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Korean genealogies (chokpo) are running out of style. Yet as their relevance fades, so too does knowledge of the distinct and utterly unique government fiat that brought them to life in the first place.

Believing that this information should not disappear, I will explore the history of these lineage records as they became a necessity for the upper echelons of society across the length of the Choson dynasty (1392-1910). The new law (ritual pressure?) demanded ancestor worship, not lineage records, so how and why did written lists of ancestor names spring up with such force after the beginning of the dynasty?

How and why did ancestor worship get included in the ritual sequence, since the new government chose to follow Neo-Confucianism, and Confucius did not speak of an after-life? Where did the idea of appeasing and honoring ancestor spirits come from? Shamanism? Taoism? Buddhism? What reason(s) did the scholar give for so forcefully declaring this to be the absolutely best way for the new government to proceed?

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