Difference between revisions of "(Translation) 成俔 文明論"

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|Year = 1525
 
|Year = 1525
 
|Key Concepts=  
 
|Key Concepts=  
|Translator = [[2019 JSG Summer Hanmun Workshop (Advanced)#Participants | Participants of 2019 JSG Summer Hanmun Workshop (Advanced Translation Group)]]
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|Translator = Samuel Chan Sai Hay 陳世熙 진세희
|Editor =  
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|Editor = Samuel Chan Sai Hay 陳世熙 진세희
 
|Translation Year = 2019
 
|Translation Year = 2019
  
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=='''Introduction'''==
 
=='''Introduction'''==
 +
“On Civilization” written by Sŏng Hyŏn 成俔 is a social commentary essay that was compiled into the now well-known literary collection called Yongjae ch’onghwa 慵齋叢話 or in English Comprehensive Commentaries of Yongjae (a translation preferred by John Duncan of UCLA). The essay is a Sŏng’s discussion of how his country compared to “the Great Ming” in terms of government, society, people, culture and many other aspects. Not only does the essay provide historians valuable and richly detailed account of how a fifteenth century person thought of his country in relation to others, it also contains many Sŏng’s whimsical depictions of everyday life of the Chosŏn people which make the essay a fun read even for the most causal readers.
  
 +
Sŏng Hyŏn was a prominent official in fifteen-century Chosŏn, who eventually rose to the key position of Censor-General 大司諫, Inspector-General大司憲, and Minister of Rites禮曹判書. Sŏng would an apt candidate to write about the Ming, a destination he has frequented as many as four times in his life (1). During his first such trip, on which he went with his older brother Sŏng Im 成任 in 1474, he even composed enough poems about his travel to compile a collection called The Sightseeing Records 觀光錄. Also, Sŏng was often one of the designated Chosŏn officials responsible for hosting and entertaining official visitors from the Ming (2). For historians reading “On Civilization” as a source, Sŏng’s extensive contact with the Ming would prove to be both a boon and a bane at the same time. On one hand, his familiarity with the subject assures readers Sŏng knew what he was writing about but, on the other hand, it could constitue a driving force in steering Sŏng away from objectivity in his depiction. Therefore, it is advisable to keep a keen eye on what is fact and what is opinion when reading “On Civilization.”
  
 +
“On Civilization” was one of the many entertaining pieces that Sŏng wrote for the literary collection Yongjae ch’onghwa. Yongjae ch’onghwa, which was named after Sŏng’s cognomen Yongjae 慵齋, belongs to the genre of literary miscellany, generally defined as a compilation of anecdotes, literary criticism, curious tales, and causal writings on various subjects. And Yongjae ch’onghwa is itself a gold mine of most amusing materials about 14th and 15th century Chosŏn, including officials’ affairs with kisaeng 妓生entertainers, strange customs of government offices, curious tales about commoners, and many others. Because of the relatively informal nature of the genre, Yongjae ch’onghwa serves as an excellent alternative to the usually bland and dry history of Chosŏn narrated by court-centered official sources, such as the often Veritable Records of the Chosŏn Dynasty 朝鮮王朝實錄, and also offers what these official sources lack – the insight into how people actually lived and thought at their time (3). For anyone interested in a socio-cultural history of Korea, Yongjae ch’onghwa would be an apposite source to consult.
 +
 +
 +
 +
Notes:
 +
 +
(1) Sŏng Hyŏn visited Ming four times through private tours or on official missions in various capacities. He traveled to Ming in 1466 with his own brother, Sŏng Im 成任, in 1474 with his colleague Han Myŏnghŭi 韓明澮, in 1485 as the Envoy for the Thousand Autumn Mission 千秋使 (Mission to the Ming for the Crown Prince’s Birthday) and at last in 1488 as Envoy for Gratitude 謝恩使.
 +
 +
(2) John Duncan, “Introduction to Yongjae ch’onghwa” (Handout received in Premodern/Early Modern History of Korea with Professor John Duncan, UCLA, Sept 2017), 4.
 +
 +
(3) John Duncan, “Introduction to Yongjae ch’onghwa,” 1-2.
  
