Directions: Take two of the following questions and write a minimum 500 word essay on each one of the two. Make sure your essay is organized around a thesis, presents evidence from the readings and lectures, and displays good grammar, paragraphing, and spelling. Be sure to be careful to cite as many of the assigned readings as possible, so long as they are relevant. Papers will be graded on their clarity of thought and writing, their use of evidence, and their ability to synthesize readings and lectures.
- Grayson in Myths of Korea translates four versions of the Tan’gun myth. Discuss the similarities and differences of these four versions with an eye to analyzing how the author of each version might have modified it, what purpose each version was supposed to serve, and what the metaphorical message of the myth might be. Consider descent from heaven, the birth from a she-bear, and Tan’gun’s becoming a mountain god. Seungsook Moon claims the Tan’gun myth “implies that the Korean nation is ultimately the community of men, created by an extraordinary man, in which women exist only as its precondition.” Do you agree?
- What accounts for the growth and decline of Maitreya cults in Paekche, Silla, and early Koryŏ? Include in your answer a summary of the scriptural story of Maitreya, and a discussion of the historical times and places where Maitreya has appeared and/or been prominent in Korean history.
- In this class Buddhism has been treated as the “state religion” of Silla and Koryŏ, and Confucianism as the “state religion” of Chosŏn. What evidence can you find to justify this characterization of the relation of religion to the state?
- Discuss the evidence for Confucianism being a religion rather than a mere philosophy. (Be sure to take into account here the differences between early Confucianism and NeoConfucianism). If Confucianism is a religion, what features of Confucian religion stand out as different from other widespread world religions such as Christianity, Buddhism, or Islam? Do these characteristics of Confucianism as a religion account for the fact that Chosŏn was religiously pluralistic?
- What reasons did the Confucians of late Koryŏ and early Chosŏn cite for suppressing Buddhism? Did everybody agree with them? How did Buddhists try to accommodate themselves to the dominant Confucianism?