[FOUNTAIN]Countering a land grabStern criticism that does not yield to pressure is often called “the writing of the spring and autumn.” The term originally meant a roundabout narration style using the suggestive nature of Chinese characters. When Confucius compiled “The Spring and Autumn Annals,” a chronicle of history, he used euphemisms to describe the faults of the kings, and his roundabout way became known as “the writing of the spring and autumn.”
There were three principles involved: Confucius revered China and depreciated foreigners, wrote Chinese history in detail and kept foreign history brief, and hid disgraces for the sake of China. If he had not followed these rules, he could have been punished. According to Shin Chae-ho, an early 20th-century historian, Sima Qian, the famous author of Shiji, or “The Records of the Grand Historian,” was castrated because Emperor Han Wudi was furious at him for writing that the Han Dynasty had been defeated by Gojoseon. The Chinese enlightenment scholar Liang Qichao lamented, “All history of China can only function as a figure for China’s purposes. By fabricating Chinese history, historians have lost their place. This evil practice started with Confucius, and for two millennia Chinese history has not broken away from the vice.”
What is more shameful is that Korean historians also played up to the writing of the spring and autumn. Just like Liang Qichao, Park Ji-won deplored the tendency of the narrow-minded scholars who copied Chinese history style instead of writing the truth. “As historians failed to define the boundary of Goguryeo and crammed the four districts under Chinese rule south of the Yalu River, the territory of Joseon shrunk automatically, even without a battle.”
The Joseon-period historian might have predicted China’s “Northeast Asian Project,” which upsets his descendants 200 years later. An Jeong-bok, a realist scholar and a contemporary of Park Ji-won, offers even more extraordinary wisdom by advising us how we should respond.
“If we were to go back to the origin and debate about the territory, half of Liaodong south of Jilin used to belong to Korea. With today’s military strength, we cannot retrieve the old domains of Gija Joseon and Goguryeo and expand to the land where King Mokjo and Iljo used to live. But by understanding the past properly, we have guidelines to strengthen ourselves. From old times, major wars have always been fought in the northeast. The precedents tell us the details of how we suffered misfortunes, so by studying them, defense policymakers can prepare.”
by Lee Hoon-beom
The writer is the head of the JoongAng Ilbo’s weekend news team.