Subordinates and evildoers: Song scholar-officials' perceptions of clerks
Posted on 16. Aug, 2010 by James Miller
|Title||Subordinates and evildoers: Song scholar-officials' perceptions of clerks|
|Year of Publication||2008|
|ISBN Number||9780549577584, 0549577580|
Historians know that Song scholar-officials liked to use positive ways to strengthen their qualifications for being rulers. For example, in scholar-officials' view, only their Confucian sage-kings were qualified to be ideal rulers. Scholar-officials studied the ideas of these sage-kings, and imitated their ways. Therefore, scholar-officials claimed that only they had the potential to become ideal rulers. Here Song scholar-officials' ruling qualifications came from their succession to ancient sage-kings. But historians do not know that Song scholar-officials also employed negative rhetoric to retain or bolster their legitimacy as rulers. This dissertation argues that Song scholar-officials labeled clerks as incompetent and corruptible, but then distanced themselves from clerical incompetence and corruption. In this way, they maintained and fortified their ruling qualifications. Song clerks devoted themselves to administrative work, and officials deemed them as experts on administrative affairs. But when Song officials discussed different kinds of official work, they often emphasized the priority of moral education, and condemned officials preoccupied with administrative work. In their view, ideal rulers should first and foremost serve as moral teachers of the common people, and ought not to dedicate themselves to administrative affairs. In this way, officials implied that clerks were not qualified to be ideal rulers, and only officials had the potential to be ideal rulers. Moreover, Song officials liked to described clerks, especially professional clerks, as greedy, crafty, or corruptible. Song officials perceived clerks as evil, but separated themselves from clerks. Clerks were corruptible while officials were not. Song officials did not directly claim that they themselves were incorruptible or moral. But by contrasting evil clerks with themselves, they obviously meant that they were morally superior to clerks and were not corruptible; they were counter examples of clerks. Song officials' perceptions of clerks helped shape the moral image of themselves, and thus kept their ruling qualifications.