King Sejong the Great and the Cultural History of Weather, Religion, and Wealth in Early Joseon Korea
King Sejong (r. 1418-1450), whose much adored image is prominently displayed on Korea’s green-colored banknote and in the middle of Gwanghwamun Square, is often, if not always, remembered and celebrated for his role in the creation of the Korean alphabet, his passion for science, and his love for the common people. This image of the much beloved king, which developed under unique historical circumstances, obscures more than it reveals. Like many others who occupied the Chosŏn throne, Sejong was a complex figure who sought creative and politically expedient ways to address concerns that continued to trouble the relatively young Chosŏn dynasty. Extreme weather conditions, sharp population growth, shifting geopolitical winds, radical environmental transformations, and resistance to the state’s encroachment on private enterprise proved to be the greatest sources of concern. As Sejong and his predecessors knew well, these concerns could not be addressed without first addressing the so-called Buddhist problem. This talk will take a close look at the growing concerns about weather, religion, and wealth in Early Chosŏn Korea and shed new light on this oft-neglected aspect of Sejong and his reign.
This talk will be held as a hybrid event, with in-person attendance restricted to Stanford affiliates (ID holders) ONLY, in accordance with Stanford University's policies to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Stanford affiliates who wish to attend in-person may do so by going to the East Asia Library Room 224 on the day of the event after registering here. Members of the public are welcome to join us for this talk via Zoom webinar. More information on Stanford University's visitor policy can be found here: https://healthalerts.stanford.edu/covid-19/visitors/