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  • P-ISSN0023-3900
  • E-ISSN2733-9343

Rhetoric, Ritual, and Political Legitimacy: Justifying Yi Seong-gye’s Ascension to the Throne

Korea Journal, (P)0023-3900; (E)2733-9343
2013, v.53 no.4, pp.141-167
https://doi.org/10.25024/kj.2013.53.4.141
DON BAKER (University of British Columbia)
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Abstract

In premodern Korea, religion provided many of the important tools for legitimizing political authority. Since the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910) eventually privileged Confucianism over all other religious traditions, Confucianism supplied the vast majority of the rituals and religious rhetoric that the court used to assert its right to rule during that period. However, when the dynasty was first established at the end of the fourteenth century, the dominance that Confucianism would later display was not yet evident. Instead, in addition to Confucian rituals and rhetoric, official depictions of the founder of the dynasty point to his support of Buddhist and Daoist rituals, and even supernatural phenomena, as well as his reputation for extraordinary military skill, to legitimize his overthrow of the Goryeo dynasty (918-1392). This pluralistic religious environment makes Korea in the fourteenth century look very different from Europe in the same time period, particularly in terms of the ability of the king of Korea to use religious rituals and rhetoric as he saw fit, without the worry of religious leaders trying to control him. This relationship between political and religious power in Korea is a distinctive characteristic of the political culture of premodern Korea.

keywords
Confucianism Buddhism Daoism military skill political legitimacy King Taejo

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