In 1271, shortly after the Koryŏ forged a tenuous alliance with the Mongols, the murder of Mongol emissaries in the town of Sangju threatened to plunge the peninsula into war once again.1 To avert war, the Koryŏ court dispatched emissaries, presenting the following p'yo-memorial to the Mongol ruler Khubilai Khan:
When the emissaries arrived in Sangju, the people of the prefectures of Milsŏng and Chŏngdo heard that the men and horses of the Higher Court (i.e. the Mongol court) would soon follow. They brooded in idle and baseless suspicion. They made declarations and sent them all the neighboring counties and prefectures to lure [people] to their cause:
"Though the Emperor truly feels responsible for living beings, our country has just suffered from military campaigns. Our wives and children have been seized from us and our resources and provisions have all been confiscated for their use. [The emperor] cannot see this land, so how could he understand the sufferings of the dislocated populace? If armies arrive once more, how many more days could we live?"
And with that, they wantonly killed the [Mongol] officials, committing evil and violence with abandon. What more can we say of their stubbornness and belligerence?2
Faced with this crisis, the Koryŏ court declared its unswerving allegiance to the emperor. Its language of deference and its central message then, do not distinguish this memorial from others in the Literary Selections of the East. What makes it remarkable was how it managed to combine a gesture of fealty with direct reproach. As the Koryŏ distanced itself from the actions of its subjects, it implied that the Mongols themselves were to blame for this incident. The effect is achieved through a clever use of diegetic and extradiegetic modes.3 Its extradiegetic narration of the memorial denied the assassins, the people of Chŏngdo and Milsŏng, any claim to moral or rational agency, blaming them alone for these wanton violations. When it quoted at length a fictionalized reporting of the rebels' motivations, it moved into diegesis, taking up the voice of the rebels. The latter narrative offered an altogether different explanation of the events. It implicated the Mongols in depredations that had aroused fear and resentment; the murdering of their emissaries were reasonable acts of retaliation. It then drew a further distinction between the actions of the imperial armies and the intentions of the Mongol ruler. Since the imperial will could only be magnanimous and benevolent, the emperor could not be blamed for the depredations of his minions. The letter instead exhorted the emperor to action by placing him in a quandary. Now, he had to correct his earlier policies or risk falling short of the standards of virtue expected of him.4 When the memorial returned to the extradiegetic mode, it returned to condemning the rebels. In this manner, the Koryŏ censured past Mongol policy without having to speak any words of criticism. Thus, the memorial appealed for imperial sympathy and clemency, while indicting the empire's policies in the same stroke. The trick, then, was to challenge imperial authority without appearing to challenge it at all.
The combination of subtle audacity and rhetorical forcefulness here was rare, even in the highly crafted genre of the diplomatic memorial. The fundamental, underlying rhetorical logic of appealing to ideals of empire to challenge empire, nevertheless, was fairly typical of the genre. To strengthen their case, such memorials often cited existing documents, usually edicts or past correspondences, to establish precedents as a basis for argumentation. For instance, a memorial, drafted by the same Koryŏ official, Kim Ku, in 1268 appealed to imperial majesty while expressing incredulity that the empire could fall short of those standards. Kim wrote this letter on behalf of the Koryŏ to Kublai Khan in order explain Koryŏ reluctance to provide soldiers and provisions for the invasion of Japan.5 In this letter, the initial encomium of imperial perfection sets up an appeal to the emperor's preternatural ability (and duty) to hear out his subject. The emperor's unrealistic demands on Koryŏ is portrayed to contravene his original intentions. Kim then cites verbatim Kublai's earlier assurances to Koryŏ, and the very image of imperial virtue is fashioned for the ruler against him. That Koryŏ dared resist the emperor's requests emerged not from recalcitrance, but from an inconsistency between the emperor's original intentions and his new orders. But because the Koryŏ was assured of the Mongol ruler's wisdom and sympathy, it had no reason to shirk from candid expression. Writing from a place of extreme disadvantage and vulnerability, the Koryŏ still challenged and resisted, though it had to do so while preserving the infallibility of the imperial will. The Mongol emperor could do no wrong, but the cause of Koryŏ's suffering was a mystery to no one. Though never made explicit, it was the Mongol invasions in the first place that had reduced Koryŏ to such a condition.6 A rhetorical sleight of hand changes the object of scrutiny from Koryŏ's dubious loyalty to an emperor who fell short of his own ideals.
Writers of diplomatic memorials to Mongol-Yuan rulers appealed to principles of moral empire to negotiate terms for Koryŏ's survival. In this respect, they fared quite well, considering the utter devastation Koryŏ suffered during the Mongol-Koryŏ wars. They not only negotiated a working peace with the Yuan, using assurances of allegiance to its imperial project as a way to deflect imperial demands, but also drew on imperial resources to bolster the position of the once embattled Koryŏ house.7 Their central rhetorical strategy was to appeal to a vision of empire sanctioned by the authority of classical texts, finely tuned to suit the needs of the Koryŏ court. As they insisted on Koryŏ's own loyalty, they always asked the Yuan to make good on its duty to "cherish men from afar" (huairou yuanren 懷柔遠人). As both a description and an injunction, this term enshrined principles of reciprocity that created the necessary discursive space for Koryŏ to talk of what the imperial court should do.8 The task of imperial rule, in Koryŏ terms, was neither conquest nor exploitation. Instead, it was to civilize the world through the power of literary and civil influence, i.e. wen (文), and to show its magnanimity in the "preservation of local customs" (不改土風).9 Empire is defanged in the first instance and Korea's continued independence guaranteed in the latter. When Korean emissaries exalted the majesty and asserted the infallibility of empire, they did not simply legitimize power, but sought to constrain it within a framework so as to guide its operation. The discourse of empire in these appeals thus provided a tangible of moral standards through which specific policies could be critiqued, without overtly posing as a challenge to the institution of empire. These representations of the core topoi of moral empire idealized imperial power in order to encode what an emperor and his empire should do.
Korean diplomatic writing often mirrored the phraseologies of imperial authority. Indeed, they often referenced the same classical authorities and utilized the same turns of phrase, but what is clear is that they do not say the same thing with the same words. This chapter continues the discussion Korean diplomatic writing into Chosŏn-Ming period. The rhetorical techniques honed in the Mongol period provided a useful repertoire to address the Chosŏn court diplomatic needs. Like in the examples explored in chapter 1, Chosŏn period memorials also made use of the "imperializing mode," where the supplicant foisted the lofty standards of moral rule in the imperial tradition onto the imperial audience in an act of negotiation. These interventions in the raison d'etre of the imperial project interceded directly on imperial policies and practices, often ones that directly determined whether Korean envoys in Beijing could achieve their desired diplomatic goals.
One major difference between the Chosŏn-Ming and the Koryŏ-Yuan context was the degree to which these appeals to empire came to be detached from their original context in the imperial audience. Korean memorial writers no longer had to face down the threat of an imperial army, but they had to deal with the uncertain whims of Ming bureaucrats, both petty and grand. In the process, high-imperial discourse left the confines of formal memorials and seeped into other registers of diplomatic exchange, and finding its way into informal letters delivered to Ming officials and interpersonal interactions. In a process akin to what some anthropologists have called, "entextualization," a particular turn of phrase becomes "detachable from [its] immediate context of emission" and is "made available for repetition or recreation in other contexts." In the case of Korean diplomacy, the movement is from one type of written text to another, not between different oral contexts, but the quality of detachability remains the same. Key phrases and idioms from the formal memorial was now appropriated and "re-embedded in a new context." For these reasons, Chosŏn diplomatic communications across genres resemble one another, for they make use of similar rhetorical techniques and tropes. This reuse, however, does not point to the existence of "inert given[s]," cultural forms "[shackled by] tradition." Since endurance and repetition is also the "result of constant activity and creativity," the "investment" in a consistent, reified discursive strategy needs to be explained just as much as one that is protean and varied.10
What kind of "investment" was being made by the Chosŏn court when it reified a particular discourse of empire? For this, we must first examine the kinds of cultural work such discourses performed. We must also recognize reification only occurred after a distillation from a broader range of potential interpretations and imaginations. What could constitute empire was not a fixed and constant formula. Certainly aspects of the imperial tradition, such as principles of hierarchy, the importance of the civilizing process, and a political imaginary rooted in succession, remained common features across time. How these different dimensions were imagined in conjunction with one another and how they manifested in the institutions and policies that shaped the structure of relations with Korea could vary greatly. Reifying empire then was less about reinforcing imperial power, but a particular form of it, a way to select one manifestation of empire from a wide range of possibilities.
The reason these diplomatic appeals were so consistent in rhetoric I argue was because they performed a common task. They all had to create and maintain a coherent picture of Chosŏn Korea's proper relationship with empire for Ming eyes. These regularized, if not stereotyped, portrayals were to ensure that Korean embassies received consistent treatment at the hands of the Ming bureaucracy, whose views and policies were in fact wildly inconsistent. One underlying factor in why Ming officials treated Korean embassies differently was how they understood Korea's position in an ecumenical order---whether Koreans counted as "foreign barbarians" (Ch: waiyi/ Kr: oei 東夷). The Chosŏn court and its agents protested any insinuation of their "barbarity" not simply to defend their cultural pride, but because how Ming emperors and officials regarded Korea determined which sets of policies and precedents they would enforce in interactions with Chosŏn envoys.
To understand these shifts, we must first examine parallel shifts in ecumenical thinking that occurred during the Yuan-Ming transition. The Mongol-Yuan ruled over a culturally and ethnically diverse empire, bringing together denizens from its far-flung empire to its capital in Dadu.11 Although its rulers ultimately drew on many imperial repertoires (and invented new ones in the process), their Chinese and Confucian advisers managed to successfully secure the court's implementation of the "rites and institutions" (Ch: lizhi, Kr: yeche 禮制) that made them inheritors of the imperial tradition claimed by the Song, Liao, and Jin empires they replaced.12 A literary culture rooted in Chinese classics and a civil service examination testing Neo-Confucian commentaries saw strong support from segments of the Mongol elite by the mid-fourteenth century.13 Late Yuan writers saw the efflorescence of civil and literary culture as a renaissance that incorporated a diverse, multi-cultural world going beyond the narrow confines of a Sinocentric ecumene.14. Koryŏ elites benefited from these developments, as they too came to participate in this broader civilizing project.15
This widening of the Confucian civilized world beyond an ethnocentric Chinese one was made possible by Confucian-minded officials who accommodated their tradition to their Mongol patrons. Their way paved by their Liao and Jin predecessors, Kublai's advisers such as Hao Jing 郝經 (1223--1275) sought to detach the imperial tradition and the patronage of Confucian learning from the ethno(Sino)-centric ideas it embedded.16 In the Mongol-Yuan world, being Confucian and imperial within that tradition was no longer coterminous with "China," narrowly defined. As such, Korean membership in the civilized ecumene was not under question.17 The fall of the Yuan and the rise of the Ming dynasty, however, dramatically altered this arrangement.
When the Ming overthrew Mongol rule in 1368, the founding Hongwu emperor sought to demonstrate that the Mongol imperial mandate had passed to him, partly by repudiating the Mongol past altogether. Even though in practice the Ming imperial system inherited wholesale significant aspects of the Yuan institutional apparatus, the Ming cast its rise in terms of "expelling barbarian caitiffs and restoring the Central Effloresence."18 It re-conceived the imperial space in terms of a new civilizational order that saw China, civilization, and the empire to be co-terminous. The Ming called for "purifying the realm of the Mongols' polluting influence" and required its subjects to "give up Mongol styles and customs in favor of Chinese practices" and forcibly assimilate remnants of the multiethnic elite that Mongol rule had left behind.19 Ming repudiation of Mongol-Yuan practices was sometimes more rhetorical than actual, but it had important ramifications for Korea.20
The civilizationalist reconciliation of the imperial system with non-Chinese rulers, a necessary condition for Mongol patronage of the Confucian tradition and adoption of the imperial system, was now in jeopardy. Now that China, civilization, and empire were coterminous, Korea's place as a civilized country in this ecumenical arrangement was uncertain. Early Ming officials like Song Lian 宋濂 (1310--3181), who saw Korea's inheritance of "the legacies of the former kings" setting it apart "other countries [whose] rulers were attached to barbarian ways," acknowledged Koryŏ's membership in the civilized world, broadly conceived.21 However, the internal strife in Koryŏ, precipitated by factions at court who sought closer relations with the Northern Yuan, seriously damaged relations with the Ming. Events such as the assassination of King Kongmin, who had initiated friendly relations with the Ming, along with the murder of a Ming envoy in 1374 drastically altered Ming perceptions.22 Koryŏ's moral standing in Ming eyes continued to suffer as a series of coup d'etats, instigated by the Chosŏn founder Yi Sŏnggye, ousted one Koryŏ ruler after another. Yi Sŏnggye had tried to improve relations with the Ming after aborting an invasion of Ming-controlled Liaodong in 1388, but this gesture had little effect in improving Ming esteem.23 Viewing Yi Sŏnggye as a usurper, the Ming founder, the Hongwu emperor refused to recognize the legitimacy of the new regime. Distinguishing between China, where "moral norms rested" and Korea, a land of inveterate barbarity, and beyond the pale of Chinese rule, the Hongwu emperor rejected Korea's membership in the civilized order.24
Though the Hongwu emperor's statements were arguably meant to chastise Yi Sŏnggye as part of a high-pressure policy towards the fledgling Chosŏn court, these statements nevertheless resonated with a strand of nativist thinking that was already embedded in the imperial tradition. Later Ming emperors and officials alike often lapsed into treating and imagining Korea as simply another "barbarian" country. Many Ming literati, statesmen, and emperors alike did identify Korea as a "country of ritual and righteousness," but this status was not something Korea could take for granted.25 Both ways of envisioning the boundary between the civilized and the barbarian understandings were present. Though these divergent views could be reconciled with some conceptual gymnastics, it serves just as well to see them as two points on a broader gradient of possibilities of how empire could be understood. Neither represented the sole, true view of either Ming discourse or the imperial tradition as a whole. Nor should a definite, unitary characterization be sought after. Political contingencies, individual idiosyncrasies and the strategic use of a particular discourse or utterance could shift the point of equilibrium. Chosŏn could just as easily be seen as barbaric or civilized.26 At the root of the two views were fundamentally different ways of imagining the role of empire in the civilizing process and its relationship to political sovereignty.
From the Korean perspective, being "barbarian" was not desirable, as both Koryŏ and Chosŏn elites prided themselves on the Korean ability to "use Chinese ways to transform the barbarian" (yongha pyŏni/ yongxia bianyi 用夏變夷).27 In early Chosŏn, this political and social reform program, often called the "Confucian transformation" of Korea implemented a state-centered civilizing program that fashioned Chosŏn sovereignty. This process not only involved Neo-Confucian social reforms, but also the creation of a comprehensive institutional and ritual system with based on interpretations of early Chinese classics and, occasionally, contemporary Ming models.28 The Chosŏn sought to demonstrate that their "ritual, music, culture and artifacts are on par with that of the Central Efflorescence" (侔擬中華). Nonetheless, to what degree Chinese models, both classical and contemporary, were viable for emulation, and to what degree preexisting native practices were to be preserved remained perennial questions. For instance, certain practices, such as court rituals involving female musicians were derided by Ming envoys as uncivilized, yet were also celebrated as markers of Korean distinctiveness.29
There were several problems with cleaving to Chinese models. For one, adoption of court rituals and institution statecraft could be perceived as an affront to the ritual and political prerogatives of the imperial court.30 As Kathlene Baldanza has argued, to the Ming, "foreign states that instituted models of Chinese statecraft but had independent governments were potentially threatening," which both invited and legitimated imperial intervention.31 The Ming annexation of Vietnam in 1407, was justified in exactly these terms, in the belief that being amenable to civilization made it governable.32 Its former administration by the Han and Tang also allowed the Ming invaders to call the annexation "the recovery of [their] ancient realm" and see the "[re]propagation [of] the ritual institutions of the Central Efflorescence," possible.33 For Korea, which like Vietnam occupied lands ruled by the Ming's imperial predecessors, the specter of imperial irredentism was a perennial risk, one which being perceived as civilized only compounded.34 The advantage of being seen as barbarian was the division from China was "natural,"35 and thus made Korea "unsuited to Chinese rule" and "beyond the pale" and "not China's responsibility."36 As the Ming founder warned his descendants, "the various barbarians of the four directions," which included Korea and Vietnam, should not be invaded, because "once their people are acquired, they cannot be ordered."37
In sum, incorrigible barbarians could be left alone, but amenability to civilization implied governability. In the dichotomies of this imperial logic, the choices were as follows: being civilized meant that one should be directly governed by the empire; being barbaric meant one could be left to one's own devices. One could either be incorrigibly barbarian, but entitled to autonomy, or civilized and subject to imperial authority. The worst case scenario would be to be seen as barbarians who, by adopting imperial institutions, both demonstrated amenability to imperial rule and encroached on its prerogatives; the Chosŏn wanted to be both autonomous and civilized. The path to this Goldilocks position, where a sovereign space could be fashioned through its own civilizing projects without inviting imperial censure, was not self-evident.
The way to manage these issues was to preempt empire by narrowing the spectrum in which imperial claims could be seen as legitimate. Demonstrating mastery of Confucian classics and adoption of Chinese-style institutions were inadequate to the task, because they potentially undercut claims of political autonomy based on cultural difference. The Chosŏn court also had to produce a vision of empire that could at once resonate with an imperial audience and still carve out a space of freedom for its own political independence. In other words, any strategy of autoethnography had to also account for the imperial gaze.
This chapter thus examines how deploying the discourse of empire was in fact the Korean response to the problem of the imperial gaze. As Chosŏn envoys tried to resolve various diplomatic problems with the Ming, they negotiated with an awareness of imperial expectations. As part of their strategy of negotiation, they distilled a particular vision of Korea's relationship with the Ming from various possibilities of empire. In other words, they sought to shape Ming policy by narrowing the range of legitimate possibilities for imperial action. These considerations also explain why the early Chosŏn court spent enormous efforts to conceal its own political upheavals, such as internal coup d'etats, from the Ming and campaigned for the Ming to rewrite its unfavorable accounts of the Chosŏn dynasty's early history. What was at stake was not only legitimacy and esteem. Instead, these concerns were part of this broader diplomatic strategy, which hinged on establishing Korea as a civilized country, ruled by generations of virtuous monarchs, whose unwavering loyalty demanded the Ming reciprocate by behaving exactly in the way the Chosŏn desired.
The Chosŏn court and its envoys turned to the "imperializing mode" on a variety of occasions. The envoy Kwŏn Kŭn encapsulated its rhetorical logic when he famously declared in 1396 to the Ming emperor that "imperial airs" could transcend the boundaries between the "civilized and the barbarian." The Yalu river that separated Ming and Chosŏn was thus a mere fact of the landscape, powerless in the face of imperial influence. His statement echoed a point he made several years earlier in 1389, when he wrote on behalf of the Koryŏ to dispute Ming claims over its northeastern territories: "[our state] had long dutifully observed the responsibility of the feudal lord; our land has already entered the imperial domain." Since empire transcended territorial boundaries and Korea was already part of the imperial project, seizing Korean territory was a meaningless venture.38
In 1404, another Chosŏn envoy used a similar approach in another appeal over disputed territories. Reminding the Yongle emperor that the Ming dynasty "should not discriminate against [what is outside] its [direct] influence [but should] treat all with equal benevolence."39 the envoy convinced the emperor to relinquish claims over Hamju (咸州). He reportedly exclaimed "The land of Chosŏn is already in my control; what point is there for me to contest this" as he acceded to the Korean appeals, thereby relinquishing imperial claims on this territory.40 Remarkable of the 1404 appeal is how the Chosŏn court succeeded despite the resounding protests of Ming officials, who argued to the emperor that these lands should be considered imperial domains. As modern scholars Diao Shuren and Wang Jian have described them, the Korean appeals "exploited the vain self-importance" of Ming imperial ideology.41 Characterizing these acts as "open obeisance and secret defiance..." (Ch: yangfeng yinwei 陽奉陰違), "conquering the strong with softness" (Ch: yi rou ke gang 以柔克剛), lends a hint of disapprobation, but otherwise illustrates well their tactical approach. Treating these strategies as exploitative, however, ignores that they were integral to the construction of imperial ideology itself.42
The rhetorical contours of these exchanges pervade the discourse of empire in Chosŏn-Ming interactions. When the Chosŏn court requested a cancellation of its gold and silver tribute, it echoed the appeals to paternal magnanimity visible in the Koryŏ-Mongol memorial cited earlier. It called for the Ming to show "compassion and love of a father," who could not bear to see his child suffer when it begged for help. The Chosŏn explained that since its "its territories are small and scarce [in goods], and do not produce gold and silver," their procurement presented great difficulties. Embedded in this appeal was also a direct claim about what an imperial state should do. Quoting the pronouncements of the Hongwu emperor, it argued that "since ancient times, when vassal states and distant countries presented their tribute, it was only to pay their obeisance and show their sincerity."43 As such, "local produce and cloth bolts" (土産布子) would suffice as tribute. The meaning of tribute then, like the emotional ties between parent and child, did not rest in the exchange of value, but "emerged from the utmost authentic sentiment" (實出至情).44
These appeals to imperial magnanimity addressed the emperor directly. They cajoled him to action over the reservations of his officials. The appeals were therefore also vulnerable to the vicissitudes of the monarch's temper. The first attempt to cancel the gold and silver tribute in 1421 had failed for this exact reason. Emissaries "did not dare present the appeal" because the Yongle emperor was peeved over the wording of another, unrelated Korean memorial. The Chosŏn tried again in 1429, this time to the Xuande emperor.45 The appeal to imperial magnanimity did not immediately prevail. When the Xuande emperor opened the appeal to discussion by the Six Boards, the Board Minister of Finance, Jian Yi 蹇義 (1363--1435), contested the Korean claims and argued that that the tribute of gold and silver was the iron law of the Hongwu emperor, and could not be altered.46 The Chosŏn court had evidently anticipated this counterargument. It cited one instance where the Hongwu emperor had refused gifts of gold and silver. It used a rare demonstration of generosity to represent the original intent of the Ming founder, who had in fact often demanded heavy tribute from the Koryŏ and Chosŏn.47 The selective reading of precedents established by the former emperor provided the necessary counterpoint to Jian Yi's arguments.48 Faced with contending interpretations, the Xuande emperor accepted the Korean appeal, noting Chosŏn's "utmost sincerity in Serving the Great" and the necessity of taking into account the "situation of faraway people."49
Korean appeals could not rely on the rhetorical evocation of empire alone. They also had to anticipate how the imperial audience would react. Drawing on an alternative reading of the Hongwu emperor's policies to Korea was but one manner in which the Chosŏn preempted possible protests by Ming officials. Even before the Chosŏn court began its campaign to secure the cancellation of tribute in precious metals, its officials proposed that the court discontinue the use of gold and silver decorations in official court garb and ritual implements. While arguments against the use of precious metals in later periods were rooted in Confucian discourses of moral austerity, these proposals were couched exclusively in the material difficulties of acquisition and production. They also noted that if Ming envoys were to see Korean courtiers dressed in gold and silver, they might report to the imperial court that Korea in fact abounded in metallic wealth. If the Ming were to truly believe that gold and silver were scarce in Korea, the Chosŏn cannot afford to provide evidence of the contrary.50 Preempting possible protests by Ming officials through selective self-representation was an integral part of Korean strategy.
Although the outcome of these appeals was vulnerable to the predilections of individual emperors, once an emperor was convinced, his personal intervention could ensure an appeal's success. The strategy, however, required the presence of a monarch who could devote personal attention to Korean affairs. Early Ming rulers like the Hongwu, Jianwen, Yongle and Xuande emperors all turned to foreign relations to augment their authority, an interest which granted Korean envoys privileged access to their ears.51 Generous treatment of Koreans became an opportunity to demonstrate the emperor's magnanimity, an opportunity Koreans readily provided by inviting these emperors to "embrace the righteousness of grand unification" and "cherish those afar to bring them to submission" (懷大同之義 柔遠能邇).52 In return, Chosŏn promised to acknowledge their "receipt of imperial influence with joyful celebrations in percussion and dance."(懽欣皷舞於聖化之中).53
Later Ming emperors were either less attentive to personal rulership or less interested in using foreign relations as a means to construct authority. Routine matters of governance and diplomacy became the purview of their underlings.54 Without an active ruler to count on, Chosŏn envoys faced a different set of challenges and vicissitudes---not of imperial whim, but of a sprawling bureaucracy and its entrenched interests. Even low-ranking individuals in a Ming institution could have outsized influence on the course of events. The shift also raised the stakes of Korea's status as "civilized state."
