|English||King Yeongjo’s Prohibition of Wine Drinking|
|Key Concepts||King Yeongjo,|
|Translator(s)||Participants of 2017 Summer Hanmun Workshop (Advanced Translation Group)|
Introduction by Youngsuk Park
King Yŏngjo's Yunūm: Prohibition of Wine Drinking
The King Yŏngjo's Prohibition of Wine Drinking was published in 1757 (the 33rd year of King Yŏngjo's reign). King Yŏngjo (r. 1724-1776) was the twenty-first ruler of Chosŏn dynasty (1392-1910). This volume consists of eighteen leaves printed by the wood block carvings and written in classical Chinese phrases with the addition of Korean interpretation and endings. It is the record of King Yŏngjo's Words of Edification (yunūm) for the people. Yunūm was directly composed by the king himself and its audience varies depending on the purpose from the high ministers and bureaucrats down to commoners. The king himself often spoke spontaneously and his Royal Secretariat dictated his speech including his emotional expressions and exclamations. This Prohibition of Wine Drinking was written during the king's prime time obtaining stability of political power right after suppressing the purge (1755). In his latter period of ruling King Yŏngjo produced a number of yunūm documents, whose themes and audience were not at all monotonous but rather complex and various. Among those in which King Yŏngjo showed his particular concerns by repeatedly proclaiming are topics on Harmonizing in impartiality and Parity of corvee labor. They are mentioned in "In King Yŏngjo's own writing, When Asked of My Enterprises" Thriftiness was also one of the steadily pursued subjects, for which the king proclaimed the prohibition of luxury for commoners on one hand, and edified the court members that it was the palace first to defy luxurious lifestyle and practice thriftiness on another hand. The Prohibition of wine drinking is directly related to this edification of thriftiness. Although the king sent out messages concerning drinking problem before, he adamantly enforced the prohibition due to the incident that he himself succumbed to drinking and caused a great commotion. It was right after the purge of his political opponents the king perhaps was emotionally overwhelmed and lost control of himself. In this document of the Prohibition of Wine Drinking the king expresses resentment of his own fault, which led the nation to lose the control with drinking and even in danger of collapsing, he feared. Deeply saddened, he implores ancestral spirits in tears in the Hall of Portraits to assist him with his capacity to persuade people to restrain from drinking. He confesses that he himself is the grave sinner who caused the increasing number of violaters which reached now over a thousand. He instructs people how insidiously harmful drinking habit could be for one's life and becomes relentless about enforcing the prohibition law. His decision thus came to exclude the drinking violaters from the great amnesty.
This book written in both classic Chinese and additional ŏnmun (諺文, vernacular writing) is a good example of the publishing activities during the period known as the renaissance in literature in the late eighteenth century. During this period King Yŏngjo and his successor King Chŏngjo (1776-1800) promoted the publication of books written in vernacular writing. As the result, more than thirty books in ŏnmun were published testifying the existence of a broad common audience who read in Korean. Korean language since being invented by King Sejong in the fifteenth century became pervasive in the Chosŏn society by the eighteenth century.
 "御製問業” in 《英祖大王》 (藏書閣, 2011) Vol. 15: 140-141.
- Download : 御製戒酒綸音.pdf
2. 何謂上負陟降一自禁酒之後, 每承慈聖稱美之敎, 因山纔訖, 今歲不盡, 而非徒不止甚至會飮, 陟降有知其以寡躬爲能禁乎否乎! 此所謂上負陟降也.
3. 何謂下閼霈典, 噫! 今春霈典, 往牒所無, 而至於犯酒者, 恐或弛禁一竝, 不赦今因處分而取覽徒流案, 則其數將近十百若此不已, 將不知至於幾十百, 此卽予不敎而令民陷法也.
4. 思之及此, 不覺懍然, 幾百徒流於春大赦不能放焉. 是豈同慶之意而今雖一倂放釋何與於赦典哉! 此所謂下閼霈典也.
6. 其君其臣之相與戒酒視小民雖有切焉, 以程子之大賢猶不無觀獵之悔, 況在凡人尤不可放心也.
