AuthorKim, David W.
  1. Introduction

    Early modern East Asia commonly went through a domestic political trans formation during the 15th and 16th centuries. The death of Yongle Emperor ([phrase omitted], 1360-1424) of the Ming dynasty (Han Chinese, 1368-1644) caused to lose the geopolitical influence in the region of Manchuria (northeast of China), as under control of the Mongols of the Northern Yuan dynasty (1368-1635) (Fisher 1988). Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (1358-1408) of the Ashikaga shogunate united the Northern and Southern Courts during the Muromachi period (1336-1573) of Feudal Japan, but the peace did not also last (Henshall 2012). When they lost the Onin War ([phrase omitted], 1467-1477) to the daimyos ([phrase omitted], powerful Japanese magnates), the country was divided as hundreds of independent states. The chaotic Japan, further, encountered the emergence of the first Europeans (Portuguese) in 1543, who brought the musket, a muzzle-loaded long gun (Perez 1998).

    The Joseon dynasty of Korea (1392-1910) was established by Yi Seong-gye ([phrase omitted], 1335-1408) after Ming China (1368). (2) Over the course of one hundred years, the Joseon court was transformed into four different factions of political philosophy. Choruip'a ([phrase omitted]) was the group of officers who complained about the immoral conduct (leading a coup d'etat) of the 7th king Sejo ([phrase omitted], 1455-1468) over the dethronement of the 6th king Danjong ([phrase omitted], 1452-1455). They dishonored the wicked Sejo, who had forced to exile, demote and poison his young powerless nephew king (less than fifteen years old) to Yeongwol ([phrase omitted], an Eastern mountain country). (3) Ch'ongdamp'a ([phrase omitted]) was another ideological group of literary people and poets who were strongly disappointed by the political decomposition of Sejo and his followers. They were not interested in obtaining public posts but organised a comrade party located nearby Dongdaemun (modern Seoul) ([phrase omitted] or Heunginjimun [phrase omitted], Great East Gate) (Kim 2012: 155-201). (4)

    The Hun'gup'a ([phrase omitted], the meritorious elite party) (5) were descendants of meritorious families who directly advocated the domination of Sejo's sovereignty and gained the political power in the Joseon court. During the regency process of Queen Jeonghui for her grandson King Seongjong (9th king, 13 years old), they became stronger and monopolised authority in politics. The possibility of marriages with royal families connoted the growth of their influence. (6) They exploited various benefits of commerce (trade) and industry, while exhibiting a lack in or carelessness toward the philosophical dimension of Neo-Confucianism. (7) Meanwhile, a new group appeared with the abstract ideology of morality and nationalism based on the Confucian teachings. The so-called Sarimp'a ([phrase omitted], the scholarly elite party) contained those who did not become involved in the establishment of the Joseon dynasty but continually countenanced the policy of the previous Goryeo dynasty (Jeong 2005: 7-62). (8) They were the descendants of those people who dispersed to regions. (9) The Sarim scholars had a chance to be public servants from the regency time of Queen Jeonghee (1469-1475) and the reign of King Seongjong (9th: 1476-1493) (Jeong 2005: 7-62). They were mainly employed at the three government watchdog organisations. (10) The main roles of the public offices were to evaluate and indict government officials for corrupt or improper actions. They also played as official supervisors for the improper actions and policies of king and ministers (Wagner 1974: 20-27). (11)

  2. Political conflict and literati purges

    As they became the counterbalance of the royal court, the early modern Joseon experienced a socio-cultural transformation through a serious series of political purges between the two ideologically different parties of the Hun'gup'a ([phrase omitted], so-called 'the conservative group') and the Sarimp'a ([phrase omitted], 'the reformist group') (Kim 2020: 53-54). The reformative emergence of the Confucian scholars often threatened the traditional policy of the Meritorious Subjects (dominant Hun'gu party). The Sarim elites, through four major conflicts of the Yangban aristocracy, were thus brutally attacked and executed by the political plots of the Hun'gu people. Muo Sahwa ([phrase omitted], Literati Purge of 1498) occurred when public servants of the Sarimp'a harshly complained about the polices of King Seongjong (9th: 1476-1493) and King Yeonsan-gun (10th: 1494-1506) based on the fundamental teachings of Neo-Confucianism. The unreliability issue of Gim Ilson's official writings and the misapprehension of Gim Jongjik ([phrase omitted])'s Chouijemun ([phrase omitted], a ritual writing for Emperor Yi of Chu of the late Qin dynasty (221-206 BCE)) (12) caused Gim Ilson ([phrase omitted], 1464-1498), Gwon Obok ([phrase omitted], 1467-1498), Gwon Gyeongyu ([phrase omitted], ?-1498), Yi Mok ([phrase omitted], 1471-1498), and Heo Ban ([phrase omitted], ?-?) to be found the guilty of high treason and executed for their having slandered previous kings. (13)

