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Salvation through Dissent

Salvation through Dissent: Tonghak Heterodoxy and Early Modern Korea

George L. Kallander
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    Salvation through Dissent
    Book Description:

    A popular teaching that combined elements of Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism, folk beliefs, and Catholicism, Tonghak (Eastern Learning) is best known for its involvement in a rebellion that touched off the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) and accelerated Japanese involvement in Korea. Through a careful reading of sources-including religious works and biographies many of which are translated and annotated here into English for the first time-Salvation through Dissenttraces Tonghak's rise amidst the debates over orthodoxy and heterodoxy in Chosŏn Korea (1392-1910) and its impact on religious and political identity from 1860 to 1906. It argues that the teachings of founder Ch'oe Cheu (1824-1864) attracted a large following among rural Koreans by offering them spiritual and material promises to relieve conditions such as poverty and disease and provided consolation in a tense geo-political climate. Following Ch'oe Cheu's martyrdom, his successors reshaped Tonghak doctrine and practice not only to ensure the survival of the religious community, but also address shifting socio-political needs. Their call for religious and social reforms led to an uprising in 1894 and subsequent military intervention by China and Japan.The work locates the origins of Korea's twentieth-century religious nationalist movement in the aftermath of the 1894 rebellion, the resurgence of Japanese power after the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), and the re-creation of Tonghak as Ch'ŏngogyo (the Religion of the Heavenly Way) in 1905. As a study of religion and politics,Salvation through Dissentadds a new layer of understanding to Korea's changing interactions with the world and the world's involvement with Korea. In addition to students and scholars of Korea's early modern period, it will appeal to those interested in global politics, Chinese and Japanese studies, world religion, international relations, and peasant history. The extensive, annotated translations will be of particular use in courses on Korea, East Asia, and global religion.3 maps

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-3786-0
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xxvi)

    Tonghak, or Eastern Learning, was a Korean religion founded in the second half of the nineteenth century. Tonghak may also be read as “Korean Learning” because, before the twentieth century, Korean writers often referred to the Choson dynasty as “the eastern country”(tongguk)in geographical relation to China. As a local religious response with national and international import, the teaching first promised spiritual and physical renewal and then culminated in an armed uprising. As believers developed a particular consciousness as a community, they posed a threat to the state monopoly on religion. In the wake of faith-based movements in China,...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Securing the People: Orthodoxy, Heterodoxy, and the Confucian State
    (pp. 1-27)

    In 1796, a Korean envoy returning from Beijing reported that a religious rebellion had broken out in China: “It is named the White Lotus, and the leader is called their religious master. He incites the foolish commoners through his evil methods and dazzles them.” Another diplomat condescendingly concurred: “The so-called White Lotus, Red Lotus, and Blue Lotus titles mean that they are bandits and thieves.” A third report was concerned with the widespread nature of the uprising: “The so-called heretic rebels . . . have spread to Sichuan, Shaanxi, Hubei, and Henan provinces, and it is said that the livelihoods...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Uncertain Times, Uncertain Means: Rural Life, Western Ways, and Ch’oe Cheu
    (pp. 28-57)

    Over the course of the nineteenth century, Catholics and Tonghak followers demonstrated the limits of centralized governance and its attempt to regulate religious expression as they continued to spread their teachings and worship in private spaces. While the Catholic community came into a direct conflict with the state, Tonghak hoped to negotiate the laissez-faire policies of King Ch’ŏlchong’s reign (r. 1849–1863). In this context, Ch’oe Cheu’s early writings offered advice on coping with some of the hardships in the southeast by describing the solutions he had found for himself and his family. As these lessons evolved into a religious...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Kumi Mountain: Center of the World, 1861–1863
    (pp. 58-89)

    Drawing on a strong education, a sense of rural pride, and his exposure to Catholicism, Ch’oe Cheu began turning away from Qing China as the center of cultural authority and building on the Sinic Three Teachings of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism to found a program of learning that centered on the Korean peninsula. Ch’oe’s works referenced many aspects of pre-Qing philosophy and literature. Granted, this was a practice very common among educated scholars, but in making these references, he engaged with a large body of scholarship full of meaning and symbolism that transcended the contemporary China of his day. Through...