7. 且以尙書訓體言之, 其宜竝諭臣庶, 又於心中不耐憧憧, 今曉祭畢後仍泣奏殿中曰, 于今酒禁之不行, 寔由一人, 一人其誰, 卽臣也. 此後酒若復行, 國必隨亡. 不戒其君, 雖無足道, 三百年宗社, 豈可由一人而亡哉!
9. 奏于列朝, 明降大何, 止于其身, 若於羣臣, 或知而不諫, 或身犯其戒者, 亦降大何, 使我海東臣庶, 無面謾之態, 諫而不聽, 咎亦在君臣何咎焉.
10. 以此口奏, 仍坐月臺召集陪祭宗親文武百官於殿庭, 洞諭予意言, 雖略意則盡矣. 噫! 上自股肱, 下至百僚, 體予爲宗社, 苦心其銘其佩, 莫替予意, 至於禁酒, 小民之犯者, 勿以摘得爲幸, 必以無刑爲期, 京而京尹部官外而方伯守令, 凡於對民也.
King Yeongjo’s Prohibition of Wine Drinking
2. Therefore, carrying the responsibility for my ancestors, I have to restrain [current practice] and to impose rules. I can blame only myself. I can blame only myself. How am I obliged to the ancestral spirits? Since I myself abstained from drinking, I have continuously received praises from my mother. The funeral is just over, and this year has not ended, but they not only not stop drinking, but they even get together to drink. Should the ancestral spirits know of this, would they think I am capable of this ban or not?! This is what I say by being obliged to the ancestral spirits.
3. What is meant by "to restrain my copious grace below"? Ah! This spring's general amnesty was unprecedented in the codes of the past. But as for those who had violated drinking prohibition, being afraid that it might rescind the restriction, none of them were released. Now based on this measurement, when I extract and survey a roster of executed and banished, their numbers reach tens of hundreds. If it goes on like this and does not stop, it will in no time reach several tens of hundreds. This is all because of me not instructing [well] and driving people into the traps of the law.
4. If I think about it up until this point, I cannot but think it regrettable. The several hundreds of those who received the punishment of forced labor and exile were unable to be released in spring. How could it be equal to the [true] meaning of celebration. Even though I release them all together now, how could it be equal to the [true] meaning of amnesty! This is why I say I blocked royal grace to below.
5. Then, how can I face my ancestors, when doing ritual at the Hyosojon [Hall of the Luminosity of Filial Piety] on the first day of a lunar month, and bowing to ancestors at the Chinjon [Hall of Royal Portraits] at dawn? Alas! Drinking is a wrong thing. That's why I could not avoid proclaiming in front of the masses to touch their minds. Nonetheless, it involves mere subjects and elderly, but does not cover high-ranking officials. Then, how can one say, that the court serves for the justice of the people?
6. The king and his subjects [should] abstain from drinking together and set an example for the petty people with all sincerity. But, for all that, even the sage Chenghao could not abandon his old habit easily (2), not to mention the uncultivated people.
7. Even though by the admonition style of the Book of Documents I have spoken, my words should be instructed to both ministers and commoners. My heart cannot help but be restless. After the early morning ritual had finished, I kept weeping in the assembly hall and said, "Now that the prohibition of wine-drinking is inefficient. It is all because of one person. Who is this person? It is none other than me, your servant". After this, if drinking wine returns to its prominent state, the state will eventually collapse. If one does not admonish the king, it amounts to nothing. But how could 300 years of the royal ancestral shrine be ruined because of one person?
8. Should I and the following kings that succeed me violate the wine prohibition, then even if the ministers and courtiers are not aware of [the violation of prohibition], even if the commoners and populace are not aware of [the violation of prohibition], [the violation of prohibition] will be obvious to the ancestral spirits, [it would be as clear] as if reflected in mirror. Should [I and the following kings that succeed me] violate it, it will be reported to the [ancestral spirits of] various preceding kings.
9. How great is my royal order? It comes to an end with me, if among the group of ministers, some know of this, but do not remonstrate or some themselves violated this prohibition. Let my subjects have no attitude of disguise, if they remonstrate and the king does not listen, the fault is also with the king, how can the fault lie with the ministers?
