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

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the inspiration for these subdistrict schools was provided more by the existing
elementary schools (sc'5dang) than classical models, and it was possible that Yu
may have intended only to convert these schools to his new sang type (see below)
and add more of them. Watanabe believed that the seventeenth century was an
era in which education was beginning to penetrate throughout the lowest levels
of society as part of the general process of social leveling underway since
Hideyoshi's invasions. '07
What Yu did say explicitly, however, was that the proposed subdistrict
schools were to be based on his understanding of the admirable ancient local
schools. Citing K'ung An-kuo of the T'ang period, he pointed out that the core
of the ancient system at the local level were the suk and sang schools. Every
twenty-five households constituted a yo group, and at the head of the street
entrance to their residential quarter was a gate with a suk watchtower or build-
ing where the people received instruction during their idle hours, in the early
morning or at dusk when going to and returning from the fields. Men of virtue,
elders. or retired officials acted as teachers. At the higher level of the tang unit
of 500 households, there were sang schools for students promoted from the yo
residential areas. r oX
Yu admitted that it might not be possible to reproduce this system in its entirety,
but at least it could be approximated by establishing sang schools in the sub-
district or hyang, his new term for the current myon. The intitiative for the estab-
lishment of sang schools would come from local leaders, presumably yangban,
and the district magistrate would provide financial and labor support and
rewards of grain to local gentry who took a prominent role in erecting school
buildings. Teachers would be recruited by recommendation from the villagers,
who would select the most learned men irrespective of office or rank. Once the
schools began to flourish. scholars would be attracted to serve as teachers, and
they would be provided living expenses in grain by the schools. Although Yu
realized that local schoolmasters had been corrupted because of the tuition pay-
ments that parents were paying to them, he was confident that compensation
by the state would not whet their appetites for gain in the manner of current
times because the public spirit of the new school system would overcome pri-
vate interest. '59
Despite his appeal for official financing of local schools, however, Yu opposed
direct state intervention in their establishment and specifically enjoined the
authorities against the use of force to achieve their ends. He believed that force
would not be necessary in any case because adoption of the recommendation
system for recruiting scholars and officials would stop scholars from "seeking
fame and fOltune and scrambling around to fulfill their ambitions."'O() The local
people would turn away from selfish aims and change the purpose of education
to moral cultivation. When they noticed that there was a dearth of schools, they
would take the proper initiative in establishing them, and there would be no need
for the government to provide material support until the local residents had taken
the first steps to establish schools. The end result would be the education of all

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