Sources: Yun Naehyeon “Our Ancient History” – miscellaneous extracts

우리 고대사 - 윤내현 p210 map2 cropped

Below our several further translated extracts from Yun Naehyeon’s Our Ancient History under the chapter headings from which they are taken.

II 7. Let’s revive the Hong’ik-in’gan philosophy/ideology (이념)

“The period when Hwan’ung descended to earth and was active, as mentioned earlier, archaeologically corresponds to the early Neolithic. During this period no political power had yet appeared, differences in social class (신분) and wealth did not arise. It was a society in which all people were equal. The Hong’ik-in’gan philosophy/ideology (이념) was made against the backdrop of this kind of society.

Hong’ik-in’gan ideology suggests making a society [in which] all people profit together and are happy together. In order to make such a society, [we] must acknowledge other people’s thoughts and opinions and pursue (모색) unity (화합). Our people (겨례 gyeo-re i.e. Koreans) our striving to make the present world an ideal society like heaven (천당) or paradise (극락). [I] think all places where people live should be thus. In order to make such a society, even Hwan’ung, the son of god (하느님), participated and aimed for prosperity all together without discrimination between gods and humans.

Not only that. ‘Hong’ik-in’gan’ ideology teaches that [we] must protect and love nature, too. Our ancestors believed that only then would we be able to obtain genuine profit and happiness. According to the record of the Samguk-sagi, in the Nallang (鸞郞) inscription [about] the way of the Hwarang (화랑도), Master (선생) Choi Chiwon (崔致遠) [wrote] that in Silla there was a mysterious (玄妙) way which had been passed down since early times (이전) called Pungnyu (風流 pung-ryu) and that its origins were recorded in detail in the Seon-sa (仙史: History of the Seon-gyo religion 仙敎). [He wrote] further that the teaching incorporated [elements of] Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism, and that with this teaching, all living things were made to evolve.

The Seon-gyo being spoken of here, refers to the religion of Old Joseon, the teaching that was at the centre of Old Joseon culture, and as such, the values (가치관) which formed its core was the Hong’ik-in’gan ideology. Consequently, according to Master Choe Chiwon’s words, Hong’ik-in’gan ideology applied to all living things, not just humans. The Hong’ik-in’gan ideology of course [included] making a society in which humans could live happily together, but [also] cultivating an environment good for all living things to reside in. Hong’ik-in’gan ideology was, [in this way] also an extreme ideology of love for living things and respect for living things.

It is our responsibility that these kind of lofty values are, in [current] reality, being ignored and unable to exert an influence. Throughout our history foreign cultures have always reigned as the culture of the leaders. [Both] Buddhism imported towards the end of the Multiple States period, and Confucianism of the early modern Joseon dynasty were thus, and since modernization it has been Western culture. The result is that our [own] culture fell to [being] low class culture and was even regarded with disdain. Hong’ik-in’gan ideology was part of its centre [still and so suffered the same fate].

During the period of the Japanese forced occupation, independence [activist] leaders (지사) emphasized our values and culture, beginning with the Hong’ik-in’gan ideology in order to establish the minjok‘s sense of identity; after liberation it seemed that intention was being reasonably (다소) reflected in our society. However, the independence leaders were sidelined by the political advantage (득세) [enjoyed by both] the pro-Japanese (친일) and pro-Western powers; as they fell, our values and culture collapsed together. Hong’ik-in’gan had become a dead word. In the end, it was ourselves who had killed the Hong’ik-in’gan ideology. Like the meaning of the [Chinese proverb] ‘the one who ties, [must] undo’ (結者解之), we must revive it. And we have the responsibility to develop [ourselves] towards the future.” pp69-71

IV 1. Who were the central tribe (종족) of our minjok?

“The concept of ‘minjok’ differs slightly according to the opinion of each scholar, but [they] basically agree that it is ‘the largest [social] unit of a community formed through a consciousness of group belonging (집단귀속의식) which shares various types of cultural content including religion, language, customs, politics and economics on account of sharing a common lifestyle over a long period of time within a defined region. Here [under this definition], our [own] minjok has even more of a consciousness of being a single [i.e. homogeneous] minjok. A minjok is not necessarily formed from the same bloodline, but our minjok [also] thinks that it is a single bloodline. This has the function of further strengthening our ethnic [minjok] consciousness.” p112

“If one looks at ancient records and archaeological sources, [it can be seen that] Old Joseon’s territory covered the whole of the Korean peninsula and Manchuria; at the same time there were many tribes (종족) and polities (정치집단) inside of it. If these were inside of Old Joseon’s territory during the same period [of Old Joseon] then they can be seen as regional administrations (지역정권) of Old Joseon.

