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Saturday, 8 March 2014

Confucian Confusions in Korea, Part XVIII: Museong Seowon, Jeongeup, Northern Jeolla

Museong Seowon (Hanja: 武城書院) was given its name in 1696 by King Sukjong of Joseon. Seowon refers to Confucian educational institutions for the literati. This beautiful seowon structure was originally built to pay homage to Choi Chi-won, a revered scholar and official of the Unified Silla Kingdom.

Located at 44-12 Wonchon 1st Street/Wonchon 1-gil, Museong-ri 500-beonji, Chilbo-myeon, Jeongeup City, Northern Jeolla Province - this academy was built by Taein County Magistrate (Taein is an old name of Jeongeup) who wished to promote learning among the locals. It was known for its social education programs that emphasized rituals and music, the key elements which Confucianists should keep in mind by themselves at all times.

Museong Seowon became even more famous as it survived the order of Heungseon Daewon-gun (1820-1898), father of Emperor Gojong-Gwangmu, which destroyed seowons throughout the country. Strolling around this 300-year-old wooden structure, visitors can realize how Koreans emphasized harmony with nature as a starting point of all philosophy. 

The Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA/문화재청) plans to propose “seowon” (Neo-Confucian academy) for inclusion on UNESCO’s World Heritage list for 2015. The nine academies proposed instead of Museong Seowon are Sosu Seowon (in Yeongju, Gyeongbuk); Namgye Seowon (in Hamyang, Gyeongnam); Oksan Seowon (in Gyeongju, Gyeongbuk); Dosan Seowon (in Andong, Gyeongbuk); Piram Seowon (in Jangseong, Jeonnam); Dodong Seowon (in Dalseong, Daegu); Byeongsan Seowon (in Andong, Gyeongbuk) and Donam Seowon (in Nonsan, Chungnam).