Beyond the discourse of practical learning : rethinking Chosŏn intellectual history in a broader context
Beyond the discourse of practical learning : rethinking Chosŏn intellectual history in a broader context / Kanghun Ahn
p. 141-167 ; 23 cm
수록자료: Seoul journal of Korean studies. Institute of Korean Studies, Seoul National University. Vol.31 no.2(2018 December), p. 141-167 31:2<141 ISSN 1225-0201 저자: Kanghun Ahn, Ph.D. student in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Harvard University
This paper aims to provide an alternative approach to understanding the Chosŏn intellectual scene in long-term and transnational perspectives. Since the 1980s, the discourse of “sirhak” 實學 (practical learning) as a notable intellectual development in the late Chosŏn period has drawn severe criticism from a number of scholars in different fields, especially in regard to its lack of modern values. Nonetheless, the concept per se persists, because a lot of historians still conceive of the late Chosŏn period (especially the eighteenth century) as a crucial watershed in Korean history and continue to label its various scholarly currents as sirhak. In order to overcome this trend, this paper places emphasis on re-examining the notion of “rupture” embedded in the mainstream narrative of sirhak. It is true that the eighteenth-century Chosŏn intellectual scene—as a main temporal focus of sirhak studies—produced many scholarly achievements in close connection with its Qing counterpart. However, I argue that such patterns of intellectual development can also be detected prior to this period, based on Chosŏn’s close and constant contact with the (Chinese) empires, namely, Yuan and Ming. Ultimately, this study will conclude with a general assessment of how the cultural milestones, so to speak, of the Yuan, Ming, and Qing—in terms of cartography, essay-writing, encyclopedic studies, and so forth—influenced Chosŏn scholars’ liberal thinking and new modes of knowledge production.