Some of these would have been groups made after the establishment of Old Joseon according to necessity, but there would also have been village confederacies, i.e. tribes (종족), that were spread across each region from before Old Joseon’s establishment. After the establishment of Old Joseon such tribes received the name of Dan’gun (단군의 명 {or ‘took orders from Dan’gun’}) who was the highest central ruler, and [they] existed as political [administrative] units of a [given] region. In China, these kinds of polities were called jehu-guk ‘feudal states’ (諸侯國); in Old Joseon they were called geosu-guk (渠帥國).

If one looks at the polities (geosu-guk and tribes) within Old Joseon that are confirmed in written sources, in the Liaoxi region there was Gija-guk (箕子國), Buyeo, Gojuk (孤竹), Goguryeo, Ye (濊), Maek (貊), Chu (追), Jinbeon (眞番), Nangnang (樂浪), Imdun (臨屯), Hyeondo (玄菟), Suksin (肅愼), Cheonggu (靑丘), Yang’i (良夷), Yangju (楊州), Bal (發) and Okjeo (沃沮); in the region of Liaodong and the Korean peninsula there was Jin (辰), Biryu (沸流) Haeng’in (荇人), Haedu (海頭), Gaema (蓋馬), Guda (句茶), Jona (朱那), and Han (韓, 三韓). These [polities] grouped together forming our minjok. If one estimates the smaller groups not recorded in written sources, then there would have been a far greater number of polities than this.” p114

IV 6. What lesson (교훈) does the Shiji teach us?

“Consequently, through [writing] history, Sima Qian wanted to confirm such [matters] as whether the emperor was practicing Tiandao (天道 {‘the way of heaven’}) and whether Tiandao was righteous [or not]. Shiji is simultaneously both the question and answer book concerning Tiandao and righteousness.

The Shiji is largely filled with two meanings. One is a unification ideology (통일사상) [of China]; the other is questions and answers about Tiandao.” p154

“According to history, there was a period when China was briefly divided, but it eventually achieved [the form of] a unified state; today, aside from the [Chinese] Han [majority], 55 [other] minjok are living [in China] yet it [remains] a single country without division, [this] can be said to be largely [from] the effect of the unification ideology planted by Sima Qian by means of [writing] the Shiji. The area of China is around 9,600,000 square kilometres [which is] similar to the whole of Europe. In the same [size] area, Europe has several tens of countries, but China is a single country.

Sima Qian is the largest person of merit (공로자) who has enabled the unified China of today to maintain [itself as such]. That the basin of the Yellow River’s middle reaches is recognized as the heartland of ancient East Asian culture, and the region of East Asia with the most advanced culture, can also be said to be the effect of the historical consciousness centered on the Yellow River that was planted by Sima Qian.” p155

“With the task of minjok unification before us, we must strive to take the historical precepts shown within Sima Qian’s Shiji as lessons from which to learn (他山之石), strengthen [our] historical consciousness and unification consciousness, and make a righteous society.” p157

VI 6. What is the Gaecheon-jeol (개천절) [national foundation festival] to our minjok?

“From amongst the twelve months of the year, our minjok liked the 10th month the most and called it sangdal (‘upper month / high moon’). Consequently in the ancient period, states such as Goguryeo, Dong’ye and Han (Samhan) had large national (국가적) events with sacrificial rites (제사) to god (하느님) in the 10th month. At this time all the people in the country regardless of sex or age, would eat and drink, and enjoy singing and dancing all day and night for consecutive days. It is this kind of 10th month which has come to be the month of Gaecheon-jeol. And adding here the number three which our minjok considers the most sacred number, [the date of] Gaecheon-jeol has been [established] as October 3rd.” p200

VI 6. Do we have true ‘ethnic nationalism’ (민족주의 lit. ‘minjok-ism’)?

“Since the Three Kingdoms period when Buddhist culture was transmitted [to Korea], as the culture of the ruling class Buddhism has reigned over our [own] culture. Coming to the early modern [era of the] Joseon dynasty, Chinese Confucian logic controlled our society whilst beneath it was Buddhist culture and at the very bottom our own culture was held in contempt. Consequently [we] could not have pride in our own culture and the identity of [our] minjok could not be established. From Joseon onwards there could not but be a disconnect (괴리) between the ruling class who made the foreign culture of Confucianism into [their] guiding ideology, and the commoner class who continued to live holding onto our own culture. It could not but become a society with no centre of balance (구심점). Under this situation we became a colony of Japan.” p204

VI 3. The structural scheme (체계) of our ancient history is wrong

The following paragraph is the caption text for the above map.

