Hi Art Explorers! This is my first week using a “reposting” my class post. Our class readings this week were focused on the theme of culture and development. In case you are interest, the two readings noted in my post below are “The Social Dimenstosn of Culture and Contemporary Expressions” by Ali Mazrui and The Challenge of Holistic Vision: Culture, Empowerment, and the Development Paradigm.

Authenticity and Tradition–Modernity and Change (Jongmyo Shrine)

The Jongmyo Shrine, located in Seoul Korea, has been standing since the 16th century. It is the oldest and most authentic of the preserved Confucian royal shrines. The shrine is dedicated to the forefathers of the Josean dynasty (1392-1910) and stores tablets with the teachings of the former royal family.  Ancestral worship rites still take place at the shrine today. UNESCO listed Jongmyo shrine on its World Heritage list in 1995. Below I have embedded a video of the beautiful shrine.

In his presentation, “The Challenge of Holistic Vision: Culture, Empowerment, and the Development Paradigm,” Ismail Serageldin states that an effective cultural framework should be rooted in authenticity and tradition. (19) The Jongmyo shrine is a celebration of the unique history of the people of Korea and a memorial to the practice of Confucianism. Today, Koreans can visit the shrine and witness the traditional music and dance that have survived the test of time. The shrine is a part of their cultural identity; it serves as both a window to the past and a symbol of inspiration for future generations. Ali Mazrui notes that “symbols of past stratification become symbols of current identity” (18). The Jongmyo shrine is a monument to Confucianism and the royal family but it also honors the men and women of Korea that helped to build the shrine, preserve the shrine, or worked within the shrine.

It is important to point out that while Serageldin emphasizes the importance of authenticity and tradition, he also stresses the need for openness to modernity and change.(19)  While the Jongmyo shrine tells the story of Confucianism in traditional manner, new institutions such as the South Korean Summer Camps, pass on the teachings of Confucianism in a more modern way. The BBC video, Confucian Summer Camps take S Korean Students Back to Basics, demonstrates the importance of cultural preservation through adaption. These children are no longer required to learn the lessons of their forefathers during the school day, but their parents are able to send them to a summer camp that offers a glimpse of the past. Hopefully as these children get older, they will think of new ways for the teachings to evolve for the next generation.