The Korean Images of Tibet and Sirhak Scholars: the Plurality of Truths? In Relation to the Issue of the Epistemological Shift in Eighteenth-Century Korea

Vladimir Tikhonov

Abstract


This essay deals with the history of the perception of Tibet in the consciousness of Korea’s intellectuals from the seventh to nineteenth centuries. Since Tibet was peripheral from the viewpoint of Koreans, and direct contact between the two lands was sporadic at best, little continuity in the perceptions of Tibet can be traced. By the eighteenth century, much of the earlier contacts with Tibet, which had centred on Buddhism, were simply forgotten because, from the fifteenth century onward, Buddhism no longer enjoyed the status of the royally protected religio . For eighteenth- and nineteenth century Korean intellectuals, Tibet was first and foremost a part (albeit rather heterogeneous) of the China-centred political space and known mostly from Chinese sources. It is noteworthy, however, that in eigteenth century Korea, such faraway outskirts of the Sinitic oikoumene as Tibet increasingly drew attention. It points to an important epistemological shift that saw the “periphery” gaining in importance vis-à-vis the “centre”.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11588/ts.2011.2.9128