Neo-Confucianism In Early Chosŏn

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Confucianism, Buddhism, Daoism and indigenous religions co-existed prior to the Chosŏn period as an important part of people’s daily lives. Confucianism served as “a governing method, and a political ideology, and an academic subject” (Choi, 2010:36), whereas Buddhism provided “a philosophical foundations of society” (Duncan, 1994:79). Confucianism played a crucial role as an impetus for social reform during the transitional period from the late Koryŏ (Goryeo) to the early Chosŏn period (Choi, 2010; Kang, 2006). In the early Chosŏn period, Confucian intellectuals pursued a modern Confucian society by introducing China’s advanced philosophy of Neo-Confucianism, deploying Neo-Confucianism as a political and ideological instrument to resolve pending…show more content…
The Neo-Confucians of the early Chosŏn organized a nationwide state-run school system because they were convinced that a moral education based on Confucian teachings would transform society. By deploying such a strategy, the time of absorbing entrenched knowledge was over some time in the beginning of the 16th century (Haboush, 1991). Although China as a country had been far more influential and dominant, Korean Neo-Confucian scholars contributed not only to the development of Chosŏn Neo-Confucianism but also to Neo-Confucian philosophy in general (Choi, 2010). By this time, the government encouraged the private academies that functioned as centers for students preparing for the civil service examination as well as research hubs for private academics (Haboush, 1991). As a consequence, both private and state schools became “an important transmitter of Confucian values in society” and the civil service examination became “a prime avenue of social mobility” (Robinson 1991:205). However, this examination system instead created many layers of yangban, the upwardly mobile newcomers forming the lower layers (Haboush, 1991). According to Haboush (1991), the nationwide public school scheme and the examinations were invented to construct a “meritocratic hierarchy”.…show more content…
Haboush (1988, quoted in Haboush, 1991:95) claims that the long established clash between the throne and bureaucracy manifested as “a competition over who better understood and achieved Confucian virtue”. The unique role of Censorate, charged with “monitoring the behavior of the monarch and bureaucrats” (Robinson, 1991:205), represents the intensity of the Confucian ethos within political customs. The Censorate appeared as “a full-fledged member along with the executive branch and the throne in a tripartite power structure” unlike in China: the censorial voice was regarded as “the conscience of the nation” and the censors were made up of a group of the brightest young bureaucrats (Haboush, 1991) . The political traditions of Chosŏn such as the recruitment of officials via the civil service examination, the Confucian curriculum in educational establishments, bureaucratic outspokenness of the censors and the power groupings of ruling elites are clear manifestations of Confucian political concepts

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