King Sejong the Great and the Cultural History of Weather, Religion and Wealth in Early Joseon Korea
King Sejong (r. 1418-1450), whose much adored image is prominently displayed on Korea’s green-colored banknote and in the middle of Gwanghwamun Square, is often, if not always, remembered and celebrated for his role in the creation of the Korean alphabet, his passion for science, and his love for the common people. This image of the much beloved king, which developed under unique historical circumstances, obscures more than it reveals. Like many others who occupied the Chosŏn throne, Sejong was a complex figure who sought creative and politically expedient ways to address concerns that continued to trouble the relatively young Chosŏn dynasty. Extreme weather conditions, sharp population growth, shifting geopolitical winds, radical environmental transformations, and resistance to the state’s encroachment on private enterprise proved to be the greatest sources of concern. As Sejong and his predecessors knew well, these concerns could not be addressed without first addressing the so-called Buddhist problem. This talk will take a close look at the growing concerns about weather, religion, and wealth in Early Chosŏn Korea and shed new light on this oft-neglected aspect of Sejong and his reign.
RSVP REQUIRED. This is a hybrid event, with in-person attendance restricted to Stanford affiliates (ID holders) ONLY ( East Asia Library Room 224), pandemic conditions permitting. Members of the public can join us for this talk via Zoom.
About the speaker:
Juhn Y Ahn is associate professor of Buddhist and Korean Studies at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor and the author of Buddhas and Ancestors: Religion and Wealth in Fourteenth-Century Korea (University of Washington Press) and Gongan Collections I, Collected Works of Korean Buddhism, Vol 7-1 (Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism). He is currently completing a full annotated translation of Venerable Seongcheol's (1912-1993) The Orthodox Path of Seon (Seonmun jeongno) and a new research monograph on wealth, weather, and Buddhism in early Chosŏn Korea.