In the first month of 1477, the Chosŏn court received a report from its envoys in Beijing that the Ming had arrested one of its interpreters for having buffalo horns in his baggage. As these were a necessary raw material for the construction of composite bows, the Ming court wished to prevent their export to hostile Mongols and Jurchens. Although Koreans were not the original target of the ban, the wording of the Ming prohibition prevented Chinese merchants from doing business with all "tribute-bearing barbarians," including Koreans. The Ming court ultimately released the Korean interpreter and explained that it showed leniency because Korea was a "country of ritual and righteousness."55 The Ming reaction alarmed the Chosŏn court. Buffalo horns were a strategic resource vital to the battle-readiness of the Chosŏn military, who were in engaged in prolonged hostilities with various Jurchen groups during this period.56 They could not however be acquired within Korea; clandestine trade with the Ming was Korea's only reliable source.57 Until this point, the Chosŏn court had tacitly encouraged the smuggling of buffalo horns.58 With the matter discovered, Chosŏn envoys could no longer feign ignorance of the activity nor could they hope to avoid the watchful eyes of Ming officials.59
With smuggling no longer an option, the only remaining option was to ask the Ming court for a relaxation of these regulations, lest the Chosŏn lose its only source of this strategic resource. The court dithered on the appropriate strategy, but all the proposals assured emphasizing Korea's fundamental difference from other foreigners to be essential. One official suggested that they should argue that since the Ming had always prohibited envoys from foreign states from carrying weapons into Ming territory, but had permitted Koreans to bear arms, they had assumed the prohibition against horn export did not apply to them.60 Another angle was to appeal on the basis of precedent. The Hongwu emperor had once bequeathed cannons to the Chosŏn. The minister Hyŏn Sŏkkyu 玄碩圭 (1403--1480) proposed that one could use that incident to show that the Hongwu emperor "had treated our country as a [part of his own] family." Though Hyŏn believed that this would deflect any blame by the Ming for smuggling arms, he feared that since Chinese officials like the Song dynasty minister Su Shi had "seen our country as foreign barbarians," and had been "reluctant to give us even books," a long-term solution to the problem would be elusive.61 A memorial was written incorporating these arguments, emphasizing Chosŏn's qualitative difference from the Mongols and Jurchens, and was sent with an embassy in the 8th month of 1477.62 Hyŏn's worries were not unfounded. When Chosŏn envoys arrived in the Ming, they found that the both the Ministry of War and the Ministry of Works opposed exporting the horns to Chosŏn.63
The Ming ultimately released an edict that permitted the limited purchase of horns. The edict recapped the Korean arguments in the appeal and proclaimed that although buffalo horns were prohibited to barbarians (Ch: huren 胡人) in principle, this rule would not apply in full force to the Chosŏn. Since it had "observed the proper lunations, was dutiful in tribute and steadfast in a vassal's duties," it was "different from the various barbarians."64 Extending these prohibitions to Chosŏn might cause Koreans to lose their "heart of submission." The Ming solution was a compromise, which awarded Chosŏn a quota of fifty sets of buffalo horns a year.65 Chosŏn's loyalty to the Ming mitigated the problems of being seen as a "barbarian" state, but the label stayed. Ming policy makers perceived relations with Korea and other foreign groups as lying along the same continuum. Chosŏn Korea differed from them in degree, but not in kind.66
The Ming decision probably reflected a separate compromise between the relevant ministries and the Ming inner palace. The Korean emissaries tasked with the mission were not the ones who in fact made the breakthrough. Instead, it was owing to the efforts of another Chosŏn ambassador, Han Ch'irye 韓致禮 (1441--1499), who was dispatched for an unrelated matter. Earlier that year, the Korean-born Ming eunuch Chŏng Tong 鄭同 had asked the Chosŏn king to send an envoy who was from the family of Lady Han to the Ming.67 Following Chŏng's suggestions, the court dispatched Lady Han's nephew, Han Ch'irye.
Lady Han, whose name was Han Kwiram 韓桂蘭 (?--1483), was instrumental in overcoming the opposition of the Ming bureaucracy. She was a powerful Korean palace lady who was sent to join the Xuande emperor's harem. After his death, she remained in the Ming instead of returning to Korea and was now a lady-in-waiting of the Empress Dowager.68 Her family, the Ch'ŏngju Han were a well-connected family in Korea. Her niece was the mother of King Sŏngjong (which made her his great-aunt) and her nephew, Han Ch'irye was the king's maternal uncle. When Han Ch'irye arrived in Beijing, the envoys responsible for appealing the horn prohibition had yet to leave.69 Meanwhile, the eunuch Chŏng Tong, acting on behalf of Lady Han, told Han Ch'irye to write a letter to relate the Chosŏn court's concerns about the horn prohibition to his aunt. Han Kwiram soon wrote back, telling her nephew that the matter had been reported directly to the emperor, and would soon be resolved.70 By appealing to Lady Han, the Chosŏn acquired permission for horn procurement, though the reservations of the Ming bureaucracy at large was still reflected in the meager quota of fifty horns per annum.
King Sŏngjong initially celebrated Han Ch'irye 's success. It was soon discovered that Han had also presented large quantities of gifts for the emperor, his aunt, Han Kwiram, Ming officials and eunuchs. Although his methods were ultimately effective, they earned the reproach of many other court officials. They not only believed his ends did not justify the means, but also that by circumventing the Ming bureaucracy and using connections with the inner palace, Han had "embarrassed the state."71 Han's methods thus touched on broader anxieties. The court wished to sway Ming policy by demonstrating Chosŏn's dutifulness. If the policy now changed only because of bribery or the use of personal connections in the inner palace, the damage to the country's reputation "far exceeded the benefit of acquiring horns." For the Chosŏn censorate, these actions made Chosŏn's reliability suspect when it was precisely these perceptions of unreliability that had elicited the ban in the first place. Han's actions did a great disservice by undermining a reputation carefully cultivated over generations to achieve a momentary goal. In this logic, observation of propriety in order to fundamentally shift Ming perceptions, not covert strategies for momentary expedience, was both the only proper method and the only viable long term solution.72
Nonetheless, the permitted volume was still too meager to satisfy Chosŏn needs. The Chosŏn continued to petition for more relaxed restrictions, and despite these outstanding reservations, its diplomats found the support of the Ming inner palace too effective to forgo. In 1481 the Chosŏn court sent a senior statesman, the Second State Councilor73 Han Myŏnghoe 韓明澮 (1415--1487) who was also a distant cousin of Han Kwiram, to appeal the matter again.74 Han Myŏnghoe penned a personal letter to Lady Han that evoked their familial relationship, calling himself her nephew (chillam 姪男), and addressed her as aunt (konyang 姑孃). Han Myŏnghoe, perhaps in anticipation of possible criticisms that could arise from using private channels, also argued his case on the basis of imperial precedent and Chosŏn's continuous "reverence in serving the [Ming] court and reception of deep imperial favor." Reminding her that past emperors had granted armaments to Chosŏn "without suspicion," Han implied he merely hoped that the Chenghua emperor would do the same.75 Nothing in Han's letter is particularly unique in terms of rhetorical strategy, for it employed tried and true methods of appeal. What is remarkable is how the terms of familial correspondence slipped into the formal language of diplomacy, as kinship ties between Han Myŏnghoe and Lady Han became synedochal for Chosŏn-Ming relations. Meanwhile, the letter moved between the personal mode and the political appeal; though addressed to his relative, the letter implicitly exhorted the Chenghua emperor through examples of past emperors. Imprinting a notion of imperial duty to an intermediary was an expansion of the imperial appeal and its modes of persuasion to a broader audience. Imperial responsibility did not fall on the emperor alone, but demanded cooperation from his minions as well.
After Han Myŏnghoe's mission in 1481, the Ming approved an expansion of the quota to two hundred horns a year.76 By 1482, the Ming Minister of Rites had memorialized to have inspections of Korean baggage rescinded, arguing that "Chosŏn was a country of ritual and righteousness," and should not be subject to these restrictions. Despite these orders, inspections were shortly reinstated.77 Ming policy was curiously fickle, subject to sudden and arbitrary reversals. Although justifications for the original prohibitions revolved around whether regulations against "barbarians" should also apply to Koreans---a question of how Korea's state of civilization was perceived---its initial instigation and subsequent reversals owed to other reasons entirely. In fact, they were results of neither Ming imperial pronouncements nor the strategies of its central policymakers.
Profiteering by low-level Ming officers led to the original crackdown in 1477. The Korean interpreter caught smuggling had enlisted the help of a couple of petty brokers attached to the Yuhe House, where the Chosŏn embassy was housed. Military officers caught wind of the matter and launched a surprise inspection. They confiscated the contraband and embezzled the money the brokers made from the exchange.78 After the trade had been reinstated under allotted quotas, rent-seeking profiteering continued. In 1495, a Ming frontier official confiscated horns acquired by a Chosŏn embassy. The emissaries protested that these horns were purchased legally and fell within the two-hundred item allotment. The Ming returned the items, but the Chosŏn party discovered that of the two-hundred pieces confiscated, only one-hundred and six were returned.79 According to the writings of the sixteenth century Chosŏn interpreter Ŏ Sukkwŏn, whenever the Chosŏn entourage reached Shanhai Pass, a group of protocol officials would "invariably declare that those below the rank of interpreter had purchased [buffalo horns]." Only with exorbitant payments, sometimes on the order of "seven or eight thousand ounces of silver" did the Koreans avoid being searched.80
Chosŏn ambassadors faced a related problem after 1522, when Ming officials imposed the so-called "gate restriction" policies (Ch: menjin; Kr: mungŭm 門禁), a set of curfews designed to prevent foreign envoys from traveling and trading freely in Beijing. These policies turned the Korean sojourn in Beijing into virtual house arrest. Like the horn restrictions, these rules did not emerge from a coherent, centralized imperial policy towards Chosŏn, but involved a convergence of Ming institutional politics, ulterior motives of Korean envoys and Ming officials alike, and Korea's shifting positionality vis-a-vis the Ming.
The prohibitions began when the Ming Ministry of Rites Director81 Sun Cun 孫存 (1491--1547) had discovered a Korean interpreter purchasing books published by the imperial printers.82 The books in question were the Da Ming yitongzhi 大明一統志, an imperially commissioned atlas of the entire Ming empire.83 As Hyŏn Sŏkkyu had presaged, the Ming indeed now begrudged even books desired by Koreans because of their foreignness. Sun, in charge of the Bureau of Receptions,84 required that Chosŏn emissaries receive written permission before venturing outside of their hostels.85 Sun's concerns echoed the reservations expressed by the famous Song literati official Su Shi 蘇軾 (1036--1101). Like other Song officials, Su believed that Koryŏ envoys, by acquiring Song books, maps, and documents, would access information "inappropriate for foreign and barbarian" (Ch: fanyi 蕃夷) eyes. Like his Song predecessors, Sun likely believed that enforcing a strict curfew was a way to protect his country from the prying eyes of untrustworthy foreigners.86
The initial ban again was owing to a fundamental distrust of Koreans-as-barbarians, but like in the buffalo horn case, the situation was far more complex than a concern with security. The Korean embassy in Beijing was soon embroiled in conflicts among different rungs of the Ming bureaucracy. In these conflicts, past precedents, the rationale of empire, and Korea's status all became areas of disagreement.
