Definition

Korean Neo-Confucian Academies

The nine seowon are private Korean Neo-Confucian academies established by the local literati from the mid-16th to mid-17th century. They are comprised of Sosu-seowon (est. 1543), the first private Neo-Confucian academy of Korea, in Yeongju City, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province; Namgye-seowon (est. 1552) in Hamyang County, Gyeongsangnamdo Province; Oksan-seowon (est. 1572) in Gyeongju City, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province; Dosan-seowon (est. 1574) in Andong City,Gyeongsangbuk-do Province; Piram-seowon (est. 1590) in Jangseong County, Jeollanam-do Province; Dodong-seowon (est. 1605) in Dalseong County, Daegu Metropolitan City; Byeongsan-seowon (est. 1613) in Andong City, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province; Museong-seowon (est. 1615) in Jeongeup City, Jeollabuk-do Province and Donam-seowon (est. 1634), Nonsan City, Chungcheongnam-do Province.

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Lecture hall of Museong-seowon

They were operated by local literati known as private individuals of sarim, who lived in rural areas. They were the social leaders paving the foundation for rationalism through display of morality, dignity and exemplary roles firmly based on the principles of Neo-Confucianism. They aimed at becoming a completed form of Neo-Confucian scholar, thereby reiterating reproduction of students and veneration of the late figures revered for highest level of achievements.

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Shrine of Sosu-seowon

They exhibit an outstanding testimony to thriving Neo-Confucian academies that promoted Neo-Confucian learning and became fundamental to every aspect of the nation. Through seowon, the local literati created educational system and tangible structures conducive to fully commit to learning. They made their own choices to determine their role models worthy to be venerated at shrine, and formed strong academic lineage through succession of scholastic branches spearheaded by venerated scholars. Furthermore, they made significant contribution to disseminating principles of Neo-Confucianism through various social and political activities pivoted on the property.

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Veneration procedure – Jipsabunjeong

Seowon attest the characteristics of Koreanization of Neo-Confucian academies aiming at ideal society built upon the values of Neo-Confucianism. The founders of seowon considered connections to the venerated scholars and environment favorable to cultivate ideal person with highest moral principles based on Neo-Confucianism, when selecting the siting of the property. Each area of veneration, learning and interaction was arranged by making full use of natural topography and the landscape to create dominant prototype of seowon architecture. Such typification—rapidly established during the early stage of seowon establishment movement to be shared by the subsequent academies—is strongly demonstrated by the architectural layout. The property is conducive to the practices of learning, veneration and interaction with corresponding buildings of lecture hall, shrine and pavilion, respectively. The elaborated hierarchy is displayed by the use of natural topography, outdoor space, stylobates, wall fences and gates.

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Pavilion of Piram-seowon

The nine seowon have preserved fully developed attributes that attest to seowon of Korea. The property exhibits each stage of how seowon had been developed as an architectural type.