The role of confucian education – examination system for maintaining the law and order of the feudal society in Vietnam in the king Le Thanh Tong’s time (1460-1497)

Abstract. The role of Confucian education - examination system at the ages of the Le Thanh Tong can be generalized as: - First: Through education examination – system, the state spread Confucian ideology widely and deeply among people, brought up Confucianism to unique position; Second: Through education - Confucian examination system, the state selected great talents, trained officials from centre to locality to strengthen the central feudal system and concentration of power; Third: Through the Confucian education - examination system, the studious spirit was encouraged, a learning society was built; Fourth: Through the Confucian education - examination system, human virtue and social virtue were built and perfected.

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JOURNAL OF SCIENCE OF HNUE Vol. 57, No. 1, pp. 114-122 THE ROLE OF CONFUCIAN EDUCATION – EXAMINATION SYSTEM FOR MAINTAINING THE LAW AND ORDER OF THE FEUDAL SOCIETY IN VIETNAM IN THE KING LE THANH TONG’S TIME (1460-1497) Pham Thi Quynh Hanoi Nationnal University of Education E-mail: Abstract. The role of Confucian education - examination system at the ages of the Le Thanh Tong can be generalized as: - First: Through educa- tion examination – system, the state spread Confucian ideology widely and deeply among people, brought up Confucianism to unique position; Second: Through education - Confucian examination system, the state selected great talents, trained officials from centre to locality to strengthen the central feu- dal system and concentration of power; Third: Through the Confucian edu- cation - examination system, the studious spirit was encouraged, a learning society was built; Fourth: Through the Confucian education - examination system, human virtue and social virtue were built and perfected. Keyworld: Confucian education, education examination, Le Thanh Tong’s time. 1. Introduction The time of the Le Thanh Tong Dynasty was the most prosperous period of the feudal monarchies since Vietnam gained independence. During this time there existed a powerful infrastructure and superstructure, and brilliant achievements were made in all fields. These achievements were the crowning result of five centuries of previous efforts made by the Ngo, Dinh, Tien Le, Ly Tran and Lo So dynasties to build and develop the country. Unlike under previous dynasties, the Confucian education-examination system played an important role in the social life the privi- leged class during the Le Thanh Tong dynasty. 2. Content In the reign of Le Thanh Tong, the Dai Viet (Great Vietnamese) economy flourished in all aspects: agriculture, industry and commerce. “This new economic 114 The role of confucian education – examination system for maintaining the law... prosperity was a solid foundation for the building of a central and independent feu- dal system with a concentration of power. It also made possible improvements in superstructure such as education and culture. This economic base made possible a development of education that in the previous thousand years under Chinese rule and the hundred years under the reign of Ly Tran, they never got” [4;47]. As this economic develpoment was taking place, the Le Thanh Tong dynasty paid attention to the building and development of an administrative apparatus that could function at the central to local levels and a powerful military. It also promoted legislative activities, put in place the Hong Duc Code and had soft but firm foreign relations. The infrastructure that was put in place during the Le Thanh Tong reign made it possible for Dai Viet to be a powerful, independent feudal country. During this pe- riod, the superstruture was at its zenith and many brilliant achievements were made in ideology, culture, literature, history, geography, mathematics, law enforcement, architecture and art. During the Le Thanh Tong reign, Confucianism became the guiding influence and dominated the educational-examination system. This institu- tionalization of Confucianism and the creation of sino-Vietnamese classics were both the cause and the result of improved education. The role of the Confucian education- examination system during the age of the Le Thanh Tong can be generalized as: 2.1. Use of the education–examination system to spread Con- fucian ideology Sung Confucianism was considered to be “the official ideology of the state, the ideological platform of the bureaucratic mornachy which helped it maintain the supreme authority of the King” [1;125]. The Confucian ideology of Sung Confucian- ism was used by the feudal/class of rulers as a tool to dictate attitudes towards spirit and virtues which allowed them to create a moral order, social discipline and form of education. The Le Thanh Tong feudal dynasty instituted policies which made it’s form of Confucianism unique and led to the creation of the sino-Vietnamese classics. It also created the Confucian education–exmination system. 