Special Exhibit

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The Museum of Silhak – Special Exhibition 2019: Jibongyuseol, an Abundant Source of Korean Myths and the World History
Period/ 2019.04.15(Mon) ~ 2019.07.07(Sun)
Venue/ The Museum of Silhak Special Exhibition Hall
Opening ceremony
April 15 (Mon), 2019/ 15:00
Jibongyuseol is Korea’s first encyclopedia, complied by Yi Su-gwang, a pioneer in Silhak (the Korean realist school of Confucianism). Consisting of 3,435 entries, the book covers a wide scope of fields, providing practical knowledge on Korean culture and instilling a sense of pride in it. In particular, the entries on foreign countries in the chapter “Empires” are the first Korean sources introducing the climate, customs, faiths, lifestyles of about 50 countries, including those in the Islamic regions in Central Asia and Western Europe, as well as countries near China on both the land and marine trade routes.

Yi, who compiled Jibongyuseol, lived through tumultuous times: he experienced the Imjin War (Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592), the Jeongmyo War (Chinese invasion of Korea in 1627) and the changes in the international political order, including the fall of the Ming Dynasty and the rise of the Qing Dynasty in China. Throughout the changing times, he gained a global mindset while vising Beijing three times as an envoy, and sought to reform the social system of Korea for the reconstruction of the country. Yi presented a new perception of the world. He interacted with the world with an open and practical mind, rather than adhering to the moral sense of Neo-Confucianism. The knowledge of the world that he acquired was based on his own experiences and on empirical grounds, which was all new to the Koreans of the time. Though it took a long time for Yi’s new, pioneering worldview to be embraced by the society, owing to the 17th century’s conservative intellectual foundation, his work, Jibongyuseol, opened the eyes of Koreans to the world.
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