The University of St. Petersburg, Russian Federation
HISTORICAL TRANSFORMATION OF KOREAN PERCEPTION OF
FILIAL PIETY (孝) AS REFLECTED IN KOREAN MORAL BOOKS
OF 14th – 17th CENTURIES
Text of the Paper to be presented at the 2nd World Congress of Korean Studies
Pyongyang, August 3 – 7, 2004
1. Introduction: different ways of perception of hyo (孝) in Korea
1.1 Variety of approaches in perception hyo (孝) in Korea
In modern and old Korean literature one can find multiple ways of definition of what is called in Korean “hyo” (효, 孝). The word hyo is usually translated in English as filial piety. Korean-Korean dictionaries explains hyo as “good serving to parents” (어버이를 잘 섬기는 일).
The most recent perception of filial piety in the Republic of Korea could be illustrated through internet sites. Among multiple sites concerning filial piety (효) only one could be evaluated as comparatively “academic”. This is a site of so called “Sungsan Hyo Graduate School” (성산효도대학원대학교)1. But this site is devoted more to the School maintenance problems than to theoretical or practical problems of filial piety.
The other Korean filial piety internet sites, which the author of the paper was able to discover, contains practical information about such things as preparing presents for parents, love for mothers, serving aged persons etc2.
Sometimes those sites present stories from old Korean moral books. But usually their perception of filial piety limit within vocabulary meaning of word hyo as “good serving to parents”.
Books concerning filial piety (hyo) published in the Republic of Korea during last decades can be divided into two categories: 1) reprint of multiple translations of classical Confucian “Book of Filial Piety” (孝經); 2) books on morals in general and filial piety in particular written in the form of essay (수필)3.
It is quite difficult to find modern academic book about hyo (孝) where hyo is regarded in the dimension of category of culture (cultural category). One of the rare exception from this trend is a collection of papers presented at an international conference “Filial Piety and Future Society” organized in 1995 by the Academy of Korean Studies (Republic of Korea)4.
Examination of libraries of the Republic of Korea undertaken by author of this paper in 2003 has demonstrated that most of papers dealing the category of hyo (filial piety) in academic manner are limited within M.A. papers. And most of these M.A. papers about filial piety were prepared at Pedagogical institutes (faculties) of South Korean universities. That means that principal aim of those researches was not “pure academic” but applied and they were prepared for improving education process in Korean schools with the help of filial piety education.
Academic research about filial piety in Korea is still not a matter of deep attention.
Another result of studying South Korean books about filial piety was discover that some of authors who write about hyo (孝) think that this phenomenon is not Oriental and that it can be found in any culture of the world. For example there is an opinion largely spread between some South Korean writers (researchers) and common people, that the idea of hyo (孝) can be found not only in Confucianism, but also in Catholicism, Protestantism, and Buddhism5.
But from Western point of view, the “filial piety” when expressed by word hyo (孝) is not a category unique for all the cultures of the world, but it is a special Korean (special Far Eastern) category of culture which is absent in Western cultures6.
Of course, Western societies know tradition of looking after aged parents. But this is not the same as Korean (Oriental) category of hyo (孝).
Perhaps, such commixture of traditional Korean category hyo (孝) and Western concept of looking after aged parents could have taken place at the end of 19th – beginning of 20th centuries, at the time of Protestantism penetration into Korea. That time protestant missionaries began to translate Bible into “modern” Korean language. And Decalogue of Moses calling people to “respect parents” could be translated or interpreted as “executing filial piety hyo (孝) for parents.
Actually, in modern South Korean literature one can find direct interpretation of biblical precept to respect parents in the meaning of following hyo (효도 하라)7. May be because of such oriental way of interpretation, alien religion (Christianity) became closer to minds of Koreans. The opposite effect of such transformation of basic concepts of Korean thought resulted in impression that hyo is spread all around the world, as a category universal for all mankind.
