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Past, Civilization, and China in Late Royal Korea

Pre-modern Korea Workshop

Wednesday, May 23, 2007
3:30 PM - 5:30 PM
10367 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095

"Kija with Qizi: Re-packing Antiquity and Civilization in Late Choson Korea"
Jeong-Il Lee, Ph.D candidate

"Living in the Past: Korean Memory of Ming China"
Dr. Kye, visiting professor

As well known, China in pre-modern times had been a strong state sufficient to claim its geopolitical and cultural centrality via-a-vis other neighboring areas. For centuries, whether or not governed by non-Han Chinese foreign dynasties, this Sino-centric authority for the imperial power and civilization remained influential practically in the unfolding of pre-modern East Asian History had the Koryo (918-1392) and Choson (1392-1910) states in endeavor to integrate the fragmented yet semi-autonomous forces/competitors in localities and to establish a solid legitimacy of their own over their territory. In the process, the development of civil governance or cultural policy became one of the most significant projects for them to consummate the above objective of maintaining diplomatic stability and domestic order together. Civilization, geopolitics, and government in the Sino-Korean relations were not easily seperable from one another.

The emergence of the Manchu dynasty, or Qing China, in the mid-seventeenth century had little do capsize the fundamental structure of the existent power relations aforementioned. As in the case of Yuan (1271-1368), the foreign dominance over the middle continent and ownership of the great civilization in the outfit of an Imperial China (Zhongguo) was not the unprecedented event. Yet, noticable is the close relationship of the Choson state with the erstwhile Ming China, both of whom had shared the practical necessity of co-operation in cultural and geopolitical frontlines against the surrounding nomadic/maritime forces. The spread of Confucianism and the implement of Ming Sezerianship was the combined effort of the Choson ruling class to participate in the Sino-centric world system and to strengthen their sociopolitical power. Under the Qing hegemmony that continued into the first half of the nineteenth century in East Asia, they started mounting various ideological propagandas to internalize their subjection to the Manchu dominance and to maintain their power in pursuit of a civilized order in late Choson.

In light of this, " Kija with Qizi: Repacking Antiquity and Civilization in Late Choson Korea" and "Living in the Past: Korean Memory of Ming China" examine the public memory of the late Ming in contemporary Choson and the historicity/longevity of a Confucian civilization in ancient Choson, and chart one of the ways in which the discourses on civilization and the practice of powere relations overlapped in pre-modern East Asian states. Given the growing presence of a strong China in modern times, the works presented here will also help us to comprehend the intense intersection of cultural exchange and geopolitical engagement among them from a 'historical' perspective.

Sponsor(s): Center for Korean Studies, Asian Languages & Cultures

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