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)]]
|Translator = Samuel Chan Sai Hay 陳世熙 진세희
|Editor =  
|Editor = Samuel Chan Sai Hay 陳世熙 진세희
|Translation Year = 2019
|Translation Year = 2019

Revision as of 21:10, 6 March 2020



Original Script

Classical Chinese English


Our country is different from the Central Dynasty (1). 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. 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. 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.


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. 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. 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 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.


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. 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.


People of our country are half slaves. Thus, although there are famous prefectures and enormous counties, Among the cohort, soldiers are few. n 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 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.

Discussion Questions

Further Readings



(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: