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Chosŏn Korea and the Imperial Tradition in East Asia, 1392-1592
Junior Faculty Book Manuscript Workshop
This is the first of a series of workshops that aim to provide quality feedback on a first full draft of a pre-tenure book manuscript in preparation for publication. Workshop participants are faculty members and doctoral graduate students selected by the book manuscript’s author. This is a continuing series and inquiries by junior faculty wishing to benefit are welcome. Please contact the Director, Zrinka Stahuljak.
This session is with Assistant Professor SIXIANG WANG (Asian Languages and Cultures).
For over two hundred years after its establishment in 1392, the Chosŏn dynasty of Korea enjoyed peaceful and generally stable relations with neighboring Ming China, which dwarfed it in size, population, and power. Such a long period of sustained peace is remarkable in the context of early modern world history, but it is all too easy to simply attribute it to the strength and extent of Chinese cultural and political domination over the Korean peninsula. Chosŏn drew upon classical Chinese paradigms of statecraft, political legitimacy, and cultural achievement. Meanwhile, Chosŏn’s regular tribute to the Ming court, its envoys’ paeans to Ming imperial glory all appear as straightforward affirmations of Ming domination. Korea’s Great Ming argues they conceal a much more subtle strategy of diplomatic and cultural negotiation. Through an examination of Korea’s rhetorical and ritual engagement with Ming empire, this book shows how the rulers, diplomats, and interpreters of Chosŏn inserted Korea into the Ming empire’s legitimating strategies and asserted themselves as stakeholders in a shared imperial tradition.
Korea’s Great Ming reconstructs the rhetorical and symbolic tools in Chosŏn Korea’s diplomatic approach to its relations with Ming China. The central problem Chosŏn Korea faced was what to do with the Ming dynasty’s pretension to universal empire. Confronting it meant grappling with Ming’s historical irredentist claims over Korea and the Ming court’s jealous monopoly over the symbols of universal and cosmic authority—not to mention conflicts over a shared frontier and problems of economic and political access. Presented with these challenges, the Chosŏn court searched for a strategy of engagement that could preserve Korean royal authority and limit Ming claims, all without provoking Ming ambitions. The irony was this expression of Korean royal authority and the delimiting of Ming imperial claims often took place within a discourse of Ming universal rule.
Funding for the workshops is provided by CMRS-CEGS, the Dean of Humanities, and the academic department of the junior faculty member.