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Neo Confucianism Essay

1081 words - 4 pages

Neo-Confucianism, with a goal of keeping unobscured the inborn luminous Virtue [true goodness] of all men throughout the empire[1] and thus establishing a social harmony, was a complex ethical political system governing the society in late Ming China. Adopting the philosophy as their ideological legitimacy, Choson kingdom and Tokugawa shogunate applied it in different settings due to their structure of government and cultural background. However, they both inherited the main elements of the philosophy: the notion of universal principle encouraging people to behave good, five virtues[2], self-cultivation and five hierarchical relationships of society[3]. By means of traditions, rituals, laws, publications, educational institutions and many more, the philosophy was imbibed in the lives of Choson court and Tokugawa samurai. Yet, as it was in Ming China, the governments of these two realms could not always “control the interests of its people”[4] and make them adhere to the ideology. Complex situations of life together with the fallibility of human nature making people unable to always lead intellectual, moral and aloof life[5] led to gaps between the philosophy and its experiences.

The court of Choson kingdom, where the very state orthodoxy should be practiced in its highest level, was ironically also a haven for its conflicts.

Extended royal family lived together in the court and exercised filial piety among each other: devotion between all family members including mourning for deceased ones and visits to the ancestral tombs. Lady Hyegyong, in her memoirs, noted many examples of genuine filial devotion in the royal family; that of King Yongjo himself preparing medicine for his ill stepmother, Queen Dowager Inwon[6], and the same done to Lady Hyegyong by her son, King Chongjo[7], when she was ill, and Prince Sado’s heartfelt mourning for his deceased sisters and Queen Chongsong, and that of Lady Sonhui, after Prince Sado’s death, caring the Grand Heir[8] meticulously though she was old in age then. These examples are not problematic for it shows only filiality, by itself, without any overlapping duties, being practiced. Exceptional was the case of King Yongjo and Prince Sado for both of whom bore the responsibilities of present and future king on themselves as well as the roles of being a filial parent and a child. It is evident from the facts- that King Yongjo, previously anxious of not having an heir, exclaimed at Prince Sado’s birth that he finally then had a face to meet his ancestors,[9] and that he further established his new born son as an heir apparent when he was only fourteen months old- how much responsibility King Yongjo put on his son. Further steps of preparing the future king continued. He never saw his son how fathers see their sons, rather, he was concerned on how the future king of Choson kingdom should be. While on the other side, Prince Sado, only a child, never having a chance to spend enough time with his parents and to...

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