On the outset, the Chosŏn court decided against the king appealing the ban in a royal capacity. Instead of sending formal diplomatic memorials on the king's behalf, it charged its envoys to petition the Ming Ministry of Rites in proxy.87 Initial overtures were successful, as the Ming Minister Xi Shu 席書 (1461--1527) rescinded the restrictions, allowing Chosŏn officials to travel freely from their hostel. Chosŏn emissaries, however, found the Bureau of Receptions Secretary and Huitong Hostel Superintendent88 Chen Bangcheng 陳邦偁 (fl. 1520) less cooperative. Chen continued to obstruct the movement of Korean ambassadors and even reduced the Korean quota of buffalo horns to fifty sets a year. When Korean officials retorted that Minister Xi had already granted them special permission, Chen responded angrily. He threatened the Koreans with insults, "If you do not report the matter to Minister Xi, then I'll let you head-severed bitch-boned curs go out. If you report the matter to the court, then I won't let you bitch-boned curs go out."89 Chen's behavior elicited protests from within the Ming bureaucracy. A Ming Uyghuric interpreter90 Hu Shishen 胡士紳, impeached Chen Bangcheng on this matter. According to Hu's account, Chen showed no signs of remorse, even after the Korean emissary protested these vituperations. The protest was effective, and Chen, along with his supervisor Director of the Bureau of Receptions of the Ministry of Rites91 Chen Jiuchuan 陳九川 (1514 jinshi) were arrested and replaced. The new bureau director loosened the restrictions and permitted the Koreans to trade.92
Hu's impeachment of Chen Bangcheng focused on his abusive behavior towards the Korean supplicants.93 Chen's degrading treatment of the Chosŏn envoys may reflect a deep-seated reluctance to see Korean ambassadors as his social equals. Though Hu too referred to the Chosŏn ambassadors as "barbarians," his vision of Ming policy towards Korea was diametrically opposed to Chen's, pointing to vastly different philosophies on how the imperial court should manage foreign relations. In Hu's reckoning, the duty of the "high and low officials of the Central Court" was to take "cherishing those afar as their charge," so that "foreign barbarians, even if stupid as dogs or sheep, will turn and submit the Central Court."94 In this view, Chen's "ignorance of affairs and propriety," (事體不知) along with his "rashness and incompetence" (急躁無才) exposed by his resort to vulgar curses, would cause "the barbarians of the four directions to develop grievances deeper than rivers and seas" (四夷怨深河海). The behavior of men like Chen, in his view, would not only "earn the mockery of the foreign barbarians," but also invite them to "betray" the imperial court. In short, for Hu, granting Koreans more open access to Chinese goods, especially knowledge, was an opportunity to demonstrate Ming magnanimity and instill a sense of gratitude in foreign peoples. On the other hand, for those like Chen Bangcheng who reinstated the fifty-horn limit, and Sun Cun who raised alarm at Korean book purchases, it was precisely unfettered access that was the problem.95
This conflict may have also had an additional dimension in conflicts of interest in the Ming institutional structure itself. Whereas Chen was attached to the Bureau of Receptions, Hu was a low-ranking functionary attached to the Court of State Ceremonial96 Although the agencies were parallel institutions under the Ministry of Rites with theoretically distinct jurisdictions, their overlapping responsibilities in entertaining foreign envoys was an arrangement that led to competing claims of jurisdiction.97 Control over the reception of envoys was a lucrative racket, and this incident was but one of many instances of administrative competition.98 Later hostel superintendents continued to enforce strict travel restrictions, despite the Ministry's official relaxation of these rules.
In 1534, the Chosŏn envoy So Seyang 蘇世讓 (1486--1562) tried again to appeal the gate restrictions. He spoke to both the Bureau of Reception Director and the Hostel Superintendent, who both deferred the issue to their superiors, referring him directly to the Ministry of Rites. On the fourth day of the leap second month, So submitted a petition to the Ministry through the Hostel Superintendent Zhang Ao 張鏊 (fl. 1526--1534), who promised his support. So Seyang, however, soon heard rumors that led him to believe Superintendent Zhang had ulterior motives. Chinese merchants offered kickbacks of one-half to the superintendent for permission to do business with foreign emissaries. If the prohibitions against travel were to be lifted, these merchants would no longer have privileged access to the Korean embassy, and the superintendent would no longer be able to maintain his racket. Further observation only confirmed his suspicions that Superintendent Zhang was being duplicitous. He worried that his original petition, which passed through Superintendent Zhang, was now being suppressed, and would never reach the Ministry of Rites. So took matters into his own hands.
Nine days after he approached Zhang, on the thirteenth day of the month, So attended a welcoming banquet hosted by the Ming Minister of Rites, Xia Yan 夏言 (1482--1548). He approached the minister and prostrated in front of him, ostensibly to offer his thanks for considering his petition. He also expressed his gratitude for an impending imperial edict that would lift the prohibition. It should be noted that at this point, since he believed Zhang Ao had suppressed his petition, So had no reason to think a Ming edict was forthcoming, let alone know whether Xia had even read his petition. So was only using the opportunity to ascertain whether Xia had actually learned of his petition. Xia nonetheless assured So that the matter was being discussed. After this exchange, So remained pessimistic about a possible breakthrough. On the seventeenth day of the same month, an edict arrived permitting Korean emissaries freedom of travel once every five days. The hostel superintendent finally allowed So and his entourage to travel out, but still only under close supervision.99
So and other Korean emissaries had to navigate carefully through the interstices of a byzantine bureaucracy whose precise operation was unpredictable to outside observers. Although So insinuated that Zhang Ao had intentionally obstructed his petition, this was a conclusion he reached from speculation during the days he waited in uncertainty.100 Xia Yan did in fact receive So Seyang's appeal through Zhang Ao. Xia Yan even cited it in his own proposal for granting Korean envoys freedom of travel once every five days.101 A passage from So's petition reads:
Since our country roughly understands ritual and ceremony and Served the Greater with utmost sincerity, the [imperial] court has treated it as its own internal realm. Whenever our country's envoys come to the capital, they move about freely and never see restrictions or limitations. This [practice] has continued until now. For over one hundred years, we have acted respectfully, reverently, and obediently, never once transgressing. Only in recent years did the prohibitions extend to us, confining us to our hostels behind locked doors. Even with official orders or for public business, only one or two interpreters are permitted to come and go at set times under the watch of the hostel guards with special papers. [These policies] violate the former precedents.102
So Seyang situated his appeal in two related discourses. First is that of reciprocity. The Ming treated Korean embassies exceptionally because of Chosŏn's state of civilization and allegiance to the Ming. Second is that of precedent. So identified specific prohibition policies as a violation of the long-standing traditions the Ming had established over the centuries. So then laid out a series of relevant past examples to distill (and ultimately construct) a tradition of Korean exceptionalism in Ming practice. Quoting a Hongzhi period example, So argued that similar prohibitions had existed after a Jurchen emissary murdered other "barbarians." But, since the Ministry of Rites noted "Chosŏn always observed ritual and righteousness, serving the court dutifully," and was thus "different from other barbarians,"103 it exempted Korean emissaries from the regulation. So also cited the example of Sun Cun from 1522. He tactfully obfuscated Sun's reasons for prohibiting Korean book purchases to dismiss it as a "meaningless restriction." When it came to the present case, So synthesized this reasoning with a reiteration of Hu Shishen's argument from 1524, emphasizing the importance of showing imperial magnanimity to the "barbarians":
The Ministry of Rites already investigated the past precedents. Documents permitting [Koreans] to come and go at will had already been forwarded to the hostel [administrators]. Not long after, there was a Superintendent Chen who stubbornly refused to respect [these orders] and made the restrictions even more severe. For a long time, we could not appeal this matter. Judging from this, the hopes of distant men who come in awe of righteousness, are completely disappointed. How could it be that we dare badger about this, unable to hold our peace, because we hope only to restore old [precedents] for commerce's sake?
Whether you sequester or not brings us no benefit or loss except in one matter. We only believe that if we were treated with the same compassion and not discriminated on account of our foreignness, and were allowed to visit and travel without limitations, we would be able to witness rituals and ceremonies, investigate the substance of civilization, and be infused with transformative culture---all matters of great benefit. This would truly actualize the utmost virtue of cherishing [men from afar] and exhaust the sincerity of serving the great. It will allow our distant marches always to shoulder the grace [of the imperial] spirit. For ten thousand generations, we will be in harmony together.104
Only at the end of his appeal did So mention potential transgressions on the part of the Korean tribute emissaries, but quickly dismissed them as the errors of ignorant underlings. More important was that by confining Korean embassies like "prisoners" (囚縶), Ming officials "not only violated the rules of old practices," but also contravened "the intention of favorable treatment by many past emperors."105 It would ultimately disappoint Korea's longstanding "admiration for righteousness" (慕義).106 So Seyang's strategy, then, was to elide the original issues that motivated the restrictive polices, those of profit and security, and made them a question of the Ming's magnanimity and its Ming's civilizing project. Instead of challenging directly the Ming rationale for these restrictions, So showed how Korea, as a country who admired the Ming, could validate the Ming's mission civilisatrice.
Xia Yan's proposal for limiting Koreans to one free day every five, which the emperor approved, sought a compromise between two positions. He accepted So's argument for the large part, noting that Chosŏn knowledge of "ritual and ceremony" distinguished them from "barbarian envoys of other places." Xia argued So's desire to be "infused with the transformative culture" of the imperial capital was evidence for his "sincere veneration of the greater state," which justified the loosening of restrictions. Rhetorically, So Seyang's appeals were successful, but in practice, Xia's policies improved the situation only incrementally. The Ming still restricted envoys by time and placed them under constant surveillance. Arguing that "the language and dress of distant men are different," and will thus "easily transgress the state's prohibitions," Xia spoke to the concerns of security, while balancing it against the arguments So had presented. It was a compromise that, in Xia's words, "would not disappoint the sentiments of distant men" nor "render futile the laws of the Central Court."107
How then should we understand the effectiveness of So's appeal? There are several plausible interpretations. One modern scholar, Li Shanhong, understands the gate restriction issue to reflect fundamental conflicts of interest between the Chosŏn and the Ming. While the Chosŏn desired access, both for cultural goods and for trade opportunities, it was in the Ming's interest to minimize Chosŏn access to Ming knowledge. Knowing full well that Chosŏn envoy missions used their journey to Beijing as an opportunity to carry out illicit trade, Ming officials like Xia Yan acknowledged Chosŏn's appeals to imperial magnanimity and reciprocal relations only on the surface. They maintained reservations towards foreign countries like Chosŏn. Therefore they only nominally relaxed restrictions as a tip of the hat to eloquent emissaries like So Seyang, so that correct ideological positions could be acknowledged without compromising practical political needs. In Li's retrospective analysis, the apparently contradictory attitudes of the Ming Ministry of Rites and the Hostel Superintendents reflected not so much dysfunction in Ming bureaucracy as the intentionally duplicitous diplomatic posturing of Ming. The compromises that emerged then, were largely symbolic concessions to the Koreans that also preserved the integrity of Ming foreign policy.108
Another possible reading, documented in a history of the Ming's interactions with foreign states, the Comprehensive Record of Diverse Realms (Shuyu zhouzi lu 殊域周咨錄), offers a contemporary perspective. Its compiler, Yan Congjian 嚴從簡 (fl. 1559--1574) was a Ming official who had served in the envoy office.109 He shared a concern for security with his predecessors who enacted these prohibitions and denounced the effects of So Seyang's memorial, believing it had undermined "border security." He reserved his harshest criticisms for those whom he considered corrupt hostel attendants, such as Hu Shishen, accusing them of "teaching" So Seyang how to write the the memorial. According to Yan, the only reason the superintendent Zhang Ao agreed to relax the prohibitions was to avoid the fate of his predecessor, Chen Bangcheng, whom Hu Shishen had impeached on behalf of the Koreans.110
Both these readings dismiss Korean agency. The first charges that So's appeals were altogether ineffectual; the latter views So as a mere pawn of a wily Ming bureaucrat. These analyses only appear to converge, but really offer contradictory diagnoses of the situation. Whereas the first assumes the coherence of Ming policy, the second reading views the case as evidence of institutional dysfunction. The former implies the rhetoric itself was ineffective, whereas the latter suggests that the rhetoric of empire had worked, only that it were exploited for nefarious ends. These two perspectives agree on little else except the assumption of Korean impotence. In undercutting Korean agency, they both miss larger implications of So Seyang's exchange with Xia Yan.
The compiler of the Record of Diverse Regions, Yan Congjian, concluded So was tutored by the Ming's own officials, likely because the wording of his appeal echoed Hu Shishen's earlier impeachment of Chen Bangcheng. The phrases in question, which insinuated that the Ming would fail in earning the allegiance of foreign peoples if it continued to impose such restrictions, however, had long been a central trope in Korean diplomatic communiqués. The Korean envoy appealed to the force and principle of past precedents; his evocation of Chen Bangcheng's case could just as well be read as reflecting So's awareness of Ming institutional politics. So Seyang, privy to Chosŏn's past interactions with the Ming as a high official, and a composer of diplomatic memorials, would not have needed a Ming official to tutor him either in past Ming precedents or the effective use of rhetoric.
So Seyang's appeal certainly only had a limited initial effect.111 Nevertheless, Ming officials were still compelled to address So's concerns. Even if lip service, this attention points to the normative power of So's argument. When Xia Yan granted yet another exception to the rule for Korean emissaries, he implicitly acknowledged the merit of So's reasoning and Korea's entitlement to exceptional treatment, at least in principle. The real effect of the appeal, then, was not so much in altering Ming policy, but in recalibrating and reframing the discourse surrounding the issue of gate restrictions. They had been implemented to address Ming concerns of security, anxieties that rested on a fundamental distrust of Koreans-as-barbarians. So, by successfully distinguishing Chosŏn from barbarians, transformed the gate restriction problem from one of security into one of proper treatment of foreign dignitaries. Chosŏn envoys like So Seyang foregrounded a vision of imperial magnanimity to counteract and negotiate with other imperial concerns. However limited they may have been, the privileges awarded still became another in a long list of precedents for Korean exceptionalism. Even if So's appeal had been only successful on paper, it still ensured Korean exceptionalism remained in force for future diplomacy.
