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The Evolution of Confucian Landscape in the Andong Cultural Region of Korea: Universalism or Particularism?

By Je-Hun Ryu, Korea National University of Education/ Korea Colloquium Series

Thursday, April 08, 2010
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095

It is generally known that (private) academies are heavily concentrated in the so-called Andong cultural region, or in the upper reaches of the Naktong River. This region is the ancestral home of many yangban families that not only influenced the locality but also the whole country. From the Neo-Confucian perspective, there were many sites in the region suitable for studying Confucianism through self-reflection. The physical (topographical) conditions and the sage named T’oegye were responsible for the relative concentration of academies in the region. Depending on the spatial pattern of diffusion, the developmental process of academies in the region can be divided into three stages: the original, transformative and restorative.

In the original stage, the main way to justify the location of an academy was to infuse the site with meaning by linking the famous scholars both in space and time. The geographical connections of the scholars to the sites of study or retreat often justified the location of academies. It is the enshrined scholars who added sacredness to the site. Increasingly, in the transformative and restorative stages, lineage connection rather than geographical connection and scholarly achievement became an important factor in the foundation of academy shrines. Hence, in the construction of an academy, the religious and intellectual justification for shrine-building sometimes became a controversial issue. Instances of contention also occurred among different groups over the same site that eventually led to territorial division.

Neo-Confucianism, as it has been practiced with academies in the Andong cultural region, seems to share characteristics in common with those religions that bind people firmly to a place. The academy has eventually turned from a place open to any lineage groups into a place only open to one or more lineage groups. Neo-Confucianism, originally being claimed to be a universal ideology, has been increasingly practiced as a particularism within regional and local boundaries. Neo-Confucianism is a place-bound religion that has encouraged love for one’s own lineage and hostility to others. The academy is a landscape of high visibility and public significance that has served to enhance a sense of lineage identity. It has encouraged the lineage’s loyalty to its own territory.

Je-Hun Ryu:
Professor, 1987-2010, Department of Geography, Korea National University of Education
Visiting Professor, 2002-2003 (Center for Korean Studies, UCLA)
Visiting Professor, 2003-2004 (Department of Geography, UCLA)
Visiting Professor, 1996-1997 (Center for Chinese Historical Geography, Fudan University, China)
Publication in English: Reading the Korean Cultural Landscape(2000); several articles(2005; 2006; 2007)

Lecture is open to the public.

Cost : Free


Sponsor(s): Center for Korean Studies

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