 
=='''Original Script'''==
 
=='''Original Script'''==
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我國與中朝不類。我人讀書。有音布釋口訣。故人未易學。中朝所言皆文字。無音釋口訣。故其學易就。我人奸巧多疑。常不信人。故人亦不信我。中朝人純厚無疑。雖與外人交賣。而不甚爭詰。我人雖臨小事輕躁喧鬧。故人多而不能就。中朝人靜默無言。人雖少而事易成。我人多食飮。苟失一時。枵腹無所措。細民貸於富屋。猶糜費而不知節用。以至於困。貴者多列酒食而不知厭。若起軍兵。則飛輓過半。行者出數里之程。而輜重塞途。中朝人不多食。一時所食只一燒餠。猶可度朝夕。不必啖飯。軍卒掛乾粮於馬鞍。以備飢餒。行者雖千萬里之遠。只齎銀錢。求飯卽食。求酒卽飮。求馬卽騎。求僕卽率。居有宇而宿有婦。故無難行之處。我人居官者。有早飯朝飯晝飯。或有無時會飮。侵軼僕隷。務要盛饌。句小失差。必加鞭扑。中朝人居官者雖公卿大夫。其家美備。飯肉一器。送于其司而饋之。我人出使外方者。則官吏迎送于境。先備酒食。其入邑也。邀留數日。大開宴席。務祟沈酗。無日蘇醒。因此得疾而廢者無算。其送別也。張幙於佳山勝水之間。挽袖不放。終日不已。故拙者耗敗官資。而日就頹廢。能者多營助利。而因售己私。官家日蕭。吏民日瘁。而不勝其苦矣。中朝人出使者。萬騎前導。節鉞輝煌。可謂盛矣。其入邑也。官吏拜于堂下。使人入房。只啖豚蹄糲飯。與伴從同宿一榻。明日卽行。官吏出五里之外。餞三杯而送之。官吏欲修人情。私備酒食。稱下程而饋之。故使不留連。官無費物。而州縣常足也。我國人物。奴婢居半。故雖名州鉅邑。而軍卒鮮少。中朝則人皆國人。戶皆精兵。雖小小僻邑。數萬之衆。可以猝辦。我人輕佻不定。民不畏吏。吏不畏士。士不畏大夫。大夫不畏公卿。上下相陵思相傾軋。中朝則下民畏吏如豺虎。吏畏公卿大夫如鬼神。公卿大夫畏上如天。故莅事則能就。出令則易從也。
+
我國與中朝不類。我人讀書。有音布釋口訣。故人未易學。中朝所言皆文字。無音釋口訣。故其學易就。
 +
||
 +
Our country is different from the Central Dynasty (1). When people of our country study, we have to study [Classical Chinese texts] with Kugyŏl (2). This is why we do not learn easily. People of the Central Dynasty speak what they write and do not need Kugyŏl. That is why they learn easily.
 +
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 +
|
 +
我人奸巧多疑。常不信人。故人亦不信我。中朝人純厚無疑。雖與外人交賣。而不甚爭詰。
 +
||
 +
People of our country are treacherous and distrustful. We always do not believe in others. This is why people do not believe in me as well. People of the Central Dynasty are good-natured and trustful. Even when they trade with foreigners, they seldom quarrel with others.
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我人雖臨小事輕躁喧鬧。故人多而不能就。中朝人靜默無言。人雖少而事易成。
 +
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Even when simply confronted with trivial matters, people of our country become agitated and vociferous easily. Therefore, we fail to achieve even with a large number of people. People of the Central Dynasty are reticent and do not speak much. Even when they have a small number of people, they could achieve.
 +
|-
 +
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我人多食飮。苟失一時。枵腹無所措。細民貸於富屋。猶糜費而不知節用。以至於困。貴者多列酒食而不知厭。
 +
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People of our country eat and drink a lot. We only focus on the present. If our stomach is empty, we do not know what to do. Petty commoners take loans to buy luxurious houses, but still they do not know thrift when they spend on food. They are therefore beleaguered by poverty. Rich people always hold feasts and banquets and never get tired of doing so.
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若起軍兵。則飛輓過半。行者出數里之程。而輜重塞途。中朝人不多食。一時所食只一燒餠。猶可度朝夕。不必啖飯。軍卒掛乾粮於馬鞍。以備飢餒。行者雖千萬里之遠。只齎銀錢。求飯卽食。求酒卽飮。求馬卽騎。求僕卽率。居有宇而宿有婦。故無難行之處。
 
