Sunday, 30 October 2011


I truly commend Peter Watson, research associate at the McDonald Institute of Archaelogical Studies, University of Cambridge. He has produced a wonderful compendium of history - ancient and modern - polarised around the concept, or the "driving-force" of Ideas. In the course of his treatise, Watson travels through East and West to give us, by turns, romantic and concrete presentations of scientific and scholarly life.

One passage that grabbed me concerns the happy reign of King Sejong, ruler of Korea (fl.7 May 1397 – 18 May 1450, r. 1418–1450), Fourth Monarch of the Joseon Dynasty.

I was inspired by His Highness' love and respect for art and learning. Watson notes that King Jesong issued an 'extraordinary decree' throughout the land of Korea, which 'sounds enlightened today and must have been extremely so at the time' (p 300, "China's Scholar-Elite, Lixue and the Culture of the Brush").

In His Majesty's words:

'To govern well, it is necessary to spread knowledge of the laws and the books, so as to satisfy reason and to reform men's evil nature; in this way peace and order may be maintained'.

[I will be writing some essays on Asia and the Middle East in due course].

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