Professor James Grayson – Professor of Modern Korean Studies and Director of Centre for Korean Studies, Sheffield University
Ch’udo yebae: a Protestant substitute for Confucian ancestral rituals
Abstract: An early resolution of a conflict of values is necessary if a missionary religion is to find acceptance in the culture of the receiving society. In East Asia, under the influence of Confucianism, filial piety came to be seen as the principal personal and social moral value, which moral sentiment was to be given visible representation in the performance of ancestral rituals. Christian missions, Catholic and Protestant, faced a conflict between filial piety and ancestral rites on the one hand, and the proscription of the performance of idolatrous rites on the other hand. From the end of the nineteenth century, Korean Protestants have resolved this conflict by developing a Christian ritual which is a substitute for Confucian ancestral rites. Within a century, this rite has become the central rite in a complex of Confucian-based Christian death and funerary rituals.
Notes (the usual caveats about my amateur efforts apply)
- The development of the Ch’udo Yebae, the memorial service, is easier to trace for the more liturgically-based Methodists than it is for the Presbyterians
- First Methodist records are much earlier than first thought: the first record dating to 1897 — a report of a memorial service in the papers of the Chongdong First Methodist Church.
- By 1935 the service had made it into the Korean Methodist Prayer Book — the order of service (and who does what) is specified in detail (prayers, hymns, bible readings etc)
- It is made clear that the service is a memorial, and clearly not ancestor worship. It’s conducted on the death day only, and for three years only (the period of mourning).
- More recent systematisation has detailed diagrams of the layout of the space where the ceremony is held (“Christianity being confucianised?”)
Back to conference main page