41 folding leaves. Large 8vo (337 x 206 mm.), orig. semi-stiff wrappers, new stitching. [Korea]: Simdo 沁都, 1756.
First edition and rare; WorldCat lists only one printed copy, at Berkeley. This book of exhortations on good government, with striking royal calligraphy, was written by King Yŏngjo (or Yeongjo) of Chosŏn (1694-1776) in 1756. At this time, Yŏngjo was commemorating the death of his father, the previous king. According to Fang Chaoying (1908-85), Yŏngjo, then in his 65th year, “could not foresee that he was to live twenty more years, and so it appears that he was trying to justify himself in his own mind with regard to posterity as well as to the ancestors whom he expected to face any day” (The Asami Library, 115). Yŏngjo offered three main principles for a king to follow: “to venerate Heaven, to love the people, and to treat the officials with respect” (ibid.).
Large standard script characters written by the king himself are reproduced in the beginning of the book. The king’s brush records Confucian assertions such as “the following of human nature is called the Way / the cultivation of the Way is called instruction.” Accepting the Mencian dictum that human nature is inherently good, the king continues: “I possess the good human nature / to realize the bright mandate of Heaven.”
The main text of the book is reproduced in the handwriting of the important scholar-official Sŏ Myŏng-ŭng (or Seo Myeong-eung) 徐命膺 (1716-87). Sŏ wrote in many genres and had a cosmopolitan outlook. For example, he wrote a Preface to one of the major multilingual lexicographical works produced in Chosŏn in the 18th century (see Söderblom Saarela, “Mandarin over Manchu,” 379-80).
Very fine and fresh copy, beautifully printed.
Fang Chaoying. The Asami Library: A Descriptive Catalog. Edited by Elizabeth Huff. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969.
Söderblom Saarela, Mårten. “Mandarin over Manchu: Court-Sponsored Qing Lexicography and Its Subversion in Korea and Japan.” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 77.2 (2017).
Item ID: 9429