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An Analysis of the “Little China” Ideology of Chosŏn Korea

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image of Frontiers of History in China

The Chosŏn dynasty founded by Yi Seong-gye was closely involved in the tributary system of the Ming dynasty. Chosŏn Korea called itself “Little China” due to the following two policies: mohwa (admiring China) and sadae (serving the greater). Chosŏn Korea traced its origin back to the dongyi (Eastern Barbarians) and claimed itself the only nation that had transformed itself from “Yi” (barbarian) to “Hwa” (Chinese) in the Chinese world system. References to the sage Kija (Jizi) in moral, historical, and political writings indicated the beginning of this transformation and thus the worship of Kija was consistently implemented. The ritual and cultural systems in Chosŏn Korea imitated those of China. The policy of admiring China, Confucian thought, and the worship of Confucius comprised a significant part of the “Little China” ideology. After the Ming-Qing transition, Chosŏn Korea did not acknowledge the legitimacy of the Qing dynasty and considered itself the only and true China.


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