1.2 Modern definitions of hyo in the Republic of Korea
As it was stated above, the most citizens of the Republic of Korea percept hyo as “good serving to parents” (어버이를 잘 섬기는 일).
Prevalence of such point of view on hyo – filial piety, both in North and South Korea can be proved by coinciding articles of Korean-Korean dictionaries, published both in North and South of Korean Peninsula8.
Interpretations of hyo presented in most popular South Korean internet sites are similar. The internet site “Korean Ideas and Culture of Filial Piety” (한국의 효사상과 문화; http://my.netian.com/~densi) states: «The Way of hyo is the moral duty of good serving to parents. The ideograph hyo consists of a synthesis of a shortened ideograph “old” and ideograph “son”, thus it shows appearance of a son who is carrying an old man on his back. Thus the meaning [of the word] can be interpreted as a “son providing elders (parents) with food”. (“효도(孝道): 부모를 잘 섬기는 도리. 효(孝)는 노(老)의 생략형과 자(子)의 합성글자로, 아들이 노인을 업고 있는 모양. 즉 아들이 노인(부모)를 잘 공양한다는 뜻»).
But this definition of hyo, presented in South Korean internet sites and Korean dictionaries is not singular one. Modern South Korean literature, both essays (fiction) and scientific research works present much broader approaches in understanding of what the hyo is.
For example, Li Seonggu (이 성구) in his book “Korean hyo” writes, that fulfilling hyo includes not only serving somebody’s parents but also serving his grand- and grand-grand parents, serving deceased ancestors and all the relatives9.
Large variety of modern South Korean perception of hyo-filial piety could be illustrated through the content of hyo-related essays published in Seoul in a very popular book (reprinted several times) which has title “Hyo”10.
A doctor Mr. Choe Sinhae (최신해) has written in his essay “Hyo of Koreans” that every social group has its own specific hyo. For that ones who rules a country hyo (孝) is economical consume of national natural resources and abidance of law. For government officials hyo (孝) is performance of many good deeds and making their names well-known. For common people hyo (孝) is producing high quality goods and economical consumptions of products11.
From the Choe Sinhae’s point of view, serving parents is not so important for fulfilling hyo as providing prosperous life for state12.
Besides, one can find out many other ways of interpretation of hyo in modern South Korean literature. Here are some examples of it: 1) good serving to all living and deceased relatives; 2) good serving to all elders; 3) good serving to a teacher; 4) good serving and faithfulness to a ruler; 5) making a good career; 6) not damaging personal body; 7) an important element in governing nation (state), etc.
Why there are so many ways of understanding of hyo-filial piety in modern Korea? Which of them are true, closer to “original” spirit of this cultural phenomenon?
Distinguishing different approaches for fulfilling hyo according social strata originates from Confucian classical “Book of Filial Piety” (孝經).
Besides, the author of the paper has discovered that those different ways of perception of the essence of hyo (filial piety) in Korea are connected with each specific period of time in the history of Korea. In other words, each epoch in the history of Korea showed differences in perception of the essence of hyo (filial piety).
And modern South Korean researchers have not clearly distinguished time differences in perception of hyo which has resulted in some “mixture” in modern description of this Korean cultural phenomenon.
2. Description of hyo (孝) perception in Korean moral books
of XII – XVII centuries
Prior to present description of characteristics of Korean perception of hyo-filial piety as they are reflected in Medieval Korean moral books, it is necessary to mention the first special book about filial piety, where this question was first treated in most detailed way. This is a Chinese Confucian classical “Book of Filial Piety” (孝經).
In this paper we do not intend to discuss originality of this Chinese classic book. This question is quite complicated. But, at the same time, it was studied well enough in professional literature.
Nevertheless it is necessary to have a glance at some basic elements of hyo (孝) as they were described in this Chinese classics to be able to compare classic Chinese perception of hyo (孝) with Korean perception as it is reflected in Korean Medieval books.
