The Black Water Dragon I

The events leading up to and opening shots of the First Great Asian War – Japanese Lord Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s ambitious plan to conquer Ming China via Joseon Korea.

Panorama of Busan on a spring day in 2012. Now the Republic of Korea’s second city, 420 years ago the sea was black with ships, the vanguard of Toyotomi Hideoyoshi’s great thrust into China. The first division landed at the pink arrow, near what is now Busan’s main train station. This picture was taken from Geumjeong Mountain, facing northeast. Close to where I took this picture – on the southwest side of the mountain – are the remains of Dongnae Fortress where Magistrate Song Sanghyeon made his last stand.

On today’s show, the lead up to and opening shots of the First Great Asian War.

There are so many pictures and maps to see! Click “Continue Reading”



Mimizuka, the "ear shrine" in Kyoto, Japan. Inside are 30-120,000 severed Korean and Chinese noses.

Mimizuka, the “ear shrine” in Kyoto, Japan. Inside are 30-120,000 severed Korean and Chinese noses.

Korean Fire Beacon Early Warning System (In better days)

The Hwacha rocket launcher. The Joseon Dynasty’s weapon of terror. Useful for defending fortress walls and firing from the commander’s tower on a Panokseon.

Test firing the Hwacha on the TV show Mythbusters . Click the picture to watch the segment on YouTube. For the TV show they just used normal arrows.

Gunpowder charge and fire tip on Korea arrows. A variety of these could be fired by bow or from the Hwacha.

The trident. A commonly used  point for a Korean spear.

Korean maces and a cavalry flail.

Korean composite bows. Accurate at a longer range than nearly any other bow in the world at this time.

A Korean Black class cannon and iron tipped bolt. Range ~500m.

The notoriously undisciplined men of the Left Jeolla Naval Command are beaten into shape and put to work on a new type of ship as Commander Yi Sun-shin reviews plans. In the background are some Panokseons – “Board Roofed Ships”. (Image credit Stephen Turnbull)

Korean ramming ship from 1415 that Commander Yi based his design on. (Image credit Stephen Turnbull)

How oars were positioned and operated on Korean warships. This is a cut-away of Commander Yi’s new ship. On Panokseon ships the oars were the same, but the cannons were on deck. (Image credit Stephen Turnbull)

The cannon armed Panokseon “Board Roofed Ship” (Image Credit Stephen Turnbull)

Artist Wayne Reynolds’ interpretation of the Panokseon in battle. (Image Credit Stephen Turnbull)

Artist Wayne Reynolds’ interpretation of Commander Jeong Pal’s last stand at Busan Castle. (Image Credit Stephen Turnbull)


The Black Water Dragon I Historical Figures – In Order of Appearance

  • Korean Magistrate of Dongnae Fortress Song Sanghyeon
  • Japanese Lord Oda Nobunaga
  • Japanese military ruler Toyotomi Hideyoshi
  • Chinese General Qi Jiguang
  • Chinese Emperor Wanli of the Ming Dynasty
  • Korean Minister Yu Seongryong
  • Korean King Seonjo of the Joseon Dynasty
  • Japanese Lords of the So Clan. Rulers of Tsushima Island.
  • Korean Great King Sejong of the Joseon Dynasty
  • Japanese Buddhist Monk Genso
  • Japanese Lord So Yoshitoshi of Tsushima Island aka Dario.
  • Korean Minister Kim Songil
  • Korean Minister Hwang Yungil
  • Korean Jeolla Province Left Naval Commander Yi Sunshin
  • Korean Shipbuilder Na Daeyong.
  • Japanese First Division Commander Lord Konishi Yukinaga aka Augustin.
  • Japanese Second Division Commander Kato Kiyomasa
  • Japanese Third Division Commander Kuroda Nagamasa
  • Korean Minister Sin Ip
  • Korean Minister Yi Il
  • Korean Commander of Busan City Garrison Jeong Pal
  • Korean Gyeongsang Province Left Naval Commander Pak Hong
  • Korean Gyeongsang Province Right Naval Commander Won Gyun
  • Korean Gyeongsang Provincial Army Commander Yi Kak
  • Korean Jeolla Province Right Naval Commander Yi Eokgi

3 thoughts on “The Black Water Dragon I

  1. Pingback: The Imjin War – Interview with Samuel Hawley | Topics In Korean History Podcast

  2. Milliaw Ozzaib

    Try also the 104 part series “Immortal Admiral Yi Soon-shin” by KBS television, from 2004. Supposed accuracy is disputed in some parts, but excellent discussion of strategy and tactics used, with excellent battle scenes.


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