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(translation)
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When our military go on an expedition, over half of the cohort are supply wagons. Every few li of journey, the wagons are so cumbersome that the whole army become stranded. People of the Central Dynasty do not eat much. Sometimes, they can just eat a flatbread and last for a day and night. They do not need to have rice. When hungry, their soldiers carry their rations in the saddles. Although they travel thousands of li, they only need to bring silver coins. When they ask for food, there is immediately food to eat. When they ask for alcohol, there is immediately alcohol to drink. When they ask for a horse, there is immediately a horse to ride. When they ask for a servant, there is immediately a servant to command.  Every house they go to stay has a roof; every hostel they go to lodge has a married woman. Therefore, nowhere that they go is difficult.
 
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Our country is different from the Central Dynasty. When people of our country study, they have to study with a guide with Korean phonetic transcription and translation. This is why they do not learn easily. People of the Central Dynasty speak what they write and do not need any guide with phonetic transcription and translation. That is why they learn easily.  
+
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我人居官者。有早飯朝飯晝飯。或有無時會飮。侵軼僕隷。務要盛饌。句小失差。必加鞭扑。中朝人居官者雖公卿大夫。其家美備。飯肉一器。送于其司而饋之。
People of our country are treacherous and distrustful. They always do not believe in others. This is why people do not believe in me as well. People of the Central Dynasty are good-natured and trustful. Even when they trade with foreigners, they seldom quarrel with others. 
+
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Our officials eat in the morning, at noon and in the evening. Some of them drink all the time. They assault their servants and slaves and demand sumptuous meals. If the servants and slaves misspeak a word, they will be whipped and beaten. Although some officials of the Central Dynasty are from the ranks of chief ministers and grand masters, they only eat a plate of rice and meat prepared by their households and sent to their offices (3).
Even when people of our country are simply confronted with trivial matters, they get agitated and vociferous easily. Therefore, they fail to achieve even with a large number of people. People of the Central Dynasty are reticent and do not speak much. Even when they have a small number of people, they could achieve.  
+
|-
 
+
|
People of our country eat and drink a lot. They only focus on the present. If their stomach is empty, they do not know what to do. Petty commoners take loans to buy luxurious houses, but still they do not know thrift when they spend on food. They are therefore beleaguered by poverty. Rich people always hold feasts and banquets and never get tired of doing so.  
+
我人出使外方者。則官吏迎送于境。先備酒食。其入邑也。邀留數日。大開宴席。務祟沈酗。無日蘇醒。因此得疾而廢者無算。其送別也。張幙於佳山勝水之間。挽袖不放。終日不已。故拙者耗敗官資。而日就頹廢。能者多營助利。而因售己私。官家日蕭。吏民日瘁。而不勝其苦矣。
When our military go on an expedition, over half of the cohort are supply wagons. Every few li of journey, the wagons are so heavy that the whole army become stranded. Among the cohort, soldiers are few.  
+
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+
When our envoys go on foreign missions, local officials would go and welcome them at the borders [of their respective jurisdictions] with wine and food prepared. After they go into town, they would invite the envoys to stay for an extra few days, hold lavish banquets, and immerse themselves in drunkenness. They are never sober during the day; because of [their debauchery], countless of the envoys become ill and give up on their duties. When local officials see the envoys off, they camp before picturesque mountains and celebrated waters, holding on each other’s sleeves and not letting go for a whole day. Therefore, the obtuse squanders the official treasury and idle all day. The able siphons public fund to their self-benefits.  As days go by, the government become destitute. Clerks and people are also worn out and cannot bear the bitterness of life.  
In the Central Dynasty, everyone is a citizen. And in every household, there is a crack trooper. Even a small and remote village has a few ten-thousands people to be recruited.  
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People of our country are frivolous and ungovernable. Commoners do not fear government clerks. Clerks do not fear scholars. Scholars do not fear grand masters. Grand masters do not fear chief ministers. High and low overstep each other and long to altercate. In contrast, in the Central Dynasty, commoners fear government clerks as if they are dholes and tigers. Clerks fear grand masters and chief ministers as if they are ghosts and gods. Grand masters and chief ministers fear the Emperor as if he is the Heaven. Therefore, they are able to govern and their orders are to be followed readily.  
+
中朝人出使者。萬騎前導。節鉞輝煌。可謂盛矣。其入邑也。官吏拜于堂下。使人入房。只啖豚蹄糲飯。與伴從同宿一榻。明日卽行。官吏出五里之外。餞三杯而送之。官吏欲修人情。私備酒食。稱下程而饋之。故使不留連。官無費物。而州縣常足也。
 