“Diagram showing the positions of Wi Man Joseon and the Han Commanderies. Wi Man Joseon and the Han Commanderies were located in the Liaoxi region. Wi Man Joseon established itself having usurped the authority of Gija-guk (기자국), after which it expanded its territory eastwards and so Gija-guk was located in the western part of Wi Man Joseon. This current day region of Liaoxi where they were located was the western borderland/frontier of Old Joseon. Thus they were in confrontation with Old Joseon east and west.” p210

“These facts support [the view] that the system of ancient history viewing Dan’gun Joseon, Gi Ja Joseon, Wi Man Joseon and the Han Commanderies as consecutively succeeding one another, which became commonly accepted (통용) from Jewang-un’gi {帝王韻紀} onwards, is wrong, and that [rather] the record of Samguk-yusa which viewed Dan’gun Joseon and Gi Ja Joseon as coexisting is correct. The rise and fall of Gi Ja Joseon, Wi Man Joseon and the Han Commanderies were events that occurred in the western borderlands of Dan’gun Joseon, that is, the region between Dan’gun Joseon and China; for Dan’gun Joseon when these events occurred its western frontier territory was reduced but it continued to exist [as before].” p211-2

“Thus the narrative of our history must be structured as Old Joseon (Dan’gun Joseon) → Multiple states period (various states) → Four Kingdoms period (Goguryeo, Baekje, Silla and Gaya) → Southern and Northern Kingdoms period (Silla and Balhae) → Goryeo etc; Gi Ja Joseon, Wi Man Joseon and the Han Commanderies must be treated as an event which occurred in the border territory between Dan’gun Joseon and China.” p212

“The mistake [in] the structure of our ancient history gives rise to an extremely important problem. It topples us down as a minjok lacking the ability to develop our own subjective (주체적) histori[cal experience]. [It would mean that] Dan’gun Joseon, established by our minjok, was [to be] replaced on account of Gi Ja who flees from China; Gi Ja’s descendent, King Jun, ends up with his authority usurped by Wi Man who [also] flees from China; and then China having overthrown Wi Man Joseon, makes the land its own territory and establishes the administrative regions of the Four Commanderies of Lelang-jun, Lintun-jun, Zhenfan-jun and Xuantu-jun {Korean: Nangnang-gun, Imdun-gun, Jinbeon-gun and Heondo-gun}.

If that were the case, then it would mean that our minjok was ruled by Chinese people for as much as 1,400 years, from around 1100BCE when Gi Ja came in flight up until 313~315CE when Lelang-jun was expelled [from Korean territory]. If this is true, it would raise doubts as to whether Dan’gun Joseon ever [really] existed, and even if it [could] be said that it did, one could not but think that its power must have been extremely weak. It is because of this point that the debate over whether Dan’gun Joseon existed or not continues.” p212

VI 6. We must focus on the periods of unification

“History must be narrated according to facts. However, which facts to select amongst many, and which matters (내용 lit. ‘content’) to place emphasis on depends on the historical consciousness (역사의식) of the historian authoring the book. When evaluating the period[s] during which our minjok was divided amongst several states, whether to place weight on the division itself, or to view as [more] important the coming period of unification and so view [the division] as a process of transition, is a question of historical consciousness.” p223

“Now we must realize the importance of history education. And we must leave behind (벗어나다) the mistaken history education of former days. We must set the focus of our history not on ‘division’ but ‘unity’. In order to do this it is absolutely necessary to write [history] focusing on: Old Joseon [as] the first state established by our minjok upon unifying; Goryeo [for] achieving the reunification of the minjok; early modern Joseon and the Daehan Empire that succeeded Goryeo; the war against the Japanese Empire, and [finally] the present.” p224

Yun Naehyeon 윤내현. 2003 (2014 5th reprint). 우리 고대사: 상상에서 현실로 (Our Ancient History: from imagination to reality). Paju, Gyeonggi province: 지식산업사.

One thought on “Sources: Yun Naehyeon “Our Ancient History” – miscellaneous extracts

  1. Pingback: Sources: “Our Ancient History” Yun Naehyeon | Koreanology

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