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

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Only authorized classics and other texts could be included in school libraries,
and Yu urged that they be published in more quantity and distributed more widely
throughout the country; noncanonical texts and frivolous works were to be kept
out of the libraries.^48 There was in all this hardly a trace of the liberal approach
to knowledge that one might expect of a scholar committed to any kind of break-
away from received wisdom or orthodoxy that was so typical of the Enlighten-
ment in the West. On the contrary, the hallmark of his educational philosophy
was strict conservative adherence to the Confucian classics and the conventional
commentaries by Chu Hsi and the Sung school, censorship of unorthodox writ-
ings, and a ban on unacceptable books inside the schools. He was only willing
to authorize his students to choose their own texts for research at the late age of
thirty-five, not obviously because they would be mature enough to make wise
choices, but because his solid program of indoctrination to that age would have
removed all chance that individual choice might lead to a questioning, let alone
refutation, of accepted wisdom.
Recitation procedure during normal study and testing sessions was also to be
well ordered. Students were to take turns reciting portions of classical texts in
the proper chapter order, a process that was not "to be done loosely or sloppily,"
but they could ask questions about obscure points in meaning.^49 Heaven forbid
that they should dare to question the validity of the classics or of Confucian wis-
dom itself! Thus, Yu's tough-minded approach to education signified a vigor-
ous defense of intellectual orthodoxy, which he obviously felt needed the support
of a thoroughly disciplined school system as a bulwark against the corruptive
influences of contemporary mores.

The Subordination of Nonmoral Knowledge

The Chinese literature on education that Yu had explored (see chap. 4) contained
some emphasis on the importance of technical and useful information that could
have led to a shift of priorities away from moral education toward value-free
knowledge of greater utility for practical government. Even the stress on archery
and charioteering in the classical curriculum introduced the potential for this
kind of education. Yu mentioned that the six arts or skills (ye) of the classics
had to be taught in the schools along with the six virtues and the six modes of
behavior. Of these six skills Yu devoted some attention to calligraphy and more
to archery. As mentioned above, he prohibited the use of grass writing in cal-
ligraphy examinations and sought to establish the calligraphy used in the Hung-
wu cheng-yiin as the standard form for straight characters, and the Ku-wen yin-Iii
as the standard form for seal characters)" One must presume that his purpose
was at least to insist on the clearest and most understandable ideographic forms
to eliminate the obscuration of meaning by arcane and undecipherable styles of
graphic transcription.
Knowledge, Skillsfor the Well-rounded Generalist: Archery. Although Yu did
not comment on the purposes of proper calligraphy, he did write at length on

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