Chosŏn dynasty

Chosŏn dynasty
or Yi dynasty

(1392–1910) Last and longest-lived of Korea's dynasties.

Chinese cultural influences were intense in this period, when Neo-Confucianism was adopted as the ideology of the state and society. In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, Korea suffered invasions at the hands of the Japanese and Manchus. Many cultural assets were lost, and it took the country nearly a century to recover. At the end of the 19th century, foreign powers once again threatened Korea; it was annexed by Japan in 1910. During the Chosŏn dynasty the Korean alphabetic script Hangul (see Korean language) was created, and the yangban, a new aristocracy, was established. See also Yi Song-gye.

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▪ Korean history
also called  Yi dynasty  

      the last and longest-lived imperial dynasty (1392–1910) of Korea. Founded by Gen. Yi Sŏng-gye, who established the capital at Hanyang (present-day Seoul), the kingdom was named Chosŏn for the state of the same name that had dominated the Korean peninsula in ancient times. The regime is also frequently referred to as the Yi dynasty, for its ruling family.

      General Yi established close relationships with the neighbouring Ming dynasty (1368–1644) of china, which considered Korea a client state, and Chinese cultural influences were very strong during this period. Chosŏn's administration was modeled after the Chinese bureaucracy, and Neo-Confucianism was adopted as the ideology of the state and society.

      Under the previous dynasties, ownership of land was concentrated in the hands of a few high-ranking bureaucrats, but Yi Sŏng-gye and his successors redistributed the land throughout the various levels of officialdom, creating a new aristocracy of scholar-officials called the yangban. Scholarship flourished under the Chosŏn dynasty, and in 1443, during the reign of King Sejong, the Korean phonetic alphabet, Hangul (han'gŭl), was invented. By the time of the Chosŏn ruler King Sŏngjong (1470–94), a bureaucratic system for government administration was established.

      In 1592 Korea suffered an invasion from Japan. Although Chinese troops helped repel the invaders, the country was devastated. This was followed by the invasion of northwestern Korea in 1627 by the Manchu tribes of Manchuria, who were attempting to protect their rear in preparation for their invasion of China. Many cultural assets were lost, and the power of the central government was severely weakened. By the reigns of King Yŏngjo (1724–76) and King Chŏngjo (1776–1800), the country had largely recovered from the destruction of the wars. With an increased use of irrigation, agriculture was in a prosperous condition, and a monetary economy was burgeoning. In an effort to solve administrative problems, a school of learning called Silhak, or “Practical Learning,” arose.

      Korea maintained an isolationist policy until the 1880s. The Treaty of Kanghwa (1876), concluded at the insistence of Japan, defined Korea as an independent state and led to the establishment of diplomatic relations with not only Japan but also China. China lobbied for Korea to open up to trade with the West, especially the United States, for the first time, and the country soon became an arena for competition among the powers. Japanese influence in the area became predominant, especially after the Japanese victory in wars with China (the Sino-Japanese War, 1894–95) and Russia (the Russo-Japanese War, 1904–05). Korean opposition to Japanese dominance grew, and in 1895 Japanese agents assassinated Queen Min, who was suspected of encouraging the resistance. Her husband, King Kojong, remained on the throne until 1907, when he was forced to cede it to his son. In 1910 Japan formally annexed Korea, bringing the Chosŏn dynasty to an end.

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Universalium. 2010.

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