Chungseon of Goryeo

From New World Encyclopedia
Chungseon of Goryeo
Hangul 충선왕
Hanja 忠宣王/益知禮普花
Revised Romanization Chungseon wang
McCune-Reischauer Ch'ungsŏn wang

Courtesy name
Hangul 중앙
Hanja 仲昻
Revised Romanization Jung-ang
McCune-Reischauer Chungang

Chungseon of Goryeo (충선왕; 忠宣王1275-1325, r. 1298 and 1308-1313) was the twenty-sixth king of the Goryeo dynasty of Korea. He is sometimes known by his Mongolian name, Ijirbuga (益知禮普花). Kaesong. He was the eldest son of King Chungnyeol (충렬왕 忠烈王); his mother was a Yuan royal, Princess Gyeguk. In 1278, as was customary, he was sent to live at the Yuan court in Beijing, and in 1296, he was married to the Yuan Princess Botapsillin. Chungseon assumed the throne for a brief period in 1298 but returned it to his father because of intrigues between his Mongolian and Korean wives. He assumed the throne again in 1308 after his father’s death. After his enthronement, the Goryeo dynasty's diplomatic policy regarding the empire changed, and Goryeo began to deliberately adopt Yuan culture and ideas.

Adept at calligraphy and painting, rather than politics, Chungseon generally preferred the life of the Yuan capital, Beijing, to that of the Goryeo capital. In 1313, he abdicated in favor of his son, and went to Beijing where he developed his library and encouraged interaction between Yuan and Goryeo scholars which resulted in the introduction of a new style of Confucianism to the Korean peninsula. Not all Goryeo intellectuals were receptive to the new ideas; scholars like Min Ji and conservative Confucian government officials felt that they were a threat to national stability.

His Father, Chungnyeol of Goryeo

King Chungnyeol (충렬왕; 忠烈王), the twenty-fifth ruler of the medieval Korean kingdom of Goryeo, was the son of Wonjong (원종 元宗), his predecessor on the throne. Chungnyeol was the first Goryeo ruler to be remembered by the title wang, meaning "king." Previous rulers had received posthumous names with the suffix jo or jong, meaning "revered ancestor" and a title typically reserved for emperors. The Mongol Empire found this threatening and ordered that the Goryeo rulers could not receive such names henceforth.


Chungseon of Goryeo was born in 1275 in Goryeo, the eldest son of King Chungnyeol (충렬왕 忠烈王) and Princess Gyeguk, a Yuan royal. He was confirmed as Crown Prince in 1277. At that time Korea was a tributary of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty in China, and as was customary, Chungseon was given a Mongolian name and sent in 1278 to live at the Yuan court in China as a sort of political hostage. In 1296, Chungseon was married to the Yuan Princess Botapsillin. She was his fourth wife; he already had three Korean wives, the daughters of the powerful nobles Jo In-gyu, Hong Mun-gye, and Seo Won-hu.

Chungseon's mother died in 1297, and this was followed by a violent purge brought on by allegations that she had been murdered. Perhaps upset by these events, King Chungseon petitioned Yuan to abdicate the throne, and was replaced by Chungseon in 1298. However, faced with intensive plotting and intrigue between the factions of his Mongolian queen and his Korean Queen Jo, Chungseon soon returned the throne to his father.

After his father's death in 1308, Chungseon was obliged to return to the throne and made efforts to reform court politics, but spent as much time as possible in China. He retired from the throne in 1313, and was replaced by his son, Chungsuk of Goryeo ( 충숙忠肅).

Brief Exile in Tibet

Wang Go (王暠; Mongolian name: Öljeyitü 完澤禿; ?-1345) was a member of the Goryeo royal family and a grandson of King Chungnyeol.

In 1314, when King Chungseon passed the throne to his son Ratnashri (King Chungsuk), Öljeyitü was installed as Crown Prince and, according to custom, sent to live at the Yuan court as a hostage. However, when King Chungsuk fathered an heir, Buddhashri (King Chunghye), Öljeyitü was forced to abdicate as Crown Prince. Instead, King Chungseon endowed him with the title of King of Shen (瀋王). This title had originally been given to King Chungseon by Khayishan (Külüg Khan) after his support of Khayisan's succession in 1307. Öljeyitü married a daughter of Sungshan (松山; Songshan), King of Liang (粱王), of the imperial family.

