The Chosun Dynasty was a period of “confucianization”

The Choson Dynasty is a period of “confucianization” according to Dr. Haboush’s article. Discuss three particular aspects of confucianization by linking it to a film, sections from Korea Old and New, or by contrasting it to the Koryo Dynasty (using Duncan’s article).

After overthrowing the Koryo Dynasty, Yi Songgye and his Neo-Confucian supporters founded the Chosun Dynasty, where a period of “Confucianization” began. The three particular aspects in Korea where confucianization occurred were in the government, in funerary practices, and in women’s rights.

First, the government was heavily influenced by confucianization. Unlike the Koryo Dynasty, which drew its legitimacy from Buddhism, geomancy and marriage, the Chosun dynasty drew their support from Neo-Confucianism. However, the bureaucratic pres-sures exerted on the monarchy during the Koryo Dynasty were strengthened during the Chosun period because all government decisions had to be debated and justified by Con-fucian rhetoric, which led to a rivalry between the throne and the bureaucracy based on who can best realize Confucian ideals. Moreover, the Censorate gained greater influence in the government with its power of investigating corruption and confirming state ap-pointments, which brought accountability to the state while crippling the decision-making process (Eckert, Lee, 110). These struggles between the bureaucracy and the throne led to four literati purges that involved Chosun kings either removing or executing literati who accused the state of corruption or tried to impose Neo-Confucian norms that threat-ened the monarchy (Eckert, Lee, 136-139).

Another area of society that was affected by “Confucianization” affected were funer-ary practices, which were altered to suit Confucian norms. During the Koryo period, Koreans followed Buddhist funerary practices by cremating the dead, as depicted in “Why Has Bodhi-Dharma Left for the East?” until it was outlawed by the Chosun government in 1474 since it was against Confucian norms. In 1401, the Confucian funeral rites and ancestor worship were codified into law to discourage non-Confucian traditions and proliferated when it was adopted by the yangban. Koreans eventually accepted these rituals because ancestor worship was compatible with the Buddhist belief that ancestors’ souls needed continuous support by its descendants and because it was practiced by elites, which made Confucian funerary practices a status symbol.

A third area influenced by confucianization was women’s rights. According to native Korean tradition, daughters were considered full-fledged heirs, women can remarry and Koryo-era women have equal claim to property. However, under the Kyongguk Taejon, only sons from wives or concubines were considered ritual heirs, the ritual heirs gets one and a half times more property than his siblings, and children of remarried women were denied state positions. Additionally, the state not only created laws that restricted women to the domestic sphere, it glorified women who conformed to Confucian values and pro-moted literature that taught them to be submissive, diligent, frugal, and devoted to their in-laws. One of the most popular Confucian stories is “Chunhyang”, a morality play that was used to indoctrinate women to adhere to Confucian values by glorifying the heroine for upholding Confucian values under adversity and for attacking un-Confucian ideals.

In short, confucianization had significant impact on the state, on funerary practices, and on women’s rights. First, the bureaucracy was strengthened which empowered the literati at the expense of threatening the monarchy. Second, funerary practices had to be changed, which also altered Korean attitudes towards the dead. Last, women’s rights were gradually phased out as Confucianism gained greater prominence in society.


4 thoughts on “The Chosun Dynasty was a period of “confucianization”

  1. Cremation during Koryo Dynasty (based on Buddhism)
    since there was “a change in funerary rituals” in the Chosun Dyn. was cremation outlawed and now today,only burial is the ritual? unclear on this

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