Korea's Religious Places - 2.3 Hyanggyo (Local Confucian Schools)
|Understanding Korea Series No.6|
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|2) Seonggyungwan National Academy||3) Hyanggyo (Local Confucian Schools)||* Gangneung Hyanggyo (Gangneung, Gangwon-do)|
The hyanggyo, literally county schools, were officially sponsored by the government. There were about 340 hyanggyo in the past, and each was modeled after the Seonggyungwan National Academy in Seoul.
In the ritual building, the focal point is the spirit tablet of Confucius. Then there are those of the four disciples, but the sixteen Chinese sages are often excluded from the hyanggyo—not always, but often. Some hyanggyo have the full array, and some leave out the sixteen Chinese sages. However, they all include the eighteen Korean sages. Among the eighteen Korean sages are two from the Silla period, two from the Goryeo period, and fourteen from the Joseon period. Noteworthy among the sages from the Silla era is the first to be honored, the father of Confucianism in Korea, Seol Chong (ca. 650–730), who was the codifier of idu—the system of using Chinese characters to write Korean before Hangeul was invented. Also honored is Choe Chi-won (857–d. after 908), who went to China as a youth, passed the civil service examination in Tang China, and served in the Tang bureaucracy. The two sages from the Goryeo period were An Hyang (1243–1306), who brought Neo-Confucianism and the teachings of Zhu Xi to Korea, and Jeong Mong-ju (1337–1392), who is famous for his loyalty to the Goryeo king. Of the fourteen sages from the Joseon period, the two most noteworthy are the two men on the currency today: on the KRW 1,000 note, we have the Neo-Confucian scholar-official Yi Hwang (1501–1570; pen name Toegye); and on the KRW 5,000 note, Yi I (1536–1584; pen name Yulgok). Also, one more of noteworthy status is Song Si-yeol (1607–1689), who was not only a scholar, but also served in the government for over fifty years, much of that time as a prime minister. He has over 3,000 entries in the official history, the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty (Joseon Wangjo Sillok)—more than any other man who was not a king.