Three Deities Faith and Distribution of Scriptures in the Late Chosŏn: Based on the Collection of Holy Spirit-Writing

Jan 29 12:00–1:30pm
Common Room (#136), 2 Divinity Ave., Cambridge

Kim Jihyun (Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Seoul National University)
Moderator: James Robson (James C. Kralik and Yunli Lou Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University)

Co-sponsored by the Korea Institute

In 1896, Chosŏn 朝鮮 Dynasty ceased to exist, thus beginning an era of the Great Korean Empire (Daehan jeguk 大韓帝國 1897-1910) in which western systems were introduced. In emulation of Meiji Japan (1868-1912), keywords in this period were “civilization (kaehwa/kaihua 開化).” The fundamental changes that occurred in this period are often explained by modernization. However, in investigating the religious history of late 19th and early 20th century Korea, ‘irrational’ factors such as divine revelations provided powerful momentum toward reformation. This talk focuses upon a previously neglected religious text, Sŏnggye jip 聖乩集 (C. Shengji ji), the Collection of Holy Spirit-writings, which reveals indigenization of Chinese religious practice as well as the quest for ‘enlightenment and reformation’ in the late Chosŏn period (17-19 centuries). In particular, I will explore the religious faith and practice with relation to Three Deities (samsŏng/sansheng 三聖), Guanyu関羽, Wenchang文昌, and Luzu呂祖 in the reign period of Kojong 高宗 (reigned 1863-1907), who had a strong will to reform the state, exploring the background of publication and distribution of various texts of the Three Deities by the command of Kojong.