+
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People of the Central Dynasty do not eat much. Sometimes, they can just eat a flatbread and last for a day and night. They do not need to have rice. When hungry, their soldiers carry their rations in the saddles. Although they travel thousands of li, they only need to bring silver coins. When they ask for food, there is immediately food to eat. When they ask for alcohol, there is immediately alcohol to drink. When they ask for a horse, there is immediately a horse to ride. When they ask for a servant, there is immediately a servant to command. Every house they go to stay has a roof; every hostel they go to lodge has a married woman. Therefore, nowhere that they go is difficult.
+
When envoys of the Central Dynasty go on foreign missions, ten thousand horsemen lead the way with splendid pennants and battle-axes. It is such a grandiose view. When they go into town, local clerks and officials prostrate before the hall and usher the envoys to their rooms. The envoys only eat pig trotters and plain rice and sleep with their followers in the same bed. The next day, they immediately set off without delay. To see the envoys off, local clerks and officials only go 5 li out of town and have three tea cups of drink (4). If some clerks and officials want to cultivate a relationship with the envoys and bring their own food and alcohol, the envoys would say they would come back for them. Therefore, the envoys never linger around and the officials never waste resources. This is why the prefectures and counties are always plentiful.  
 
+
|-
Our officials eat in the morning, at noon and in the evening. Some of them drink all the time. They assault their servants and slaves and demand sumptuous meals. If the servants and slaves misspeak a word, they will be whipped and beaten.
+
|
 
+
我國人物。奴婢居半。故雖名州鉅邑。而軍卒鮮少。中朝則人皆國人。戶皆精兵。雖小小僻邑。數萬之衆。可以猝辦。我人輕佻不定。民不畏吏。吏不畏士。士不畏大夫。大夫不畏公卿。上下相陵思相傾軋。中朝則下民畏吏如豺虎。吏畏公卿大夫如鬼神。公卿大夫畏上如天。故莅事則能就。出令則易從也。
Although some officials of the Central Dynasty are from the ranks of chief minsters and grand masters, their homes are only modestly decorated. They sometimes even take rice and meat in a pot and gift it to their offices.  
+
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Half of the people of our country are slaves. Thus, although there are well-known prefectures and enormous counties, few soldiers can be recruited. In the Central Dynasty, everyone is a citizen. And in every household, there is a crack trooper. Even a small and remote village has a few ten-thousands people to be recruited. People of our country are frivolous and ungovernable. Commoners do not fear government clerks. Clerks do not fear scholars. Scholars do not fear grand masters. Grand masters do not fear chief ministers. High and low overstep and struggle with each other. In contrast, in the Central Dynasty, commoners fear government clerks as if they are dholes and tigers. Clerks fear grand masters and chief ministers as if they are ghosts and gods. Grand masters and chief ministers fear the Emperor as if he is the Heaven. Therefore, they are able to govern and their orders are to be followed readily.  
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(1) The phrase “中朝” in the original text might be best translated as “The Central Dynasty” here. It is tempting to simply translate the phrase as “China” or “the Central Kingdom.” But there are two reasons discouraging me from doing so. First, “China” is a modern neologism, so to use the term is to run into the danger of anachronism. Second, “the Central Kingdom” is usually translated from the term “中國.” And the word “kingdom” normally refers to 王國 in Chinese. However, in the original text, the author did not use 國 and instead employ 中朝 to describe the political entity/community west of his own country. Considering that the issues of nationhood and formation of nationalism are highly contested subjects still in, especially East Asian, historiography, the author’s choice could be telling and thus I decide to simply literally translate the term as “the Central Dynasty” and let historians decide the significance of a 16th century person using such language.
  
