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Admonitions on Governing the People

Admonitions on Governing the People: Manual for All Administrators

Chŏng Yagyong
Translated by Choi Byonghyon
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Pages: 1176
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  • Book Info
    Admonitions on Governing the People
    Book Description:

    This is the first English translation of one of Korea's most celebrated historical works, a pre-modern classic so well known to Koreans that it has inspired contemporary literature and television. Written in 1821 by Chong Yagyong (Tasan),Admonitions on Governing the People (Mongmin simso)is a detailed manual for district magistrates on how to govern better. In encyclopedic fashion, Chong Yagyong addresses the administration, social and economic life, criminal justice, the military, and the Confucian ritual system. He provides examples of past corrupt officials and discusses topics of the day such as famine relief and social welfare. A general call for overhauling the Korean ruling system, the book also makes the radical proposition that the purpose of government is to serve the interests of the people. This long-awaited translation opens a new window on early-nineteenth century Korea and makes available to a wide audience a work whose main concerns simultaneously transcend national and cultural boundaries.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94770-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xxxviii)

    A book titledMongmin simsŏ(Admonitions on Governing the People), one of the most famous and celebrated works of the nineteenth-century Korean scholar official Chŏng Yagyong (better known by his pen name, Tasan), became a “mustread” for the ruling elite toward the end of the Choson period (1392–1910) and still more celebrated at the turn of the twenty-first century. In the last twenty years or so Chong has received recognition as one of Korea’s most creative and systematic thinkers, especially among the younger generation of scholars and intellectuals in Korea. He is now attracting more interest than T’oegye and...

    (pp. 1-4)
  6. I Assuming Office
    (pp. 5-50)

    Th ose who serve men of higher social status are called “people” [min], and those who look after them, “scholar-officials” [sa].¹ Scholar-officials are public servants, and all those who are in public service are shepherds who take care of people.

    If they are prudent and discreet, the officials in the royal court in Seoul whose duty is to serve the king or carry out their duties in the various departments of the administration are generally less exposed to corruption or regretful actions.

    On the other hand, the magistrates who rule the local districts and deal with many things daily are...

  7. II Self-Discipline
    (pp. 51-151)

    The magistrate gets up early in the morning, lights a candle, and washes his face; he puts his clothes on, wears his belt, and sitting still, concentrates and starts meditating. For a while he thinks about the things to be done that day and sorts them according to priority. He has to figure out which official document should be dealt with first and which orders he should give next, and so forth. After that, he starts thinking about the best ways to accomplish his first priority and, at the same time, how to eliminate his personal interest and follow the...

  8. III Public Service
    (pp. 152-188)

    Dong Zhongshu¹ in his proposal on inviting men of talent stated as follows: “Local magistrates of counties and districts in our days are the teachers, as well as the leaders, of the people; hence they are responsible for letting the king’s grace reach out to the people² and edifying them with benevolence. Therefore, unless they are wise, the virtue of the king cannot be promoted, and his benevolence cannot reach far. The magistrates at the moment, as the subjects of their sovereign, fail to remember this fact; some of them do not respect the law made by the king, treat...

  9. IV Love of People
    (pp. 189-212)

    How can the magistrate’s duty be limited only to the seven affairs? Nowadays people ranging from high officials to their subordinates pay attention only to the seven affairs in giving or carrying out orders as if there was nothing else to do. As a result, even those who are disposed to benevolence and charity often fail to understand what needs to be done. How lamentable! Since the six benevolent administrations¹ of the grand minister of education recorded inRites of Zhouare in fact the first priority of the magistrate, I will attempt to convey their general purport in my...

  10. V Personnel Administration
    (pp. 213-260)

    Whereas people take the land for their farms, yamen clerks take the people for their farms. The way yamen clerks farm their lands is to exploit the people, stripping off their skins and sucking the marrow of their brains; the way they harvest the crop is to bring in the people from everywhere and squeeze them for their personal gain. Since these irregularities, being old, are taken for granted, the magistrate cannot govern the people unless he takes control of the yamen clerks. It is the law of Heaven that one can reproach others only when he is free from...

