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  • 조선시대 재난과 국가의례. Chosŏn sidae chaenan kwa kukka ŭirye [Calamities and state rituals in Chosŏn Korea]by 이욱 Lee Wook
  • Kye Seung-bum
조선시대 재난과 국가의례. Chosŏn sidae chaenan kwa kukka ŭirye [Calamities and state rituals in Chosŏn Korea]. By 이욱 Lee Wook , Kyŏnggi-do, P’aju-si: Changbi, 2009, 420p.

Chosŏn sidae chaenan kwa kukka ŭiryedocuments the state rituals of the Chosŏn dynasty (1392–1910), which succeeded the Buddhist Koryŏ dynasty (918–1392) around the turn of the fourteenth century and steadily rebuilt Korea as a Confucian society. The study focuses on religious and ritualistic state reactions to a variety of disasters in the form of kiyang ŭirye, or rites of affliction. In so doing, it sheds light on the ways in which Chosŏn’s central authorities coped ritualistically with natural disasters, such as drought, flood, famine, and epidemic, as well as how they undertook the process of abolishing Buddhist and indigenous rituals in order to replace them with Confucian ones imported from China. The rites of affliction performed by the state authority of Chosŏn Korea were divided into two types according to the purpose, kigo ŭiryeand yangjae ŭirye. While the former was designed to pray for benevolent spiritual powers capable of stopping such disasters as drought and flood, the latter was aimed at repelling those bad spiritual powers which were seen as the cause of disasters, such as epidemics. More specifically, the author focuses his discussion on two different rituals: the kiuje, a ritual for rain, as the archetype of kigo ŭirye, and the yŏje, a ritual for consoling and treating the souls of the dead, as an example of yangjae ŭirye.

The book consists of six chapters, including the introduction (Chapter One) and conclusion (Chapter Six). In Chapter Two, the author examines the remarkable change in state rituals that occurred during the Koryŏ-Chosŏn transition period and characterizes this change as the Confucianization of state rituals. Chapter Three examines the state ritual for rain, which is discussed from a diachronic perspective, covering about four centuries from the early fifteenth to the late eighteenth centuries, focusing on a variety of ritual sites and their spatiotemporal meanings. Presenting further cases of kigo ŭirye, Chapter Four looks [End Page 189]at Ch’in’gyŏngnye, literally, “a royal demonstration of land cultivation.” Specifically, the author focuses on the kigokche, a ritual for good harvest, which was performed during the non-religious Ch’in’gyŏngnyerite. Chapter Five delves into the performance of the exorcistic yangjae ŭirye. In one example, the author closely examines the yŏje, during which the principal performers console the spirits of victims of infectious disease, wars, or criminal judgments, as their perturbed souls were believed to have caused subsequent disasters.

By dealing with the details of each ritual, as well as providing a macroscopic survey of state rituals from a variety of perspectives, this book provides readers, even those who are not very familiar with Confucian rituals, with the opportunity for improving their understanding of the rituals performed in Chosŏn Korea and their religious and historical meanings. The author draws upon almost all preexisting studies and interpretations of Chosŏn state rituals as well as primary sources, and develops his own analysis and diachronic interpretations thereof, encompassing both the details of the state rituals and their functions in the Confucian transformation of Chosŏn Korea. In this sense, this book provides a well-organized analysis and interpretation of the state rituals of traditional Korea, a Confucian society to the core, whose target readers will be not only religious scientists well-versed in the Confucian rituals of traditional East Asia, but any scholar or student interested in Korean studies.

Some points that the author posits in this book, however, should be reassessed and discussed in various respects. First, when classifying the rites of affliction into two different types, kigo ŭiryeand yangjae ŭirye, the author conceptualizes the latter as a ritual aimed at repelling bad spiritual powers (p. 73). He holds up the yŏjeas an example of this, expanding upon it. According to the author, however, the yŏjerite was designed to console and...


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