  8. CHAPTER 4 The Tonghaks Have Again Arisen, 1864–1894
    (pp. 90-123)

    A letter from the missionary Siméon-François Berneux (1814–1866) to the Missions-Étrangers in France described Kyŏngsang Province in late 1863 as “the only district that had serious harassment [of Christians].” Mon seigneur d’Acones (d. 1866), who was working in Kyŏngsang at the time, explained to Berneux that local officials had fostered a climate of religious persecution when they launched a search for followers of a sect named “tong-hac(doctrine de l’Orient)–to distinguish themselves from the Christian designation under the namesen-hac(doctrine de l’Occident) . . . [allowing officials to profit] from this occasion by taking money and fulfilling...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Another Tonghak Revolution, 1904–1907
    (pp. 124-146)

    At the end of 1905, Son Pyŏnghŭi announced the inception of Ch’ŏndogyo, or Religion of the Heavenly Way, named after a line extracted from Ch’oe Cheu’sSpreading Virtue(P’odŏngmun), in the Korean daily papersTaehan maeil sinboand theCheguk sinmun: “Our teaching has its origin in the way of heaven and it is called Ch’ŏndogyo. Founded forty-six years ago [in 1860], the believers were numerous and widely spread out. The church was carefully built up, but unfortunately it was not allowed to practice openly. Today’s scholars elucidate how the natural beliefs of each religion make up all the countries...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 147-154)

    In 1907, a year after the founding of Ch’ŏndogyo, Pak Hyŏngch’ae, a Tonghak follower and scholar in Seoul, petitioned the king about removing the ban against the status of Tonghak: “As for Ch’oe Cheu who was executed as the leader of Tonghak in the cyclical yearkapcha[1864] and Ch’oe Sihyŏng who was killed in the year ofmusul[1898] because they disturbed the correct way and were wicked, they were executed as a consequence of following the laws of the times. But later scholars frequently explored their scholarship and researched their origins, and they understood that the name ‘Eastern...

  11. Translations

    • Eastern Scripture
      (pp. 157-176)

      From remote antiquity on, spring and autumn have replaced each other year after year, and the four seasons have come and gone. These have been unchanging phenomena and, indeed, signs of God’s transformations[chohwa]revealing apparently everything under heaven.

      The unenlightened masses do not recognize the grace of the wind or dew, but instead they believe such things just happen without anything or anyone making them happen.¹

      From the time of the five emperors,² sages were born, and they have been recording the movements of the sun, the moon, and the stars, and establishing the numerous measuring systems in the...

    • Selections from Songs of Yongdam
      (pp. 177-188)

      My children, sons and nephew, respectfully receive my writing. Everyone, including you, is born of the five phases and formed by the three fundamental principles. For twenty years, you have grown up in a prosperous family, partaking of the five moral relationships.¹ When I see that your behavior² has been trouble free, I know it is a happy occasion. I have raised you without any occupation, so is this not both joy and sorrow?

      I have also thought vividly of all that has passed since my childhood. I have performed the countless affairs of humanity, and that is all I...

    • Selections from Master Haewŏl’s Discussion on the Teachings
      (pp. 189-197)

      Heaven and earth are parents.¹ Parents are heaven and earth. Heaven, earth, and parents are one body. The pregnancy of parents is the pregnancy of heaven and earth. Nowadays, people only know the principle of the pregnancy of parents, and they do not know the principle and life force of the pregnancy of heaven and earth.

      Heaven covers and earth carries; if it is not morality, what else might it be? The sun and the moon shine; if it is not grace, what else might it be? All beings are transformed and born; if it is not the transformation of...

    • Ch’oe Sihyŏng’s Petitions
      (pp. 198-200)

      There are three religious teachings. Confucianism began with the period of five august emperors and three wise kings, and it was passed down to the Duke of Zhou and Master Confucius. Confucius carried on the ancient sages and brought back their learning. Human relations illuminate the superior, teaching transforms the inferior, and this has been the religion of China for over four thousand years. Buddhism was established in India, the twenty-seventh ancestor carried it to Zhendan [an ancient Indian name for China], and the sixth ancestor offered compassion and mercy, observed the Buddha nature and saw the mind, and rescued...

    • Account of the Origin of the Way
      (pp. 201-220)

      The family name of our Master¹ was Ch’oe. His personal name was Cheu, and his familiar name was Sŏngmuk. Further, his honorary title was Suun Che. His hometown was Kyŏngju. He was the son of the rural literati Ch’oe Ok and the sixth descendant of the loyal military officer Ch’oe Chillip.² He was born in Kyŏngju, Kajŏngni, in the Kagyŏng era,³ twenty-eighth day of the tenth lunar month, cyclical yearkapsin[18 December 1824]. When he was born, heaven was extremely clear, and the sun and moon shone brightly. Propitious clouds encircled his home, and it is said a strange...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 221-270)
  13. Glossary of Names, Terms, and Phrases
    (pp. 271-284)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 285-302)
  15. Index
    (pp. 303-312)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 313-319)