  11. VI Taxation
    (pp. 261-433)

    The Chinese adoptqingand mu,¹ and our countrykyŏlandpu,in measuring land. All pieces of land of different length and width have a form, but the soil, which is of either rich or poor quality, is invisible. The forms of the lands do not change despite the passage of time, but the soil does. (The quality of the land depends on human efforts.) Therefore, it is problematic to administer land if it is assessed only on the basis of measure ments likekyŏlandpu.

    The land measurement calledtianjie²originated fromWritings of Master Guan


  12. VII Rites and Ceremonies
    (pp. 434-556)

    “The Law of Sacrifices” [Jifa]¹ states as follows: “When Gonggongshi² took control of nine states,³ his son was director of wetlands [houtu]. Because his son performed an outstanding job, the people established his tablet in the temple and worshipped him as a god of the soil. When Lishanshi [Yandi Shennong]⁴ took over the world, his son Nong took charge of agriculture and successfully propagated hundreds of kinds of grain crops. As the Xia dynasty declined, Qi, the ancestor of the Zhou dynasty, took over the work of Nong and was also worshipped as a god of grain.”⁵

    Commentaryon the...

  13. VIII Administration of Military Affairs
    (pp. 557-654)

    Since commoners’ corvée ser vices were already discussed in detail in the section on corvée duties, they will not be discussed here.

    At the beginning of the Chosŏn dynasty there was a so-called house hold cloth tax [hop’o], but no such thing as a military cloth tax. (In the tenth year of his reign [1410] T’aejong of the early Choson dynasty issued a royal decree on this matter, which appears inPrecious Mirror for Succeeding Reigns.) During the reign of Chungjong,² Inspector General Yang Yŏn (who removed Kim Allo³ from power) submitted a proposal for legislating the law to levy...

  14. IX Administration of Justice
    (pp. 655-824)

    Doctrine of the Mean, quoting fromClassic of Poetry,states, “Since it is said, ‘ In silence is the offering presented, and the spirit approached; there is not the slightest contention [in any part of the service],’³ therefore, the people exhort what is good to each other even if there are no rewards from the superior man and are afraid of the superior man more than an ax and a fodder chopper.” Quoting the words of Confucius,Great Learningstates, “ In hearing lawsuits, I am like any other body. What is necessary, however, is to cause the people to...

  15. X Public Works Administration
    (pp. 825-892)

    InRites of Zhouthere is a record as follows: “Mountains are graded into three categories in terms of their sizes: large, medium, and small. So are the forests. Thus they are divided intodalu, zhonglu,andxiaolu¹and are maintained by twelve managers. During the eleventh lunar month [Zhongdong] logging is allowed, but there is a time limit for the ordinary people engaged in logging. However, there is no such restriction for the artisans hired by the government. Those who log trees without authorization are subject to punishment as criminals.” TheSpring and Autumn Annalsstates, “The forests are...

  16. XI Famine Relief
    (pp. 893-974)

    The grand minister of education inRites of Zhousaid that the king gathers the people by performing twelve types of relief administration: first, providing grain seed and provisions on loan [sanli]; second, reducing taxes [baozheng]; third, reducing penalties [huanxing]; fourth, reducing labor-service requirements [chili]; fifth, relaxing prohibitions on mountains and ponds so that the people can find food [shejin]; sixth, suspending searches at gateways and markets [quji]; seventh, reducing the scale of celebrations and entertainments for guests [shengli]; eighth, simplifying the per for mance of mourning rites [shaai]; ninth, putting away musical instruments [fanle]; tenth, holding many wedding ceremonies...

  17. XII Departure
    (pp. 975-1022)

    There are twenty titles altogether that address the replacement of magistracy: first, replacement calledkwach’e,which happens due to the expiration of the term (it indicates that three or six years of the magistrate’s term have expired); second, replacement calledsungch’e,which happens due to promotion (it indicates cases of promotion from district to county, from prefecture to special prefecture); third, replacement callednaech’e,which happens due to transfer (moving to positions in the central government in Seoul); fourth, replacement calledsoch’e,which happens due to a royal order (it indicates cases in which an individual is called to three...

    (pp. 1023-1084)
    (pp. 1085-1088)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 1089-1133)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 1134-1134)