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

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and student would be dismissed and enlisted for service.^35 Finally, commuters
who resided in the national or provincial capitals and missed the semimonthly
recitation examinations or failed to attend school for a minimum of fifteen days
in any three-month period would have to send their household slaves (!) to be
flogged in their place. If their violations were more serious than this, they could
personally be held responsible for criminal action.^36
Yu's moralism hardly blinded him to the weaknesses of the human spirit, which
needed something stronger than the medicine of exhortation to overcome its afflic-
tions of laziness, ambition, or recalcitrance. He willingly turned to punishment
not out of any ambivalence in his commitment to Confucian moral suasion, but
because the education of men in Confucian standards and the recruitment of
those men for government service was serious business. The schoolyard was
not supposed to be a joyful place; it was to be a humorless, disciplined, puri-
tanical, even grim training ground for the intense pursuit of moral perfection.
Behavior was to be strictly regulated in all particulars, no matter how minute,
and Yu's description of his proposed daily regimen calls to mind the severest
type of military academy or monastery. All students would rise at dawn, sweep
their rooms, put their clothes on straight, and jointly call on their teacher for the
morning kowtow. At dining hall the students were to sit by order of age, eating
"with a strict demeanor and silently, without uttering a word."37 Eating was not
to be a pleasurable experience, and students were directed not to select food
they liked to eat because it would mean they were thinking of satisfying baser
tastes. At study hall they were to keep their bodies erect and sit straight, to help
them concentrate their minds in striving to attain understanding of "the princi-
ples of things." They were to eschew memorization or recitation and abstain
from both conversation and occasional glances toward their fellows. They were
forbidden to wander away from their desks or talk to anyone else except to ask
questions about their studies. Their calligraphy had to be always in the straight
and square form; grass style or "reckless Writing" was prohibited.
Proper respect always had to be shown to elders. During the brief recess peri-
ods after meals, they were to walk about slowly in the school gardens, looking
at material objects to continue their Neo-Confucian investigation of the princi-
ple inside them (what Wang Yang-ming had such difficulty achieving). After hours
they could either engage in serious discussion, practice archery, play the stringed
instruments according to the proper methods or procedures, or practice their cal-
ligraphy. Playing chess or engaging in idle conversation was not to be tolerated.
Selection of the proper music to play was especially serious because, like the
sirens' song, the lascivious and captivating music ofthe streets could "incite the
desires and lead one into a life of ease, and [once this happened] no one would
be able to put a stop to it."3^8 The music ofthe alleyways of his native Korea was
even more base and lewd than China: "If we do not change the present music
into what is correct, it would be better not to play such music at al1."39
At the end of the day students would continue their studies in their rooms,
reading by lamplight until late at night. Whatever the time of day, if a student

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