Primary Source: Sŏnggyun'gwan Schedule by Sŏng Kan (1427 – 1456)

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sunhaksipdo1

 

sunhaksipdo2

Songhakshipdo, wood template, Yi Hwang,
Courtesy of the Advancement Center of Korean Studies

By reading the following passage we can not only see the day to day schedule of the students, but also the reason for education during the Chosŏn Kingdom.

At daybreak each morning, with the beating of a drum, the headmaster along with the instructors of the academy assembles the students in the courtyard. After making a bow to the instructors, the students enter the hall where lectures and discussions on the classics take place. They study, deliberate, counsel, and assist one another to reach a full understanding of the relationships between ruler and minister, father and son, husband and wife, elder brother and younger brother, and friend and friend.
For days and months, together they work and rest as one body to train themselves until they become new men. It is from these students that the future loyal ministers and the future filial sons are produced in prolific number to serve the state and their families. Indeed, never before in the history of our country have we witnessed such a splendid success in nurturing loyal officials and filial sons as we see now.
Some people object that since the sage’s teachings are many, there is no reason why this hall alone should be called the Hall of Illustrating the Cardinal Principles. To them I say: The relationships between ruler and minister, father and son, husband and wife, elder brother and younger brother, and friend and friend are rooted in the heavenly principle, and hence they are unchanging and everlasting. How can there be any teaching more important than this?

Critical Reading Questions

  • 1. What is the end goal of the student’s education?
  • 2. What are the arguments against education mentioned in the article?
  • 3. In modern schools students focus their studies on various subjects in order to gain knowledge. The author of this article points out that more important than just learning knowledge is learning how to act appropriately in basic human relationships. Why is this important? Can you think of any modern parallels?