In this paper, I attempted to explore the historical and geographical specificity of the space represented in Kim Si-seup’s novel Playing Jeopo at Manboksa Temple. The spatial setting of this novel is Namwon-si, Jeollabuk-do. Kim Si-seup actually traveled to Honam in 1462 when he was 28 years old and reflected his experience of exploring the Namwon area, including Manboksa Temple, in the creation of the novel space. Therefore, the place names mentioned in this novel serve as an important clue to the historical and geographical approach as actual places in Namwon town. The work of specifically defining the novel’s space in this way is expected to help understand the meaning of the novel’s narrative and the author’s creative consciousness.
Places worth mentioning in connection with the narrative of this novel include Manboksa Temple, Jiri Mountain, Gaeryeong-dong, and Boryeonsa Temple. Manboksa Temple maintains its sense of place through Manboksa Temple Site in Wangjeong-dong, Namwon-si, Jeollabuk-do. What is noteworthy about Manboksa Temple’s location is that it is located near a densely populated area of private houses near Namwon Eupseong Fortress and has existed as a temple for a long time, granting the wishes of the people of the town. And Jiri Mountain is the last place where the novel’s male protagonist, Yangsaeng, was seen, and is closely connected to the ending of the novel. Yangsaeng goes missing after saying he was going to Mt. Jiri to dig up medicinal herbs. From this ending, we can read his desire to protect his one and only love. Meanwhile, the fact that the ridge of Jiri Mountain can be seen in the distance from the grounds of Manboksa Temple implies that the starting point of this novel also encompasses the space that hints at its lonely ending.
Boryeonsa Temple is a temple located at the foot of Boryeon Mountain, and its location is presumed to be Bangchon-ri, Geumji-myeon, Namwon-si, Jeollabuk-do. This place contains the climactic moment of the novel when Yangsaeng, who was immersed in love with the heroine despite her many suspicious circumstances, was ultimately forced to accept that the heroine did not belong to the human world.
Gaeryeong-dong is a space where the anonymous heroine mainly belongs, and Yangsaeng came to fully trust and love the woman during the three days he spent there. This is also the temporary burial place of the female protagonist who was sacrificed during the Japanese invasion of Namwon in 1379 or 1380. I was the first to raise the inference that this Gaeryeong-dong is the valley below Gaeryeongamji in Deokdong-ri, Sannae-myeon, Namwon-si, Jeollabuk-do. Gaeryeongam was a temple near Jeongnyeongchi on Jiri Mountain, located on the road from Namwon, Jeolla Province, to Hamyang, Gyeongsang Province. The temple, built during the Goryeo Dynasty, no longer exists, leaving behind only a few traces. Kim Si-seup passed through this place in 1462 on his way from Namwon to Gyeongju via Hamyang.
What is noteworthy about the location of Gaeryeong-dong is that it is located within the area of Jiri Mountain. This helps us understand the movements of the ending, where Yangsaeng enters Jiri Mountain and goes missing. For Yangsaeng, Gaeryeong-dong was a place engraved in his heart as it was the place where he spent the longest time with the heroine. When Yangsaeng, who valued one love more than Buddhist liberation, went to Gaeryeong-dong to check for traces of the woman, he had already entered Jiri Mountain. When he disappeared into Jiri Mountain, he had only gone a little deeper from where he originally was. Gaeryeong-dong, located at the starting point of Jiri Mountain, becomes an important coordinate in the movement of Yangsaeng who disappeared without having lost his one and only love.