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Finding Wisdom in East Asian Classics$
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Wm. Theodore de Bary

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780231153973

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231153973.001.0001

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The Song of the Faithful Wife Ch’unhyang

The Song of the Faithful Wife Ch’unhyang

(p.365) 27 The Song of the Faithful Wife Ch’unhyang
Finding Wisdom in East Asian Classics

Rachel E. Chung

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines The Song of the Faithful Wife Ch'unhyang, which has often been called “the Romeo and Juliet of Korea” for its depiction of the passion and poignancy of young love. It argues that despite the main plot focusing on the lovers, the text does not present a merely one-dimensional idealization of the faithful and otherwise faultless Confucian womanhood. Rather, contained within it are complex, nuanced attitudes toward class, gender relations, the corruption of officials, and laws governing status, sexuality, and even filiality—the whole web of Neo-Confucian values, tensions, and conflicts that by this time had acculturated the Chosŏn popular consciousness for several centuries. Every character in the Song of Ch'unhyang as well as the narrative material itself are imbued with a certain “saturated awareness” of the tragicomic nature of life, held together in turn by the basic premise of Neo-Confucian community compacts “to encourage virtue and shun evil (kwŏnsŏn ching'ak)”.

Keywords:   The Song of the Faithful Wife Ch'unhyang, young love, Korean classical texts, self-realization, Neo-Confucian

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