The exchanges between China and Korea have a long history. The envoys between the two countries in the early Ming Dynasty witnessed and participated in the establishment and development of relations between the two countries. This paper will mainly focus on the communication between Confucian scholars and officials with a higher status in Korea and people of the Ming dynasty, involving Korean scholar’s acquaintances with Ming official envoys in Korea and with Ming people they met while travelling in China. This paper gives priority to analyzing Korean literati’s understanding of the Ming Dynasty in poetry and essay exchanges and the causes behind cognition variation, thus revealing the interaction and exchanges between literati of the two countries in politics, thought, culture, and art, and reproducing a three-dimensional picture of cultural exchange between China and Korea in the early Ming Dynasty.
Through poetry interaction and prefaces & postscripts writing exchanges with envoys of the Ming Dynasty Guozi Xuelu Zhang Pu, Guozi Dianbo Zhou Zhuo, and Liaodong envoy Sang Lin, Korean literati showed their favorable cognition of Ming dynasty in clothing, military generals and Confucian officials, the doctrine and impact of Ming Dynasty, etc. Envoys of the Ming Dynasty and the Korean literati communicated in poetry and painting art through poetry writing to each other, poems inscribed on painting and presenting painting as gifts, thus deepening the friendship and mutual cultural cognition of the two countries. When Korean envoys travelled to the Ming Dynasty, they saw the mountains, rivers, customs and culture of the Ming Dynasty with their own eyes, and forged a deep friendship with people from the Ming Dynasty. They showed more admiration for the Ming Dynasty and a high recognition of traditional Chinese culture in their poetry singing interaction with Ming scribes. Of course, as “others”, these Korean scholars also had aunique perspective and viewpoint in observing China. They selectively accept and criticize Chinese Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. When the Korean envoys travelled to China of the Ming Dynasty, they associate with monks and Confucian scholars and experienced the immortal culture in the land of Denglai, for which they showed more criticism. Besides, they also expressed a derogatory attitude towards Buddhism, while admiring Confucianism. The frequent exchanges and mutual cognition between Chinese and Korean scholars have made positive contributions to eliminating barriers between the two countries and the development of traditional friendly relations.