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186 The Establishment of a New Order The Beginning of a New Dynasty The first century of the Chosŏn dynasty, which ranged from King T’aejo(1392–1398)toKingSŏngjong(1469–1494),sawanewrulingorderestablished and witnessed the dynasty’s greatest strength, prosperity, cultural brilliance , and unprecedented vitality. Inheriting the brilliant Koryŏ civilization, the Chosŏn kingdom created its own developed civilization. Chosŏn was sinicized far more than any previous Korean kingdom in terms of itsinstitutionsandculture.Withinthefirsttwocenturiesof itsreign,Chosŏn became recognized as even more sinicized than China itself. It was often called So chunghwa, or “Little China,” meaning that Chosŏn was the perfect embodiment of Chinese (“Middle Kingdom”) civilization. It was also in this period of the new dynasty when the influence of Buddhism greatly diminished. The Chosŏn kingdom launched a sweeping attack on Buddhism and its institutions, with profound and enduring effects on the character of subsequent civilization in Korea. In place of Buddhism, Confucianism, particularly Neo-Confucianism, was instituted as a state philosophy. The NeoConfucian literati managed to inculcate Confucianism throughout Chosŏn society, which had a profound effect on the position of women. As time went 6 THE FIRST HALF   OF   THE CHOSŎN PERIOD (1392–1650) The First Half of the Chosŏn Period 187 on, women were increasingly relegated to the category of the so-called naeja, or “insidepeople,”whodevotedthemselvestothedomesticchoresof childrearing and housekeeping. Confucianism is based on an ideal model of relations between family members that called for special bonds between sovereign and subject, father and son, and husband and wife, as well as five moral disciplines. Confucianism generalized the family model and relationships of subjects to the state and to an international system. In political terms, these principles meant that a village followedtheleadershipof veneratedelders,andcitizensreveredakingwhowas thought of as the father of the state. Generalized to international relations, the Chinese emperor was the big brother of the Chosŏn king. A conservative philosophy , Confucianism stressed tradition, strict social hierarchies, obedience to superiors, and identification of the father with the monarch. It adopted the proper rite as one of its major virtues and therefore paid careful attention to the performance of ritual. In the international context, it envisioned a Chinacentered world order. Yi Sŏng-gye, known by the posthumous title T’aejo, promptly sought confirmationof hisstatusbytheChineseMingemperorandeventuallyreceivedit.In 1393 he renamed the new dynasty Chosŏn, with the Ming emperor’s approval. Two names, Chosŏn and Hwaryŏng, had been presented to the Chinese, and althoughHwaryŏngwasYiSŏng-gye’sbirthplace,Chosŏnwaspresentedtothe Ming emperor based on the idea that the new dynasty would succeed Korea’s ancient state of “Old Chosŏn.” Thus the Chinese recommended Chosŏn as the name of their neighboring state. In1394thenewdynastymoveditscapitaltoHanyang(Seoul),locatedalmost in the center of the Korean peninsula. To the south of Hanyang was the Han River, which enabled the new capital to secure good facilities for water transport ,anditwassurroundedbyhighmountains,creatingaheaven-sentfortified zone. Already in the earlier Koryŏ dynasty Hanyang had been regarded as a propitious locale. King Munjong (1046–1083) elevated the city to the status of Nam-gyŏng. King Sukchong (1095–1105) constructed a palace in the town, frequentlytouringandstayingthereforseveralmonthsannually.SeveralKoryŏ kingsattempted to movethecapital tothis southern town, but thiswas blocked based on the geomantic belief that not the Wang house but the Yi house would become the master of the city. Yi Sŏng-gye finally succeeded in relocating the capital,andbuiltroyalshrines,palaces,andafortifiedwallsurroundingit,making it the center of political power. 188 A History of Korea After six years on the throne Yi Sŏng-gye wearied of the power struggles within his family and, in 1398, abdicated the throne in favor of his second son, KingChŏngjong(1398–1400).Thetransitionof powerfromtheKoryŏkingdom to the Chosŏn kingdom was relatively peaceful, with little damage to property or life. But there was a power struggle within the royal Yi family, in which Yi Pang-wŏn, the fifth son of Yi Sŏng-gye, was behind most of the plots and undertakings that had made his father the founder of the Chosŏn kingdom. He used extraordinary measures, including the assassination of political foes such as Chŏng Mong-ju, a moderate Neo-Confucian scholar-official loyal to Koryŏ, whom he killed in 1392. His father never approved his son’s aggression and cruel behavior. As soon as Yi Sŏng-gye ascended the throne, he named the youngest of his eight sons, Pang-sŏk, the crown prince, bypassing Pang-wŏn. Confounding...


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