The Meaning and Role of Sacrificial Rituals in Traditional Korean Educational Institutions

  • Eun-Jeung Lee (Autor/in)
  • Soon-woo Chung (Autor/in)


In Korea during the Chosŏn dynasty (1392–1910) Confucian scholars were able to
construct a political and social order and culture around the symbolic space of the
Confucian private academy (sŏwŏn) by relying on a tradition of iterative ritual
performances. These designated each member of society with a proper social role
and universal grammar. The function of the rituals at Confucian private academies
was that of a social signifier within the construction of a social contract peculiar to
Chosŏn society. The academies spread, which began in the sixteenth century in
areas outside the capital, produced a “Confucianization” of traditional rituals, and
thence the indoctrination with Confucian morals at the local level. This kind of
transformation of society had been the aim of the Chosŏn rulers right from the
dynasty’s foundation in 1392. However, the driving force behind this transformation
was not the center, but local scholars. They wanted to enhance their own social and
political dominance and privileges through the creation of symbolic ritual spaces
under their control, including the invention of a tradition of local sages/scholars to be
enshrined and revered at the sŏwŏn.


Confucian academies, ritual, Chosŏn society, education