(Translation) 徐命膺 北學議序

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Original Script

Classical Chinese English





Discussion Questions

Further Readings



(sample) : Jaeyoon Song

  • Discussion Questions:

Student 1 : Yishu Ma

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Translation: As to things like city walls, cottages, carriages, and useful items, there is nothing that does not have the numerical standards. If you get the standards right, all these things will be solid, complete, and enduring. If you lost the standards, these things you set up in the morning will become your defective in the evening and do harm to our people and country greatly. Now observing the Rites of Zhou, the roads are wide but have their tracks (to follow); the halls are long but have chi (chok) (to measure them).

Student 2 : Samuel Sai Hay Chan 陳世熙 진세희

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The hub of a cart's wheel should be three inches long, so that its axis would not be stuck in the mud. The

Reference: 冬官考工記: 參分其轂長,二在外,一在內,以置其輻。

Student 3 : Younès M'Ghari


It shows, here, that the knowledge of the Sages are vast and important, profound and subtle. They include numerical standards for ten thousand things1; everything is made to its ideal [form]. How could one ever consider [them] trivial and eliminate [them]?

1 萬有之, that is "a myriad of things", "all things".

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How did the author of this text come to know about Pak Je? Are they exchanging letters?

Where were the copies of the Rites of Zhou preserved at? Who could access them? Or were they present in every scholar's personal bookshelves?

Student 4 : King Kwong Wong

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  1. What was the background leading to the promotion of the Northern Learning in Chosŏn (Joseon)? Considering the hostility of the Chosŏn literati against the Qing, how did their view of the Qing change?
  2. How important are Chinese classics to the intellectual thought of the Chosŏn literati?


From the Han dynasty onward, scholars could not understand the universal numerical standards. Generally speaking, these are the affairs of all artisans. All the books writing about the institutions at that time only contain their general outlines.

Student 5 : 신동조

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In China, however, there are experts in every occupation. As to technologies, it has been transmitted from masters. Just relying upon their good nature, moreover, those talented and knowledgeable scholars from all directions understood, pushed it to utmost, and transmit (what they know) from generation to generation. Therefore, there are few city walls, houses, carriages, and all the other useful items that violate the numerical standards of the Sages.

Student 6 : Stacey Lui

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Pak Chega is often referred to as a 'sirhak' scholar - a term sirhak coined after the time of Pak and his contemporaries. What does 'sirhak' describe?

What kind of scientific and technological advances were made in the time of Pak?


There were few who disobeyed the numerical standard of the sages. Therefore, it [what they did] was refined, delicate, solid and firm - free of the trouble of damaging wealth or harming the people. However, our country cannot be like this.

Student 7 : Russell Guilbault

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All [countries] benefit from mountains and lakes [i.e., natural resources]. All are put into the cost of fixing damages and repairing shortcomings. When this cannot be continued, then our country is said to be a poor country. Alas! But is it that country has ended up poor? Or is it that the ways of measuring have lost their fittingness?

Student 8 : Q

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Pak Cheka (Bak Jega), with courtesy name Ch'asu (Chasu), is an extraordinary scholar. In 1778, he went to Beijing, following the envoy bearing the memorial to the emperor[1]. Pak continued observing their fortresses, warehouses, wagons and wares. Indeed, they were according to the institutions of the august Ming. The practices of Ming, in turn, are those of the rituals of Zhou.

Would it be possible to determine if what the author had in mind is closer to a more precisely determined order--arguably scientific--or an expansion of the ordered world as in imposition of order on things as a part of the process?

Student 9 : (Write your name)

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Student 10 : Yeonjae Ra

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Ah! How could he be so sincere and earnest! 次修(朴齊家의 字), you really made an effort here. Most recently the king(正祖) wishes to compile one corpus of the book of models and make it as a collection of the canon. Therefore consider that the duke of Zhou made the case of the Rites of Zhou. The king first ordered six ministries and bureaucrats, and each offices write down what they do, then compare and revise, making it into a book. How can we not mention this writing becomes to be collected at that time?

Student 11 : (Write your name)

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  1. "chinjusa" ("jinjusa")