|Key Concepts||King Yeongjo,|
|Translator(s)||Participants of 2017 Summer Hanmun Workshop (Advanced Translation Group)|
This passage demonstrates King Yŏngjo's policy to exempt women from the taxation. On February 14, 1774 (50th year of King Yŏngjo), Kim Ŭngsun suggested that King Yŏngjo should try to fix the chronic problem of the mistreatment of male/female slaves working at public facilities. Therefore, the king initiated the action, in which he abolished the system of levying tributes on women. At first, he put an end to the collection of tributes, namely, hemp cloth, from female slaves belonging to government offices/public stations, and later from the private female slaves owned by aristocrats (yangban). Subsequently, he proceeded to release female shamans residing in Seoul from the burden of their tributes.
It is said that this measurement was initiated by the king's hearing of an anecdote of a miserable lady called Hongnyŏ, who ended up becoming a slave at a public station, and had to weave hemp cloth all night long, only to pay the tributes to the local government. On a fundamental level, however, there were two major factors that propelled King Yŏngjo to bring forth such action: 1) As he was one of the most scholarly monarchs of the Chosŏn dynasty, well-versed in Confucian classics, he endeavored to emulate the precedents of ancient sages. In this regard, he realized that the Chinese rulers and elites, especially those from the Three Dynasties to the Han and Tang periods, had not imposed taxes on women. Indeed, this led him to the abolition of women’s taxation, which had lasted for several hundreds of years in the Korean traditions. 2) It can be presumed that his family background might have played a critical role in the formation of his notions of Chosŏn’s female slaves in general. Well-known to the public, his mother, Sukpin Ch'oe, belonged to the lowborn class and hence worked as a musuri (water maid) at the Chosŏn court. Furthermore, this constantly served as a major threat toward his royal authority as a whole. Therefore, such action must have been indispensable for him, in regard not only to his personal sympathy to female slaves, but also to keeping the legitimacy of his monarchical rule stable/intact.
Primary Sources: Veritable Records of the Joseon Dynasty
金應淳, 以寺奴婢痼弊, 建議陳白。 上欲盡革女貢之名, 寺婢驛婢貢及巫女布, 皆令除之, 私婢亦勿使收貢, 命廟堂議成節目, 廟議難於給代, 久不決。
臨殿臨門, 謀及卿士庶民, 而衆議甲乙, 汔無定見, 廼特敎減夫布一疋, 設廳均役, 收諸路魚鹽隱結之稅充其代。 又念女貢之非古, 一皆蠲除, 德音所被, 室家相慶, 有足以導揚和氣, 迓續景命矣。
愍玆赤子, 歲納布縷, 爲蠲其半, 以涵以煦, 爰發輶軒, 率彼海濱, 曰漁曰鹽, 無稅不均。哀此紅女, 名編驛婢, 夜織于機, 征入不巳。 乃降明諭, 悉減女貢, 永泮于歸, 百室歌誦。
活人署當初設立, 蓋以都下人民, 若有癘疫, 則使之救活, 而但本署元無財力, 京巫女若干身布, 自本署收捧, 以給員役一年料布。 先大王甲午, 罷女貢, 故京巫女貢, 亦隨而罷。
Primary Sources: The Daily Records of Royal Secretariat of Joseon Dynasty
- 승정원일기 916책 (탈초본 50책) 영조 16년 7월 8일 병자 29/29 기사 1740년 乾隆(淸/高宗) 5년
- 영조 37년 6월 19일 병술 13/14 기사 1761년 乾隆(淸/高宗) 26년
- 승정원일기 1349책 (탈초본 75책) 영조 50년 3월 11일 갑자 29/29 기사 1774년 乾隆(淸/高宗) 39년
- 승정원일기 1349책 (탈초본 75책) 영조 50년 3월 12일 을축 45/47 기사 1774년 乾隆(淸/高宗) 39년
- 승정원일기 1349책 (탈초본 75책) 영조 50년 3월 13일 병인 13/13 기사 1774년 乾隆(淸/高宗) 39년
- 승정원일기 1349책 (탈초본 75책) 영조 50년 3월 15일 무진 24/27 기사 1774년 乾隆(淸/高宗) 39년
Royal Instruction of King Yǒngjo to be Handed Down to Future Generation
Leaving a legacy for future generation, I wrote down this instruction about the policy during the last years of my reign.
What is it? It is about the taxation policy.
From the Three Dynasties till the Han and Tang periods,
Every taxation policy had only [affected] male adults.
[On the contrary, taxing] equally both men and women is the tradition of the East.
Now this act is a continuation and realization [of the Chinese practices in the past].
It was only after several hundreds of years that [this inconsistency with past practices] began to be rectified.
Seeing my state prospered in this right way, my intention could be fulfilled.
Bringing up the essence and employing the details,
I calmly completed this instruction in ten sentences.
In the same year, month, and day, written in the middle of the night.
- Considering the political situation of that time and his Confucian upbringing, Why did King Yŏngjo want to change the traditional taxation practice of Korea in line with those of pre-Han and Tang periods?
- How did King Yŏngjo's background influence his decision to follow the taxation system of Ancient China?
- Why did King Yŏngjo write a royal instruction to ensure future Chosŏn kings to following his taxation reform?
- Why the taxation system did not change in several centuries until King Yŏngjo's reign? Are there any underlying social, political and economic issues that propelled King Yŏngjo to reform?
- 한국사상(韓國思想)(사학(史學)): 영조의 제왕학과 국정운영 History : King Yeongjo's own "Study for Kings" and his running of the government
- 영조의 제왕학과 『御製自省編』 King Yeongjo's Study and Eoje-jaseongpyeon(御製自省編)
- Haboush, JaHyun Kim. The Confucian Kinship in Korea: Yǒngjo and the Politics of Sagacity, New York: Columbia University Press, 2001.
- Hejtmanek, Milan. "Devalued Bodies, Revalued Status: Confucianism and the Plight of Female Slaves in Late Chosŏn Korea," Women and Confucianism in Chosŏn Korea: New Perspectives, New York: SUNY Press, 2011