When our envoys go on foreign missions, the local officials would go and welcome them at the borders with wine and food prepared. After they go into town, they would invite the envoys to stay for an extra few days, hold lavish banquets, and immerse themselves in drunkenness. They are never sober during the day; because of [their debauchery], countless of the envoys become ill and give up on their duties. When local officials see the envoys off, they camp before picturesque mountains and celebrated waters, holding on each other’s sleeves and not letting go for a whole day. Therefore, the obtuse squander the official treasury and then idle all day. The able misappropriate public fund to their self-benefits.  As days go by, the government become destitute. The people are also worn out and cannot bear the bitterness of life.  
+
(2) Kugyŏl 口訣 is a system for rendering Classical Chinese texts into understandable Korean. It was commonly used by Korean scholars during the Choson Dynasty. In Kugyŏl, additional markers or words are inserted into a text written in Classical Chinese in order to help Korean readers better comprehend the text. These markers or words are usually Korean grammatical particles added between Chinese phrases.
  
When envoys of the Central Dynasty go on foreign missions, ten thousand horsemen lead the way with spectacular tallies and battle-axes. I would say it is a grandiose view. When they go into town, local clerks and officials prostrate before the hall and usher the envoys to their rooms. The envoys only eat pig trotters and plain rice and sleep with their followers in the same bed. The next day, they immediately set off without delay. To see the envoys off, local clerks and officials only go 5 li out of town and have three tea cups of drink. If some clerks and officials want to cultivate a relationship with the envoys and bring their own food and alcohol, the envoys would say they would come back for them. Therefore, the envoys never linger around and the officials never waste resources. This is why the prefectures and counties are always plentiful.  
+
(3) I rely my translations of official titles on Charles Hucker’s A Dictionary of Official Titles in Imperial China. While I am aware that Korean and Chinese official titles are different, I take that Sŏng was referring to a hierarchy of Confucian society/officialdom, which originated in China, rather than actual official positions in Choson Korea.  
 +
The term 公卿 in the original document does not correspond to any actual official title in Hucker’s dictionary. But the title 卿 is generally used, particularized with prefixes, for eminent officials and translated as “Chief Minister.” I understand the phrase 公 here is simply a prefix attached to the title 卿 for the purpose of honorification. The most direct translation for公卿, therefore, would be “Honorable Chief Minister.” For simplicity, I simply write “Chief Minister” in the translated text.  
 +
The term 大夫 is commonly translated as “Grand Masters.
  
People of our country are half slaves. Thus, although there are famous prefectures and enormous counties …
+
(4) It is a tradition in East Asia to farewell someone with three cups of wine.  
  
 
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Latest revision as of 01:40, 16 May 2020

Backward.png


Introduction

“On Civilization” written by Sŏng Hyŏn 成俔 is a social commentary essay that was compiled into the now well-known literary collection called Yongjae ch’onghwa 慵齋叢話 or in English Comprehensive Commentaries of Yongjae (a translation preferred by John Duncan of UCLA). The essay is a Sŏng’s discussion of how his country compared to “the Great Ming” in terms of government, society, people, culture and many other aspects. Not only does the essay provide historians valuable and richly detailed account of how a fifteenth century person thought of his country in relation to others, it also contains many Sŏng’s whimsical depictions of everyday life of the Chosŏn people which make the essay a fun read even for the most causal readers.

Sŏng Hyŏn was a prominent official in fifteen-century Chosŏn, who eventually rose to the key position of Censor-General 大司諫, Inspector-General大司憲, and Minister of Rites禮曹判書. Sŏng would an apt candidate to write about the Ming, a destination he has frequented as many as four times in his life (1). During his first such trip, on which he went with his older brother Sŏng Im 成任 in 1474, he even composed enough poems about his travel to compile a collection called The Sightseeing Records 觀光錄. Also, Sŏng was often one of the designated Chosŏn officials responsible for hosting and entertaining official visitors from the Ming (2). For historians reading “On Civilization” as a source, Sŏng’s extensive contact with the Ming would prove to be both a boon and a bane at the same time. On one hand, his familiarity with the subject assures readers Sŏng knew what he was writing about but, on the other hand, it could constitue a driving force in steering Sŏng away from objectivity in his depiction. Therefore, it is advisable to keep a keen eye on what is fact and what is opinion when reading “On Civilization.”

