Jump to content
  • Sign Up

Korean Confucius Confusion


Recommended Posts

Twice in the past week I have been asked the same questions by different students at our university's English corner.

Have you heard that Koreans believe that Confucius was born in Korea? Do you believe it?

Now, even the second time I was asked, I didn't really have any response to this except polite confusion, and to express that I had always understood that he had been Chinese.

This seems to be generating a lot heat amongst the students, and I couldn't really get any firm details from them there. Only what seems like over-generalizations, saying all Korean believe this... their history textbooks say... stealing Chinese culture.

Unfortunately it's not easy to google this story, combinations of "was confucius korean" don't really work well as search terms. After trying for a while I was unable to come up with one single reference to this story in English. Neither China Daily nor Korean English Language on-line newpapers seems to have it.

Trying “孔子 韩国“ yields quite a few stories and I tried the first one. I have to admit that, while I can read the basic outline of the story, the actual thesis is a little beyond my level. Have to laugh at the rebuttal though "The facts: Chinese legend says..."

Anyway my questions to everyone.

1) Has anyone else been asked about this recently?

2) How seriously is this research taken? (Given there doesn't seems to be anything on English on the web about this, I already suspect an answer...)

3) Does anyone know what the general feeling amongst Koreans about this is?

4) Does anyone know of a good English write up of the argument, and maybe counter-argument?

5) How would you respond to Chinese students asking you about this?

P.S. Story reminds me of the most effective way of irritating Captain Kirk. "You've not read Shakespeare until you've read it in the original Klingon"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some consider Confucius to be a descendant of Jizi, who supposed settled Korea during the Shang Dynasty.


Jizi (Chinese:箕子, Gija in Korean)[1] was a semi-legendary Chinese sage who is said to have ruled Gojoseon by theory in the 12th century BCE. His family name was Zi/Ja (子) and given name was Xuyu/Suyu (胥餘/서여 xūyú/seoyeo, or 須臾/수유 xūyú/suyu).


The Koreans, especially Confucians, considered Jizi a Chinese sage who had brought Chinese civilization to Korea. During the Goryeo Dynasty, King Sukjong identified a mound near P'yŏngyang as Jizi's tomb. He built a mausoleum to enshrine him in 1102 C.E.. The throne rebuilt the mausoleum in 1324 and repaired it again in 1355. In the Samguk Yusa (1281?) and the Jewang Ungi (1287), the story of Jizi follows that of the Weilüe, but unlike Chinese sources, these sources add that Jizi succeeded Dangun, who had ruled Gojoseon. Most subsequent Korean history books follow that narrative. This is the correlation by which the Koreans can claim an association with both shamanism (from Dangun) and pre-Confucian China (from Jizi).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In the first case I think we were talking about Korean pop music and soap operas. One of my students said they didn't like Korea and I asked why. In the second case I don't think there was anything really preceeding it. I was the foreign teacher at the English corner, and once one topic has dried up, anyone's free to ask other questions. In this case it was more like they were looking for support from a third party. I'm not in any way Korean.

Thanks for the links, I'll look into them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...
  • 3 weeks later...

It's been said that some Koreans believe that they are descended from a Chinese ancestor, but most don't, due to the fact that they don't use the same language as Chinese people today. I have read somewhere that a Korean ruler by the name of 李珥 was of Chinese descent. Whether that's true or not is always up for debate. BTW, "CONFUCIUS" is not his name. It is a Latinized version of his title, as addressed by his disciples/students: Kong Fuzi, where Kong is his last name & Fuzi is his title from Ancient Chinese, usually translated as "teacher" in English. But Chinese people DO NOT address someone of higher status with any parts of their name, the last name is used to tell people, presumably with the same title, apart. I actually saw a building, some sort of school here in New York, where they inscribed mostly the names of people from the Bible, but preceded by CONFUCIUS, which is followed by LAOTSE [correctly: Lao tz'u / Laozi], which seemed strange to me: Why would personalities from the Bible be preceded by a Chinese philosopher and Taoist? :conf

Following those Chinese names were MOSES, SOLOMON, DAVID, etc... I forgot the rest, there were like twenty names, but the first two are of Chinese people??? :conf

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think Ah-Bin's point is that in Confucius' time, there was no such thing as 'China' yet, only a number of warring states, that eventually, well after Confucius died, would be united to form one country, and only then was there something called 'China'.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Stonelee, that's not what Hofmann said. In any case, don't let yourself be so easily manipulated. If you look at Ah-Bin's post, he said:

I always like to annoy people by saying Confucius wasn't Chinese at all.
I'm quite positive Ah-Bin knows the history and geography of China well enough. I'm sure he also understands enough about Chinese culture to understand the reaction it will provoke in Chinese people and that is why he says it. The more annoyed you act, the more amusing it is and the more you'll encourage people to continue to make remarks to get you annoyed. It's called trolling, and is a well known phenomenon on Internet forums. The easiest way to stop it, is to ignore it.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...