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World Ch. Schedule : WED 09:05 KST

* Date : 2010-12-26

Korean Confucianism: Bridging the Past and Present
 









 

Young Confucian scholars in Sungkyunkwan
Young Confucian scholars have come to Sungkyunkwan on a rainy autumn day. These elementary school students will spend two days at Sungkyunkwan, the highest educational institute in the Joseon era, to learn about Confucianism and the life of renowned Confucian scholar Yulgok Yi I. Although clad in the traditional garb of a Confucian scholar, the children cannot put down their cell phones. But little by little, they learn the basic teachings of Confucius and how to live like a respectable human being. Originated 2,500 years ago in China by Confucius, Confucianism bridges Korea's past and present.


Confucianism survives the city's transformation from Hanyang to Seoul
Seoul, the capital city of Korea, is widely known as a symbol of phenomenal economic growth. Nonetheless, the city still retains many vestiges of the Joseon Dynasty, which had adopted Confucianism as its governing philosophy. Confucian teaching tells us that a human being must follow five moral principles - benevolence, justice, courtesy, wisdom and trust. Joseon incorporated these five principles in the construction of the four main gates into its capital and placement of the royal ancestral shrine and the ceremonial altar in the palace. Established in 1398 to teach Confucian ideology, Sungkyunkwan has now evolved into a four-year university still educating today's young people about Confucianism. Korean Confucianism is not a remnant of the past found in ancient books, but a way of life thriving in today's modern society.


Keepers of original Confucian culture
Every spring and fall Sungkyunkwan hosts seokjeon daeje, a ritual marking the achievements of Confucius and other noted Confucian scholars. The ritual is presumed to have taken place since the Three Kingdoms era, when Confucian scriptures were first introduced in Korea. The original protocols of seokjeon daeje, which were completed in the Joseon era and cover ceremonial procedures, costumes and music, are still observed today. It is more than just a ritualistic ceremony. It is a comprehensive art form replete with music and dance. Participants of seokjeon daeje are ordinary people recommended by local Confucian schools. They undergo three days of hard training to perfectly reenact the ritual, from walking and bowing to offering sacrifices. Jo Ki-won, an ordinary Korean, is one of the chosen few. These Koreans take part in the ceremony, hoping they will be enlightened and that the Confucian philosophy of respecting others will spread to other communities and future generations. Their participation is a testimony to the continuation of Korean Confucianism.


The world recognizes Korean Confucian culture
The main ancestral residence of the Andong Kwon family. The family's most treasured heirloom is Confucian wood blocks. The elders of the Gyeongju Lee family have gathered to discuss the donation of the family's wooden blocks. Long kept in the vaults of individual noble families, these wooden blocks were engraved with Confucian values and descriptions of Confucian society in the Joseon era to be passed down to later generations. To boost the cultural value of these Confucian wooden printing blocks, the Korean Studies Advancement Center has been driving a campaign to collect 100,000 of them for the past ten years. So far, 60,000 blocks have been collected. Members of UNESCO's Memory of the World review committee came to Andong as the world began to recognize the Confucian wooden blocks as a precious cultural heritage. After seeing the countless wooden blocks stored at the Korean Studies Advancement Center and touring the ancestral home of renowned Confucian scholar Toegye Yi Hwang, officials were moved by how Confucianism is alive and well in Korea.


Confucianism blossoms in a festival
The World Confucianism Festival was held from June to October of 2010. Under the theme of "Respect people and love the world," the festival took place at nine locations in North Gyeongsang Province. The Confucianism-themed tourism and cultural festival is Korea's first attempt at commercializing Confucian culture and popularizing Confucianism. Visitors were treated to a wide variety of cultural contents, such as music concerts held in ancient homes, re-creation of recipes from a centuries-old cookbook, a poem composition contest and a musical performed against the natural backdrop of scenic Mungyeongsaejae. Confucianism is shedding its image as a difficult and archaic academic discipline and now approaching the general population as a cultural phenomenon to be enjoyed by all.


Bridging the past and present, Korea is preserving, learning and publicizing Confucianism.
Confucianism teaches how to live a more fulfilling life as a human being
and what we must do to enjoy a happier future.

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