The Confucianization of Korea may be regarded as a steady process that continued throughout the Chosŏn period, constantly extending its influence to new layers of the population. From the outset this provoked various forms of Buddhist apologetics. Eminent priests like Kihwa (1376–1433) and Hyujŏng (1520–1604) argued for the fundamental compatibility of Buddhism and Confucianism. The Confucian social ethics emphasizing filial piety and loyalty to the monarchy were fully accepted by Buddhists and by the 18th-century a situation had come about in which Buddhist kasa songs were a major conduit for the propagation and maintenance of Confucian values. All this may be regarded as testimony to the relentless Confucianization of Chosŏn. The question arises, however, what exactly is the meaning of this “Confucianization.” The argument of this essay is that the appropriation of Confucian social values by Buddhism (as well as, for instance, by shamans and adherents of the cult of Guan Yu) by the 19th century actually had weakened Confucianism as an institutional faith by undercutting its hegemonic claims. In this way, Buddhism opened the way for Christianity (and native new religions) even before the country was formally opened for missionary activities.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 105-116
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.