“On Civilization” was one of the many entertaining pieces that Sŏng wrote for the literary collection Yongjae ch’onghwa. Yongjae ch’onghwa, which was named after Sŏng’s cognomen Yongjae 慵齋, belongs to the genre of literary miscellany, generally defined as a compilation of anecdotes, literary criticism, curious tales, and causal writings on various subjects. And Yongjae ch’onghwa is itself a gold mine of most amusing materials about 14th and 15th century Chosŏn, including officials’ affairs with kisaeng 妓生entertainers, strange customs of government offices, curious tales about commoners, and many others. Because of the relatively informal nature of the genre, Yongjae ch’onghwa serves as an excellent alternative to the usually bland and dry history of Chosŏn narrated by court-centered official sources, such as the often Veritable Records of the Chosŏn Dynasty 朝鮮王朝實錄, and also offers what these official sources lack – the insight into how people actually lived and thought at their time (3). For anyone interested in a socio-cultural history of Korea, Yongjae ch’onghwa would be an apposite source to consult.


Notes:

(1) Sŏng Hyŏn visited Ming four times through private tours or on official missions in various capacities. He traveled to Ming in 1466 with his own brother, Sŏng Im 成任, in 1474 with his colleague Han Myŏnghŭi 韓明澮, in 1485 as the Envoy for the Thousand Autumn Mission 千秋使 (Mission to the Ming for the Crown Prince’s Birthday) and at last in 1488 as Envoy for Gratitude 謝恩使.

(2) John Duncan, “Introduction to Yongjae ch’onghwa” (Handout received in Premodern/Early Modern History of Korea with Professor John Duncan, UCLA, Sept 2017), 4.

(3) John Duncan, “Introduction to Yongjae ch’onghwa,” 1-2.

Original Script

Classical Chinese English

我國與中朝不類。我人讀書。有音布釋口訣。故人未易學。中朝所言皆文字。無音釋口訣。故其學易就。

Our country is different from the Central Dynasty (1). When people of our country study, we have to study [Classical Chinese texts] with Kugyŏl (2). This is why we do not learn easily. People of the Central Dynasty speak what they write and do not need Kugyŏl. That is why they learn easily.

我人奸巧多疑。常不信人。故人亦不信我。中朝人純厚無疑。雖與外人交賣。而不甚爭詰。

People of our country are treacherous and distrustful. We always do not believe in others. This is why people do not believe in me as well. People of the Central Dynasty are good-natured and trustful. Even when they trade with foreigners, they seldom quarrel with others.

我人雖臨小事輕躁喧鬧。故人多而不能就。中朝人靜默無言。人雖少而事易成。

Even when simply confronted with trivial matters, people of our country become agitated and vociferous easily. Therefore, we fail to achieve even with a large number of people. People of the Central Dynasty are reticent and do not speak much. Even when they have a small number of people, they could achieve.

我人多食飮。苟失一時。枵腹無所措。細民貸於富屋。猶糜費而不知節用。以至於困。貴者多列酒食而不知厭。

People of our country eat and drink a lot. We only focus on the present. If our stomach is empty, we do not know what to do. Petty commoners take loans to buy luxurious houses, but still they do not know thrift when they spend on food. They are therefore beleaguered by poverty. Rich people always hold feasts and banquets and never get tired of doing so.

若起軍兵。則飛輓過半。行者出數里之程。而輜重塞途。中朝人不多食。一時所食只一燒餠。猶可度朝夕。不必啖飯。軍卒掛乾粮於馬鞍。以備飢餒。行者雖千萬里之遠。只齎銀錢。求飯卽食。求酒卽飮。求馬卽騎。求僕卽率。居有宇而宿有婦。故無難行之處。

When our military go on an expedition, over half of the cohort are supply wagons. Every few li of journey, the wagons are so cumbersome that the whole army become stranded. People of the Central Dynasty do not eat much. Sometimes, they can just eat a flatbread and last for a day and night. They do not need to have rice. When hungry, their soldiers carry their rations in the saddles. Although they travel thousands of li, they only need to bring silver coins. When they ask for food, there is immediately food to eat. When they ask for alcohol, there is immediately alcohol to drink. When they ask for a horse, there is immediately a horse to ride. When they ask for a servant, there is immediately a servant to command. Every house they go to stay has a roof; every hostel they go to lodge has a married woman. Therefore, nowhere that they go is difficult.

我人居官者。有早飯朝飯晝飯。或有無時會飮。侵軼僕隷。務要盛饌。句小失差。必加鞭扑。中朝人居官者雖公卿大夫。其家美備。飯肉一器。送于其司而饋之。

Our officials eat in the morning, at noon and in the evening. Some of them drink all the time. They assault their servants and slaves and demand sumptuous meals. If the servants and slaves misspeak a word, they will be whipped and beaten. Although some officials of the Central Dynasty are from the ranks of chief ministers and grand masters, they only eat a plate of rice and meat prepared by their households and sent to their offices (3).

