The Civilizing Project in Medieval Korea: Neo-Classicism, Nativism, and Figurations of Power

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The Civilizing Project in Medieval Korea: Neo-Classicism, Nativism, and Figurations of Power

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Title: The Civilizing Project in Medieval Korea: Neo-Classicism, Nativism, and Figurations of Power
Author: Cha, Joohang
Citation: Cha, Joohang. 2014. The Civilizing Project in Medieval Korea: Neo-Classicism, Nativism, and Figurations of Power. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This dissertation examines the adoption and maturing of a neoclassical form of Confucianism in medieval Korea (875-1545) in relation to the long and complex roads to building a centralizing aristocratic order. In the tenth and eleventh centuries, Koryŏ (918-1392) sought to build a new type of government after overthrowing the bone-rank oligarchy of middle and late Silla (654-935), which proved irreplaceable. This institutional challenge prompted the Koryŏ court to turn to Neo-Classicism, a resurgent brand of Confucian nativism from the Northern Song (960-1127) that provided a range of ideas and blueprints for building a stable bureaucratic state. Koryŏ's Neo-Classicists envisioned a sociopolitical order in which the king and his courtiers enjoyed an institutionalized protection of their status and a recruitment system that drew staff from a pool of provincial candidates. Two bouts of reform contributed to the gradual realization of this vision. The First Wave (1046-1122) bolstered the monarchy's fiscal capacity and military capabilities, and the Second Wave (1170-1258) expanded the influence of the civil examination system to an unprecedented scale. However, the Mongol rule between 1258 and 1351 proved to be the cataclysmic moment. In a hostile environment, yangban courtiers serving both Mongol and Korean rulers perfected a patrimonial order based on patronage, marriage, and Neo-Classicist learning. The late-Koryŏ yangban completed the localization of Neo-Classicism with a new collective identity and converted Neo-Classicism into an ideology for legitimating the state's aggressive acculturation of the subject population. In 1392, the dynastic change to Chosŏn (1392-1910) happened despite the opposition of most yangban. Nonetheless, the early Chosŏn court eventually incorporated the yangban into the central bureaucracy and the late-Koryŏ Neo-Classicist ideas laid the new regime's institutional and ideological foundation.
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:12274314
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