Cranes, Cultivating a New Knowledge Practice in Late-Chosŏn Korea: Knowledge Transformations Connected by Things

Jung Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Red-crowned white cranes, large migratory birds symbolizing longevity, fidelity, and independence from power across East Asian cultures, came to live in scholar-official households in late Chosŏn. With the residency of this elegant bird in scholarly households around the mid-eighteenth century, a new knowledge practice that took serious interest in things like cranes emerged. This paper illuminates the roles of these highly cross-cultured things in late-Chosŏn knowledge transformation, echoing material turns in various disciplines. Necessitating knowledge to properly possess and accompany them, cranes led to a new scholarly attachment to things. It opened up an unprecedented intellectual attitude that valued curiosity, taste, and facts concerning things and emphasized usefulness of that newly obtained thing-knowledge. Curiosity, taste, facts, and the usefulness of knowledge obtained new meanings in other parts of the world that experienced similar transitions in knowledge practice by and towards things. While delineating the roles of cranes specifically in late-Chosŏn's transformation through the imprints that they left in scholarly acts and works, this paper proposes a new way to connect knowledge transformations in different parts of the globe, via these newly migrating things, moving away from the narrative that requires an origin and transfers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-69
Number of pages23
JournalEast Asian Science, Technology and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 National Science and Technology Council, Taiwan.


  • Chosŏn Korea
  • Red-crowned white cranes
  • Sirhak practical studies
  • diffussionism
  • “Material turns”


Dive into the research topics of 'Cranes, Cultivating a New Knowledge Practice in Late-Chosŏn Korea: Knowledge Transformations Connected by Things'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this