    Six years later, Kapcha Sahwa ([phrase omitted], Literati Purge of 1504) was initiated yet again by King Yeonsan-gun; this time, however, misfortune fell on the side of senior Hun'gu politicians who were deeply involved in the process of dethroning Queen Yun Jeheon (1476-1479), the mother of Yeonsan-gun. Eom Gwiin ([phrase omitted], ?-1504) and Jeong Gwiin ([phrase omitted], ?-1504) were executed and their families were exiled and died there. When Yeonsan-gun tried to recover the honour of Yun Jeheon as Queen, the king also executed Gwon Dalsu ([phrase omitted], 1469-1504, the senior officer of the fourth court rank at Jiphyeonjeon ([phrase omitted], a royal research institute)) who disagreed with the king's intention. (14) Ulsa Sahwa ([phrase omitted], Literati Purge of 1545) was about the power game of royal maternal relatives between the people of Queen Janggyeong ([phrase omitted], 1491-1515) and Queen Munjeong ([phrase omitted], 1501-1565) (Um 2011: 107-115). Among the Sarimp'a, General Yun Im ([phrase omitted], 1487-1545), the older brother of Queen Janggyeong and Yun Won-hyeong ([phrase omitted], 1503-1565), the younger brother of Queen Munjeong, competed with each other at the royal court. Yun Im led the Daeyun groups ([phrase omitted]) supporting the 12th king, Injong ([phrase omitted], 1515-1545), but they were eventually defeated by Myeongjong, the 13th king, who was supported by Yun Won-hyeong's Soyun ([phrase omitted]) group (Lee 2013: 37-62) (Annals of King Jungjong Vol. 85, October 27, 1537). How, then, was the most critical Kimyo Sahwa ([phrase omitted], Purge of 1519) incurred? Was it merely political or more intricate? How were the national traditions of Sogyokso ([phrase omitted]) and Samch'ongjon ([phrase omitted]) embroiled in? What was the relationship of the royal family with Daoist philosophy? How was the religio-cultural landscape of Joseon between Popcho ([phrase omitted]) and Confucianism, between king and Sarimp'a, and between the Chinese teachings of Laozi ([phrase omitted], Unknown, 6th-4th century BCE) and Confucius ([phrase omitted], 551-479 BCE)?

  3. Daoist Sogyokso versus Confucian moral ideology

    When Yeonsan-gun eliminated many classical scholars through the literati purges of 1498 and 1504, the 10th king started to lose public sentiment and politicians' sympathy. His dictatorial behaviour was demonstrated through such tyrannical policies as the abolition of Kyongyon ([phrase omitted], lecturing the Confucian philosophy to king), the implementation of Shinonp'ae ([phrase omitted], the card of waring in speaking before king), making a banquet place in Sungkyunkwan ([phrase omitted], the national (Confucian) university of the era), the demolition of private houses in the 12 km area of the palace, and the abrogation of Korean (Hangeul) books. At that time, the Hun'gu faction, under the leadership of Park Won-jong ([phrase omitted], 1467-1510), Seong Hui-ahn ([phrase omitted], 1461-1513), Yoo Soon-jeong ([phrase omitted], 1459-1512) and Hong Gyeong-ju [phrase omitted], ?-1521), aroused an anti-royal coup against Yeonsan-gun and successfully replaced Jungjong ([phrase omitted], 1488-1544) as the 11th king of Joseon in 1506. Since the throne was not naturally inherited, the new king, who was only 19 years old, was controlled by the Chongguk Kongshin ([phrase omitted], Meritorious Contributors) of the Hun'gu faction. (15)

    The powerless young king promptly appointed the opposite party of Sarim elites to make a political balance and promote the Wangdo Sasang ([phrase omitted], a political philosophy of government which is based on the Confucian virtues). As they were employed at the three supervisory offices of 'Samsa' ([phrase omitted], the Three Offices of the Royal Advice), (16) the Sarim faction suggested various radical policies of large-scale reformation for the ideological society of morality (The Academy of Korean Studies 2020: 24-27, Kim 2003: 29-72). While most of the political issues were between the two factions for the power of the royal court, the abolition of Daoist Sogyokso ([phrase omitted]) and Samch' ongjon ([phrase omitted]) was a critical policy of the Sarimp'a to challenge the philosophical foundation of the king and royal family, who, based on the Popcho teaching ([phrase omitted], the traditional ruling principles of forefathers in terms of filial duty), used to respect the harmony of heaven, king, and earth (citizens). In other words, the semicoercive compulsion of Jo Gwangjo ([phrase omitted], 1482-1520) symbolically implied that the religio-philosophical conflict between the royal tradition of Taoism and the Yangban thought of Neo-Confucianism anti-thetically co-existed in the early and middle era of the Joseon dynasty (Kim 2003: 29-72).

    3.1. Taoism in Korea

    What is the origin...

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