’s Dosando is the earliest known example. Chronologically, the next two extant works are Kang Sehwang’s Dosan Seowondo (1751, Fig. 6) and a nineteenth-century Dosando by an unknown artist (Fig. 7), which is now in the Keimyung University Library. Two other Dosando paintings from later periods are held in private collections (Figs. 8 and 9). Dosando paintings of the late Joseon period can be organized according to changes in their style.


Fig. 6. Dosan seowondo (陶山書院圖) by Kang Sehwang (姜世晃, 1713-1791). 1751. Ink and light colors on paper, 26.8 × 138.5 cm. (National Museum of Korea).


Fig. 7. Dosando (陶山圖), artist unknown. Nineteenth century. Ink and light colors on paper, 30.0 × 130.0 cm. (Keimyung University Library).

In 1751, Yi Ik asked Kang Sehwang to paint his Dosando (Fig. 7). Notably, this work does not follow the actual landscape of Dosan, but was based instead on another Dosando painting that is no longer extant. In the annotation, Kang Sehwang explains that Yi Ik asked him to make the painting as a way to honor the achievements and ideas of Yi Hwang. As such, it was not essential to duplicate the actual landscape. Furthermore, Kang Sehwang explained that Yi Ik wanted the painting as a means to help viewers actually experience Yi Hwang’s physical presence, as if they were looking at a portrait of him. Yi Ik explained his theory for appreciating Dosando paintings in an annotation that he wrote in 1739 on a different Dosando painting. In that annotation, Yi states that people looking at a Dosando painting can directly experience Yi Hwang’s physical presence and voice by exploring the places where he lived, rested, and studied. Relaying this idea in the later annotation, Kang Sehwang emphasized that Yi Ik believed that viewers of Dosando paintings could gain a type of enlightenment that was not attainable through Yi Hwang’s writings.

All of the known Dosando paintings from the nineteenth century were produced and collected by either followers or direct descendants of Yi Hwang. The earliest of these is the Dosando now held by Keimyung University Library (Fig. 7), which follows the format of seventeenth-century Dosando paintings by placing Dosan Seowon at the center of a long handscroll composition. According to the annotation, this painting was based on a Dosando by Yi Jing (李徵),, and the scroll was expanded by adding the annotation and some of Yi Hwang’s writings and poems. However, the later work reflects the style of paintings from the nineteenth century, indicating that it was most likely copied from another copy (or copies) of Yi Jing’s painting, rather than from the original. The annotation also emphasizes that Dosan was not only the place where Yi Hwang lived, but also a space for scholars desiring to follow and succeed in the tradition of Yi Hwang and his school.

The scroll begins on the right with a depiction of Gyesang, the area around Hanseoam. The inscription across the top reads “先生舊居溪上村,” which can be translated as “The teacher’s old residence, Gyesang” (as Yi Hwang had lived in Gyesang before moving to Dosan). This area would not actually be visible from Dosan Seowon, but because it was considered an important site in Yi Hwang’s life, the artists included it, albeit in a distant corner of the painting.


Fig. 7a. Detail.

As mentioned, Dosando paintings of the nineteenth century generally follow the style and format of earlier works, often with some unique expressions, as exemplified by the Dosando from the Jo Namhak Collection (Fig. 8). With its vivid contrasts and bold brushstrokes, this work represents a more individualized and improvised style. Meanwhile, the Dosando from the Seo Jeongcheol Collection (Fig. 9) reflects the style of the renowned late-Joseon painter Jeong Seon (鄭敾, 1676-1759), in that the trees are represented with simple dots, a technique that can be seen in Jeong Seon’s own Dosan Seowondo (Fig. 10). Whereas previous Dosando paintings showed only the western part of Dosan, this one breaks away from that convention to display a broader area, including Yeokdong Seowon (易東書院) on the lower Nak River, another important site related to Yi Hwang that is not portrayed in earlier paintings. These two Dosando demonstrate how the conventional presentation of Dosando paintings changed in the nineteenth century, taking on the style and the preferred composition of the individual artist.


Fig. 8. Dosando (陶山圖), artist unknown. Nineteenth century. Ink and light colors on paper, 27.0 × 144.0 cm. (Jo Namhak Collection).


Fig. 9. Dosando (陶山圖), artist unknown. Nineteenth century. Ink and light colors on paper, 33.0 × 51.6 cm. (Seo Jeongcheol Collection).


Fig. 10. Dosan seowondo (陶山書院圖) by Jeong Seon (鄭敾, 1676-1759). 1777. Ink and light colors on paper, 21.3 x 56.4 cm. (Gansong Art Museum).

