Confucian Statecraft and Korean Institutions. Yu Hyongwon and the Late Choson Dynasty - James B. Palais

(Darren Dugan) #1

reason for the aphorism that even a blind man could pass the chongsi and a/song
If the king really wanted to oversee the learning process personally, what he
should do is summon scholars to his court, have them recite from the classics
and discuss scholarly questions, ask them about the way to govern, and use this
as the means to make appointments. "He ought not to lead men into vain, friv-
olous, and shameless customs." On like grounds Yu also opposed holding spe-
cial examinations in commemoration of felicitous events because it had nothing
to do with the serious business of recruiting the best men. It was hardly better
than the custom of pardoning criminals on such occasions. [29
Yu was also unwilling to adopt the Han dynasty compromise with the ancient
model of recommendation - the use of written essays on policy matters (ch 'aek)
as a means of recruitment. Yu argued that the Han practice of asking the "wor-
thy and good" (ch 'aek hyollyang) to write essays on policy was designed to solicit
opinions on policy rather than examine men for posts, but it was still wrong
because the practice had led to the evil of written examinations, which was suf-
ficient reason for not adopting it. Although he conceded that writing skill might
be a legitimate way to evaluate a person's scholarship. he also argued that empha-
sis on writing induced people to cultivate "what is external to oneself," that is,
outer embellishments rather than the essence of the self. It also induced students
to copy previously successful writing sty les and examination essays rather than
develop their own skills.

If the court truly wants to investigate whether people are worthy or not, then for
a period of several years it should look into their behavior, hear what they have
to say. ask them questions and listen to their answers. [as the means by which
the courlj will find out everything about them. Why is it necessary to line them
up in a courtyard, receive their written papers, and test them on the basis of one
day's writing, after which an examination lof their merits I is made'! 13"

Not even the famous special recommendation examination (hwJllmng-kwa)
of Cho Kwangjo and his supporters in 1518, a plan designed to adapt the rec-
ommendation system to the examination system without abolishing the latter
and reminiscent of Yang Kuan's proposal in the mid-eighth century T'ang dynasty,
qualified for Yu's praise.! 3! Although he agreed that Cho and his literati colleagues
who suffered the kimyo purge of T 519 had no other alternative but the recom-
mendation examination as the optimum solution for their own time, even one
of Cho's contemporaries, Yu Cho (pen name, S6bong), had critized the shoddy
nature of this unnatural union. Yu Hy6ngw6n argued that Cho's reform violated
the Confucian principle of the rectification of names, for to retain the exami-
nation system and hope to improve it by calling it a recommendation system
was doomed to failure. "Name and fact must be mutually supportive of each
other, for throughout the world there has never been a case where you could bor-
row the name of something else and in the end be able to accomplish anything."!3^2

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