Death, Mourning, and Afterlife: New Book in CKS Series

image: book coverThe 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.