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Human Experiences of Enlightenment and Love: China and Korea Essay

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Updated: Jun 19th, 2020

Introduction

Ancient Chinese poetry, history, and philosophies capture the cultural values of the Asian people. In the first millennium, the ancient Chinese people experienced ruthless and extended periods of war1. However, ancient Asian cultural productions indicate that these periods enabled the Chinese to realize many technological and socioeconomic developments.

Intellectual debates thrived in relation to some aspects, such as economics, socio-economics, new knowledge of the natural order, peace, and development of human society in both Korea and China. Among these aspects, the human experiences of love and enlightenment were key features2. It is vital to note that all the early civilizations were typified by high levels of love and enlightenment. This paper discusses the aspects of enlightenment and love in two of the three major regions of East Asia, i.e., China and Korea.

Ancient China’s experiences of enlightenment and love

It is evident that from a very long time ago, the Chinese people appeared to have unique love and respect for historical events. In fact, even the earliest dynasties were said to have their independent historians who were instrumental in fostering love and enlightenment. The very first ancient Chinese literature was the Shinjing, also referred to as the Book of Song. Later, the ancient philosopher, Confucius, produced a masterpiece named the Chuci. The Confucian production, also referred to as the Songs of the South introduced the love for poetry among the Chinese people. In fact, people felt that they could express their feelings using poems.

It is important to note that it was the ancient poet Qu Yuan, who introduced the shamanistic roots and enabled them to be entrenched into Chinese poetry. The poet developed the writings of Huanzi, and is considered as the first person to individually rise to prowess as a poet. This introduced enlightenment during that particular period through the establishment of the Daoism philosophy. Qu Yuan was one of the founding fathers of this ancient Chinese philosophy.

Daoism philosophy is considered as one of the first ways through which poetry introduced an age of enlightenment in ancient Chinese cultural aspects. Daoism, also referred to as Taoism, is a much-respected indigenous enlightenment period, which was important in improving human experiences at the time3. The Daoija school of thought, philosophers, and philosophical manuscripts prepared by Zhuangi and Laozi were instrumental in this enlightenment period.

During this age of enlightenment, human experiences were focused on philosophical as well as religious inclinations. Daoism brought about new kinds of human experiences, such as the importance of living relatively long lives, proper diet, ethics in leadership, morals in life, and regulation of the conscious mind. The Daoism philosophy focused on the core concerns and ideas that were effortless actions, self-realization, and how to reach the Dao, which was the mysterious aspect of the philosophy.

The Zhuangzi is innately connected to other poetic works, such as the Guanzi and the Chuci. The connection involves an individual’s attempt toward attaining a human experience referred to as Neiye or inner cultivation. However, the Zhuangzi provides poetic prose that allows growth toward sagehood. This is the final part of the Taoism philosophy and teachings. It is important to contend that, upon reaching this stage, all other human experiences were adopted. They aimed at attaining sagehood, changing physical bodies, and pacifying the mind. Lastly, there was a mastery of the control and focus on qi, the body’s internal energy. The entire practice was considered to have three distinct parts, which were holding to the One, keeping the One, and obtaining the One4.

It is vital to state that some leaders were against human enlightenment. For example, the villainous acts of the first emperor of Qin, where he ordered books to be burnt and scholars to be executed, were aimed at achieving thought control. It is indicated that all literature was destroyed, but for the Classic of Changes and books on technical subjects, for example, forestry and medicine. In total, 460 scholars were executed during the period of the heinous acts. Scholars in different fields were believed to influence a significant number of citizens to adopt certain political thoughts, which were opposed by the leadership.

That notwithstanding, the masses were able to rise against those in leadership and agitate for changes in society, which helped to promote love and relatively high levels of enlightenment. Although the Qin did not last long in China, it had profound impacts on the course of the nation’s history. The rulers during the period forced people to adopt systems that unified, standardized, and centralized ways of doing things. The new systems led to the destruction of the old approaches and gave rise to relatively high levels of unity and identity among the Chinese people, implying that new levels of love and enlightenment were established.

The old feudal states were destroyed, and the population was exemplified by many shifts. Furthermore, wars and uprisings were evident in the country, which resulted in the downfall of the Zhou aristocracy5. A new system of leadership gave several families and leaders a chance to demonstrate their leadership abilities. However, the Legalists failed to suppress new schools of thought, which were typified by relatively high levels of criticism. It was argued that later regimes could utilize the policies proposed by the Legalists.

So far, it can be noted that none of the later regimes openly hated the philosophical ideas of the Qin, yet the emperor and his advisers were regarded as symbols of evil and oppression in China. When the Zhou dynasty was disintegrating, relatives were alienated from each other. In fact, they started attacking and killing each other as if they were long-term enemies. At the end of the day, feudal lords initiated wars, but the king could not do anything to salvage the situation. Thus, it became clear that the dynasty was disintegrating, and people wanted to express high levels of love and enlightenment6.

