The newest volume in the Center for Korean Studies book series, Hawai‘i Studies on Korea, presents a multidisciplinary investigation of historic and contemporary practices linked with death in Korea. Death, Mourning, and the Afterlife in Korea: Ancient to Contemporary Times, edited by Charlotte Horlyck and Michael J. Pettid, was released this month by the University of Hawai’i Press, the Center’s co-publisher.
The book starts with the recognition that death and the activities and beliefs surrounding it can teach us much about the ideals and cultures of the living. Death is an end to physical life, but this break is not so apparent in its mental and spiritual aspects. The influence of the dead over the living can sometimes be greater than before death.
The contributors to the volume incorporate the approaches of archaeology, history, literature, religion, and anthropology in addressing a number of topics organized around issues of the body, disposal of remains, ancestor worship and rites, and the afterlife.
The first two chapters explore the ways in which bodies of the dying and the dead were dealt with from the Greater Silla Kingdom (668 – 935) to the mid-twentieth century. Grave construction and goods, cemeteries, and memorial monuments in Koryŏ (918‑1392) and the twentieth century are then discussed, followed by a consideration of ancestral rites and worship, which have formed an inseparable part of Korean mortuary customs since premodern times. Other chapters address the need to appease the dead both in shamanic and Confucian contexts. The final section examines the treatment of the dead and how the state of death has been perceived. The final chapter explores how death and the afterlife were understood by early Korean Catholics of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Charlotte Horlyck is lecturer in Korean art history in the Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Michael J. Pettid is professor of premodern Korean studies in the Department of Asian and Asian American Studies at Binghamton University (SUNY), where he also is director of the Translation Research and Instruction Program.
Death, Mourning, and the Afterlife in Korea is available through booksellers or directly from the University of Hawai‘i Press. For more information about the book, see the UH Press Web site. Follow this link for information about other titles in the Hawai‘i Studies on Korea series.