The Medieval and Early Modern History section displays historical and cultural items from the Goryeo (918-1392) and Joseon (1392-1897) periods, tracing the events, conflicts, and achievements that marked the two most significant periods of Korea’s national development.
The most remarkable social changes and reforms in Joseon transpired during the 18th and early 19th century, as the dynasty began to flourish culturally, politically, and socially. This heyday was sparked by a number of factors, including an influx of new fields of study from China, a pro-intelligentsia stance by the royal house, multiple reform movements, and a return to practical studies. In particular, Kings Yeongjo and Jeongjo initiated vital reforms, including some large-scale river-dredging projects, the enactment of Gyunyeokbeop (Equalized Tax Law), and the establishment of Gyujanggak, the royal library. Two fine examples of cultural innovations born from this new empiric atmosphere were true-view landscape painting and the Silhak school of thought, which emphasized practical knowledge. Meanwhile, the Jungin class, whose members were barred from government service even though they held a higher social station than commoners, started to develop its own culture. All of these factors, along with the lively scholarly activity of the Bukhak and Seohak schools of thought, helped create an extremely favorable environment for publishing, leading to the privately sponsored publication of scores of books.