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

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great care to explain the reason for this, because ostensibly it violated an ancient
ritual principle of strict observation of rank:

Basically because we are clarifying the Way and nurturing worthy men, for that
reason the ritual by which we treat scholars is not done with regard to official
rank or position, but superior consideration is given to the obligation of laying
stress on the true Way. The reason why the educational official does not bow in
reply is so that we may dignify the teacher, and the reason we dignify the teacher
is in order to show respect for the true Way. 144

This provision reflected Yu's desire to make the schools into a separate com-
munity with a hierarchy that was based on prestige and status, except that the
single criterion for that status would be moral worth rather than official rank or
inherited status. Yet, as we shall see in chapter 5, the principle created embar-
rassing conflicts with contemporary values that Yu had to resolve.
Lest this regulation be construed as indicating contempt for constituted polit-
ical authority, he enjoined the educational officials of the schools from treating
the local magistrates with any rudeness or disrespect. 145 He was obviously as
concerned with limiting the arrogance of local yang ban for district magistrates
as for reversing the state's neglect of its official school system.
As part of his insistence not only on increasing the prestige of the schools and
their staffs, but also of preserving the institutional autonomy of schools within
the centralized bureaucratic structure, Yu expressed opposition to the king's inter-
ference in the educational and testing process. In addition to his criticism of the
perfunctory way that kings conducted the special palace chongsi and alsong
examinations, he insisted that the king demonstrate more respect for scholars
by visiting the National Academy and "draw close to him the scholars who have
knowledge and have them recite and discuss the classics and scholarship; he
should ask them about the way of governance and use that as a basis for mak-
ing appointments and selections."14^6
Yu noted that in ancient times when lists of recommended worthy and able
men were presented to the king, "the king would kowtow twice in accepting
them," tacitly hinting that the present king should do likewise. Realizing that
this suggestion might subject him to charges oflese majesty, he appended a foot-
note stating that he would not dare, in fact, to suggest that his own king should
kowtow twice; he only hoped that the king might reflect on the wisdom of the
In short, Yu's attitude about the role of schools in a system of centralized,
bureaucratic monarchy was ambivalent. Because he deplored the decrepit con-
dition ofthe state's educational system, particularly its official schools, he drew
up a plan to create a system of schools sponsored and supported by the central
government, but at the same time he envisioned that his new schools would be
semiautonomous institutions run by scholars and morally superior men whose
serious work of education and moral transformation could not be subordinated
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