Korean Confucianism and Women’s Leadership in the Twenty-First Century – A Religious Reflection on Gang Jeongildang 姜靜一堂 (1772–1832), a Woman Confucian Scholar in the Late Joseon Dynasty

  • Un-sunn LeeEmail author
Part of the Dao Companions to Chinese Philosophy book series (DCCP, volume 11)


This study aims at a rethinking of Korean Confucianism from the perspective of religion. It regards the way of becoming a sage (聖人之道) as a core learning of Confucianism. It is my conviction that we can find out another meanings of traditional Confucian women’s life, when we observe the religious dimensions of Confucianism. Their well-known lives of ‘abandoning the self and following the other’ (捨己從人) are not the simple expression of selflessness, they can be rather understood as a genuine indication of the way of Confucian religiosity. This study has chosen the life and thoughts of GANG Jeongildang (姜靜一堂, 1772–1832) as one outstanding example of Korean woman Confucian religiosity. It tries to show how she embodied it in her life. She was an excellent virtuous Confucian wife as well as a woman scholar who could participate in her time’s scholarly discussions. Especially she was much admired as a notable knower of Confucian rites, and she left many writings on them written by her, instead of her husband and in his name. In my view, Confucian women’s life is a vivid effort to sanctify the whole areas of human life. As an excellent caregiver and organizer of familial life, they integrate the whole parts of ordinary life, and bring together in their caring not only ancestor worship but also every single ordinary life. In doing so, they take care of public lives as well. I am convinced that this secular religiosity of Confucian women’s life can provide us in our postmodern world a good ground and reason to be newly willing to become a genuine person and a good caregiver. The reason is that we can see how life can flourish through their devotion (敬) and sincerity (誠), and how they can lead other different responsibilities for the life. So we can find out in their lives a new model of leadership which we need more and urgently in our egocentric century.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EducationSejong University/Institute of Korean Feminist Integral Studies for FaithSeoulSouth Korea

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