Book of Zhou – The Plan to Overcome Factionalism

Classic of History

The President-Elect of the Republic of Korea, Park Geunhye (朴槿惠, 박근혜), has been using the word “Daetangpyeongchaek” (大蕩平策, 대탕평책) in her speeches following her victory in the most recent election. This word translates to “A Great Plan to Overcome Factionalism.” The word, “Tangpyeongchaek” (蕩平策, 탕평책), is also an allusion to the popular and well remembered King Yeongjo of Chosun  (英祖, 영조, 1694-1776, r. 1724-1776), who had a plan of his own with the same name that was designed to overcome the factionalism during his time. The name of the plan itself is based on a poem in the Great Plan Chapter (洪範, 홍범, Hongbeom) of the Book of Zhou (周書, 주서, Ju Seo) from the Classic of Documents (書經, 서경, Seo Gyeong or 尙書, 상서, Sangseo), which talks about “Imperial Perfection” (皇極, 황극, Hwanggeuk), the proper method with which a King or Emperor should rule. 

無偏無陂 遵王之義 무편무피 준왕지의
無有作好 遵王之道 무유작호 준왕지도
無有作惡 遵王之路 무유작악 준왕지로

Without inclines, without tilts, follow the King’s righteousness;
Without having a liking made, follow the King’s ways;
Without having a disliking made, follow the King’s path.

無偏無黨 王道蕩蕩 무편무당 왕도탕탕
無黨無偏 王道平平 무당무편 왕도평평

If there are no inclinations and no factions, broad and expansive are the King’s ways;
If there are no factions and no inclinations, even and level are the King’s ways.

無反無側 王道正直 무반무측 왕도정직
會其有極 歸其有極 회기유극 귀기유극

Do not turn and do not lean; the King’s way is proper and straight;
If those who have this perfection gather, turn to those who have this perfection.

Notes:

  • James Legge translates the last line as “Ever seek for this perfect excellence. Ever turn to this perfect excellence.” I translated 極(극) as the “perfection.”
  • A Four-Character Hanja Idiom (漢字成語, 한자성어) that is an allusion to this poem is 蕩蕩平平(탕탕평평), which literally translates to “Broad and expansive; even and level.” It refers to not inclining and picking a side in a fight, dispute, or controversy.

Characters:

  • 陂(피) – Embankment or levee (방죽); incline or tilt (기울어지다).
  • 蕩(탕) – Debauchery (방탕)
  • 蕩蕩(탕탕) – To be expansive and vast (탕탕하다).

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