From wife to moral teacher: Kang chǒngildang on neo-confucian self-cultivation

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This paper aims to investigate the philosophical thought and moral practice of a Korean neo-Confucian female scholar named Kang Chngildang (1772-1832), who not only believed in moral equality between men and women and the possibility of female sagehood but actually empowered herself to become a moral paragon. Furthermore, Chngildangs strong faith in moral equality between men and women enabled her to engage in social criticism of the existing educational system and social norms which discriminated against women, not by overcoming neo-Confucianism, commonly understood as essentially androcentric and patriarchal, but by wholeheartedly embracing and further re-appropriating it in the service of womens moral self-empowerment and moral perfectibility. After explicating why Chngildang nonetheless subscribed to gendered roles and female virtue with reference to her neo-Confucian worldview, I suggest that she can be called a harbinger of Confucian feminism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-47
Number of pages20
JournalAsian Philosophy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Jan 2

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The earlier version of the paper was presented at the 2013 American Philosophical Association annual meeting (Pacific division) and I am grateful to Halla Kim, Own Flanagan, Eric Hutton, and my co-panelists for their comments and suggestions. Special thanks are due to Philip J. Ivanhoe who not only offered many helpful comments but also helped refine my English translations of the original classical Chinese text by Chŏngildang. This research was supported by the Academy of Korean Studies Grant funded by the Korean Government (MEST) (AKS-2011-AAA-2102).

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Religious studies
  • Philosophy


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