Figure 5 shows a particularly interesting work from the late nineteenth century, combining The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi and Dosando as a pair. The version of The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi in this work originated from a sixteenth-century copy of The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi (Fig. 11) from Unjanggak (雲章閣), the memorial hall of Kim Seongil (金誠一, 1538-1593), a renowned scholar and government official of the mid-Joseon period. The overall shape of the river bends and the arrangement of the sites are remarkably similar in the two paintings. Notably, the nineteenth-century painting follows the style of mid-Joseon landscape paintings in the composition of the rocky hills and in the use of repeated strokes for texture. However, other details characterize it as a work of the nineteenth century.


Fig. 11. The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi (武夷九曲之圖), artist unknown. Sixteenth century. Ink and light colors on paper, 156.0 × 87.0 cm. (Unjanggak).

The Dosando painting in Figure 5 follows the established format, placing Dosan Seowon in the center, depicting the surrounding landscape, and showing the Nak River as flowing from right to left. Interestingly, however, it assumes an aerial view, as if to match the perspective in the adjoining painting of The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi. As previously noted, by the nineteenth century, paintings of these two subjects were generally considered as a pair. Dosando of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries typically followed the convention of placing Dosan Seowon in the center. But variations emerged, as some works included new sites (e.g., the main home of a particular family or other regional sites), while others began to follow the approach of true-view landscape paintings.

V. Emergence of “Nine Bends” Culture and the Nine Bends at Dosan

In the sixteenth century Joseon scholars began to seek other natural sites with nine bends. The earliest example is the “nine bends at Gosan” (高山九曲), identified in the sixteenth century by the revered Neo-Confucian scholar Yi I. Other examples were later designated by the Noron (老論), or “Old Faction” of Joseon literati, including the “nine bends of Hwayang Stream” and the “nine bends of the Hwang River.” Then, in the late eighteenth century, a group of literati from the Yeongnam region designated the “nine bends at Dosan.” As these examples show, areas with nine bends were sometimes identified by individuals, while in other cases, they were identified through a more collective effort.

The “nine bends at Gosan” is an early example of nine bends designated by an individual. In 1571, Yi I surveyed the area of Seokdam in Hwanghae Province, identifying nine bends there. He named each individual bend and referred to the designated area as the “nine bends at Gosan.” In 1576, Yi I built his Cheonggyedang residence (聽溪堂) in the area of the nine bends, and then in 1578, he built his Eunbyeong Jeongsa Academy (隱屛精舍) there. Yi I fully intended to spend his retirement at these sites, but circumstances prevented him from doing so; in fact, he was able to visit only periodically while he was between government postings.

The tradition of the “nine bends at Gosan” had virtually disappeared by the late seventeenth century and was only recovered due to the efforts of Song Siyeol (宋時烈, 1607-1689) and his fellow literati of the Noron faction. Many of the structures around the nine bends at Gosan had fallen into disrepair, but Song Siyeol had them repaired and restored. He also commissioned the painting The Nine Bends at Gosan (Fig. 12) and asked other literati to write poems modeled after Yi I’s poems. Song Siyeol then had the painting engraved on woodblocks, so that the combined text of the painting and poems could represent the Yi I school, but the woodblock print is not extant. Thus, the painting came to serve as a medium for reinforcing the spiritual solidarity of the literati of the Yi I school. Moreover, it was used to demonstrate the continuity of major Neo-Confucian scholars, from Zhu Xi to Yi I, thus emphasizing the legitimacy of Yi I and the scholars who followed him. Thus, the efforts to signify the nine bends at Gosan was the precursor to later attempts by the Yi I school to designate and appropriate other areas with nine bends.


Fig. 12. The Nine Bends at Gosan (高山九曲圖卷), artist unknown. 1688-1701. Joseon Historical Records Part II. vol.1 (朝鮮史料集眞續, 第一輯), plate 16.

After the nine bends at Gosan, other examples of nine bends began to appear, including the nine bends of Hwayang Stream (華陽九曲), associated with Song Siyeol; the nine bends of the Hwang River (潢江九曲), associated with Gwon Sangha (權尙夏, 1641-1721); and the nine bends of Gogun (谷雲九曲), associated with Kim Sujeung (金壽增, 1624-1701). In the latter case, “Gogun” was Kim Sujeung’s pen name, and thus refers more broadly to the area where he resided. In accordance with tradition, these areas were documented in paintings, some of which are still extant, including The Nine Bends of Gogun (谷雲九曲圖, Fig. 13), painted in 1682 by Jo Segeol (曺世傑, b. 1635), and The Nine Bends of Hwayang Stream (華陽九曲圖, Fig. 14), attributed to Gwon Sineung (權信應, 1728-1787).