What was at stake then, was not simply whether Koreans were allowed to travel freely in Beijing, but the ideological bedrock that made Chosŏn appeals possible in the first place. The rhetorical devices in So's example became a model for other Korean appeals.112 Korean supplicants returned to the notion of "cherishing men from afar" and the universalizing power of civilization over and over. As a stock argument against a recurring problem, it promoted a specific vision of empire while reifying a tradition of its interpretation in Ming precedent. Korean civilization and Ming magnanimity had informed past cases and were now called on to intervene in new ones. This reification did not simply intervene in a particular moment but constructed a set of norms that could serve as guides to the future. Reification then was a way to construct a modicum of stability to counter problems of arbitrariness and uncertainty in a dynamic of extreme asymmetry.
How strictly prohibitions against horn exports and the gate restriction policy were to apply to Korean envoys depended on where Korea fit in the Ming's ecumenical imagination. Different interpretations of Korea's place rationalized different policies. When the 1576 envoy Hŏ Pong left Beijing, his entourage was not subject to the expected inspections. Whereas previous inspectors would search their luggage, often at random for smuggled or prohibited goods, when Vice-Director of the Bureau of Receptions,113 named Qian, and the Secretary of the Bureau of Equipment and Communications114 Cao Xi 曺銑 came for the inspection, they only asked that the Koreans report the contents of their belongings. Qian declared that Korea "had always observed ritual and righteousness," and so their envoys would "certainly not be willing to purchase prohibited items," and so, they could be treated "according to the precedents reserved for other countries."115 Qian's circular reasoning notwithstanding, when officials did inspect Korean baggage, they often did discover contraband. It was, therefore, unlikely that Qian naively believed that because Chosŏn was a country of "ritual and righteousness," its envoys would not smuggle. Instead, by separating Koreans from the usual foreigners and "barbarians," he could exempt them from standard procedures. Linked to this symbolic language were related notions. As the early Ming literati official Song Lian put it, Korea's state of civilization meant that it "should be viewed like China, and not be treated according to precedents meant for foreign states."116 For Korea to be "viewed just like [the Ming's] internal realm" (視同內服), meant virtual inclusion in the Ming dominion, making Koreans no different from the Ming's own subjects.117 If so, they would be granted the privilege to trade and travel, exempt from the strict regulations imposed on other foreign envoys. In this logic, because Korea observed "rites and ceremony," it could by definition do no wrong. The logic, specious as it is, was a convenient heuristic, especially for Ming officials, both petty and grand, who often received gifts from Chosŏn embassies and porbably needed to explain why they did not enforce regulations more strictly.
On the other hand, a new board minister could imagine Chosŏn to be no different from "other barbarians," and that whatever entitlements had once been accorded to a Korean embassy could be removed. Korea's status as a "civilized" state was therefore highly tenuous, often contingent less on differences in ecumenical vision than on the practicalities of Ming bureaucratic politics. Its vicissitudes, exacerbated by bureaucratic infighting, competition, and rent-seeking, meant that divergent schemes of rationalizing policies towards Koreans and foreigners became the discursive battlegrounds for the competing Ming agencies.118
Chosŏn envoys, aware of the tenuousness of Korea's status, protested whenever there was an insinuation that Korea was anything less than civilized. For instance, when a Ming official petitioned on behalf of Chosŏn envoys to the emperor, he referred to Koreans as "barbarians" (Ch: yiren/ Kr: i'in 夷人) in the text. The envoys protested. They argued that since Korea had "for a long time used Chinese ways to change the barbarian,"119 the use of the term "barbarian" in the letter made them "uncomfortable." The Ming official "laughed" and agreed to change the wording, altering the characters yiren to "waiguo," foreign country (Kr: oeguk 外國). The Ming official may never have intended the term "barbarian" as an insult, and for him, the difference between "foreign country" and a "barbarian" was not a substantive one. To the Chosŏn envoy, however, the matter was essential. His concern for reputation was not hypersensitivity, but an awareness of how language and discourse surrounding a particular issue, once recorded and established as precedent, became the basis for future policies.120
Besides ramifications for material gain and political access, questions of rank, status, and image thus also took on an intrinsic value for Chosŏn envoys. It was important to enforce a consistent image of Korea for imperial eyes, precisely because it was so vulnerable to change. It was, however, not enough that precedents dictating how Korea was to be treated be consistent; the larger discourse surrounding Korea must be consistent as well. In other words, being "civilized" and not "barbarian" was only the linchpin that held a much more elaborate Korean diplomatic strategy together. This point will become clear with the following discussion of a case where status and rank became, in itself, a matter of dispute.
In 1569, the Chosŏn envoy Pak Sŭng'im 朴承任 (1517--1586), a disciple of the influential sixteenth century philosopher Yi Hwang 李滉 (1501--1570), encountered these problems when he arrived in Beijing. He learned that officials at the Ming Court of Ceremonial had altered the procedures for the Winter Solstice ceremony. In the past, Chosŏn officials participated in the ceremonies from within the palace gates, ranking below only Ming court officials. Now, Chosŏn envoys were "barred from entering the Gate of August Supremacy,"121 the main entrance of the Forbidden City. They had to participate in the ceremonies from without. Worse, the Chosŏn emissaries were to array behind scholars without official posts and other commoners. In this logic of ritual positionality, proximity to the emperor expressed prestige, while further distance corresponded with descending rank. If Chosŏn officials stood behind titled officials, but in front of Ming scholars without office, it implied the superiority of Korean officialdom to officeless degree-holders in the Ming. The spatial exile of Chosŏn officials to outside the gates implied a parallel ritual demotion. Furthermore, exteriority was also synonymous with foreignness and barbarity, especially since these envoys were now even less esteemed than commoners.
Pak protested this ritual demotion directly to the Board of Rites.122 Since the affair was premised on interpretations of ritual precedence, he had to establish his understanding of Chosŏn's position vis-a-vis the Ming court, before showing why this new move was such an affront. In its first lines, Pak argued that even though Korea "was a foreign vassal in name, it was really the same as [the Ming's] internal realm" (名爲外藩 實同內服). Accompanying this rewriting of spatial distinction was an explanation of why this was the case. The Ming court had long recognized Korea's "loyalty and deference" and "admiration of righteousness," and treated Korea with "special rites, distinct from other countries." The change in policy then, was a sudden shift from "long-standing precedents." It upset the the hierarchical distinctions between "the esteemed and the base," leaving "men from afar," i.e. he, Pak, and his compatriots, "trembling in confusion, ignorant of the reason [for the change]." Although they could "for the moment follow these new orders," such "acquiescence" would require "hiding and enduring [their distress], with "shame on their face, and sweat on their backs."123
Belying this self-represented helplessness was Pak's concerted effort to appeal to different bodies of the Ming government. He had noted that he had already dispatched interpreters to inquire of the matter and that the Ministry's Bureau Director,124 showed his "surprise at the recklessness of the change"125 and already ordered that Koreans be restored to their original place in the ranks. Like many emissaries before him, Pak became a victim of Ming bureaucratic in-fighting, and attempts to appeal the decision only escalated the situation. Not only had the Court of Ceremonial ignored the orders from their superiors, they retaliated against the Koreans by further demoting the place of the Korean embassy. Now, the Koreans were made to stand "outside the Halberd Gate," among other foreigners, "barbarians" whom Pak disparaged as "left-lapeled, bestial-odored grotesques."126 What was now at stake was not just Korea's relative esteem vis-a-vis the Ming court, but its very identity as a civilized country. As Pak recounts the escalation of the affair in his appeal to the Ministry of Rites, his rhetoric takes on a more forceful tenor. No longer a supplicant, he had become a sermonizer, fully convinced of the moral and ideological correctness of his position:
Howsoever the superior state receives [envoys] of its vassals and subjects necessarily involves compromises and alterations. However, even during the time of the Spring and Autumn annals, it was unheard of that vassals who came to their king's court, would be degraded and humiliated by being placed behind the ranks of the base.127
He then went on to lecture the Ming on the proper operation of government:
Those who are in charge of court rituals should always observe the old precedents with resolve like the hardness of metal or stone. If it had been a matter that fomented corruption or interfered with government, and could harm the interests [of the state], then they should have memorialized the matter. It would then have to be delegated to the relevant ministries, who could debate and decide on a policy to be proposed for imperial consent. Then it could be promulgated, informing all, so that there would have been no confusion or surprise. If things had been decided this way, then it would be in accordance with propriety, and [we] men of afar would have nothing more to say of it.128
What Pak witnessed at the Ming fell drastically short of proper procedure:
Now [however], the imperial court knows nothing of the matter. The relevant ministry does not debate the matter. There is neither half a line of documentation nor a single explanation offered. We were forced by the ceremonial officials with tongues flailing and arms waving, to destroy the old rules long decided by previous reigns and changed a harmless, existing law in a spur of the moment. I have thought of this over and over, and I cannot understand it. It must because [the ceremonial officials] see us as lowly messengers from distant marches, ignorant and without learning, so they [believe] they can order us around with impunity....129
Pak's concern with Korea's status is clear, but by highlighting the faults of Ming administration, he also makes a much broader claim. He hones in on two issues. The first is the lack of transparency and accountability. The second is what he saw to be an insinuation that Koreans need not be treated according to rules because they were ignorant foreigners. By asking that decisions regarding the treatment of Korean emissaries be taken both according to precedent and to the routine of bureaucratic governance, he not only demonstrated Korean awareness of the operation of "civilized" governance. Pak was also insisting that Chosŏn Korea had a legitimate stake in the operation of Ming decision-making and that Ming agencies ought to be accountable to Koreans as well. Pak thus continued this line of argumentation.
I, however, believe that when the imperial court receives [emissaries] from foreign states, every announcement and every instruction is a matter of decorum and propriety (體統). Every move forward and backward is tied to a question of rank and authority.... [This sudden change in our status], does it not harm decorum and propriety? [Does it not] disappoint our hearts of admiration?130
Moreover, the government of a [True] King only promotes when there is good... and punishes only when there is fault...; our small country has served the greater with utmost sincerity continuously for many generations, and have no transgressions or cause for guilt. The former emperors of the imperial court had treated us with munificence and exception, praising and rewarding us. Their edicts are all extant [as proof.] We do not know what fault we committed, that led to our demoted status, or made us deserve this punishment.131
Pak concluded his appeal by pointing out that the Chosŏn had fulfilled all its obligations. Since Korea was faultless and consistent, any change in Ming behavior would be illegitimate. The Ming owed Korea a proportional reciprocity, and now, by arbitrarily altering existing precedents had failed not only Korea, but also its own standards for behavior. It was the court's duty to treat Korea with decorum and propriety, not simply because of what it owed Korea, but also because that is what an imperial court ought to do. Pak drives home his appeal by pointing at the broader ramifications of the Ming's failure to observe its own obligations:
My King had always feared the authority of heaven.... [If he were to hear of this matter], he would certainly be alarmed and distraught.... He, along with all the officials and people of our country would agitate over this, unable to sleep or eat in peace.132
....My ruler guards his small country and must attend to matters dawn to dusk. Since he cannot come [to the Ming] in person, he orders one or two of his retainers to present tribute offerings. Though we retainers are lowly, we are in fact the representatives of our rule and are only well-treated because of him. Now we have lost our positions in the ranks and are left to pay our obeisance outside the gates. Though it appears [only we] retainers have lost our places, it is in fact the disgrace of our ruler. Though it appears that only the Court of Ceremonial who humiliates us retainers, it is in fact the imperial court who, for no reason, humiliates our small country.... The humble mission of one whose status is lowly like mine is not worth considering, but [what is at stake] is the munificent intent of the Imperial Court and my ruler's purely sincere admiration from afar, which has all come to naught.133
Pak's appeal was ultimately successful. Although Ming records make no note of this affair, the Korean Veritable Records indicated that the Board of Rites "restored the rank order to their proper place, and made it standard for perpetuity."134 The appeal, in the end, was essentially an essay on how an imperial court should treat its loyal vassals. Though couched in a diction of perfect deference, the Korean envoy was telling the empire what to do and why.