2.1 Basic elements of hyo (孝) as reflected in the “Book of Filial Piety” (孝經)
Though the “Book of Filial Piety” was originally Chinese it has also became an organic part of Korean culture. At least since the Unified Silla period (7th – 10th centuries) the “Book of Filial Piety” was an obligatory topic in state examinations, which every person seeking for official rank had to pass13.
Since Joseon period the last Neo-Confucian version of the text of the “Book of Filial Piety” edited by Chinese thinker Dong Ding (동 정, 董 鼎) became very popular in Korea. In 16th century a special Korean court department, named Gyeojongchon (校正廳) – “Bureau for comparison and correction [of texts]” has translated the Dong Ding’s version of “Book of Filial Piety” (孝經大義), but without later (not original) comments14. Korean version of this book was named as “Hyogyeong eonhae” (孝經諺解) – “Korean translation and comments to the ‘Book of Filial Piety’ ” and became really a part of Korean traditional culture.
As the “Hyogyeong” (Chinese pronunciation – “Xiaojing”) was the first special book about filial piety, it is naturally to suppose, that there one can find original theoretical foundation of the filial piety, accepted also in Korea as basic Confucian principle.
The first chapter of the book – “Canonical Chapter” (經 一 章) introduces the filial piety (孝) as diverse for various social classes – beginning from governor (monarch) and finishing by common people (peasants).
But prior to explain such “stratified” and quite complicated model of behavior of each social strata, the “Book of Filial Piety” 1) explains necessity of owning and following hyo and then 2) presents a universal principle of hyo, which the author of this paper has named as “Formula of Filial Piety”.
The first phrase of the “Hyogyeong” has the following passage: “Former kings have had Highest Virtue and Principal Way and used this for make the Universe obedient. People had harmony and upper and lower [classes] never had hatred [to each other].” (先王 有 至德 要道 以 順 天下 民 用 和睦 上下 無 怨). The sentence pointed above is following by phrase: “Naturally hyo (孝) is the root of Virtue” (夫 孝 德 之 本 也)15.
Thus from the first sentence of the classic “Book of Filial Piety” it is obvious that the category hyo (孝) is very important foremost because it is necessary for successful ruling a country. First original phrases of the treatise give no mention about duty to somebody’s parents or family members. In other words, if someone wants its country to be in peace and prosperity, he has to follow principles of hyo.
Then the text of the “Book of Filial Piety” gives universal recommendations to everybody (in no connection with social class). The book states: “Anyone’s body, hairs and skin is received from [his] parents, so not presuming to hurt this is beginning of hyo. Settling down, behave according the Way and faming his name is the end of hyo [as executed for] parents. The hyo begins in serving relatives, continues in serving a governor and finishes in settling down” (“身體 髮膚 受之 父母 不 敢 毁傷 孝之 始也. 立身 行道 揚名 於 後世 以 顯 父母 孝之 終也”. “孝 始 於 事親 中 於 事君 終 於 立身»16).
The quotation from the “Book of Filial Piety” presented above is not a unique “discover” of the author of paper. It is well known by many Koreans who are not specialists in social sciences.
This quotation was placed into the text of the present paper with the only aim to show that classic Confucian understanding of hyo (孝) is not limited with “serving parents”. And what is more, it is not a simple “serving parents”.
But at least by 16th century the Korean perception of hyo (孝) turned to be (or to begin) simple serving parents. The Korean translation of the treatise – “Hyogyeong eonhae” (孝經諺解) begins from the original Korean phrase, absent in Chinese original: “Good serving to parents is hyo” (어버이를 잘 섬김을 효라 하고…).
Thus, looking at this originally Korean phrase from the treatise one can suppose, that Korean perception of hyo (孝) was different from Chinese classical, it was more “narrow”, at least in 16th century, the time when Korean translation of the “Book of Filial Piety” appeared.
How and when did the originally broad in meaning Far Eastern cultural category hyo (孝) transformed in Korea into “simple” serving-to-parents action?
