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

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or fourteen years), proposing that elementary schools be established in the vil-
lages by the local gentry. He stated that his main purpose in proposing the estab-
lishment of village subdistrict (yosuk, tangsang) schools on private initiative was
to provide for the education of the mass of the population: "Once we have estab-
lished the village or neighborhood schools, then not only will the scholars be
educated, but among the people of the kingdom there will be no one who is not
This statement, on the face of it, indicated his commitment to mass educa-
tion, yet he also provided quota limits for regular students ranging from 100 stu-
dents for each of the four schools in the capital down to 20 for the smallest district
schools and double that number of extra-quota or irregular students (chUngg-
wangsaeng) at each schooP He realized, however, that the quota limit might
contradict his purpose by restricting opportunities for upward mobility for com-
moners, and that his purpose might better be served by at least expanding his
quota for extra-quota students.^6
In his consideration of this problem, he revealed that his professed desire for
mass education by no means implied the egalitarianism of modern democratic
education. He pointed out that his local or subdistrict schools were not designed
to uplift the mass of the benighted peasantry by providing the equivalent of a
modem college education to everyone, but rather to provide an initial demar-
cation point between scholars (sa) and the general population (min, the people)
and a minimal level of moral education for all. He did not envision a society in
which the broad mass of the peasantry would be sufficiently educated to enable
anyone of them to be plucked out by the king and vaulted to the commanding
heights of the capital bureaucracy.
On the contrary, he portrayed his ideal society in the image of a stalk of bam-
boo, a vertical cylinder divided by nodes and ascending from earth to the heav-
ens. The essence of this society was to be ranked position (tlingwi). a natural
feature not only of society but also of the entire cosmos.
Even though the thorough transformation of all the people through education
(kyohwa) might be carried out throughout the kingdom, extending to "all space
between Heaven and Earth," you still had to have nodal separation points (cluJl,
the nodes of a stalk of bamboo). In fact, the bamboo-stalk society was limitless
in extension but subdivided into segments, and presumably each segment would
represent a stage of moral development through education and practice, not sim-
ply the current ladder of social position based on inherited status. Moving up
the bamboo stalk of society would be difficult because the process of moral cul-
tivation was arduous, possibly because the obstacle against perfection was not
just man's limited capacity for knowledge and understanding, but the more seri-
ous human instinct for selfishness.
The social grades and ranks marked off by segmental dividing lines also pre-
supposed the need for quotas (punsu), suggesting perhaps an overall pyramidal
outline to his social bamboo stalk as well.? And yet his language was not unequiv-
ocal because his stratified imagery was frequently intertwined with the rhetoric

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