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Korean Confucianism

Because of its geographical location, Korea has always been influenced by China, the big neighbour to the west and north. One of the most substancial influences was the introduction of Confucian thought as part of the cultural exchange between the two countries. Today Confucianism remains a fundamental part of Korean society, shaping the moral system, the way of life and laws.

The Goguryeo Kingdom was inspired by Chinese culture and Confucianism, but initially maintained its own customs and traditions. The Baekje Kingdom, on the other hand, adopted Confucianism. This shaped the administrative system and the culture of arts. Silla was the last kingdom to accept the Confucian way of life.

The king Seingjong was a key figure in establishing Confucianism. This was facilitated by the establishment of a national university with a Confucian curriculum, and the building of an altar at the palace, where the king would worship his ancestors.

During the Joseon Dynasty Confucianism was the ruling ideology. More educational establishments were built, all of which with a curriculum based on Confucian thought. By the time of King Sejong (r. 1418 - 1450), all branches of learning were rooted in this way of thinking.

The most important ceremonies of Korean Confucianism were those that celebrated the coming of age, marriage, death, as well as the anniversary of the death of the ancestors. Funerals had the greatest impact on the lives of ordinary people. Although Confucianism is no longer the ruling ideology, its influence on the contemporary Korean society are not difficult to spot.