It is not easy to answer the reasons of such a process. But it is possible to notice time transformation of perception of filial piety both in China and Korea through study of Korean Medieval moral books, describing acts of hyo (孝) – filial piety.
Well known Korean Medieval moral books, where acts of filial piety were described specially (professionally) were appeared only at the time of Goryeo period (918 – 1392).
First texts containing description of acts of filial piety which were preserved up to nowadays are biographies of filial sons and daughters compiled by Kim Busik in his “Historical records of Three kingdoms” (김부식. 삼국사기).
2.2 Biographies of faithful sons and daughters (孝子, 孝女) in
“Historical records of Three kingdoms” by Kim Busik
Kim Busik (1075 – 1151) was a chief compiler of the first Korean “official history” (正史) of Korean dynasties. According to historical records, there could be earlier “official dynasties history” in Korea but there texts were not discovered yet.
As any “official dynasty history”, the work by Kim Busik has a partition titled “Biographies” (列傳). But in his book there is still no chapter specially devoted to dutiful sons and daughters, like one can find in the history of the following dynasty Goryeo (高麗史 一百二十一: 孝友). In the Volume 48 of the book by Kim Busik there are 4 biographies, which in 15th century were picked up to compile the first Korean moral book - Samgang haengsildo (三綱行實圖) – “Illustrations of real actions of Three precepts”, where one volume is fully devoted to descriptions of acts of filial piety.
Two of 4 biographies introduce biographies of men, both of them acted “extraordinary” if to compare their actions with the content of classical “Book of Filial Piety”. Hyangdeok (향덕, 向德), a common man, fed his parents with his flesh which he has cut from his own leg. This was in 755, when famine occurred in Silla. His act was highly appreciated in king’s court and he was granted with crops, house and land.
Another man, named Seonggak (성각, 聖覺; supposedly a Buddhist monk), lived in a Buddhist monastery when he was young. After his mother senesced, he returned back home. Seonggak was a poor man and had no sufficient funds to feed his mother. So he decided to feed his mother with flesh cut from his own leg. After mother died Seonggak zealously prayed Buddha for his mother.
This kind of “serving parents” realized through bloody self-sacrifice was a violation of one of the main principles of “classic” filial piety – not harming someone’s body given by parents. Koreans, who were familiar with the classic Confucian concept of filial piety (孝) supposedly did not accepted this “new” way of filial piety without demur. This can be proven by comments made by Kim Busik after narrating these 2 biographies. He does not agree with critic of similar behavior of filial children reflected in Chinese history of Tang dynasty “Tang shu” (唐書). He writes that both of heroes of two Korean biographies were not educated people. They did not know about rituals and tried to serve their parents in the way they could. So their deeds should be highly appreciated and recorded in historical books17.
Anyway, the important thing in this passage by Kim Busik is an indication that when those self-damaging, self-sacrificing acts of serving parents first appeared in Korea, they were not accepted by educated Koreans.
Two other biographies of dutiful daughters (孝女) in the “Samguk sagi” were placed by Kim Busik “far” from biographies of Hyangdok and Songgakj just like there is no connection between them.
Biography of a girl named Jieun (지은, 知恩) narrates how the girl has sold herself to get money for be able to feed her aged mother. Biography of Seol (설, 薛) introduces the story about faithful daughter who did not marry and waited very longtime return of her fiancée, who served in the army instead of her aged father. These two biographies show no “extraordinary” acts made for aged parents. But, at the same time, their content is not strictly following the classic Confucian concept of filial piety.
Anyway, until 14th century no special book on filial piety (孝) was compiled or published in Korea.
2.3 First Korean treatise on filial piety – “Hyohaengrok” (孝行錄)
Compilation of the first Korean special book on filial piety was begun in the middle of 14th century, at the time of king Chungmeogwang (1344 – 1348). This was the time of socio-economical reforms aimed to make order in society according Confucian principles of society construction.
