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No More Feasts for the Dead

The royal edict to the Department of Punishments reads as follows:
            Nowadays people of high and low social status commonly compete with one another in upholding wanton ceremonies; they respect and trust shamans and dissipate fortunes. Some mourners visit shaman houses where music is played and the spirit of the dead is feasted. Others go to Buddhist temples and have a service held for the repose of the soul. Still others serve wine and food on the burial day, and host and guests console one another. All strive to outdo one another in lavishness and extravagance. This is indeed something to worry about, because the people’s livelihood consequently deteriorates, and the quality of the customs is bound up with this.
            From now on, the playing of music, the gathering of guests, and the performance of wanton ceremonies for the spirits, as well as visits of mourners to shaman houses to feast the spirit of the dead, the invitation of guests to pray for the soul’s repose, and the serving of wine on funeral days must be clearly and sternly prohibited by the censorial offices in the capital and by the local authorities in the province.
— From The Royal Annals of the Choson Dynasty (1437). Gen. Yi Song-gye founded the Choson dynasty in 1392 and established ties with the recently founded Ming dynasty, borrowing from the Chinese bureaucratic models and the ideology of neo-Confucianism. This edict was intended to curtail the lingering influence of Buddhist funerary practices at temples in favor of Confucian domestic shrines. Six years later, during the reign of King Sejong, Hangul, the Korean phonetic alphabet, was created.

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