Empire, then, did not begin and end with the Ming, for at least in theory, the Ming had to follow a set of idealized standards and practices. The Ming court was responsible for actualizing a vision of empire, but it too was supposed to be judged according to those standards. This notion was long in the making, as the written appeals of generations of Korean emissaries and statesmen had tried to make the Ming accountable to its own ideals. The basic contours of this rhetoric were visible in many places, though at times it took the form of private lamentation. As Hŏ Pong once complained, "the severity of the laws in the Central Court [against us], especially fall short of their vision of impartial benevolence and intention of treating those from within and without impartially." For Chosŏn envoys, the Ming, by treating Koreans as outsiders, had disappointed none other than its own ideals of universal empire.135
The ubiquity of this notion, that the operation of the imperial state ought to conform to loftier ideals, point to a persuasive normativity. Chosŏn envoys tasked with official business were not the only ones to turn to it; so did other Koreans who had to interact with Ming officials. One well-known case involves the Chosŏn official Ch'oe Pu 崔溥 (1454--1504), who was shipwrecked in Chinese Zhejiang. He was blown off course when he sailed from the site of his appointment, the island of Cheju, to his hometown to mourn the death of his mother.136
The Ming repatriated Ch'oe Pu after confirming his identity as a Chosŏn official.137 Throughout the journey, however, Ch'oe obstinate insistence on ritual correctness repeatedly threatened his homecoming. Ch'oe was observing the mourning period for his recently deceased mother and kept his mourning attire on through his entire time abroad. He repeatedly refused entreaties by his underlings to doff his mourning garb and put on his court robes in order to establish his identity as a Chosŏn official.138 His decision must have alarmed his followers. As foreigners, they worried they would be mistaken for Japanese pirates by the Ming military, which indeed occurred at a later point.139 Ch'oe's continued to inconvenience his party. When they were in the custody of Ming officers, Ch'oe was asked to provide the Chosŏn king's taboo given name in order to establish his identity as a Korean official. Ch'oe, however, refused, explaining that it was offensive for a subject to speak or write the given name of his ruler. His Ming interrogator pressed further, and told Ch'oe that since he was in Ming territory, he need not observe Chosŏn taboos. Ch'oe retorted and declared, "as a servant of Chosŏn," he could not "change his ways or alter his words" or "betray his country," simply because he had traveled beyond its borders.140 In Beijing, Ch'oe was asked to pay his obeisance to the emperor and render thanks for his impending repatriation. Ch'oe, however, refused to change his mourning garments for "auspicious garb," the formal attire appropriate for a court audience. Ch'oe, refusing to compromise his filial devotion, spurned the imperial invitation. Meanwhile, his underlings went to the palace in his stead. He finally agreed to change out of his mourning clothes only after repeated insistence by his Ming handlers, and only at the last possible occasion.141
Scholars have rightly attributed Ch'oe's insistence on ritual propriety throughout his journey to a commitment to "Neo-Confucian" ethical standards. As one among a coterie of promising, activist officials in the Chosŏn court, he devoted enormous energies to actualizing Zhu Xi-style family rituals in Korea and Neo-Confucian learning in general.142 His willful flouting of imperial authority suggested Ch'oe believed universal Confucian values trumped even the temporal power of the emperor. That, however, did not mean Ch'oe was unconcerned with the imperial gaze. In fact, his obstinacies were also consciously meant to shape imperial perception of Korea. For him, it was not enough to show to the Ming that he was a Chosŏn official, but that by demonstrating his attention to ritual norms, he could ensure that Korea too could be seen as a civilized state.143
There is then a grain of truth in John Meskill's characterization: that Ch'oe, as a Korean, would have felt "a compulsion to prove by word and deed their utter Confucianism." And, in light of their marginality in Ming eyes, "zealous to prove their worth." Even so, it was not simply "sectarian fervor" that motivated him.144 Although Ch'oe Pu was not an envoy, how Ch'oe interacted with the Ming's representatives echoed representational and rhetorical strategies that Ming envoys used during their trips to Ming China. Once a Ming handler, by the name of Yang Wang 楊旺 had abused a member of Ch'oe entourage. He ordered the Korean to be flogged ten times, an act which Ch'oe protested:
[Your] job is to escort on our journey. Now, you inflict the penalty of flogging. Is there a legal statute pertaining to us foreigners? The members of my entourage are as blinds and mutes; though they may commit infractions, you ought to explain the matter to them and treat them well. Yet, you hurt them with beatings. This is not the way of a Greater State [i.e. the Ming] in escorting men from afar."145
Ch'oe's protest, which chastised the Ming official for failing "men from afar," (遠人) reportedly left Yang speechless. Elsewhere, Ch'oe offered made used of the same turn of phrase, and appealed to the Ming's duty to "cherish those afar" (柔遠) to ensure sound treatment of his entourage:
My Chosŏn, is in a land faraway, beyond the seas, but its clothing, caps, and matters of civilization, are identical to that of the Central State, and so we should not to be treated as a foreign state. Now that the Great Ming has unified all under its rule, with all the barbarians of the north and south as one family. Now, all under heaven are my brothers. How can the distance of territory be cause for division between the interior and the exterior? Moreover, my country has dutifully served the Celestial Court and has never neglected its tribute. For these reasons, the Son of Heaven treats us with propriety and nurtures us with benevolence. The embrace of His civilizing transformation has reached an acme.
As for me, I am a servant of Chosŏn. You, general, are a servant of the Son of Heaven, who shares in his concerns, and must understand the Son of Heaven's intent in nurturing the small[er state with benevolence]. Now that you treat [us] men of afar to this degree, does it not show your loyalty?146
Ch'oe's reiteration of an imperial obligation towards "men from afar" echoed the language of diplomatic correspondence discussed earlier. Like his diplomat colleagues, Ch'oe had appropriated discourse that was originally used to legitimate imperial rule to hold its agents accountable. That Ch'oe took a play from a diplomatic repertoire is unsurprising. A munkwa (文科) exam passer, he shared a common background in classical knowledge and belles lettres with official envoys and court composers. What is telling, however, is the use of a high language of empire in dealings with petty imperial agents.
For Ch'oe, his obstinate behavior worked hand in hand with his attempts to cajole Ming officials. Ch'oe articulated his strategy to his underlings upon their arrival in China. He explained that "Our Country is one of propriety and righteousness" (我國本禮義之國) and despite their abject condition of being shipwrecks, it was necessary to show the Chinese their attention to ceremony, so that "they will know that our country's rituals are as such." He instructed his underlings to pay attention always to hierarchical distinctions, prostrating to each other according to rank. His also emphasized that they should always pay their respects with clasped hands in their sleeves, especially in front of curious onlookers.147 These gestures, along with his consistent observance of mourning rites, showed his Ming handlers that their foreignness did not make them ignorant of Confucian standards of civilized behavior espoused by the Ming and expected to be treated according to them. Ch'oe, by insisting that propriety and ritual standards transcended political boundaries and could trump even imperial authority, implied that these moral standards were universal and that all Ming officials had to be beholden to them, especially in their dealings with Korea.148 This strategy was deployed in both the microcosmic space of individual interactions to the macrocosmic context of the most formal diplomatic ceremonies. Its adoption by a castaway like Ch'oe suggests that these methods had become embedded in common-sense understandings of how Korea was to relate to empire and the proper bounds and responsibilities of imperial power.
Ch'oe's example also suggests that ceremonial display was a necessary complement to ritual suasion in Korean self-representation. Chosŏn envoys often paid enormous attention to the ritual bearing. Meanwhile, court annalists who documented their behavior for posterity took special care to note the impression such ritual displays had on imperial audiences. Take for instance, the following example in Chosŏn Veritable Records. One Korean envoy, Yi Chinggyu 李澄珪 (fl. 1450s), bequeathed on royal orders a gift of wine from the king to another Korean envoy, Han Myŏnghoe:
Myŏnghoe and the others received the royal gift of wine. When it was time for the officials to drink the wine, they first bowed four times before arriving at their seat. Chinggyu raised the cup to bequeath it. Myŏnghoe then prostrated again to receive it.
Yi had met Han at a Ming hostel, where local Ming functionaries were present. These curious witnesses asked the Korean interpreter about the unfamiliar ceremony:
'He bowed and sat down, but then prostrated to drink the wine. What sort of ceremony was this?'
The interpreter replied, '[one] to pay obeisance to a ruler's gift,' and explained the matter. There was a Confucian scholar present who remarked with sighs of praise: 'It is indeed as others have said, [Korea] is a country of propriety and righteousness.'149
The particulars of the ceremony were alien to the Ming observers, but the ritual logic behind its gestures became apparent to them after the explanation. Han Myŏnghoe had not performed what was likely a routine ritual specifically for imperial eyes. For the compilers of the Veritable Records, however, it was precisely the presence of Ming observers and their vocal acclaim that made Han's behavior worth of note. Cases where a Chinese observer praises the ritual behavior of a Korean traveler were common in Korean accounts. Their presence points to an overriding concern with the imperial gaze, but also suggests that these particular displays were at least believed to be efficacious for reinforcing Korea's reputation as a "land of ritual and righteousness."
For those who were charged with representing Chosŏn, whether in official capacity as an envoy or one who stumbled upon the the task, like Ch'oe Pu did, maintenance and even enforcement of Korea's moral and civilized image was extremely important. This image had immediate practical benefits, granting access to protected goods: books, horns, gunpowder, but it also took on both intrinsic and extrinsic value as a centerpiece of a broader strategy of self-representation. Consistency was key, for this image was fragile and could be jeopardized by alternative readings of precedent. This need to represent Korea consistently as a civilized state, moral country, and loyal vassal, then, also explains other patterns in Chosŏn's diplomatic relations with the Ming: why it went to such lengths to influence how the Ming portrayed Korea in its own records and to conceal the political upheavals that plagued its dynastic history.
In 1506, a coup d'état overthrew the unpopular king, Yŏnsan'gun 燕山君 (r. 1494--1506), and replaced him with his brother, King Chungjong. In the aftermath, the Chosŏn court went to great lengths to secure the support of Ming officials and palace eunuchs to ensure that a document of investiture was forthcoming.150 Envoys dispatched to the Ming at this juncture were given precise instructions regarding the fibs they would need to tell. Some matters were to be relayed truthfully, but the envoy's telling of the circumstances of abdication were outright fabrications. Chosŏn envoys informed the Ming that the king had long suffered from seizures, which had worsened after his son's death, and left the former king debilitated.151 David Robinson, who discussed in detail how the Chosŏn court "lobbied" Ming eunuchs to ensure Chungjong's recognition, also noted the significant discrepancy between Chinese and Korean records regarding these events. The Ming History suggests that investiture was granted for "the purest of reasons." Yŏnsan'gun only abdicated because of severe illness, leaving Chungjong the rightful ruler. With the reasons for succession clear, "there was no need to investigate, for the Koreans were honest; there was no mention of bribery or lobbying for the Chinese were magnanimous and scrupulous." Korean records, however, told a different story.152
According to an envoy report in the Chosŏn Veritable Records, the irregularity of Chungjong's accession raised suspicions immediately. Ming officials suspected conspiracy (謀作之事) immediately. The envoys responded according to their scripted and claimed that "Our Country [Chosŏn] is a land of propriety and righteous; how could there be such a thing?" assuring the Ming that illness was the true reason for the king's sudden abdication.153
A lively discussion at the Ming court ensued. In the Korean records, there was little elaboration on the underlying rationale behind each position, but the debates hinged on one major issue: how should the Ming behave towards a Korea, which was a country of "propriety and righteousness," but yet unmistakably a foreign state. One low-ranking Ming diplomacy official154 suggested that an imperial doctor be sent to treat the king's illness, in recompense for the king's "dutiful reverence of the imperial court." Regardless of whether this plan emerged from friendly regard for an ailing monarch of a friendly state or a ploy to ascertain the truth of the matter, it would certainly have exposed the Korean conspiracy. The higher-ranking Board Ministers, however, decided against it. In their reckoning, "Chosŏn may be a country of propriety and righteousness, but it was still a foreign state."155 In this logic, Korea's civilized status may invite Ming aid, but interfering with the affairs of a foreign state by dispatching a doctor would still be inappropriate. Still other officials believed that Chungjong's formal investiture should await Yŏnsan'gun's death, but this too was overruled because "matters related to foreign states must not be dealt in this way." The Ming minister implied that interference with succession matters of a foreign state was inappropriate.156 What emerges from this exchange again is an interplay between two sets of precedents for Ming interactions with Chosŏn. Portraying Chosŏn as a civilized state was rhetorically useful to insist upon the impossibility of usurpation, but it did open the way to intervention. Korea's foreign status, however, made it possible for the Ming to leave aside its suspicions and refrain from further investigation. The double-think here was ultimately convenient for the Chosŏn court, who could use either (or both) instrumentally.