An appeal for filial piety (孝) as one of the basic Confucian principles could improve situation in society of Goryeo. Responsible for compilation of the book were scholar Gwon Bo (權 潽, 1262 – 1346) and his son Gwon Jun (權 準, 1287 – 1367). Collection of 62 biographies presenting examples of acts of filial piety exclusively from Chinese (!) history was titled as “Hyohaengrok” (孝行錄) – “Recordings about acts of filial piety”. Famous Korean Confucian scholar of that time – Li Jehyeon (李 齊賢, 1287 – 1367) has written a preface to this book. Later he has added to 38 biographies of “Hyohaengrok” words of glorification. As the book was written in Chinese, which was not known by ordinary people, the compiler of the book, Gwon Bo has asked the king’s court to paint 24 pictures illustrating the book stories about filial children.
It is hard to say, whether pictures were prepared, because, for example, a block-print volume of the book, preserving at the Library of the Academy of Korean Studies (1600 year print) has no pictures18.
It seems, that finally the manuscript was prepared only by the end of 14th century, because it has an afterword, written by a great grandson of the compiler – Gwon Geun (權 近, 1352 – 1409). It was printed in 1428 by decree of the famous king Sejong, after a scholar Seol Sun (설 循, ? – 1435) has corrected the manuscript.
South Korean encyclopedias states19, that “Hyohaengrok” (孝行錄) was very popular at the beginning of the Li dynasty. But, supposedly, king Sejong was not satisfied with publication of “Hyohaengrok” (孝行錄), because in the same year 1428 he ordered Seol Sun to compile new moral book for it could be spread in the country.
A motive for compiling books on moral, especially on filial piety, was an accident which took place in 1428. This year somebody named Gim Hwa (金 禾) from Jinju city has killed his father.
Why “Hyohaengrok” (孝行錄) did not satisfied king Sejong as a “behavior model” moral book? Here we can bring two suggestions. 1) The book has no Korean stories about filial children. All examples of acts of hyo (孝) was brought from history of China. 2) The biographies, presented in “Hyohaengrok” (孝行錄) was not systematized. Their position in the book was put in no chronological, either geographical, or any other order.
May be this was the reason, why the “Hyohaengrok” (孝行錄) was not translated into Korean later.
Besides, at least 43 biographies from 62 of “Hyohaengrok” (孝行錄) was picked up by Seol Sun and placed in newly compiled book on morals, which was given the title: “Samgang haengsildo” (三綱行實圖) or “Illustrations of real acts of Three precepts”.
2.4 Description of filial piety in “Samgang haengsildo” (三綱行實圖)
The manuscript of “Samgang haengsildo” (三綱行實圖) was finished by 2nd month of 1432 and printed in 1433. The book had 3 volumes. The first one, titled as “Samgang haengsil hyojado” (三綱行實孝子圖) or “Filial piety illustration of real acts of Three precepts”, has 111 biographies of filial children. 89 of stories introduced biographies of Chinese, and 22 – biographies of Koreans. Korean section has 4 biographies of Silla period, 7 biographies of Goryeo and 11 biographies of Joseon20.
In 1481 “Samgang haengsildo” (三綱行實圖) was translated into Korean and published as bilingual text. The translated version of the book was titled as “Eonhae Samgang haengsildo” (諺解 三綱行實圖). So, it had all necessary qualities to become a book largely spread in Korea.
Every biography in the book was preceded by a picture showing an act of filial piety. One can say that it was a “grandfather” of modern “cartoons” (만화), because every page with a picture presented 2, 3 or 4 scenes simultaneously, placed in chronological order.
Some of Korean researchers evaluate dominance of Chinese biographies in the book as “sadaejui” (事大主義) or “principles of serving big [empire, (China)]”21. But, from our point of view, referring to China first was quite natural thing, because category hyo (孝) itself was Confucian, and if Chinese do not follow the hyo (孝), invented by themselves, why should Koreans do this?
