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This article is a new historical account of the concept of gyoyang (mind cultivation, literally meaning “teaching and nurtureing”) from two perspectives. The first is that the long tradition of Confucian humanities has intervened in forming the contents and examples of gyoyang. In the modern era, the original concept of gyoyang and its long Asian traditions have become fused with the Western ideas of the humanities. The second is that the everyday entrenchment of the word gyoyang and the spread of gyoyang-ism stemmed from the people’s aspirations for enlightenment and education as well as demands for intellectual equality. The history of the concept of gyoyang is deeply related to that of gyoyang-ism or the cultural history of struggles surrounding symbols of knowledge. Based on such perspectives, this article reviews the uses of the concept of gyoyang in Korea during its colonial period and its evolution in five instances: (1) character building, (2) education, (3) capabilities to learn knowledge and culture, (4) basic and wide-ranging knowledge, and (5) civil maturity and proficiency in the humanities in the Western sense of the word.