After the death of the Yuan emperor Renzong (仁宗), when Sidibala (Gegeen Khan) ascended to the throne, Öljeyitü began a campaign to become the King of Goryeo. Acceding to his wishes, the Khan banished Chungseon to Tibet in 1320 and interned King Chungsuk in 1321. Öljeitü's plan was aborted when Sidibala was assassinated in 1323, and. Chungseon was permitted to return to Beijing, where he died in 1325.

King Chungseon as a Scholar

The scholars of Goryeo, who came and went from Beijing, were attracted to Neo-Confucianism. King Chungseon, who was himself a scholar, quickly abdicated the burdensome throne in favor of his son Chungsuk, and devoted himself to building a library (万巻堂) at his residence in Beijing. He collected many books and made his library (万巻堂) into a literary salon where scholars from Goryeo came into contact with Yuan scholars. Yuan scholars acted as a bridge between Chinese Neo-Confucianism, primarily developed during the Song Dynasty by Cheng Yi (程頤) and his older brother Cheng Hao (程灏), a tutor of Zhu Xi , and Goryeo’s Confucianism. Yi Che-hyon (李斉賢), who was brought to Beijing by King Chungseon, was especially active in the cultural exchange with prominent Yuan intellectuals. In the later years of Goryeo, the philosophy of "Songri" was introduced to Korea through Yuan influence. Different from traditional Confucianism, Songri philosophy was a Neo-Confucianism which sought to answer the fundamental problems of the universe and the humanity. A Hyang was the fist to introduce this philosophy, and Yi Che-hyon (李斉賢) studied it while associating with Yuan scholars in Yenching, the capital of Yuan.

Min Ji and Opposition to the New Confucianism

One of the most notable opponents to Goryeo’s adoption of the new Confucian ideas was Min Ji (閔漬:1248~1326), one of the most celebrated Confucian scholars and historians of the time. The reign of King Chungnyeol (충렬왕; 忠烈王; 1275~1308), a difficult period for the Goryeo dynasty. After the Mongol invasion of 1238, Goryeo had become a Yuan tributary, and was struggling to limit Yuan intervention and hold on to a national identity. King Chungnyeol was able to negotiate the retreat and evacuation of the Yuan troops and Darughachi officials from Goryeo territory, and to restore national authority over census registration and taxation. It was not long, however, before corrupt members of King Chungnyeol’s court began to seize power and act illegally, endangering the social stability and political integrity of Goryeo. Some officials tried to initiate reforms, but Min Ji believed that such efforts would only give the Yuan Dynasty a pretext to intervene in Goryeo politics, so he remained aloof from them.

After the enthronement of King Chungseon, diplomatic policy regarding the dynasty's relationship with the Yuan empire changed, and Goryeo began to deliberately adopt Yuan culture and ideas. Min Ji then authored historical textbooks as a means of preserving the traditional culture of Goryeo, viewing this as an act of defending the country itself. He also opposed the introduction of the new Confucian philosophy to Goryeo, in his commentary on the Pyeonnyeon Tongrok (編年通錄) volume of the Royal Genealogy Record; and in his criticism of Zhu Xi.

Historically, the Korean peninsula had always been receptive to Confucianism from China, but Min Ji emphasized the importance of preserving of traditional Korean culture, and refused to embrace new Confucian ideas because he thought they would lead to political instability. Only certain groups were open to the new ideas, and there were Confucian scholars in the Goryeo government who felt the same reluctance to embrace the new Confucianism. [1]

See also


  1. 역사와현실 제49권, 2003. 9. A number of articles written in English are available. Retrieved September 20, 2007.

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Preceded by:
Ruler of Goryeo
1298, 1308-1313
Succeeded by:
List of Goryeo Monarchs
Taejo | Hyejong | Jeongjong | Gwangjong | Gyeongjong | Seongjong | Mokjong | Hyeonjong | Deokjong | Jeongjong | Munjong
Sunjong | Seonjong | Heonjong] | Sukjong | Yejong | Injong | Uijong | Myeongjong | Sinjong | Huijong | Gangjong
Gojong | Wonjong | Chungnyeol Chungseon | Chungsuk | Chunghye | Chungmok | Chungjeong | Gongmin | U | Chang | Gongyang


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