From the Imjin War to the Qing Invasion Chapter 35

Chapter 35

Seonjo’s Gift

Ah, forget it.

Even though I was prepared to go the smuggling route, wouldn’t state-sanctioned trade be safer?

You can’t eat it, but it’s still gold!

“This humble one has experienced the invasion of the Japanese pirates this year.”

“…Was that so?”

“In the Art of War, it is said, ‘If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.’ However, since Joseon does not know the circumstances of Japan, please allow us to spy by permitting trade with Japan.”

“I understand your sentiment, but what would we gain from trading with the Japanese pirates?”

“I have heard that the victorious General’s gun, which His Majesty ordered to be produced during the Nitanggae Rebellion, uses gunpowder. Since Japan has an abundance of sulfur, which is a component of gunpowder, why not obtain it from there?”

“Sulfur, sulfur…”

Was that all?

“Moreover, once fertilizers are distributed, Joseon will produce a surplus of food, and it wouldn’t be right to let all of it go to waste, right?”

“Did you foresee that future as well?”

“Yes, with fertilizers, the agricultural production of Joseon will increase by more than 30%. Additionally, with fishing, the consumption of grains will further decrease, so soon Joseon will overflow with grains.”

“So, you’re suggesting we sell the excess grains and bring in the goods we need? However, this cannot be easily decided.”

“Is it because of Ming?”


Anyway, the Chinese, be it in the past or present, were not at all helpful.

Fortunately, the Chinese currently didn’t have the leisure to pay attention to us.

In 1582, with the death of the great Senior Grand Secretary Zhang Juzheng, the Ming dynasty’s greatest ticking time bomb, the Wanli Emperor, made his debut in history.

Zhang Juzheng died of overwork, and his political opponents, seizing the opportunity, criticized him to the Wanli Emperor, who, shocked, implemented the infamous Emperor’s Strike.

Of course, at that time, Ming officials thought, “Ah, surely he’ll start working eventually.”

But the cliché of “it’ll never happen” would catch people off guard for the next 30 years.

But Joseon would never know such a fact.

Did the Chinese think that if it were revealed their emperor had gone on strike, Joseon might invade?

Interestingly, even after the Imjin War broke out, the Ming still considered Joseon a military powerhouse.

When King Taejo Yi Seong-gye founded Joseon, they thought our state’s military might would remain the same, showing how little China cared about us.

But even if I told this to Seonjo, he wouldn’t believe it.

What could we do?

Just as Joseon thought of Ming as a god-like country, Ming thought of Joseon as a military powerhouse!

So, we needed to come up with another excuse.

“If we can scratch Ming’s itchy spot, wouldn’t it be different?”

“Ming’s itchy spot?”

“I’ve heard that although Ming’s finances have improved due to their taxation system, the problem is their chronic shortage of silver.”

“…You’re well-informed about international affairs.”

Seonjo looked at Yi I.

Yi I, finding something amusing, smiled and nodded.

“Where the Japanese pirates are scraping together silver, I do not know.”

Obviously, I knew.

I had even planned to make a significant episode out of the Iwami Silver Mine and the refinement of silver.

“If we gather silver from Japan and pass it on to Ming, then they would have no reason to block trade with Japan anymore.”

Heh, surely Ming wouldn’t refuse a proposal that benefits everyone.

“And in the process, we could increase trade with Ming, achieving a threefold benefit, wouldn’t we?”

In the 16th century Northeast Asia, Ming was undoubtedly the strongest state.

Goods produced in Ming were considered luxury items in Joseon.

Naturally, among the nobility, anything from the Ming was so valuable it was almost priceless.

Thus, this matter would have no reason to be opposed by the Ming court, and Joseon, which would eventually have a surplus of food and cloth, wouldn’t be at a loss either.

Even Japan, due to war, was in need of food and cloth, so they would be able to provide silver and sulfur.


As Seonjo seemed to ponder deeply, Yi I fanned the flames.

“Your Majesty, there is nothing wrong with Sangseung’s words. Especially, information on our enemies is of utmost importance. Even in the recent Nitanggae Rebellion, if we had known the movements of our enemies in advance, we could have easily repelled them.”

“Is that so? We have no choice then. Let’s try trading with Japan.”

The best possible outcome had indeed come to pass!

I was acutely aware that a single misstep could lead me straight to being blasted by Seonjo’s purging beam, but taking such risks was essential to survive the Imjin War.

“Your grace is boundless!”

It was the moment my precarious tightrope walking began.

Butterfly Effect

Having obtained permission from Seonjo to trade, I wanted to return to Ulsan as soon as possible to prepare, but unfortunately, it is now winter.

Traveling was manageable during the mildly cool autumn, but in winter, it was perilously risky.

Once it snowed in this era, you were inevitably trapped in the mountains.

And what if you encountered a tiger in such a situation?

Meeting a tiger in the food-rich autumn was dangerous enough, but encountering one in the food-scarce winter was akin to saying, “Sorry, there’s no rice cake, but would you consider eating me instead?”

And even if I wanted to escape Hanyang immediately, I couldn’t.

Among our group, Okja-ajumma and Gyesam-ajeossi were being exploited by Seonjo.

Gyesam, the finest flying shuttle craftsman in Joseon, had gone to pass on his expertise to the craftsmen of Hanyang.

Under Okja’s guidance, a workforce skilled in weaving fabric with the flying shuttle was cultivated by those craftsmen.

Jongil-ajeossi was also busily moving around.

As soon as flying shuttles were introduced in Hanyang, he sold the looms made by Gyesam to buy food, and then summoned people to transport it to Gangwon Province.