Fig. 13. “Cheongok Bend” (靑玉峽圖), the second bend from the album The Nine Bends of Gogun (谷雲九曲圖) by Jo Segeol (曺世傑, 1635-after 1705). 1682. Ink and light colors on silk, 42.5 × 64 cm. (National Museum of Korea).


Fig. 14. The Nine Bends of Hwayang Stream (華陽九曲圖), attributed to Gwon Sineung (權信應, 1728-1787). Eighteenth century. Ink and light colors on paper, 23.0 × 37.5 cm. (Chungbuk National University Museum).

An examination of extant “nine bends” paintings illustrates that the literati of the Yeongnam region and those of the Noron faction had somewhat different views on the “nine bends” tradition. Notably, the literati of the Yeongnam region traced their scholarly lineage only from Zhu Xi to Yi Hwang, so they were not interested in areas associated with other scholars. At first, the Yeongnam literati focused exclusively on The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi, but then, in the late seventeenth century, they began to collect Dosando paintings as well. Thus, beginning with The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi, Joseon paintings of nine bends split in two directions, represented by the Dosando paintings of the Yi Hwang school and by The Nine Bends at Gosan of the Yi I school.

In the late eighteenth century, however, the literati in the Yeongnam region dramatically changed their ideas about the “nine bends,” as they became convinced that the retreats of notable scholars and sages should include the requisite nine bends. In that context, they took it as their duty as followers of Zhu Xi to recognize the achievements of past scholars and sages by designating nine bends in areas related to those figures.

The first example of nine bends to be designated by the literati of the Yeongnam region in the late eighteenth century was the nine bends of Muheul (武屹九曲) in honor of Jeong Gu (鄭逑, 1543-1620). This area of Daega Stream on Mt. Gaya was recognized by Jeong’s followers around 1776 and commemorated in 1784 in the painting The Nine Bends of Muheul (武屹九曲圖, Fig. 15) by Kim Sangjin (金尙眞, 1736-1811).


Fig. 15. “The Sixth Bend” from The Nine Bends of Muheul (武屹九曲圖) by Kim Sangjin (金尙眞, 1736-1811). Ink on paper, 36.0 × 23.0 cm. (Private collection).

After the nine bends of Muheul for Jeong Gu, the next example of nine bends to be identified was Yi Hwang’s nine bends at Dosan, declared in the late eighteenth century. Although Yi Hwang himself had never explicitly referred to the nine bends at Dosan, his followers justified their designation by pointing to what they perceived as indirect evidence of Yi’s intentions in his writings. According to Yi Hwang’s descendant Yi Isun (李頤淳, 1754-1832), Yi Hwang wrote poems that appropriated the rhymes of Zhu Xi’s The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi (武夷九曲詩) and Wuyi Boating Song (武夷櫂歌). As such, Yi’s followers argued that he had implied the existence of the nine bends at Dosan, even though he never openly specified or discussed them.

Although he lived in Dosan for approximately ten years, diligently working on his studies, Yi Hwang never actually designated the area’s nine bends. The fact that the designation was made by his followers in the late eighteenth century is of some importance. By equating areas of Dosan with the nine bends at Mt. Wuyi, Yi Isun and the others were directly associating the scholarly achievements of Yi Hwang with those of Zhu Xi, thus emphasizing Yi Hwang as the legitimate successor to Zhu Xi.

In addition to Yi Isun, other descendants and students of Yi Hwang who participated in the designation included Yi Yasun (李野淳, 1755-1831), Yi Gasun (李家淳, 1754-1832), and Yi Jonghyu (李宗休, 1761-1832). After a close examination, they decided that the nine bends at Dosan encompassed the area from Unam Peak (雲巖) to Mt. Cheongnyang (淸凉山). According to Collected Writings of Yi Gasun (霞溪集), Yi Gasun proposed the nine bends in the following order: Unam (雲巖), Wolcheon (月川), Odam (鰲潭), Buncheon (汾川), Tagyeong (濯纓), Cheonsa (川砂), Dansa (丹砂), Gosan (孤山), and Cheongnyang (淸凉) (Fig. 1). This designation seems to have been accepted as the “official” nine bends at Dosan.

Further information about these designations can be found in the second chapter of Records on My Family Mountain (吾家山誌), entitled “Appendix to Records on My Family Mountain” (吾家山誌後識). In that appendix, the author explains that the nine bends were never mentioned in Yi Hwang’s Writings at Dosan (陶山記), and that they were only designated by later generations because they were all sites known to Yi Hwang, which he physically visited and walked through. In short, this record states that the nine bends at Dosan represented the area inhabited by Yi Hwang during his lifetime, so such a memorial designation could only have been established later by his students.

