Making Myth, History, and an Ancient Religion in Korea
CitationKim, Nuri. 2017. Making Myth, History, and an Ancient Religion in Korea. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation traces the history of the myth of Tan’gun, Korea’s founding father, from its first known appearance in the thirteenth century to the modern era. It examines how the myth developed along numerous trajectories, how these intersected in the early twentieth century, and how this confluence resulted in new religious movements and historiographical practices that significantly reimagined Korea’s spiritual and historical past. The study shows that far from being a domestic affair, the process was transnational in nature as the myth was appropriated and reinvented by Japanese (since the late sixteenth century) and Westerners (since the late nineteenth century) before Koreans turned Tan’gun into the premier symbol of the Korean nation. The religion that emerged out of this (called Taejonggyo, “Religion of the Great Ancestral Divinity”) presented itself as an ancient indigenous tradition and sought to endow the Korean nation with a grand history as well as a noble spiritual heritage. As such, the religion played an important role in shaping the contours of Korean self-understandings and historiographical practices. In particular, this dissertation demonstrates that the religion’s historical writings gave birth to the genre of “fringe history” or “pseudo-history” whose impact far exceeded the bounds of the religion, even challenging mainstream academic scholarship. In doing so, the study illustrates the persisting importance of mythology and religious symbolisms in the Korean nationalist imaginary as well as the frictions and contests they cause.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41140212
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