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

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for rank order, particularly at the important ritual ceremonies, would be age
instead of inherited status, with an occasional exception made in the case of truly
superior talent. One other exception was that regular quota students who resided
in the Inner Hall would as a group take precedence over the irregular students
who were to reside in the Outer Hall for a probationary period of one year. In
any case, the emphasis on age as the main criterion for status was an idea he
obviously owed to Chu Hsi, among others, whose work on this subject he quoted
so extensively.6^5
Since the determination of seating order at school rites was contrary to the
current practice in Korea of affording higher status to yangban over common-
ers and legitimate sons over nothoi, Yu was at pains to defend his position in
some detail. He asserted that "There is no one in the world who is born noble,"
implying that nobility was a matter of moral quality rather than inherited sta-
tus. In ancient China when the princes of the Son of Heaven were enrolled in
school, they too were ranked by age with the other students. If that were true,
it made even more sense to require the same of the sons of the scholars and offi-
cials (sadaebu), yet in Korea the addiction to ascriptive status criteria had dis-
torted the principles of the ancients.
Yu at this point launched another tirade against the excessive respect for pedi-
gree (munji) and prestigious hereditary lineage (chokse) (see chap. 4). He crit-
icized the restriction of opportunity for the highest office to the yangban, or
hereditary lineages (sebOl) as he called them here, even though they were "infe-
rior in talent or worthless."66 And he rejected the popular but specious argument
that social status (myongbun) ought to be determined by birth rather than by the
degree of one's moral behavior. For that reason he insisted that inherited social
status could not be carried into his schools as a basis for discrimination among
the students: "How much more important is it that in the local schools, which
are places where people are ranked in accordance with their age and where proper
morals and education are inculcated, there is even less justification for ranking
people in accordance with their family lineage [munbOl]."6^7

Exclusion of Slaves, Merchants, and Shamans

Since Yu lived in a country dominated by aristocratic privilege and social dis-
crimination of various kinds, he had to confront the contradiction between the
principle of equal opportunity and the fact of social discrimination. He was also
a yangban himself, with a sympathy for his fellows that often expressed itself
in a caution and conservatism that conflicted with the radical conclusions of his
intellect. In addition, the social context of ancient China whence he derived the
models for education and recruitment was feudal and hierarchical. These fac-
tors operated to impose limits on Yu's capacity for radical egalitarianism even
if that had been his intent, and these limits are illustrated in his proposed regu-
lations for the admittance of students to his revamped official schools. When he
stated unequivocally, for example, that he had no intention of removing restric-

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