2.1.1. The aim of education in the Le Thanh Tong era The aim of Vietnamese education in the Le Thanh Tong era was to teach ‘human virtue’ according to Confucian virtue standards so that everyone would accept his position carry out his imposed duties and live according to Confucianism principles (straight mind, self-teach, manage family) and submit to the King’s rule. During the Le Thanh Tong era, Confucianism was used not only to train the large number of central and local officials so solidify a centralized power, but also to spread feudal ideology among people across the land. 115 Pham Thi Quynh 2.1.2. People who took part in the educational process: Those who were involved in education during Le Thanh Tong’s time were influenced by the Confucian concept of “unique useful education” and the number of people taught and studied increased from time to time. These people included candidates for exams. First, the teachers were Confucian scholars who were selected after undergoing a Confucian education. Under Le Thanh Tong’s reign, local teachers and the director of education system of the area were selected by the Quoc Tu Giam school. Besides teaching the classics, language, sino-Vietnamese classics, medicine, geography and astrology, they were also to be paragons of virtue and behaviour. The products of this education were to be people who thought and acted according to Confucian ideal. In Le Thanh Tong’s time, the King personally selected those who could take the written exams and be questioned orally, and he reviewed the tests to select the top three candidates. Second, in order to train people who would have good virtue, deep thought, lived and acted according to the current standards, practiced the ideal of Confucian virtues, adhered to the requirements of the feudal regime and learned the sino- Vietnamese classics. Thus, very few people qualified to study to take the exams. In 1462 Le Thanh Tong required a perfectual examination score and one regulation was that the candidate had to have his personal history cleared by the local officials, and his parents and grandparents had to be ‘people of virtue’. People who were disrespectful, disagreeable, ungrateful, incestous or false could not take the exams even if they were educated and knowledgeable. Comedians, actors, singers, rebels and false officials were all said to be bad and they, their children and their grandchildren could not take the exams. If a candidate copied material from a book or let someone else take the exams for him, he would be punished according to the law [2;251]. To see to it that Confucianism would have a unique position, starting in the 15th century the Vietnamese feudal state actively limited the scope and influence of Buddhism and Taoism. In 1429, the Le dynasty ordered that monks must take an exam to continue to be a monk, and only monks who were knowledgeable, clear and virtuous could take the exam. Anyone monk who did not pass the exam could no longer be a monk. 2.1.3. Content, teaching-learning and examination methods Study content and educational exams during the feudal times in Vietnam, particularly in Le Thanh Tong’s time, was based on Confucianism as presented in the classics textbooks of Confucianists. In the public schools, private schools and with home-based education, the teaching materials were mainly The Four Books 116 The role of confucian education – examination system for maintaining the law... (Analects - Luận ngữ, Mencius - Mạnh Tử, The middle way- Trung dung, Doctrine of the Mean/Greater Learning Đại học) and The Five Classics (Classics of Changes - Kinh Dịch; Record of Rites - Kinh Lễ; Classics of Poetry - Kinh Thi; Classics of Documents - Kinh Thư; Spring and Autumn Annals - Kinh Xuân Thu), and also the teachings of the Great teacher, Chinese history and old literature. Before they could study The Four Books and The Five Classics, Chinese history and old literature, students had to first learn the Chinese language and also common text books because the above books were studied in Chinese. But the main content was knowledge of virtue, the ways to learn virtue and the way to behave in different social relations, especially political knowledge and practice, being obsequious towards the King and keeping people calm according to Confucians principles of virtue and respect for everyone who is of higher social elevation. Chinese history, Vietnamese history, and math were all required subjects for the exams. However, natural science, agriculture and trade were given little attention by the Confucians. Confucian education and examination methods in Le Thanh Tong’s time im- itated that of Chinese Confucianism from Confucius-Mencius’s. Because the focus was on on ethics and morality, they didn’t use a teaching language methods that taught easier things first and progressed to that which is more difficult. Lessons were about morality and virtue and all teaching was to teach moral principles and con- stant obligation of morality. The Le Thanh Tong dynasty held exams as was done in the Le So dynasty (1442). During his rule (1460-1497), King Le Thanh Tong held 12 consecutive exams. In general, the aim, content and method of education and examination in the Confucian education