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A Capital Idea: Social and Economic Implications of Ritual Space in Kaegyŏng during the Early Koryŏ Period

Howard Kahm, Sinwoo Lee

Pages 27 - 52


The Koryŏ capital of Kaegyŏng was an immensely important focal point of the multi-layered ritualized landscape of the Koryŏ dynasty (918–1392). As shown in the records of the Koryŏsa, Kaegyŏng was not simply a geographical location but a physical manifestation of an argument about power in the Koryŏ era. Focusing on the palace complex and the city walls, we argue that the ritual spaces of Kaegyŏng were ongoing arguments that simultaneously sought to affirm and persuade the Koryŏ people of the power and legitimacy of the king. As heterotopological spaces defined by the unique belief system of Koryŏ, specific locations like the inner palace, the ice house, and the city walls reaffirmed the physical, metaphysical, social, and economic power of the king in a deeply symbolic framework that encompassed diverse aspects of geomancy, Daoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. The pathways of power between the ritual space and the power of the king enabled the sacralization of space that, in turn, bestowed power on those who conducted the rituals in those spaces. As a result, Kaegyŏng itself reaffirmed the power of the Koryŏ rulers as it was incorporated into the ritual landscape of Koryŏ society.


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