A popular teaching that combined elements of Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism, folk beliefs, and Catholicism, Tonghak (Eastern Learning) is best known for its involvement in a rebellion that touched off the Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895) and accelerated Japanese involvement in Korea. Through a careful reading of sources—including religious works and biographies many of which are translated and annotated here into English for the first time—Salvation through Dissent: Tonghak Heterodoxy and Early Modern Korea, by George L. Kallander, traces Tonghak’s rise amidst the debates over orthodoxy and heterodoxy in Choson Korea (1392–1910) and its impact on religious and political identity from 1860 to 1906. It argues that the teachings of founder Ch’oe Cheu (1824–1864) attracted a large following among rural Koreans by offering them spiritual and material promises to relieve conditions such as poverty and disease and provided consolation in a tense geo-political climate.
“In this refreshingly original study of Tonghak, Kallander dismantles some of the myths that have sprung up about Korea’s first indigenous organized religion. He situates Tonghak in its historical context, reading the earliest Tonghak texts the way they were meant to be read when they were first composed, rather than the way they have been interpreted by latter generations. Moreover, in a departure from much previous scholarship on Tonghak, he accurately analyzes Tonghak as more religious than political in origin. This work is a significant contribution to our understanding of both Korean religion and Korean history in the nineteenth century.” —Don Baker, University of British Columbia
Korean Classics Library: Philosophy and Religion
January 2013 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3716-7 / $45.00 (CLOTH)