我人出使外方者。則官吏迎送于境。先備酒食。其入邑也。邀留數日。大開宴席。務祟沈酗。無日蘇醒。因此得疾而廢者無算。其送別也。張幙於佳山勝水之間。挽袖不放。終日不已。故拙者耗敗官資。而日就頹廢。能者多營助利。而因售己私。官家日蕭。吏民日瘁。而不勝其苦矣。

When our envoys go on foreign missions, local officials would go and welcome them at the borders [of their respective jurisdictions] with wine and food prepared. After they go into town, they would invite the envoys to stay for an extra few days, hold lavish banquets, and immerse themselves in drunkenness. They are never sober during the day; because of [their debauchery], countless of the envoys become ill and give up on their duties. When local officials see the envoys off, they camp before picturesque mountains and celebrated waters, holding on each other’s sleeves and not letting go for a whole day. Therefore, the obtuse squanders the official treasury and idle all day. The able siphons public fund to their self-benefits. As days go by, the government become destitute. Clerks and people are also worn out and cannot bear the bitterness of life.

中朝人出使者。萬騎前導。節鉞輝煌。可謂盛矣。其入邑也。官吏拜于堂下。使人入房。只啖豚蹄糲飯。與伴從同宿一榻。明日卽行。官吏出五里之外。餞三杯而送之。官吏欲修人情。私備酒食。稱下程而饋之。故使不留連。官無費物。而州縣常足也。

When envoys of the Central Dynasty go on foreign missions, ten thousand horsemen lead the way with splendid pennants and battle-axes. It is such a grandiose view. When they go into town, local clerks and officials prostrate before the hall and usher the envoys to their rooms. The envoys only eat pig trotters and plain rice and sleep with their followers in the same bed. The next day, they immediately set off without delay. To see the envoys off, local clerks and officials only go 5 li out of town and have three tea cups of drink (4). If some clerks and officials want to cultivate a relationship with the envoys and bring their own food and alcohol, the envoys would say they would come back for them. Therefore, the envoys never linger around and the officials never waste resources. This is why the prefectures and counties are always plentiful.

我國人物。奴婢居半。故雖名州鉅邑。而軍卒鮮少。中朝則人皆國人。戶皆精兵。雖小小僻邑。數萬之衆。可以猝辦。我人輕佻不定。民不畏吏。吏不畏士。士不畏大夫。大夫不畏公卿。上下相陵思相傾軋。中朝則下民畏吏如豺虎。吏畏公卿大夫如鬼神。公卿大夫畏上如天。故莅事則能就。出令則易從也。

Half of the people of our country are slaves. Thus, although there are well-known prefectures and enormous counties, few soldiers can be recruited. In the Central Dynasty, everyone is a citizen. And in every household, there is a crack trooper. Even a small and remote village has a few ten-thousands people to be recruited. People of our country are frivolous and ungovernable. Commoners do not fear government clerks. Clerks do not fear scholars. Scholars do not fear grand masters. Grand masters do not fear chief ministers. High and low overstep and struggle with each other. In contrast, in the Central Dynasty, commoners fear government clerks as if they are dholes and tigers. Clerks fear grand masters and chief ministers as if they are ghosts and gods. Grand masters and chief ministers fear the Emperor as if he is the Heaven. Therefore, they are able to govern and their orders are to be followed readily.

(1) The phrase “中朝” in the original text might be best translated as “The Central Dynasty” here. It is tempting to simply translate the phrase as “China” or “the Central Kingdom.” But there are two reasons discouraging me from doing so. First, “China” is a modern neologism, so to use the term is to run into the danger of anachronism. Second, “the Central Kingdom” is usually translated from the term “中國.” And the word “kingdom” normally refers to 王國 in Chinese. However, in the original text, the author did not use 國 and instead employ 中朝 to describe the political entity/community west of his own country. Considering that the issues of nationhood and formation of nationalism are highly contested subjects still in, especially East Asian, historiography, the author’s choice could be telling and thus I decide to simply literally translate the term as “the Central Dynasty” and let historians decide the significance of a 16th century person using such language.