system in our coutry during Le Thanh Tong’s time was the study of what was written in the Confucian classics, but they were to fit the requirements of the feudal regime as well. The Confucian education–examination system spread Confucian ideology far and wide in the country and served to consol- idate the position of the feudal regime. Due to the educational system, Confucian ideology occupied a unique position during the Le Thanh Tong Dynasty. As a part of the superstructure, Confucian ideology had an effect on economy which made it in part responsible for creating a prosperous period during the feudal regime of the Dai Viet. 2.2. Use of the Confucian education–examination system to se- lect talented individuals and train central and local officials in order to consolidate the power of the feudal regime. During the Ly Tran Dynasties, the selection of talented individuals and the appointment of officials were done through Confucian exams however work quality 117 Pham Thi Quynh and a recommendation were also given consideration. As time went on and the feudal state apparatus concentrated central power, the need for managers and those who could rule the restricted society required more individuals from the scholar class. Ac- cording to the Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư (The Great Viet Complete History), until the second half of the 14th century under the reign of Tran Nghe Tong (1370 - 1372), the Confucians put Confucianism in a unique position in the superstructure to Confu- cianize the entire society. In the 15th century, especially under the reign of Le Thanh Tong, government officials at all levels were recruited mainly by the Confucian exam system. The number of Confucianists who held high positions increased daily. In Le Thanh Tong’s time, the Confucianists became the upper tier of the society and an important pillar of the feudal state and an adjunct of the bureaucratic feudal state apparatus. To select talented people for government positions, besides passage of exams, the feudal state in Le So’s time and the following dynasties considered work quality and recommendation. However it should be noted that those hired in this manner were also required to have Confucian morals and virtues. Confucian officials played a very important role the operation of the state apparatus and dynasty in creating imperial edicts, regulations, impeachments, legal codes, written adminitrative documents and other laws – all of the tools needed to enable the King and feudal state to manage society and increase the scale of disci- pline and efficiency. It can be said that it was the state bureaucrats that maintained stability, discipline and prosperity in Dai Viet society in the second half of the 15th century. During King Le Thanh Tong’s time, the Confucian education–examination sys- tem was highly respected by the great thinkers and men of position during that time. Many brilliant people had studied under that system to strengthen the long standing civilization and culture of our country. Also studying under this system were many Confucian scholars and village teachers who influenced folklore and village culture and strengthened and improved the morals and customs of the Vietnamese nation. Under the reign of Le Thanh Tong, the feudal state also held intermittent, irregular tests to recertify the Confucian ability of officials. An official who passed the exam could be promoted but those who failed the exam would be demoted or displaced. The King insisted that officials have real knowledge and great intelligence. Even official teachers had to be reexamined. To be eligible for promotion, a teacher needed to have worked for some years, to be virtuous and also have students who can pass exams. “Examination results reflect a students ability in self-study and also the teachers’ ability” [3;71]. So, Confucianism and the education–examination system under the Le Thanh Tong dynasty played an active role in selecting talented people, training officials and 118 The role of confucian education – examination system for maintaining the law... bringing prosperity to the Dai Viet feudal regime. 2.3. Using the Confucian education–examination system to en- courage a studious spirit and build a learning society The education–examination system of Dai Viet in Le Thanh Tong’s time was focused on training talented people for the country and building a society of people who would have a studious tradition: “Venerate teacher, respect, virtue” and “Never tired of learning and teaching.” Under the Ly dynasty, Buddhism was the national religion. Although the court established the Temple of Literature (Văn Miếu) and held the first exam for ‘Intelligent scientists’, at that time the class of scholars were for the most part monks, not Confucian scholars. However, monks such as Van Hanh, Minh Khong, Khong Lo and Giac Hai all had a good understanding of Confucianism. From the second half of the 11th century under the Ly dynasty on, the Vietnamese feudal state officially adopted the Confucian education-examination system. Until Tran’s time, the influence of the Confucianists increased daily while that of the monks