What is History? by Shin Chaeho
Every history of each cultures or countries are equal. however, the history of the world seems to be mainly focused on certain cultures or regions such as Europe. The very most known book by E.H Carr "What is History" is one of the basic books that all history students need to read. Here's a part of a writing by Korean history scholar named Shin Chaeho about "What is History?".
What is history? What shall we study in Korean history?
by Shin Chaeho
This is a translation of an excerpt from the introductory chapter of Shin’s Ancient History of Korea, published posthumously in 1948, and is included in Danjae Shin Chaeho chonjip. Chapters of the book were first published in a series in the Korean language newspaper Choson ilbo in 1931.What is history? It is a record of the state of mental activities in which the ego(아) struggles against the nonego(비아) in the context of passing time and expanding space. World history is a record of mankind’s struggles, and Korean history is that of the Korean people.What is the ego? And what is the nonego? Put simply, the ego is the subject, and the nonego applies to everyone else. To a Korean, for example, Korea is the ego and England, Russia, France, America, and so on are the nonego; to an Englishman, American, Frenchman, and Russian, his own country is the ego, and Korea is the nonego. The propertyless class considers itself as the ego and the landlord, and the capitalist, and so forth are the nonego while the landlord or the capitalist calls his own group the ego, and the propertyless class is the nonego in that case. In scholarship, technology, occupation, personal opinion, or anything else, there is an ego at the center and an nonego to confront it. Within the ego itself there are the ego and nonego [among the subunits]; similarly , within the nonego, there are the ego and the nonego. The more frequent and intense the contacts between the ego and the nonego, the fiercer is the ego’s struggle. The activities of mankind do not cease and history has no terminal point. History, therefore, is a record of the struggle between the ego and the nonego.To become and ego in history, both the ego and the nonego would of necessity require the following two attributes: (1) continuity, or eternal life, and (2) universality, or the spread of their influence in spatial terms. There have been struggles between the ego and the nonego among nonhuman living things, but the consciousness of the ego was too weak or absent altogether, thereby lacking in continuity and universality; because of this, they had to yield the making of history to human beings.The struggle between the ego and nonego exists at the level of the individual, not at the level of society, but the ego is so limited- and therefore deficient in continuity and universality- that only the activities of society, not those of the individual, make history. Even for the same event, the degrees of these two attributes-continuity and universality- may determine what is recorded or ignored in history. For example, Kim Songmun(1658-1735), the Korean scholar who asserted that the earth was round, did not get the same historical recognition as Bruno(1548-1600) who had made a similar assertion. That was because Bruno’s theory aroused many nations’ interest in exploration, leading to the discovery of the American continent, whereas Kim Songmun’s assertion did not produce a similar result. Chong Yorip(d.1589) was a great scholar of East Asia who tried four hundred years ago to demolish the theory of ethics legitimizing royal absolutism, but he cannot be considered a historical personage comparable to Rousseau, the author of the Social Contract. Chong’s theory influenced acts of lightning violence by secret fraternities such as the Sword Fraternity (Komgye) or the Fraternity to Slaughter the Literati(Yangban Sallyukkye), but they cannot be compared to the turbulent and massive French Revolution that followed Rousseau’s time.One who overcomes the nonego and elevates the ego shall emerge as victor in the struggle and live on in history; one who extinguishes the ego and submits to the nonego shall be the loser in the struggle and shall leave only a faint trace in history. This has been and unchanging pattern throughout history. It is human nature to prefer victory to defeat. What then are the reasons for the disappointing reversal of the original hope for victory?The ego always precedes the nonego in a priori substantive terms(sonchonjoksilchil). In a posteriori formal relationships(huchonjok hyongsik), however, the nonego must precede the ego. For example, the Korean nation- the ego- had emerged, in a priori terms, prior to the emergence of its counterparts, the Miaos and the Chinese- the nonego. In a posteriori terms, however, there would not have been such actions of the ego as establishing a country named Korea, building its three capital cities, or creating the Five Armies had it not been for the presence of the nonego counterparts.Failure either to safeguard the a priori element by establishing a firm self-identity(chongsin) or to maintain the a posteriori element by adapting to the environment brings about a defeat.(translated and extract form Sources of Korean Tradition Vol.2 p. 317-319 –Columbia Univ. Press)
Who is Danjae Shin Chaeho?
Sin Chaeho or Shin Chaeho(1880-1936), who wrote on the early history of Korea, actively participated in the armed independence movement in Manchuria, Shanghai and Beijing. He continuously made public the results of his studies on Korean history.