Sosu Seowon

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Sosu Seowon
Hangul 소수서원
Hanja 紹修書院
Revised Romanization Sosu Seowon
McCune–Reischauer Sosu sŏwŏn

Sosu Seowon is the oldest seowon, private Neo-Confucian academy in Korea which was established during the Joseon Dynasty period. It was found at the entrance of Suksusa Temple, in Sunheung-myeon, Yeongju City, Gyeongsangbuk-do South Korea. Sosu Seowon was founded by Ju Sebung (주세붕/周世鵬 1495–1554), who was serving as magistrate of Pungseong county.

Sosu Seowon was the only seowon that survived from the Seowon Abolishment by Heungseon Daewongun Regent in 1871. It has been well preserved retaining most of its old structures and is designated as National Treasure of South Korea No.55


In 1542, during the 37th year of King Jungjong's reign (1506–44) of the Joseon Dynasty, the magistrate of Punggi County and Confucian scholar, Ju Se-bung, built Baekundong Seowon, renamed to Sosu Seowon in 1550, to honor the peaceful times of Goryeo. Also in 1550, during the reign of King Myeongjong of the Joseon Dynasty, Toegye Yi Hwang established Sosu Seowon as the first legislated private institute of Korea.

Many criticized Ju Se-bung's actions of founding Baekundong (Sosu) Seowon during a time of famine. But be defended himself by quoting Zhu Xi (1130–1200), the scholar who systematized Neo-Confucianism in Song dynasty. Like Zhu Xi, Ju Se-bung believed that education was the cardinal virtue of man, and ought to be promoted above all else.

Ju Se-bung was a man ahead of his time. Private academies blossomed across Korea in short order, but because Sosu Seowon was the first, it became one of the richest. After Ju Se-bung departed as magistrate, local scholars continued fund raising campaigns, receiving vast donations of grain, land, and slaves to support the academy. Sosu Seowon grew in prestige because it enshrined An Hyang (1243 -1306), a local a Confucian scholar who lived during the end of the Goryeo Dynasty who had brought Neo-Confucianism to Korea from China in the 13th century.

The academy gained even more prestige when Toegye (Yi Hwang) (1501–70), the preeminent Neo-Confucian philosopher of Korea, became magistrate of the county. He asked King Myeongjong to grant the academy a royal charter. The king responded favorably, sending a plaque with the name "Sosu Seowon" in the king's own handwriting, along with a generous supply of books. The annals of the king give interesting clues to the relation of the academy to the state. It specifies that the local magistrate cannot interfere in the affairs of the academy, nor disturb the Confucian scholars. The academy was to be promoted as a place where scholars could gather without interference from the monarchy.

About 4,000 scholars, including the pupils of Confucian scholar Toegye Yi Hwang, studied at the institute.

During the Joseon era (1392–1910), Korean Buddhism suffered heavy persecution. Many temples were closed and renovated for other uses. Because Sosu Seowon originally had been a Buddhist temple and then became a private academy, Sosu Seowon has an unconventional architectural layout compared with later Confucian academies.


Sosu Seowon also has Munseonggong Shrine, which was built to enshrine An Hyang, An Bo, An Chuk and Ju Se-bung, where a memorial service takes place on the first day of the third and ninth months of the lunar calendar every year.

The basic principle of Chinese architectural locates the study facilities at the front of the structure and the shrine to the rear, as seen in most Korean Confucian academies. But Sosu Seowon is based on the arrangement of having the study facilities placed in the east and the shrine placed in the west, positioning the greater emphasis on the east.

On the right of the Sosu Seowon entrance is the Okgyesu, a stream of the Nakdong River coming from Mt. Sobaek. Inside Sosu Seowon's auditorium is a 'Sosu Seowon' sign engraved by King Myeongjong. Behind the auditorium there are Jikbangjae, Ilshinjae, Hakgujae and Jirakjae. On the east side are the Seogo, the portrait of Anhyang (National Treasure No.111) painted at the end of Goryeo Dynasty, and the Munseong Tomb where the Daesungjisung King Munseon’s Jeonjwado (National Treasure No.485) is enshrined.

Today, an average of 800,000 tourists visit Sosu Seowon every year. Inside the institute is the Sosu Museum which exhibits a wide range of traditional Confucian cultural assets.

External links and references[edit]

Coordinates: 36°55′32″N 128°34′48″E / 36.92556°N 128.58000°E / 36.92556; 128.58000