Exhibit Announcement – Poetry of Commoners

Kim Hongdo - Farmers and Ox

One accomplishment that the Chosun Dynasty is often not given credit for is attempting to spread literacy in Classical Chinese (漢文, 한문) — not to mention, Hangul (한글) — in sections of the populace that were previously largely illiterate, such as women and commoners. In Confucian village schools called Seodang (書堂, 서당), it was not uncommon to see children of aristocratic Yangban class (兩班, 양반), skilled artisan class (中人, 중인), and commoners (良民, 양민) reciting Chinese Classics side by side in the same room. By the 18th century, even slaves (賤民, 천민) were establishing and running Confucian village schools. Not surprisingly, there were a number of Classical Chinese poets from the lower classes. They are called the “poets of the hamlets and streets,” or Yeohangshi’in (閭巷詩人, 여항시인). Fortunately, recent scholarship has made these texts more accessible.

On another note, for those expecting the exhibit on Korean and Chinese Catholics as announced in my post for goals for this year, I think I will put it on the shelf for next year, or at the earliest later this year. I found this topic so fascinating that I wanted to cover it now.


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