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

(Darren Dugan) #1

in the regular school system since these specialties were important for the train-
ing of regular officials. Since mathematics was one of the six classical arts, it
also should be incorporated in the curriculum of the regular schools, contrary
to the present system where mathematics was taught only in the Ministries of
Punishment and Personnel.
Although law had not been part of the classical curriculum, Yu believed that
study of law was justifiable because the principles of law were quite close in
spirit to the rites. His primary motivation, however, was not the similitude of
law to rites, but his awareness that one of the main causes for the corruption of
the regular bureaucracy and the misuse of power against the people was the
usurpation of power by the clerks of both the capital and local districts. They
obtained their power not just because they remained more-or-Iess permanently
on the scene while magistrates (and capital officials as well) were rotated rela-
tively frequently, but because they had become indispensable to generalist offi-
cials through their mastery of technical fields like law. Yu held that scholars should
have knowledge of law and legal principles so that once they assumed magis-
terial posts, they would not have to entrust operation of the law to clerks.^54
Yu's approach to the military arts, mathematics, and law were similar. They
had been denigrated and neglected in Choson society even though two of them
had been part of the classical curriculum. By including all three subjects in the
curriculum of his schools he sought to expand the education of the generalist
by restoring it to the classical norm, therefore to transcend the current, narrow
boundaries of education that were limited to intellectual training alone. What
he certainly was not prepared to do was to elevate the knowledge of the mate-
rial world, technology, and science, or practical and utilitarian action above the
level of moral knowledge.
Technology and Technical Schools. Yu was certainly interested in developing
practical skills of use in government beyond the military arts, mathematics, and
law, but only within the context of a separate but inferior system of technical
schools that conformed with current and earlier practices in both China and Korea.
Although mathematics and law would be included in the curriculum for his offi-
cials-in-training in his new school system, he favored continuation, with only
minor modifications, of current schools of mathematics and law as well as med-
icine, yin-yang, and foreign languages for specialists.^55
Not only did he urge that talented individuals in these technical skills be sought
out and given qualification examinations by district magistrates and subdistrict
officials, or appointed directly to office, but he even sought to break down the
current stigma against technical knowledge by insisting that even an incumbent
official or Confucian scholar who possessed the requisite talents be given a con-
current post as a specialist or as a teacher of his speciality.5^6 Even so, this sug-
gestion involved encouraging yangban to engage in technical occupations, not
elevating technology to the level of moral knowledge or the status of technol-
ogists to the level of the generalists trained in moral standards and classical

Free download pdf