World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0000430495
Reproduction Date:

Title: Donghak  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Donghak Peasant Revolution, Yi Kwang-su, Gang Il-sun, Religion in Korea, Son Byong-hi
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Hangul 동학
Hanja 東學
Revised Romanization Donghak
McCune–Reischauer Tonghak

Donghak (lit. Eastern Learning) was an academic movement in Korean Neo-Confucianism founded in 1860 by Choe Je-u. The Donghak movement arose as a reaction to seohak (西學, "Western learning"), and called for a return to the "Way of Heaven".[1] While Donghak originated as a reform movement and revival of Confucian teachings, it gradually evolved into a religion known today as Cheondoism in Korea under the third patriarch.


  • History 1
  • Choe Je-u 2
  • References 3
  • See also 4


The late Joseon Dynasty, which patronized Neo-Confucianism as the state ideology, saw an increasing polarization between orthodox Confucian scholars and efforts by other Confucian scholars to revive social ethics and reform society. The increasing presence and pressure from the West created a greater sense of urgency among reformers, and thus Choe Je-u first penned his treatise, Comprehensive Book of Eastern Learning, or Dongkyeong Daejon (동경대전, 東經大全). This treatise marked the first use of the term "Eastern Learning" and called for a rejection of God (in the Christian sense), and other aspects of Christian theology.[1]

Choe was alarmed by the intrusion of Christianity (천주교, Cheonjugyo Catholicism), and the Anglo-French occupation of Beijing. He believed that the best way to counter foreign influence in Korea was to introduce democracy, establish human rights and create a paradise on Earth independent of foreign interference.

In 1892 the small groups of the Donghak movement were united into a single Peasant Guerrilla Army or Donghak Peasants' Army. The peasants worked in the fields during the day, but during the night, they armed themselves and raided government offices and killed rich landlords, traders, and foreigners. They confiscated their victims' properties for redistribution.

Choe Je-u was executed as a criminal by the government. The movement was continued by Choe Si-Hyeong (1829–1898), who systematized its doctrine. He too was executed.

In 1898, following the execution of Donghak Peasant Revolution.

Under the third patriarch of the Donghak movement, Son Byeong-hui, the movement became a religion called Cheondogyo, or Cheondoism, which is followed today in both North and South Korea.

Choe Je-u

Choe Je-u's treatise argued a return to the Confucian understanding of Heaven, with emphasis on self-cultivation and improving one's nature. As Choe wrote, the Way of Heaven was within one's own mind, and so by improving one's nature, one also attained the Way of Heaven.[1]

Donghak was not accompanied by a specific agenda or systematic doctrine. Choe believed in improvising as events occurred. He had no practical plans or visions of how one would go about establishing a paradise on Earth, let alone what paradise meant except that all people were equal. Nevertheless, Choe's advocacy of democracy, human rights and Korean nationalism struck a chord among the peasant guerrillas and Donghak spread across Korea rapidly. Progressive revolutionaries waded in and organized the peasants into a cohesive fighting unit.


  1. ^ a b c Yao, Xinzhong (2000). An Introduction to Confucianism. Cambridge University Press. pp. 121–122.  

See also

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.