All of the nine bends at Dosan are locations closely associated with Yi Hwang, including scenic spots and houses of people with whom Yi Hwang spent time. In addition, the names chosen for the nine bends refer to their geographical and topographical features. For example, several of the names end with -cheon (川, stream), -dam (潭, pool), or -sa (砂, sand), referring to the small tributaries and sandy areas that characterize the area of the Nak River and its surrounding flatlands.

Two points about the designation of the nine bends at Dosan are especially notable. First, all of the chosen sites are close to the Nak River. As such, some of the most important sites from Yi Hwang’s life, including Hanseoam and Gyesang Seodang, are not represented, as they are located some distance from the river. Second, the fifth and central bend corresponds to the location of Dosan Seowon, just as Zhu Xi’s Wuyi Jingshe Academy was located at the fifth of the nine bends at Mt. Wuyi. This is especially interesting because, at Dosan, there is no obvious bend in the river around Dosan Seodang; in other words, this bend was presumably chosen only because the building is located there. Thus, in designating the nine bends at Dosan, the followers of Yi Hwang were definitely following the example of the nine bends at Mt. Wuyi.

What prompted Yi Hwang’s followers to designate the nine bends at Dosan in the late eighteenth century? Given that the practice of designating nine bends had been initiated by the school of Yi I, the followers of Yi Hwang likely sought to reinforce their leader’s status and his academic legacy against that of Yi I. In addition, the landscape and geographical features of Dosan were particularly well suited for the identification of nine bends. Finally, the followers of Yi Hwang argued that the nine bends at Dosan were implied in many of Yi Hwang’s works and studies. Based on all of these factors, Yi Hwang’s students and followers felt it proper to identify and designate the nine bends at Dosan. Their efforts helped to increase the significance of the Dosan area, traditionally associated with Yi Hwang, and to incorporate Dosan into the larger culture of the nine bends.

VI. Conclusion

This paper has examined the relationship between Dosando paintings, depicting Yi Hwang’s retreat and residence, and the Joseon practice of designating the nine bends of various areas, in association with Zhu Xi and The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi. Recognized as an avid follower of Zhu Xi, Yi Hwang specifically chose Dosan as the best place to settle in retirement in order to focus on his studies and self-cultivation. Thus, Yi Hwang was well aware of a possible association between Dosan and Mt. Wuyi. However, for reasons that remain unknown, he never overtly identified or referred to any nine bends in the Dosan area. Accordingly, when the followers of Yi Hwang began to portray Dosan in the late seventeenth century, they did not initially depict the nine bends of Dosan in their Dosando paintings.

Zhu Xi’s The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi was introduced to Joseon in the sixteenth century, at the time when Zhu Xi and his Neo-Confucian ideas were widely revered among Joseon intellectuals. As such, early extant paintings of Dosan typically follow the style and format of The Nine Bends at Mt. Wuyi, even though they do not explicitly identify the nine bends. The practice of identifying nine bends began in the sixteenth century with Yi I and his nine bends at Gosan; this trend was then revitalized in the eighteenth century by the literati of the Noron faction. At first, the literati of the Yeongnam region did not follow the Noron faction in seeking to identify nine bends, but by the late eighteenth century, they had changed course, beginning with the nine bends of Muheul, associated with Jeong Gu. Subsequently, the Yeongnam literati began actively seeking to designate nine bends at places associated with previous scholars and sages.

As such, the nine bends at Dosan were designated in the late eighteenth century. In selecting the final locations of the nine bends, the followers of Yi Hwang chose places that had close ties to their leader, including scenic areas or the homes of his friends and esteemed colleagues. By designating the nine bends at Dosan, Yi Hwang’s followers associated Yi’s actual retirement site of Dosan with the nine bends at Mt. Wuyi, with its much larger symbolic and rhetorical implications. Overall, these efforts were intended to reinforce the lineage of Neo-Confucian scholarship, beginning with Zhu Xi and continuing to Yi Hwang.

Dosando paintings were first produced in the late seventeenth century, about 100 years after Yi Hwang had settled in Dosan. After another 100 years or so, in the late eighteenth century, the nine bends at Dosan were declared. Over time, through the nineteenth century, these two practices became intertwined, as Dosando painters began to depict the nine bends of Dosan in their works. Hence, the area of Dosan became an indelible symbol to commemorate Yi Hwang, helping to firmly establish the tradition of the nine bends culture in the Yeongnam region.

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