10. So I reported [to the spirits] the whole message above, yet I sat at the lunar platform and summoned royal kin, and civil and military bureaucrats to the courtyard. And then I communicated thoroughly my intention and words. The words were rather simple but enough to convey my intention thoroughly. Alas! All the officials in the bureaucracy from top to bottom should follow my example in serving dynasty alter with great efforts. Remember and put into practice my intention without any distortion. As for the prohibition, do not be contend with capturing petty offenders, but instead, try to ensure nobody should violate it. The chief magistrate of Seoul and his adjutants, and local governors and magistrates, it is your duty to serve people.
11. You must take seriously with whole your heart my command and fulfill it, even through tears. I let myself rule state affairs with painstaking efforts and I can't let my people fall into the net of destruction. The prosperity of the kingdom is a task of everyone and the merits will not remain hidden. Do not say that the royal throne is high and all the posts are low. Ruler and magistrates can only go together. The spirits of our forefathers are magnificent and the sky above is clearly blue. How you could be not afraid! How you could not worry! Every one of you, listen carefully and follow my instructions!
(1) The quotation is from the historical books of Han dynasty – Dong Guan Han Ji and Huo Han Shu (東觀漢記, 傳七, 馬廖; 後漢書, 列傳, 馬援列傳).
(2) Chenghao (程顥, 1032-1085) was a neo-Confucian philosopher in the Song dynasty. He was addicted to hunting when he was young, but he abstained the habit after he devoted himself to study. However, it is said that he still felt itching when he saw others hunting even after 12 years. See: 《二程遗书》卷七：“猎，自谓今无此好。周茂叔曰：‘何言之易也，但此心潜隐未发，一日萌动，复如前矣。’后十二年。因见，果知未。”注云：“明道（即程颢）年十六七时，好田猎。十二年，暮归，在田野间见田猎者，不觉有喜心。”
1. What is the function of alcohol in the ancestor rituals in Korea? What is the role of alcohol in Korean traditional culture in general?
2. How effective do you think the prohibition was in real life? And when did the prohibition end, on what premises?
3. Was the prohibition really only because of the harms of wine-drinking? Or, do you think there were other ulterior political motives? If so, what could they be?
4. What consequences could the prohibition have had on the economy? Can we find any sign of impact on the economy during Yeongjo's time?
5. To whom the document was addressed based on the language (use of characters and Korean alphabet)? Was it effective? How about the structure of the document? Is it relatively easy to read? Is it accessible? How about the logic of the text? Are King's descriptions of personal grievances effective? (for example, addressing the ancestral spirits in the hall of portraits). What kind of image of the King does the document present to the reader? What other rhetorical devices does he use? Is it more formulaic or more creative type of writing?
6. Why do you think drinking wines can be a crime? How does the king try to enforce this prohibition to the people? How does his strategy differ from law enforcement today?
7. What are the correlations between Confucian kingship and alcohol? In this sense, do you think that King Yongjo prohibited wine drinking, because he was more Confucian than any other kings of the Choson dynasty?
8. Yeongjo amnestied all criminals, but why did he particularly except the drinking violators from the amnestry? Was the increasing number of drinking people the real motivation?
9. How does this document illustrate the relationship between King Yongjo and his ministers as well as his commoner subjects? Why did King Yongjo specifically prohibit wine-drinking? Did he also implement other social control?
10. In Yeonjo’s decree on wine-prohibition, what is the ultimate authority that he appealed to? What does Yeongjo’s self-criticism tells us about the nature of Korean monarchy? Is this a unique Korean tradition?
11. What do you think is King Yeongjo’s personal opinion on consuming alcohol?
12. Why does his mother praise him for prohibiting alcohol?
13. Can there be any relationship between the death of the Crown Prince Sado and the Prohibition of Wine Drinking?
- View together with Record of Property Distribution among Brothers from 1621.
- "御製問業” in 《英祖大王》 (藏書閣, 2011) Vol. 15: 140-141.