S-Space College of Humanities (인문대학) Religious Studies (종교학과) 종교와 문화(Religion and Culture) 종교와 문화(Religion and Culture) 10호(2004)
한국종교사의 이해 -고대에서 고려조까지
History of Korean Religions - From the Ancient Period to Corea Dynasty
- Issue Date
- 서울대학교 종교문제연구소
- 종교와 문화, Vol.10, pp. 151-185
- Korean religion; The history of Korean religions; multi-religious situation; tolerant inclusivism; experiential realism; han-mut; magic; shamanism; high-god; self-discipline tradition; culture shock period; classic religion; Confucianism; Buddhism
- Korean religion today constitutes the most outstanding forms of "multi-religious situation" in the world. That is, on the one hand, Korean religion preserves the original forms of world classic religions. On the other hand, Korean indigenous religions such as Shamanism and new religions coexist with world classic religions.
The idea of Korean religion under "multi-religious situation" is complex and abstract. Korean religion means a cultural complex which represents Koreans' religious experiences. Korean people have adopted diverse foreign religions upon Koreans' general characteristic.
In spite of the diversity, Korean religions have the general characteristic that can be called "tolerant inclusivism." This idea represents Koreans' religious world view which harmoniously meets the need of the times. Tolerant inclusivism is a core of Korean thought in that it is found not only in Korean indigenous religions but also in "pure-orthodox doctrines" of imported world religions. The harmony of Korean religions means practical and empirical harmony with others in "reality of life." Now we call the practical norm and ideal of tolerant inclusivism as "han-mut (great wonderfulness)."
The history of Korean religion with "han-mut" can be divided in three periodical orders. The first is the ancient period of Korea called "old Chosun." Magic was the main religious form. Three indigenous religious traditions in this period were Shamanism, belief in Supreme Being, and self-cultivation practices. Once Chinese characters were adopted to ancient Korea, it caused the upheaval called "the first cultural shock."
The second period can be defined from the first cultural shock to Chosun dynasty. The Chinese characters became a primal cause of step forward which led pre-historic period to ancient period. This also made Korea follow Chinese culture. In Three Nations period, although magic was still dominant, oriental classic religions were adopted and began flourishing. These classic religions became a metaphysical canon which could criticize the self and the world. They were different from pre-historic religions in truth-questing aspects. Confucianism became an intelligent characteristic and constitutional ideology, but it excluded the lower class. Buddhism, however, had effect on all social classes as Buddhism mixed the classic ideas with magic.
Corea dynasty stood in between the Three Nations period and Chosun dynasty period. It means that this period was laid on a very complex situation and also revealed social and cultural chaos. The primary reason of such a chaotic multi-religious situation in Corea dynasty was the confusion of Corea government's policies. The secondary reason was the absence of one dominant religion. Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism in Corea became secularized so that they lost their function as classic religions and developed the history of religion interrelating with Korean indigenous religions.
Chosun was a typical classic dynasty founded on Confucianism. However, after two major wars with Japan and China in the middle period, Chosun's social order was seriously broken. At the end of Chosun, Christianity was planted with modern technology and western culture that caused "the second cultural shock."
Now the history of Korean religion is in the third period and bears an unprecedented multi-religious situation in the world. That situation in Korea is the miniature of "plural-culture situation" in the present world, So, to understand the history of Korean religion would be helpful to understand the history of world religion.