The volume “Filial piety illustration of real acts of Three precepts” (三綱行實孝子圖) begins from description of hyo (孝) of a legendary Chinese emperor Shun (舜帝大孝). Then follow filial piety biographies of famous Chinese emperors Wen-wang (文王問安) and Woo-di (武帝). All three biographies of Chinese emperors generally follow principal statements and spirit of the classic “Book of Filial Piety”.
Then the book presents biographies of Chinese “filial children”: common people and officials, men and women, Confucius disciples… All Chinese biographies are arranged according chronological principle, beginning from the Zhou (周) dynasty up to Ming (明) dynasty. Analysis of acts of filial piety of Chinese brings to conclusion that in China herself perception of category hyo (xiao; 孝) was not constant and was changing from every epoch to another.
Since the period of Han (漢, 220 b.c. – 221 a.c.) the category of filial piety (hyo, 孝) begins to be associated with some extraordinary actions, which contradicted with original Confucian concept of filial piety based on the normal behavior. (Getting fish for parents in Winter time from the frozen river; 姜始出鯉).
In period of Southern and Northern dynasties (南北朝; 3 – 6 centuries) acts of filial piety begin to be closely connected with different kinds of miracles (孟熙得金). In this block of biographies miracles appear in two ways: 1) a mean to fulfill filial piety or 2) reward for filial son or daughter who has executed hyo (孝).
Chinese Tang dynasty (618 -907) became a “revolutionary” period in perception hyo (孝) in the Far East. Since that time a self-sacrifice for parents, accompanied with acts of damaging bodies of filial children start to become a new normal way of serving parents (의부할구, 義婦割股). Most of examples of such kind are realized through 1) cutting somebody’s flesh from leg to feed aged parents; 2) cutting one hand finger for making drugs for aged and deceased parents. Stories of filial piety of Tang dynasty gathered in the “Samgang haengsildo” showed fewer examples of classical type of hyo (孝) as it was fixed in the “Book of Filial Piety”.
The Song (907 – 1279), Yuan (1280 – 1368) and Ming (1368 ~ ) dynasties did not show cardinal changes in perception of hyo (孝). The only noticeable thing is that more and more cases of serving parents became rewarded by government. The most frequent type of award became not “material” (like granting land, house or release from taxes) but “moral” one: installation of stelas named as “Gates of honor” (정문-旌門; 정표-旌表).
As it was stated above, the “Filial piety illustration of real acts of Three precepts” (三綱行實孝子圖) has 22 Korean biographies of filial children.
The 4 of them cover period of Unified Silla. They are the same 4 biographies of filial children that Kim Busik has described in his “Historical records of Three kingdoms” (向德, 聖覺, 知恩, 薛). But all texts of these biographies were shortened by Seol Sun, compiler of “Samgang haengsildo” (三綱行實圖)22.
The biographies of Hyangdok and Seonggak were placed after biographies of girls Jieun and Seol. May be this was done because the compiler of “Samgang haengsildo” (三綱行實圖) did not wished to shock readers with such “abnormal” (from the classical point of view) manifestations of filial piety as cutting flesh from leg for feeding aged parents. The compiler Seol Sun (unlike Kin Busik) did not place any personal comments about this kind of “serving parents”. But, perhaps, he has expressed his personal opinion by putting the biography of a man of Goryeo – Wi Cho (위 초, 尉 貂) on the first place in the “block” of Goryeo biographies.
All biographies of filial children, that reader can find in the block of Goryeo biographies of “Samgang haengsildo” (三綱行實圖) are presented in official history of Goryeo – “Goryeosa” (고려사, 高麗史)23. And all of them are short-cut in “Samgang haengsildo”. The way of short-cut is not only stylistic. The example of such semantic type of short-cut is the biography of Wi Cho.
Wi Cho also has cut off flesh from his leg to feed his old age father. The “Goryosa” presents the whole story in the way just like from the very beginning this act was percept quite positively. But “Samgang haengsildo” omit this passage about high appreciation of Wi Cho’s act from the very beginning. “Samgang haengsildo”, after describing the deed of Wi Cho, narrates about discussion, which was opened at king’s court. This was the discussion about how to react on self-damaging someone’s body for serving parents. Because from the classical Confucian point of view the first task of a really filial child was not to harm his own body.
Discussants (prime-minister Mun Jun; 문 준, 文 俊) referred to the similar case of Chinese Tang empire, where such way of serving parents was accepted and highly appreciated24.
This fact is very important, because it shows that Koreans tried to resist (through doubt and dispute) an “abnormal” way of serving parents when a child should damage his body, harm his health. And only after reference to self-sacrificing examples of acts of filial piety in “contemporary” China (as a model of Confucian way of life) Koreans had accepted “cutting flesh and fingers” acts of filial piety.
2.5 Description of filial piety in “Seok Samgang haengsildo” (續三綱行實圖)
After the “faulty” king Yeonsangun (1494 – 1506) was dismissed and the next king Jungjong (1506 – 1544) took the throne, Confucianism has returned its power and influence. That time Korean authorities has collected new stories about Korean filial children (孝子), loyal dignitaries (忠臣) and faithful women (烈女). These stories were compiled in a new book in 1514 by Sin Yeonggae (신 용개, 申 用漑). The book was named as “Continued illustrations of real acts of Three precepts” or “Seok Samgang haengsildo” (續三綱行實圖).
The book, as one can suppose from its title, continued tradition of “Samgang haengsildo” (續三綱行實圖). But there was one big difference. Most of biographies, presented in the book, were Korean25.
For example, in the chapter “Illustrations of [acts] of filial children” (孝子圖) of the “Seok Samgang haengsildo” one can find only 3 biographies of Chinese of Ming dynasty while the other 33 biographies describe acts of filial piety executed by Korean men and women of Joseon dynasty.
Besides, the content of the book has many other important differences, which can illustrate how Korean perception of filial piety has changed in 16th century.
1) “Seok Samgang haengsildo” (續三綱行實圖) has only few examples of self-damaging body for serving parents: only 2 biographies of total 36 biographies of filial children.
2) The most current way of “serving parents” in 16th century as described in “Seok Samgang haengsildo” (續三綱行實圖) becomes a 3-years life in front of parents’ graves. For example, the biography that opens the treatise (仁厚廬墓) narrates about 9-year child who lived in front of his fathers grave 3 years (notwithstanding his young age)26.
3) While “classical” perception of filial piety (reflected in “Book of Filial Piety” and in first chapters of Samgang haengsildo”) stresses on ordinary (common) way of acts of serving parents, the “Seok Samgang haengsildo” (續三綱行實圖) has more and more examples when acts of hyo (孝) gradually becomes an extraordinary act, which requires special courage and energy. As example we can point at the biography titled “Gangryeom breaks ice” (강렴 착빙). Gangryeom tastes father’s excrements to get known about his father’s health condition27.
4) While “classical” perception of filial piety bases on an idea that peace and harmony resulting from filial piety is the best prize for anyone, the “Seok Samgang haengsildo” (續三綱行實圖) shows more and more cases when extraordinary acts of filial piety are specially compensated (rewarded).
Thus, in 33 biographies of Korean filial children only 6 biographies presents acts of filial piety which has got no reward. In other 27 cases filial children receive reward from government. Among these 27 persons 7 has got posts of government officials, and 5 were exempted from labor conscription.
5) While “Seok Samgang haengsildo” describes burials and life at parents’ grave it stresses that all mourning rituals were done not in Buddhist, bur in Confucian manner. (See biography of Gyeong Yeon – 경 연, 慶 延28). This peculiarity reflects conflict between Confucianism and Buddhism which took place in Korea at the end of 14th – beginning of 15th century.
Particularities of description filial piety hyo (孝) in “Seok Samgang haengsildo” show that in 15 century the filial piety in Korea (though temporarily) has distanced from acts of self-sacrifice with harming body, continued to transform in something outstanding and always required rewards for such outstanding deeds.
2.6. Description of filial piety in “Dongguk sinsok
Samgang haengsildo” (東國新續三綱行實圖)
The Korean-Japanese Imjin War (1593 – 1598) has greatly disordered Korean society. Perhaps, this is one of reasons why the king Gwanghaegun (1608 – 1623) has ordered a scholar whose name was Li Seong (이 성; 李 性) to compile a new book on morals which had to comprise new biographies of Korean filial children (孝子), loyal dignitaries (忠臣) and faithful women (烈女). The book was compiled by 1716. It has the title “Dongguk sinsok Samgang haengsildo” (東國新續三綱行實圖) or “Newly continued illustrations of real acts of Three precepts of State of Orient”. Expression “State of Orient” (동국, 東國) means “Korea”. It had to point, that the book shall deal only with biographies of Koreans.
The “Dongguk sinsok Samgang haengsildo” is the biggest book on morals ever published in old Korea for large masses of population. It had 18 volumes of text. As well as Korean books on morals published before, every biography began from picture showing deeds of a hero. And it had both Chinese and Korean language texts29.
Among 18 volumes of the treatise 8 volumes are devoted to filial children. The “Dongguk sinsok Samgang haengsildo” “repeats” and enlarges information about filial children, published before in “Samgang haengsildo” and in “Sinsok Samgang haengsildo”. For example, the part of filial children of Goryeo dynasty has 61 (!) biographies of filial sons and daughters and 56 of them were added anew. (7 Goryeo biographies were presented in previous books of acts of Three precepts). As to Joseon dynasty, the “Dongguk sinsok Samgang haengsildo” has nearly 700 biographies of filial children
But as the quantity of examples of acts of filial piety enlarged so the quality of description reduced. About 50% of all biographies of hyoja (孝子) consist only of 2-3 lines of text indicating 1) name of a hero, 2) his birthplace, 3) type of act of filial piety. Description of filial acts in such “biographies” are often limited with a simple phrase like “three years lived at parent’s grave” or “cut his finger and fed it his parents”.
Another important peculiarity of description of acts of filial piety in “Dongguk sinsok Samgang haengsildo” is that in most cases heroes of biographies of filial children get reward for their (usually extraordinary) acts.
The analysis of text of Korean works of filial piety of 14th – 17th centuries pointed above has led the author of the paper to the following main conclusions:
The ancient Chinese (Classical Confucian) perception of hyo (孝) was originally broad in meaning and was not limited in a simple “good serving to parents”.
Korean moral books studied by the author of the paper shows that during the Chinese history of the 1st millennium the meaning of hyo (孝) became more narrow. At the Tang period first appeared hyo (孝) with bloody self-sacrifice actions (contradicting with the ancient meaning of hyo (孝)).
In Korea first recorded acts of hyo (孝) belongs to the period of Unified Silla. Since that time the character of Korean hyo (孝) was already sacrificial.
In the period of Goryo Koreans have made an attempt to reject the Tang (Chinese) self-sacrificial (“abnormal” from Confucian Classical point of view) way of fulfilling hyo (孝).
But since the Chosun period originally normal execution of hyo (孝) has transformed into extraordinary actions of few people which acts always needed to be specially appreciated and rewarded by officials or king.
The trend pointed above became absolutely dominant in Korea since the beginning of 17 century. It is obviously reflected in the treatise Dongguk sinsok Samgang haengsildo (東國新續三綱行實圖).
By 17th century, originally large and universal concept of filial piety (hyo, 孝) has transformed in Korea into a narrow perception of filial piety as: 1) serving aged parents 2) serving parents by executing extraordinary “heroic” acts.
Large variety of approaches of understanding the hyo (孝) - filial piety in Modern Korea originates from “mixture” of ancient classical (Confucian) and modernized (as it was transformed by the end of 19th century30) perceptions of this category of traditional Korean culture.
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