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Cheondoism (spelled Chondoism in North Korean sources) (Korean: Cheondogyo; hanja 天道教; hangul 천도교; literally "Religion of the Heavenly Way") is a 20th-century Korean religious ideology, based on the 19th-century Donghak religious movement founded by Ch'oe Che-u and codified under Son Pyŏng-Hi. Cheondoism has its origins in the peasant rebellions which arose starting in 1812 during the Joseon dynasty.
Cheondoism is essentially Confucian in origin, but incorporates elements of Korean shamanism. It places emphasis on personal cultivation, social welfare in the present world, and rejects any notion of an afterlife. A splinter movement is Suwunism.
Cheondogyo translated literally means "religion of the Heavenly Way", where cheon means "Heaven", do means "Way" (written with the same character as Chinese Tao), and gyo means "religion", "teaching", "-ism".
In keeping with its roots in Confucian thought, Cheondoism venerates Heaven as the ultimate principle of good and justice, which is referred to by the honorific term Haneullim (하늘님) or “Divine Master”. According to the church doctrine, the term "Haneul" does not only mean Heaven but represents the whole universe.[not in citation given] This title implies the quality of Heaven as "instructor", that is a belief that man and things are not created by a supernatural (out of nature) God, but generated by a God that is inner in things. Also in keeping with its Confucian background, Cheondoism places emphasis on personal cultivation in the belief that as one improves their innate nature, one comes closer to Heaven, and that all things are the same as Heaven in terms of their innate quality.
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Cheondoism originated from the Tonghak ("Eastern Learning"), a religious movement that arose in 19th century Korea as a reaction to Western encroachment, particularly the spread of Catholicism. The Tonghak movement began with Ch'oe Che-u in 1860, but it became an officially-recognized religion under its third leader, Son Pyŏng-Hi.
Ch'oe Che-u formulated the Tonghak ideology in 1860 as an alternative to Catholicism ("Western Learning"), which was gaining movement with the lower classes in Korea due to its ability to provide a sense of structure and stability beyond the family unit. Due to its basis in established religions—Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism—and its commitment to representing Eastern ideals, the movement rapidly gained broad acceptance among the peasantry.
Cheondoism as a religion evolved in the early 1900s from the Tonghak peasant liberation movements in the southern provinces of Korea, particularly the unsuccessful, yet consequential, rebellion of 1894. Followers of Tonghak were severely persecuted until the establishment of the Protectorate Treaty of 1905, which guaranteed freedom of religion. Therefore, on December 1, 1905, Son Pyŏng-Hi decided to modernize the religion and usher in an era of openness and transparency in order to legitimize it in the eyes of the Japanese, who had strong influence over Korea at the time. As a result, he officially changed the name of Tonghak to Cheondoism ("religion of the Heavenly Way"). Following this, a constitution and a Central General Bureau were laid out for the religion, centralizing it and making it more accessible to the public.
As of 2005, Cheondoism had about 1.13 million followers and 280 churches in South Korea. Very little is known of the activities of Cheondoists in North Korea. According to official statistics, Cheondoism had 2.8 million adherents in North Korea (12.9% of the total population) as of 2000. Cheondoists are nominally represented in North Korean politics by the minor Cheondoist Chongu Party.
The website representing the DPRK claims that the Cheondoist party is there to create harmony amongst the people, and support the provision of welfare for the people, through the Juche state.
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- Yao, Xinzhong (2000). An Introduction to Confucianism. Cambridge University Press. pp. 121–122. ISBN 0521644305.
- Lee Chi-ran, p.3 & p. 16
- Lee Chi-ran, pp. 16-20
- , 천도교개관(영문)-천도교
- Lee Chi-ran, p. 16
- 韓國 近代宗敎의 三敎融合과 生命·靈性 - 원불교사상연구원 Archived December 25, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
- Young, Carl F. pp.6-7
- Young, Carl F. pp.113-121
- Young, Carl F. pp.6-7
- Young, Carl F. pp.10-12
- Young, Carl F. pp.113-121
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- North Korea
This article incorporates text from Korea Web Weekly. Used with permission. Korea Web Weekly is not an independent source of information but is instead associated with various North Korea government sources.
- Lee Chi-ran. Chief Director, Haedong Younghan Academy. The Emergence of National Religions in Korea.
- Young, Carl F. Associate Professor, Western University. Eastern Learning and the Heavenly Way: The Tonghak and Chondogyo Movements and the Twilight of Korean Independence.