(2) Kugyŏl 口訣 is a system for rendering Classical Chinese texts into understandable Korean. It was commonly used by Korean scholars during the Choson Dynasty. In Kugyŏl, additional markers or words are inserted into a text written in Classical Chinese in order to help Korean readers better comprehend the text. These markers or words are usually Korean grammatical particles added between Chinese phrases.

(3) I rely my translations of official titles on Charles Hucker’s A Dictionary of Official Titles in Imperial China. While I am aware that Korean and Chinese official titles are different, I take that Sŏng was referring to a hierarchy of Confucian society/officialdom, which originated in China, rather than actual official positions in Choson Korea. The term 公卿 in the original document does not correspond to any actual official title in Hucker’s dictionary. But the title 卿 is generally used, particularized with prefixes, for eminent officials and translated as “Chief Minister.” I understand the phrase 公 here is simply a prefix attached to the title 卿 for the purpose of honorification. The most direct translation for公卿, therefore, would be “Honorable Chief Minister.” For simplicity, I simply write “Chief Minister” in the translated text. The term 大夫 is commonly translated as “Grand Masters.”

(4) It is a tradition in East Asia to farewell someone with three cups of wine.

Discussion Questions


Further Readings


References


Translation

(sample) : Jaeyoon Song


  • Discussion Questions:


Student 1 : Yishu Ma


  • Discussion Questions:

-As this article takes China as an idealized model, how did people during the 15th-16th century Joseon understand their own culture? Are there any other literati writings which could give us further information?

Student 2 : Samuel Sai Hay Chan 陳世熙 진세희


  • Discussion Questions:

What do you think is the point of 成俔 tried to make in the essay? Is his depiction of China and Korea fair and trustworthy? If not, what is the reason of him depicting the two countries in such ways?

Student 3 : Younès M'Ghari


  • Discussion Questions:

Were the author's representations towards China and Korea widely spread among Korean scholars? Even across the opposite political factions of the time?

What would have been the king's reaction if he could have read this text?

Who compiled this text, when and for what purpose? What kinds of texts precede and follow it in that compilation?

Student 4 : King Kwong Wong


  • Discussion Questions:

Why did Sŏng Hyŏn (Seong Hyeon) write an essay comparing the Chosŏn (Joseon) people and the Chinese people? What did he want to achieve with this writing?

Student 5 : (신동조)


  • Discussion Questions:

How reasonable or compelling of his writing? Is his statement on the cases of the Ming acceptable, apart from its effect as a writing strategy? Is it a philosophical thesis or rhetorical leaflet?

Student 6 : Stacey


  • Discussion Questions:

What were the motivations behind this piece? Do you think the author is equally critical and reverent of Choson and Ming China, respectively, or is he idealising one in order to create a greater contrast?

Describe the relationship between China and Choson during the time of this text.

Student 7 : Russell Guilbault


  • Discussion Questions:
  1. Seong Hyeon's criticism of the social/political organization of Joseon, compared to the Ming, seems to me to echo Gim Siseup's emphasis on the importance of 'myeongbun' 名分. Both Seong Hyeon and Gim Siseup believe a strictly enforced system of distinctions between various social ranks & positions is necessary for a country to be properly governed. I'd like to do some more looking into how important this concept was & how widely it circulated among literati during this period.

Student 8 : Q


  • Discussion Questions:

Entertaining the possibility that all of our authors may be writing with intended ambiguities or hidden agenda. In case of 성현, what would be the reasonable limit of research determining or eliminating the possibility of such hidden agenda?

Student 9 : Yeonjae Ra


  • Discussion Questions:

1. how the title “文明論” can be translated? (discussion of the civilization?)

2. why he only writes about the difference between choseon and ming dynasty? when we see the articles of 燕行使(usually 燕行錄), there are lots of contents dealing with the folk customs. are there some limitations to 朝天使 at early choseon period?

Student 10 : (Kanghun Ahn)


How accurate are Song Hyon's observations of China vis-a-vis the real China at the time?

Is it really a good rhetorical strategy to draw upon such a black and white logic to criticize one's own society?

How prevalent was it, among Choson literati, to utilize the idealized portrayal of China in order to criticize Choson society?

Student 11 : (Write your name)


  • Discussion Questions:


Student 12 : (Write your name)


  • Discussion Questions: