Social Change And The Position Of Women In Silla And Koryo

1573 words - 7 pages

It is quite interesting how sudden a particular dynasty gets replaced by another in a blink of an eye. It is also quite interesting to sit back and view the various changes being taken place, whether it calls for drastic measures or simply leaving things the way they are. Perhaps changes will allow for improvement and create a better society for all. But, if things are done one way and results are satisfactory, why change a good thing? Koryo, a dynasty founded and ruled by a military commander named Wang Kon (T'aego), did just that. It kept many of the female-centered features of Silla's social system, which will be discussed in the following paragraphs. (Kim, p11) During the declination ...view middle of the document...

" (Kim, p15) Both statements suggest that women in these two dynasties, whether in the position of a mother, wife, or daughter, must acquire filial piety in order to meet the expectations laid out by society. It is noted that if a woman failed in her duties of filial piety, especially towards her in-laws, harsh punishments were carried out by her husband. Such punishments included divorce and/or being expelled from their home. Filial piety and fidelity were considered as the most important ethical conduct. Neglecting piety in general and neglecting devotion toward one's parents is the greatest of all misconducts. (Kim, p14-15) Since virtuosity and piety were regarded highly and taken quite seriously, such lifestyles and ways of life remained the same and continued into the Koryo dynasty.Within the social class of society, the importances of women's positions were beginning to falter due to social changes, which were taking place during the transition of the two dynasties. Changes were largely brought about by the introduction of Confucianism, which included the revision of the bone rank system and kinship organization. "One of the distinct features of Koryo society was the kinship unit of five generations which replaced the seven generation clan group as the basic unit of social organization." (Kim, p12) Since the bone rank system was discarded, a new class was created among the royal clan. Of course, King T'aejo made sure Silla's elite families maintain similar statuses as before. The ruling class consisted both the military and civil, was called the yangban. Below the yangban were the commoners (sangmin), and below them, existed the lowborn (ch'onmin). Even though there were class distinctions and strict rules for all to marry within their social classes, the people of Koryo enjoyed a more flexible class system than those of the Silla period. This is explained by, ""¦ marriage in the upper class served in part to preserve power, marriage in the lower classes sometimes provided a means of climbing up the social ladder and accumulating wealth." (Kim, p14) This idea was practiced in the later periods of Silla, which was further carried out into the time or Koryo. Women were often deserted by their husbands for other women of higher status and wealth. Evidently, women of the higher class were more or less treated as objects and the vital importance of their roles were being compromised. As opposed to the more matriarchal ways practiced in the Silla period, Koryo decided to take the patriarchal direction, hence social changes were apparent.Apparently, in the Silla time period, women's roles and their rights were more valued and expressed than in the Koryo time period. In the courts, Silla people valued having the bloodline stay within. And when there's no heir to the throne, they would allow a princess to take over, whereas in Koryo times, a king's illegitimate son would step forward, or a son-in law would, but never would the daughter t...


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