Open Seminar

Vol. 19.

Royal Letters, Imperial Documents: A Japanese, Korean and Thai Trialogue for a Global History of Inter-State Relations

  • Date: 29th November 2019, 13:00-19:00
  • Venue: Ito International Research Center, 3F, Seminar Room, The University of Tokyo
  • Speakers: Bhawan Ruangsilp (Chulalongkorn University), Dhiravat na Pombejra (formerly Chulalongkorn University), JUNG Donghun (Seoul National University of Education), KOO Bumjin (Seoul National University)
  • Coordinator: Fuyuko Matsukata (Historiographical Institute, The University of Tokyo)

The royal letters known in Japanese as kokusho are crucial to any discussion of the global history of diplomacy in the premodern era. But because kokusho are outside the history of 19th-century European-style diplomacy, the diversity of form they exhibit has not been fully elucidated. This seminar will invite scholars from Thailand and South Korea to share information on this topic and lay a foundation for shared discussion.

Through analysis of kokusho mentioned in the royal chronicles of the Ayutthaya Kingdom and recorded in Dutch VOC documents, Bhawan Ruangsilp will explore how early modern Siam and Burma sought to forge a path of dialogue and maintain balance in their relations. Dhiravat na Pombejra will analyze a letter sent to the Dutch VOC governor-general by the Siamese minister for foreign affairs and the treasury (phrakhlang) explaining protocol, precedent, and the royal command, in response to the company's request for a renewal of the Dutch-Siamese Treaty and Alliance of Peace at the beginning of King Seua's reign. JUNG Donghun will explain how oral messages from the Ming Emperor conveyed through his eunuchs to Chosŏn reveal his private interests in a way official documents do not. KOO Bumjin will address the question of whether the Qing investiture letters for Chosŏn before 1644 were bilingual, and explore their truth based on contemporaneous records.


  • 13:00 - 13:20
    Introduction(Matsukata Fuyuko)
  • 13:20 - 14:00
    Siamese-Burmese Diplomacy: A Study of the Royal Letters of the 1630s(Bhawan Ruangsilp)
  • 14:00 - 14:40
    Chaophraya Phrakhlang's 1703 letter on behalf of King Seua to the Hoge Regering: Trade, Treaty and the Royal Command(Dhiravat na Pombejra)
  • <Tea Break>
  • 15:10 - 15:50
    Imperial Word, Spoken and Written: Two Dimensions of Sino-Korean Relations in the Early 15th Century(JUNG Donghun)
  • 15:50 - 16:30
    Languages of the Qing Investiture Letters for Chosŏn before the Conquest of China(KOO Bumjin)
  • <Tea Break>
  • 17:00 - 19:00
    General Discussion