Concealing the true reasons for Yŏnsan'gun's abdication was one thing, but sustaining the conspiracy was another. Yŏnsan'gun died shortly after his abdication under suspicious circumstances in 1506. In 1508 Ming emissaries finally arrived to bring patents of investiture to Chungjong.157 They also brought imperial gifts to Yŏnsan'gun, of whose death the Ming was still ignorant. The Chosŏn welcoming committee were ordered to maintain the illusion that Yŏnsan'gun was still alive. They explained "the former king's illness and was now bedridden, and could not longer attend even to routine matters," in case the envoys expected the king to receive him. If the envoys wished to visit the king in person, they were to be told that "the king's daily life---drinking, eating, urination and defecation---all depended on the help of others" and lived in the inner quarters of the palace close to the queen-mother, a place "inappropriate for proclaiming an imperial edict."158 The Ming envoys remained in Chosŏn for several months. Though they continued to request an audience with the "sick king," they were denied access.159
The dissembling continued for decades. Ming embassies continued to bring regular gifts to Yŏnsan'gun, the "retired king," while the Chosŏn continued to insist that he was alive. The Chosŏn never reported his death and the Ming court likely remained ignorant of Yŏnsan'gun's death and the circumstances of his removal, even if suspicions lingered.160 Not all Chosŏn officials approved of the duplicity required to conceal this decades-old conspiracy. One compiler of the Chungjong Veritable Records lamented the deceptive diplomacy of the period. In his view, Yŏnsan'gun's crimes should have been directly reported to the Ming.161 In 1544, another Chosŏn official believed it was unnecessary to pretend the king was still alive. In his reckoning, the Ming treated Chosŏn as one among the "foreign barbarians," and would never have scrutinized the matter seriously. It would behoove the court to report his death. He worried that the "retired king's" fictional longevity would only become more suspicious, especially after the death of his successor, Chungjong in 1545.162 By 1562, it was clear to the Chosŏn court Yŏnsangun, dead for five decades, was no longer of interest to the Ming, since its envoys had not inquired after the "retired king" for years.163
Efforts to conceal the Yŏnsan'gun matter during the Chungjong reign paralleled another diplomatic affair, the so-called "disputing slander" (pyŏnmu 辯誣) campaign. It concerned the insinuation that the Chosŏn founders were illegitimate usurpers in Ming documents, most notably the Ming founder Taizu's Admonitions of the Imperial Ancestor (Huang Ming zuxun 皇明祖訓). The Ming identified the Yi founder Yi Sŏnggye to be the son of the Koryŏ official Yi Inim (李仁任 ?--1388), the two Yi's, father and son, conspired to seize the Koryŏ throne, and together "assassinated four kings" of Koryŏ, Kongmin 恭愍王 (r. 1351--1374), U 禑王 (r. 1374--1388), Chang 昌王 (r. 1388--1389), and Gongyang 恭讓王 (r. 1389--1392).164 The Chosŏn court, beginning in 1402, sought to "correct" these narratives and petitioned the Ming to amend them.
The official Chosŏn version of the dynasty's founding was as follows. The first point was that Yi Sŏnggye was not in fact Yi Inim's son. They belonged to separate lineages and rival factions. Yi Inim was indeed complicit in King Kongmin's death in 1374, but Yi Sŏnggye had been responsible for removing Yi Inim's faction from power in 1388. According to Chosŏn official historiography, two of the last Koryŏ rulers, King U and King Ch'ang, were sons of a Buddhist monk, rather than legitimate scions of the Wang royal house.165 Moreover, they were poor rulers who had instigated conflict with the Ming. Yi Sŏnggye forced their abdication and installed a legitimate Wang scion, King Gongyang in office. King Gongyang then abdicated to the Yi willingly.166
These "disputing slander" campaigns were tied to both an overriding anxiety over the Chosŏn court's political legitimacy and a concern with Chosŏn's reputation at the Ming court.167 Koh Khee Heong has described these campaigns as an attempt by Koreans to restore their lost reputation in the Ming in order to reclaim a comparable loss of legitimacy for the Chosŏn dynasty. One caveat to this instrumentalist reading is the question of what exactly this legitimacy meant, for the legitimacy of the Chosŏn state never rested entirely on Ming sanction. Furthermore, Ming knowledge of Chosŏn's violent establishment had not stopped Ming recognition of Chosŏn legitimacy for the past century. If we consider that successful Chosŏn diplomacy rested on its ability to create and then control stable mythologies for the imperial gaze, then it follows that the formalization of a rival narrative thus did not simply threaten existing ones, but the feasibility of Korean diplomacy as a whole. The goal was not so much to secure legitimacy from the Ming than to protect Chosŏn's past investments in a particular strategy of diplomacy.168 The logic of modern territorial sovereignty requires defending incursions against claimed space at every juncture, lest the disputed space default to another's control.169 In much the same way, for the early Chosŏn court, any assault on its claims to "ritual and righteousness" must also be protested. Failure to do so would mean relinquishing control over self-representation and risk letting an imperial discourse of Korea to default to one of "barbarity," leaving Korea no different from other foreign states.
Neither the Chosŏn nor the Ming narratives were entirely accurate. The Ming indeed confused Yi Sŏnggye's familial identity and erroneously blamed Yi Sŏnggye for killing the Koryŏ king Kongmin in 1374. Nonetheless, Yi Sŏnggye's behavior shadowed that of Yi Inim, who were both powerful military men who controlled court politics from behind the scenes. Yi Sŏnggye was not involved with King Kongmin's death, but he and his supporters certainly deposed the latter three monarchs and ordered their deaths. The last Wang ruler, King Gongyang, whom Chosŏn petitioners insisted "lived out his natural years" had in fact perished, along with his two sons in 1394. They were strangled to death under Yi Sŏnggye's royal orders.170 In the meantime, the Chosŏn court drowned the entire Koryŏ royal family, throwing them into the sea while they were en route to their place of exile.171 Distant members of the Wang royal clan still at large were hunted down and killed.172 Those who had received the royal surname as honors were ordered to revert to their original surnames, and those who happened to have the Wang surname, but were unconnected to the royal family, were compelled to adopt the names of their maternal lineages.173 Through these acts, a combination of killings and discursive effacement, the Chosŏn eliminated its Koryŏ predecessors, potential rival claimants to the Korean throne, and vestiges of symbolic loyalty to the Koryŏ past. In other words, efforts by the Chosŏn court was as much an attempt to correct Ming documentation of royal ancestry as it was an attempt to whitewash the bloodshed that surrounded Chosŏn's rise.
Chosŏn envoys were relatively successful in receiving assurances that the matter would be amended. The Yongle emperor granted his approval in 1404 and permitted the emendations to be added. Although the Unified Gazetteer of the Great Ming included the corrections, they did not make it into the Ming Compendium (Ming Huidian 明會典).174 Envoys who returned from Beijing in 1518 noted that inclusion of the offending passages. Their reemergence was troubling because it undercut the received mythology of the Chosŏn's glorious origins foundation. At the same time, the sense of grievance may have been genuine. The orthodox, white-washed narrative of Chosŏn's founding may have already been accepted as unvarnished truth in court circles. Although the details of the Chosŏn founding was recorded in the Veritable Records, even the king and his court were not necessarily privy to its details.175 King Chungjong was furious and incredulous after reading the Ming account of Chosŏn's founding. He asked naively, "How could have [my] ancestors done this sort of thing?" and concluded that they must request the Ming for a change.176
Perhaps doubly troubling for Chungjong was that these accusations of usurpation of his distant ancestors obliquely reminded him and his court of their own questionable moral authority. Even if they were assured Yŏnsan'gun's deposition was justified, they never revealed the fact of the matter to the Ming. When the court and its envoys to Beijing discussed the diplomatic strategy for lobbying the Ming, the matter of past deposed kings, Yŏnsan'gun and Nosan'gun 魯山君177 was broached. Although the Veritable Records omits its details, the diplomatic instructions for the envoys to Beijing likely included orders to continue to conceal the Yŏnsan'gun affair. One official, the royal secretary Kim Chŏng'guk 金正國 (1485--1541) protested, and argued that the envoys should not "embellish or fabricate." Kim explained this in terms of moral considerations, but by comparing Yŏnsan'gun's overthrow to the deeds of ancient sages Yi Yin 伊尹 and the Duke of Zhou 周公, who too replaced incompetent or tyrannical rulers with virtuous ones, he likely implied that this path was also the most effective. To extrapolate from this logic, showing that irregular succession in Korea occurred for only virtuous reasons could then resolve the controversies surrounding the Chosŏn's founding. The State Councillor, Sin Yong'gae 申用漑 (1463--1519) however, disagreed. The problem was that Korea's diplomatic posturing thus far had relied on consistent dissimulation. Sin, whose family had been at the center of court power for generations, likely knew full well that the reputation of the Chosŏn dynasty was suspended by webs of lies.178 If the truth were revealed now, it would discredit everything the Chosŏn had thus far insisted to be true, which included the actual details not only of the 1509 coup d'etat (and the regicide that likely followed), and Nosan'gun's forced abdication in 1455, but also events surrounding the Chosŏn founding itself.179
The envoy mission dispatched in 1518 met with reasonable success. The emissaries returned with an official Ming rescript that acknowledged the mistaken genealogy in the Ming documents and assured the Koreans that it would be amended.180 The chief envoy of this mission, Nam Kon 南袞 (1471--1523), was also the drafter of the official memorial that stated the Chosŏn case.181 In Beijing, Nam Kon also penned his own letter to the Chief Minister of the Board of Rites, Mao Cheng 毛澄 (1460--1523). In this letter, Nam recounted the Chosŏn position. Like official Chosŏn letters, it obfuscated the circumstances behind the Chosŏn rise, cleaving to the orthodox narrative, but what is interesting is the rhetoric used. Rather than focus on particular details that "proved" the Ming narrative incorrect, he appealed to a logic of empire, explaining why it was the Ming's moral obligation to correct the matter on Chosŏn's behalf. In the letter, he employed an a priori logic in which Korea's state of civilization, once established, could be taken as evidence of its moral virtue, and thus the impossibility of any misdeeds during its founding:
We, the state of Chosŏn, are by the edge of the sea. Though we are faraway and humble, we have for generations communicated with the Central State and have are well-versed in the teachings of poetry, writing, propriety and righteousness. We respect rectified names and value moral relations. It has been a long time since we have 'used the Chinese to transform the barbarian.' Now, the time of the sagely dynasty [i.e. the Ming], its eastward transmission of civilization has reached us first..... 182
But as for assassination and rebellion---these are the greatest evils in all the world. No man can tolerate them; no law can forgive them. As for the assassination of four kings, it is so vile, that even [the rebellious officials of yore] Houyi 后羿 and Hanzhuo 寒浞 did not do such a thing. As for how my country's founding ancestors treated the Wang house---all its details are clear in my petitions---they did not even meance them with even a hairbreadth's force, but yet they have now suffered the evil reputations of Huoyi and Hanzhuo. It turns Korea into a lair of rebels. 183
Nam's letter appealed less to logos than to pathos. The central rhetorical thrust of the letter was not to defend Chosŏn's actual moral status, but rather on the emotive harm that would come about because of this lingering problem. Nam focused on what he called the "grievances" (wŏn/yuan 冤) Chosŏn suffered.184 This grievance, however, did not end with the Chosŏn. He turned the matter back to the Ming and highlighted the form of grievance the Ming would suffer, if the matter were not resolved:
What would then become of all that it has learned from the Central State? The poetry, writing, propriety, righteousness? The moral relations and the rectified names? [Those in the future who read these lines] will certainly all say: 'Chosŏn is a country of assassins and rebels! They will also say: "could it be that a country of assassins and rebels were among countries that paid tribute?"185
Posterity would judge not the Chosŏn dynasty alone, but the entire Chosŏn-Ming moment. With a longer temporal gaze, the representation of Chosŏn's founding spoke to concerns greater than the prestige of the Chosŏn royal house. In Nam's words, it was not only a matter of "this small country suffering [the injustice of] an ill-deserved reputation." Instead, the wrongs suffered by Korea would extend to the Ming. Since the Ming had "nurtured the small country," later men would believe that the Ming had wrongly supported an immoral regime in Korea. If Korea were an immoral country, then the Ming would have to be as well.186 Nam, then, transferred his indignation for the ruling house of his own state to the Ming, and insisted that he was motivated to preserve the Ming's reputation as well as the Chosŏn's.
Nam's reasoning is interesting for two reasons. First, Nam had turned a matter of Korea's reputation into one that impinged on the prestige and legacy of the Ming itself. Chosŏn's loyalty, compared to the "wings and regalia" of the Ming court (朝廷羽儀), ornamented Ming political legitimacy. For this symbol to be damaged, would be to damage the Ming itself.187 But, most importantly, he transformed a problem of moral-political responsibility in historical representation into an opportunity to use history writing to whitewash the moral reputation of those parties. A tarnished Chosŏn automatically tarnished the Ming; only by insisting the former be pristine, could the latter remain immaculate.