The aspect of the Lotus, as demonstrated by Zhiyi, was founded on the Buddhist teachings. The teachings of the Buddha could be grouped into five major periods during which different developments of enlightenment and love were achieved. However, the five periods emphasized the adoption of truth and honesty.

Ancient Korea’s experiences of enlightenment and love

The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong is a book that was written by a prominent woman who was a princess, as well as a mother and a grandmother to some kings of the 18th century. Lady Hyegyong was famous for writing the works published in the 18th century7. The works were meticulously written during a period of about ten years, documenting her life in marriage to the prince. They include public memoirs as well as private memoirs.

The memoirs expose tales of tragedy in Korean courts as a result of the dearly adhered to historical education rules. The high point of the Korean literature is the murder of Sado, the prince, by his paternal father under unclear circumstances. It focuses on human experiences with regard to upholding age-old traditions and tragedy.

This story exposes an ancient Korean society where men, as the heads of families, looked down upon women. However, the extent to which the entire political and economic systems were changed is also narrated. The author seeks to progressively investigate how the family she held, so dear, was involved in several tragedies.

King Yongjo killed Sado for failing to follow the rituals of some traditions with regard to education, resulting in a father who loathed his son. The son had been separated at birth from the family, and the visits were quite formal. It reached a point where the prince digressed from his ritualized tradition. Unfortunately, he stammered in the king’s presence. In fact, the fear of his father led to the young man’s trembling in the king’s presence.

As time progressed, the king’s opinion about Sado suddenly began to make him adopt different views. For example, the king accused the son of drinking alcohol, which was not true8. On one occasion, the son requested to be offered alcohol publicly, leading to a high level of anger from the king. He was also blamed for occurrences of natural disasters. This shows that the perceptions of the Korean king in relation to considering human experiences of love to his son were not positively impacting society.

The prince succumbed to cases of insanity as well as poor physical health. The frustrations in his life motivated him to commit suicide on several occasions, but he did not succeed. As his level of insanity increased, the King began fearing his son’s presence. He tricked his son into entering a rice storage place. It was later sealed, and after eight days, the young prince died. The skillful writer presents the tragedies in the memoirs, proving that education was treasured by aristocratic families. That notwithstanding, it is evident that love and enlightenment were not considered to help Korean families to prosper. In fact, it is indicated that a father could hate his own child for fearing that he could threaten him in relation to leadership in society.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it has been demonstrated that Chinese culture was characterized by different philosophies that helped society to achieve significant levels of development. For example, it has been shown that Confucius was instrumental in emphasizing the expression of feelings using poems, which were adopted by a significant number of citizens. Taoism was a period exemplified by enlightening people with regard to the positive impacts of the unique experiences of love. In fact, it was a critical period during which many developments were achieved.

In addition, some key persons in the history of China, such as Zhuangi and Laozi, were instrumental in proposing some philosophical views. The Korean culture borrowed heavily from the much older Chinese culture. The ancient Chinese culture enabled enlightenment and love among citizens but suffered from external interferences that led to subsequent collapse. However, the relatively high levels of love and enlightenment enabled the neighboring Korean culture to grow in a similar manner, but much later.

Bibliography

de Bary, Theodore, ed. Sources of East Asia Tradition. Vol. 1. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.

Ebley, Patricia and Anne Walthall, ed. Pre-Modern East Asia to 1800: A Cultural, Social, and Political History. Ohio: Wadsworth, 2013.

Haboush, JaHyun, ed. The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong: The Autobiographical Writings of a Crown Princess of Eighteenth-Century Korea. California: Univ of California Press, 2013.

Owen, Stephen. An anthology of Chinese literature: beginnings to 1911. New York: W. W. Norton, 1996.

Shirane, Haruo, ed. Traditional Japanese literature: an anthology, beginnings to 1600. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.

Footnotes

  1. Theodore de Bary, ed. Sources of East Asia Tradition. Vol. 1. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), 620-660.
  2. Patricia Ebley, and Anne Walthall, ed. Pre-Modern East Asia to 1800: A Cultural, Social, and Political History. (Ohio: Wadsworth, 2013), 202-247.
  3. Patricia Ebley, and Anne Walthall, ed. Pre-Modern East Asia to 1800: A Cultural, Social, and Political History. (Ohio: Wadsworth, 2013), 202-247.
  4. Stephen Owen. An anthology of Chinese literature: beginnings to 1911. (New York: W. W. Norton, 1996), 360-411.
  5. Stephen Owen. An anthology of Chinese literature: beginnings to 1911. (New York: W. W. Norton, 1996), 360-411.
  6. Haruo Shirane, ed. Traditional Japanese literature: an anthology, beginnings to 1600. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), 449-455.
  7. JaHyun Haboush, ed. The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong: The Autobiographical Writings of a Crown Princess of Eighteenth-Century Korea. (California: Univ of California Press, 2013), 170.
  8. JaHyun Haboush, ed. The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong: The Autobiographical Writings of a Crown Princess of Eighteenth-Century Korea. (California: Univ of California Press, 2013), 170.
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