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

Who Are Venerated in Contemporary Domestic Ancestral Rites? An Aspect of Ritual Change among Urbanites in Korea

Korea Journal, (P)0023-3900; (E)2733-9343
2014, v.54 no.1, pp.85-104
https://doi.org/10.25024/kj.2014.54.1.85

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Abstract

Ancestral rites have a long tradition in Korea. The norms applied to traditional “Confucian-style” ancestral rites were likely adopted in the eighteenth century when Neo-Confucianism was firmly established as the state ideology of the Joseon dynasty. According to these norms, ancestors up to four generations removed are venerated at the home of the primogeniture descendants on their death days and on holidays. However, since the start of industrialization in the 1960s and the ensuing urbanization, ancestral rites have undergone a variety of changes. In the 1970s and 1980s, changes occurred in the ritual procedures, food offerings, and the time of day that the domestic rites begin. In the 1990s, another major change occurred when the range of ancestors covered by the domestic rites shrank. Most urbanites now venerate ancestors no more than two generations removed at domestic rites, especially on death-day rites, instead of the four generations removed prescribed by the traditional norms. This study presents several patterns in current domestic rites, and provides reasons for such a change, including urban lifestyles, the rise of female employment, changing inheritance patterns, and the waning importance of yangban status.

keywords
ancestral rites domestic rites Korean tradition Confucian norms range of ancestors ritual change effects of urbanization

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