These "disputing slander" appeals worked in the sense that they acquired Ming token acknowledgment of the issue at hand, but the actual revision of the Ming Compendium was not forthcoming. A massive undertaking, the Ming Compendium had already been printed, and the Chosŏn were told to wait for the new edition. The Chosŏn ultimately waited decades, until 1588, before the promised changes were included. In the meantime, Chosŏn envoys continued their petitions.188 Even the revised 1588 edition did not put an end to the matter. After the Imjin War, the Chosŏn continued to protest to the Ming of the appearance of these "slanders," along with other information that was unflattering to Chosŏn Korea, not only in Ming official publications, but also in private Chinese publications.189 As Sun Weiguo has shown, this attempt to rectify the reputation of the Chosŏn dynasty extended even to the late Chosŏn dealings with the Qing. The official Ming dynastic history compiled by the Qing documented not only the original, offending phrases in Ming texts, but also Chosŏn's repeated campaigns to correct them.190 The insinuation of the Chosŏn's illegitimate beginnings remained a thorn in the side of Chosŏn dynasts. The revelation in these Chinese texts may even have spurred on both official and private scholars from Chosŏn to question the authority of the received orthodox narrative.191 The "disputing slander" campaigns, drawn out over several decades, may have appeared ineffectual (if immediacy is to be a sign of efficacy). But, when viewed alongside the other examples discussed in this chapter, a reevaluation may be warranted. Along with other Korean appeals to the Ming, they helped to reproduce and reify particular notions of Korea's relationship with empire. The repeated insistence on Korea's identity as a "country of propriety and righteousness" and a "loyal vassal," and the Ming as a magnanimous overlord were their central rhetorical tropes. They not only figured in Korean appeals itself, they were also reiterated by the rescripts and reactions of Ming officials themselves, lending credence to their effectiveness as diplomatic tools. All the negotiations explored in this chapter, which involved a variety of issues---bullion tribute, buffalo horns, freedom of movement, ritual status, treatment of shipwrecks, investiture, usurpation, and historiographical portrayal---converged on this common repertoire of rhetorical strategies. It may be tempting to see Chosŏn loyalty, Ming magnanimity, and a common notion of civilization---ideas considered foundational to the "tributary system" as a normative order---as the reasons for why these campaigns took place and were usually successful. I contend, however, the chain of causality was more likely the inverse. These notions were constructed and deployed to deal with practical concerns. Over time, they did acquire a normative power, but only because of they were repeatedly used and called upon for particular strategy of diplomacy. And, that strategy was to create and control a mythology about Korea and its relationship with empire that could withstand the vicissitudes of imperial politics.
To achieve their aims, Chosŏn diplomats supported imperial claims of universal sovereignty and then turned them on their heads. In the process, Chosŏn diplomats also homed in on and then reproduced particular institutional practices, literary motifs, and ritual gestures. Taken together, these elements constitute what scholars have often identified as the defining features of the "tributary system." What this chapter has shown is that this semblance of systematicity in fact emerged through the practice of contentious diplomacy.
These practices constituted Chosŏn's "Serving the Great" approach to diplomacy with the Ming. The consistency of the approach did not obligatorily make it a function of ideology, as commonly understood. How it was encoded in institutional handbooks, historical accounts, and ritual protocols could also be read in terms of a strategic normativity, pointing to reliable modus operandi that could ensure positive and successful interactions with the Ming and its agents. Even if issues like prestige and legitimacy in Ming eyes had become ideological goods, valued in and of themselves, and not simply instruments, it did not stop the Chosŏn from deploying them in instrumental ways.
The strategies of Chosŏn envoys explored in this chapter proved useful at a variety of junctures and found application well beyond the space of formal diplomacy. Even shipwrecked Chosŏn officials employed these repertoires to deal tactfully with exigencies of being marooned. In particular, the rhetorical strategy they deployed, mirroring the "imperializing mode" so typical of official diplomatic discourse, convinced not only emperors and high officials, but also Ming agents of all stripes and ranks. Knowledge of empire, in this case, was the mastery of the ways in which the ideals of empire: imperial magnanimity, its universal civilizing power, and its duty to loyal vassals could be brought to bear in versatile ways. Chosŏn envoys could thus voice their grievances in a discursive space legitimized by an appeal to empire. It was particularly effective on Ming officials who shared a commitment to this political imaginary and believed that the imperium's relations with its neighbors ought to be expressed in terms of the Ming's civilizing influence and magnanimous treatment of outsiders. Commitment need not imply wholehearted compliance. A Ming agent sharing a concern only for the mere image of the Ming-as-virtuous granted enough room for Chosŏn emissaries to maneuver.
Room for maneuver did always translate into success, especially since ideals, whether sincerely believed or pretentiously enforced, could not preclude considerations of profit, power, and politics. The colloquial Chinese adage, "a scholar who crosses a warrior may have right on his side, but he won't explain it clearly"192 colorfully illustrates two problems with reliance on rhetoric and ideals as one's sole weapons. The first is that convincing rhetoric depends on the audience in question; the second is that, in the microcosmic scale of the personal, coercion always trumps persuasion. This statement would probably have resonated with Chosŏn envoys who had to bribe their Ming handlers to carry out even routine tasks like buying groceries.193 The envoy Hŏ Pong, in his travelogue from a 1576 envoy mission, relates an incident involving the highest-ranking official of the Liaodong command, Chen Yan 陳言, to illustrate the abuses Korean emissaries suffered at the hands of local officials. Chen asked Chosŏn envoys to bring a number of gifts for him, five copies of the Brilliant Flowers Anthology (Hwanghwajip 皇華集), sixty rolls of fine memorial paper, and five Korean-style horsehair hats. The Chosŏn court refused, believing that acceding to him will invite "limitless abuses," and gifted him only one copy of the anthology.194 Chen Yan, offended by the meager gift, demanded from the envoy mission luxurious trade items: otter skins, fine woven mats, cotton cloth, an inkstone, multicolored silk embroidery, and ginseng for trade. When the Chosŏn interpreter insisted that some of these items could not be acquired, because of their status as imperial tribute gifts, Chen only grew angrier and froced the interpreter to accept the silk bolts he offered as "payment."195 The Korean interpreter in charge of representing the mission later tried to placate the official with offerings of other goods. Chen accepted these "gifts," so he took back his "payment" in silk bolts for his original order.196 What appears as a transaction for trade goods, was essentially, for Chen Yan, a roundabout mechanism for waylaying the Korean entourage.
Chosŏn envoys could persuade through appeals to imperial magnanimity, when dealing with Ming high-officials and emperors. This rhetoric, as Kim Yŏngmin, who in borrowing the words of James Scott, has argued, was a "weapon of the weak" against the strong.197 It was used against the very people who "violated.... [the] social artifact, which they themselves had a major hand in creating."198 But, the less publicly visible a particular dealing was the less effective this "weapon" was. Against a powerful local official like Chen Yan, whose day-to-day behavior could not be supervised directly by the imperial center, it was particularly futile. Chen, nonetheless, was evidently aware of the power of this rhetoric. Hŏ Pong wrote in his diary that after their encounter with Chen, he noticed a poster in the garrison that said the following:
The Commander announces the following rules: "Chosŏn is a country of ritual and righteousness. I saw that when their envoys came to this post-station, there were veteran soldiers who guarded the post-station who indulged in trickery, using extortion to forcibly trade. This damages the Central State's regulations in 'cherishing [men] from afar.' This is deeply despicable..... those who repeat these acts will be arrested and placed in a cangue for interrogation. We will not treat these matters lightly."199
Hŏ Pong noted the hypocrisy of the Liaodong commander and pointed out how the poster ironically portrayed the commander's own misdeeds in his diary.200 In cases like this, the rhetoric of the imperial duty to "cherish men from afar" (to again borrow the words of James Scott) becomes "like all [other] ideological self-representations," a "cruel parody of lived experience."201
The Ming nevertheless did consider extortion to be a violation. Chen's predecessor had in fact been removed for corruption and graft. Chen simply knew to present a different image of himself to his superiors in the imperial court. When the imperial embassy to Korea, led by Han Shineng 韓世能 (1528--1598), passed through the region, Chen posted a declaration prohibiting abuses against the locals and Korean officials. Once they departed, however, he simply resumed his acquisitive ways.202 Hŏ Pong relates another incident involving a protocol official203 from the Court of Ceremonies named Xu Jiru 許繼儒, who demanded from the Koreans a gift of fifty bolts of white cloth. The Koreans had none to give him. Thus refused, Xu Jiru, grew upset and took out his anger on an employee of the Huitong Hostel. The employee reported the actions to their superiors. After an investigation, Xu Jiru was sentenced to exile and conscription in the frontier army. He was levied a fine of one ounce of silver for each bolt of cloth he had demanded. The matter ended in greater tragedy. Xu Jiru had to sell all of his property to pay the fine. His family thus impoverished, Xu's aged mother hanged herself in desperation.204 The Ming institutional apparatus could correct abuses when they came to light, but like in the case of Hu Shishen and Chen Bangcheng several decades earlier, how such incidents played out were contingent and variable. Rent-seeking practices, on the other hand, were systemic.205 Even when the Ming sought to correct its failings, it relied not on civilizing or nurturing gestures of benevolence, but violence; the power of coercion underwrote these relations. One might be tempted to dismiss all this as completely hypocritical; but hypocrisy is only so because power is concerned with image---so long as his image mattered, a hypocrite can still be cowed.
The concern with image was shared by both the Ming and Chosŏn, but as this chapter showed, images: perceptions, representations, and impressions were important tools of argument for establishing precedents. Images reify the permanence of the imperial project and its tradition, but it also leaves it abstracted from particular circumstances---at once both a denial of their own historicity and an assertion of history's value. Projecting a normative vision of a political imaginary that reality may resemble only palely implicitly excludes any ugly moment from empire's grand and varnished image. However, when an envoy evokes, instantiates or appeals to a normative order of classical ideals through his speech, action, or writing, he lets the image perform the role of exemplar. Through these animations of the imperial tradition, empire becomes inextricably historical, as those who operated within were constantly reminded of its legacy.
A reified set of notions about empire were useful for Chosŏn envoys who faced a smattering of often contradictory polices from the Ming. Insomuch as the Ming did have a coherent, top-down policy towards Korea, it dissolved at the level of execution. Chosŏn envoys therefore did negotiate Ming policy on bilateral state-to-state terms, but with the Ming through a complex field of intersections with multiple dimensions. Material profit (economics), calculations of power (politics), idioms of empire (ideology) were among some of the considerations. That these axes in turn criss-crossed the boundary of the official and the personal only added to the sense of arbitrariness. In this atmosphere of unpredictability, the appeal to precedent, whether in the context of Chosŏn-Ming relations as a whole, the classically sanctioned duty of empire, or even the discrete relations between individual actors, could provide a modicum of consistency and reliability. Korean maintenance of an idiom of empire, one in which the Ming was a generous, virtuous, and magnanimous overlord and the Chosŏn was a dutiful, civilized, moral, and deferent subject must also be understood in in light of this process. The reification and the idealization of the Ming, Chosŏn's dynastic past, and the institutions of diplomatic practice, then, was less an attempt to whitewash the obvious shortfalls of reality, than a way to create normative guides to set the parameters of the relationship.
As we see in the examples explored in this chapter, maintaining these idealizations required regular diplomatic activity. Envoys had to make sure that the Koreans were always represented in a positive light, that usurpations were not recorded in Ming historical writings, and that Korean rulers were given the patents of investiture they required. To achieve these goals required navigating through the patrimonial networks within the Ming bureaucracy itself. It meant cultivating ties with individual Ming officials and reading the fractures of power within the imperial court. These activities point also to a different kind of knowledge: a familiarity with the political realities of the Ming court and a practical ken of how to use them.
The next chapter therefore will examine another set of tools in the repertoire of a Korean envoy, a "knowledge of empire," constituted not by historical precedents and imperial logics, or the rhetorical strategies of their use, but the concrete understanding of how the Ming worked. This know-how was important because it helped convert a drastic differential of power between the Chosŏn and the Ming into a set of asymmetries in which the Chosŏn in fact acquired advantages in the form of knowledge. Behind a rhetoric of empire that normalized political asymmetry and hierarchy by upholding Ming moral and political superiority, were a set of practices that gave the Chosŏn a valued space of agency, which proved not only instrumental in the functioning of the Chosŏn state but also integral to sustaining Chosŏn-Ming relations as a whole.