Korean Confucianism - Contemporary Society and Confucianism

Contemporary Society and Confucianism

Today, the landscape of Confucian schools, temples, places of ancestral worship, and scholarship have been minimized, if not put to the side as historical artifacts worthy only of tourists, scholars, or neglected preservation. However, Confucian values arguably still have an immense influence on the psyche of the Korean people. Moreover, Confucianism is not necessarily regarded as a religion, allowing one to be a Taoist, Christian, or Buddhist and still profess Confucian beliefs.

Strong elements of Confucian thought still exist in day-to-day administrative and organizational hierarchies, but the fixtures and services which brought these into being have disappeared. With Confucianism taken out of the school curricula and removed from the daily life of Koreans, the sense that something essential to Korean history is missing led to a rebirth of Confucianism in the late 1990s. Foreign scholars have also developed an interest in Korean Confucianism as an overriding element of governance that maintained a newly-arisen elite within Korea dependent on all the cohesive devices of Confucianism from the 14th century onwards.

Culturally, the arts still maintain major traditions: Korean pottery, the Korean tea ceremony, Korean gardens, and Korean flower arrangement follow Confucian principles and a Confucian aesthetic. Scholarly calligraphy and the most serious poetry again continue, in much fewer numbers, this heritage. In films, school stories of manners and comic situations within educational frames fit well into the satires on Confucianism from earlier writings. Loyalty to school and devotion to teachers is still an important genre in popular comedies.

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