In the Joseon era, there was a ceremony held to celebrate the New Year called ‘Manggwolrye’ where the people bowed in the direction of the palace, where the king lived. Just as Muslims prayed in the direction of Mecca, provincial public officials bowed in the direction of the Seoul. The event was held on several occasions such as the birthdays of the king and queen, Hanshik, Dano, Chuseok, the civil service exam, but New Year’s Day was considered the most important.
The event was also held at the palace in Seoul where the king would direct himself in the direction of the Chinese emperor. This ceremony would mark the height of the New Year celebration. The most dismal event during the Joseon era would have been the one held in 1637. That was when, based on lunar new year, when the Manggwolrye was held at Namhansanseong, where the Qing armed forces besieged the fortress of Joseon.
The Ming Dynasty had confessed long before the war that if the Qing attached Joseon, they would not be able to help. Taizu of Qing had signaled to Joseon how incapable of the Ming forces by bringing down their forces across China. Joseon had been aware of this, but refused to give up its ties with Ming, referring to their relationship as ‘parent-child’ relation. The royal forces that approached Namhansanseong in Dec 20 to 29 to save the king were nearly annihilated. They refused to work with other forces, blinded by the mission to save the king, and ended up being individually defeated.
This was a war none like any other. We had ignored the international political situations and responded with our own idealistic believes. We also ignored military theory and tactics, blinded by our own beliefs. What was most humiliating was that we did not look back or take accountability, despite the tragic dire that we suffered. As soon as the Qing forces withdrew, the scholars of Joseon remarked that they could have won. That kind of mindset, however, is still evident today. The beliefs in 1637 are still intact today in 2021.