fell. From the Le’s time on, selection of talented people mainly relied on the exam- ination. After the victory over the Ming aggressors, in order to build an independent state, the feudal court consolidated Confucian education and held regular exams to choose talented people. A large number of officials in this period were Confucianists and they became the scholar class of the feudal society, they were the adminsttators of the state. The selection of talented people by means of exam served to create a tradition of study in this period. The court supported the education- examination system. More and more people who went to school took the exams and passed them. In this way the Confucian education-examination system played a part in developing a learning society and a tradition of study, venerating the teacher and respecting virtue. Students in schools from the central to local level had a learning spirit filled with excitement. Studying for exams to gain position and fame became the focus of students from this time on. In the year Giap Thin (1484), the 15th year of the Hong Duc Dynasty, the King placed stone tablets listed in the Quoc Tu Giam Temple of Literature the names of all those who passed the doctorate exams. This was a way of showing respect for the men who passed the exams “to excite students and encourage them to compete against each other in the exams” [4;92]. In the Le Thanh Tong Dynasty, the King granted high honor to the doctor- ates. He instituted the ceremonies of calling the roll, displaying notice, granting a ceremonial bonnet and robe, giving a banquets and party, visiting the Royal Garden and walking around the palace and the capital, going home to give thanks to an- 119 Pham Thi Quynh cestors after achieving academic honours, etc. Their names were noted in the book containing the doctorate list. In a doctorates’ hometown, a communual house could be built in his honor, and after his death he usually became a ‘genius’ and a tutelary god of the village who will protect the country and village [3;87]. All of these favours from the King for doctorates encouraged a studious spirit, respect for Confucianism and virtue among the people. 2.4. The Confucian education–examination system builds and improves virtue in people and society The education – examination system of Dai Viet in Le Thanh Tong’s time paid much attention to teaching human and societal virtue according to Confucian standards. The subject matter of a Confucian education was virtue, literature and state policy and these were in the form of high-level virtue education. At first, Confucianism taught people ‘how to be a virtuous man’ and was to be the foundation and basis for ‘managing a family, ruling the country and creating harmony in the world.’ The focus of Confucian education could be expressed in two words: self training. “From the King down to to common people everyone should be perfecting the root of virtue” (Doctrine of the Mean-Đại học). Vietnamese feudal ed- ucation in many periods considered ‘self-instruction to be important. Self-instruction was a conscious from of education that was to make the education process one of self-educating. The goal was to first have self-instruction and then have ‘correct position’. Everyone in society had his own position, living with responsibility and duty according to his own position and this was considered to be correct position. Maintanence of correct position is the basis for keeping order in a Confucian society. In the feudal society, the decending relationship “King, official, father, son” were alongside the virtues: ‘human, loyal, virtuous, filial piety’. The theory of the Three cardinal bonds, Five constant relationships of Confucianism was Vietnamized over time to come to mean personal duty and responsibility to society. In feudal society, in any situation, the King was considered to be the head of the whole world, un- dertaking God’s will ‘On behalf of God to carry out regulation and virtue’ and the father of all people. Therefore, that the King himself was virtuous was a given, with hius virtue maintaining the stability and development of the society and establishing an ideal society, a society of virtue. According to the explanation of Confucianists in the national history books, a cause for a decline in prosperity could be that the King was not a man of virtue. The prosperity or decadence, rise or fall and success or failure of the King, the society and the nation also depended on the official class of people. To fufil their tasks, they also needed to be virtuous, and to improve their virtue, and together with the King they had to show a good example in carrying 120 The role of confucian education – examination system for maintaining the law... out the three social bonds and the five cardinal virtues for all the people to follow. Confucian education paid particular attention to the responsibilities and obligations of the subordinates of the King. The virtues of Loyalty and Piety were the two ba- sic moral qualities and duties of subordinates. Regarding Loyalty, the requirements were the following: s
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