And as soon as winter approached, my youngest uncle went hunting, hoping to catch a tiger.

Though he hadn’t caught any tigers yet, he did manage to bring back deer and wild boars, much to my second uncle’s surprise.

However, the busiest among the group was me.

This was because of Yi I seeking me out almost every day.

After morning roll call, Yi I discussed with me the direction this country should head toward.

Initially, I joined him out of pity for this soon-to-die noble, but as days passed, wasn’t this nobleman becoming obsessively attached to me?

“Ahaha, has Wonsi come?”

“Wonsi” was a nickname Yi I coined for me.[1]

Nicknames were usually self-made or given by close friends, but I got mine even before receiving my official name from my father.

Was it because I could see far into the future, perhaps?

Where else would you find someone as myopic as me to deserve such a nickname?


“Today, even the sleet is swirling around. You must have had a hard journey coming here.”

“If Your Excellency hadn’t summoned me, I wouldn’t have had to suffer at all.”

“Ahaha! Your wit is improving by the day. How could I ever give up this delight?”

Was that a serious comment?

Now, the bone-chilling cold had subsided.

It meant winter was coming to an end.

From what I knew, Yi I was supposed to have died in midwinter, so why wasn’t he dead yet?

Lately, there was even a slight rosy flush on his face, suggesting he was healthier than when we first met.

“Your Excellency, your complexion is improving day by day.”

“Ahaha, why wouldn’t it? After spending 50 years searching, I’ve finally found a jieum. Why didn’t you come to me a bit earlier? If you had, Joseon might be a slightly better place to live by now.”

That was something I regretted too.

To think I landed here 10 years before the Imjin War.

What a life!

“Have you heard that fabric has become plentiful in Hanyang recently?”

“Of course, how many goblin needles have been made by now? Even at this moment, the craftsmen of the Royal Workshop under His Majesty’s watch must be making more.”

The Royal Workshop was part of the Ministry of Public Works, one of the Six Ministries, which included craftsmen involved in handicrafts.

The development of the flying shuttle, which drastically increased textile production, gradually led to an increased supply of fabric in Hanyang.

“But as you might expect, this is akin to cutting off our own flesh.”

“Though we can gather yarn to produce fabric during the winter, come spring, there’ll be no yarn to make fabric.”

“I’ve heard Ulsan has already prepared by creating cotton fields in anticipation of this problem?”

“It’s impossible to create cotton fields in this cold Hanyang, hence the increase in the navy. At least with a navy, we could bring thread made in the warm Hasamdo region to Hanyang.”[2]

“You needn’t say it; His Majesty has already ordered an increase in the troops at Gyeongsang Left Naval District.”

Wow, Seonjo issued a royal command?

It must have been pretty urgent if it came to that.

Indeed, it was not strange for Seonjo to act this way.

It was the time when stories about the usefulness of fertilizer began to emerge throughout Joseon.

Initially, the perception of fertilizer started with skepticism, “Would that really work?” but soon changed to a realization, “Oh? This actually works?”

As the increase in harvest through the use of fertilizers became evident, the noble families started to build ships for fertilizer production.

However, the Gyeongsang Province, having started fishing a year earlier, was significantly ahead in this venture compared to the other provinces.

Even more so, because of Jongil secretly cornering the market on fibers, there arose a shortage of fibers needed to make fishing nets.

Most fishing nets were made from a mix of kudzu fibers, called Galpo, and hemp husks.

Since kudzu fibers were relatively easy to obtain in Gangwon Province, they, along with furs, became Jongil’s main products.

What about the other noble families who hadn’t entered this venture?

They were obviously biting the dust.

Given the situation, Seonjo had to protect the Gyeongsang Province, which was focusing on the production of fertilizer.

“What a relief, indeed.”

“Hadn’t you anticipated it would come to this?”

“I merely created a reason to take action.”

“You see into my heart as clearly as I see into yours. Aren’t we a perfect understanding?”

Ah, I seriously had no intention of befriending a noble who might die any day now, you know?

“I have no way to increase the production of fibers either. Ulsan anticipated this situation and began preparing a year ago, but it’s impossible to prepare for the entire Joseon.”

I was neither omniscient nor omnipotent.

Weren’t social pains accompanying technological advancements always a thing?

This was something time would solve.

“Ahaha, to think that even you are at a loss, truly puts us in a tight spot.”

I was not Doraemon.

Yi I seemed to be misunderstanding something.

“Sometimes, time is indeed the answer.”

“Ahaha, truly, you are an enigma. I have a friend named Songgang, and you are just as eccentric as he is!”


Were you referring to the gentleman with the surname “Jeong” and has an iron character for their name?[3]

To compare me with such a unique character!

King Yama, are you there?

Please take this gentleman away!

However, contrary to my expectations, Yi I didn’t die before spring arrived and vigorously carried on with his duties, eventually being promoted to the position of Prime Minister for cleanly resolving the Nitanggae Rebellion.

I realized that Yi I’s life was extended due to the butterfly effect.

[1] Wonsi can be translated to “far-sighted” in English.

[2] Hasamdo specifically means “Lower Three Provinces,” which refers to the provinces of Chungcheong, Jeolla, and Gyeongsang.

[3] I’m not even going to try to explain this word play.

From the Imjin War to the Qing Invasion

From the Imjin War to the Qing Invasion

Score 9.1
Status: Ongoing Type: Author: ,
In order to write an alternate history novel, one must study the respective era. While setting up the world of the work through studying, I fell asleep and when I woke up, I found myself in the Joseon Dynasty. Coincidentally, it matched the historical background of the novel I intended to write. The problem is, it was 10 years before the Imjin War.
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