Month: September 2017

육예 – The Six Arts

I’ve learned a lot about Korean Confucianism reading <성균관 유생들의 나날>. The main point being, everything academic—including the meritocratic Joseon government—was rooted in the teachings of Confucius (공자). Even “extracurriculars,” like archery had deep philosophical meaning. 대사례 [大射禮], for example, was a ceremonial archery demonstration that scholars partcipated in alongside the King. The act of doing archery alongside the King, after having passed the civil service examinations, was supposed to further cultivate and reaffirm one’s class and rank. In fact, there’s a part in <성균관 유생들의 나날> where the main character, our cross-dressing female scholar Yoonhee, gets huffy about practicing archery. Sunjoon replies: “활쏘기는 선비라면 반드시 익혀야 하는 육예 중 하나요. 우선 바른 자세를 만들어 주고, 그와 함께 정신도 가다듬게 하오. 이것을 거치지 않는다면 활을 쏠 이유가 없소.” (p. 255) Archery, he says, is part of 육예, and therefore something all scholars must be familiar with. 육예[六藝] literally translates to the Six Arts. (You can intuit the meaning easily given the Hanja. 六 is 여섯 륙/육 and 藝 is 예술 예.) The Six Arts were the six main “subjects” that made up …