Translator: Timothy V. Atkinson
Publisher: Dolbegae Publishers
Pages: 307pp / 225*175mm
Pub Date: July 2004
Category: Korean Studies > History, Atlas, Geography
Written in English Only
This book is the culmination of exhaustive research on diverse primary sources that provide a rare look at how the Joseon Dynasty kings and queens actually lived. (Joseon Dynasty: 1392-1910) Author Shin Myung-ho explains that Joseon Dynasty monarchs were supposed to follow very strict orthodox neo-Confucian precepts that, for example, the ruler should lead an exemplary life in order to project civilizing influences on society. In addition, the neo-Confucian hierarchical system was such that the Joseon kings were ritually subordinate to the Chinese emperors. Interestingly, the Chinese recognized Joseon as the state of propriety in East Asia (dongbang yeuijiguk)- and the Joseon elite, including the royal family, were proud of this acknowledgement. Readers can surmise that the civilizing influence practiced by the Joseon royal family had a stabilizing effect and enabled the Yi dynastic family to sustain power for more than 500 years.
This book is divided into seven categories: "The KingĄ¯s Governing Role: Symbol of Absolute Power"; "The Role and Life of the Queen: the 'State Mother'"; "The Life of the Royal Family"; "The Palatial Residences"; "Customs Related to the Deaths of Kings and Queens"; "Palace rites to Ancestral Spirits"; and "Tradition of Historiography for the Joseon Kings and Royal Family."
This book also cites hundreds of pages of valuable documents, including those related to the four ceremonial rites of passage that are still practiced in contemporary Korean society: coming-of-age, marriage, funeral, and ancestor worship. The influence is perhaps stronger in present-day North Korea, rather than the South, which is possible because the North has remained as isolated as the hermit kingdom of a century ago. Even today, North Korea still prefers to refer to their state as "Joseon."
Most of the key concepts discussed here are included as part of an extensive glossary of Chinese character terms. With its comprehensive look at royal court life during the Joseon dynasty, this book is a valuable addition to the field of Korean studies.