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The Choson Dynasty, also known as the Yi Dynasty, has long been celebrated for its artistic, scientific and intellectual achievements, including the 1443 invention of the Korean alphabet (han'gul) by the greatest of all Choson kings, King Sejong. The Choson Dynasty, which means the kingdom of morning serenity, is one of modern history's longest dynastic rules, lasting over 500 years. This achievement is even more impressive in light of Korea's strategic and, some might say, precarious geopolitical location at the center of the East Asian corridor.

How did Korea achieve such political stability? What social forces were at work? The Choson Dynasty adopted Confucianism as its state religion and developed concomitant social structures, ultimately establishing cultural values, which supported continuous dynastic rule.

These cultural values of the Choson Dynasty, centerpieces to the Ch'unhyang story, still resonant in contemporary Korean life. The idea of an interdependent, collective self rather than an independent, autonomous self, of role dedication rather than self-fulfillment, and the privileging of harmony and order over justice or progress are all typically Confucian cultural values that have carried over from the Choson era into the present.

Choson Dynasty officially began in 1392 when Yi Songgye, an army general, was declared king, following his successful coup against the Koryo government. With the support of Neo-Confucian scholar-officials, he and the twenty-six Yi kings that followed him adopted and enforced the principles of Confucianism, a belief system founded by the Chinese philosopher Confucius, as the for guide their actions as well as virtually every citizen of their dynasty.

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Kisaeng Farmer Pobusang
Read an in-depth explanation of the impact of Neo-Confucian thought on Choson society and of the social context in which the Ch'unhyang story emerged.


Copyright © 2002 East Rock Institute. All rights reserved. Project Director Hesung Chun Koh. Funding from the Korea Foundation. Distribution in cooperation with ICU of Ewha Womans University.