With emphasis on the Korean performance at a special altar designed to pay tribute to the memory of Ming emperors, this paper looks at the way in which Korean elites under Manchu dominance recalled Ming China and actually summoned the ghosts of Ming emperors unto their political stage. From the early sixteenth century, Ming China had been honored in Chosŏn as the suzerain-father, with the result that the Ming became the object for Chosŏn filial piety as well as loyalty. Chosŏn’s submission to the Manchus in 1637, however, forced an ideological crisis upon the Chosŏn leadership since the country’s compromise with the Manchus meant that the Chosŏn king and court officials had violated two primary Confucian values, those of loyalty and filial piety, on which the ruling mechanism of the dynasty had been based. The establishment of the Altar of Great Gratitude (Taebodan) within a Chosŏn royal palace in 1704 was designed to offset the violation and visibly demonstrate Chosŏn’s righteous obligations to the fallen Ming regardless of the real geopolitical circumstances. Thereafter, Chosŏn kings regularly performed sacrifices for three Ming emperors on the anniversaries of those emperors’ deaths. These rituals continued until Seoul was occupied by the Japanese in 1894 on the eve of the Sino-Japanese War, implying that mainstream Chosŏn elites under Manchu dominance still sought to live spiritually under an imaginary Ming order.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 71-88
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.