This is a preprint
restricted access The Problem of Sovereign Succession in Confucian Ritual Discourse: Constitutional Thought of Reconciliation between Fact and Value

The thesis of "Confucian constitutionalism" has argued that ritual propriety was equivalent to constitutional law in Confucian political thought. By focusing on the shortcoming of the thesis, which is its lack of a theoretical place for sovereignty, this article examines the nature of perpetual sovereignty, which ensured the continuous succession of political authority in the Chosŏn Dynasty. This article thereby presents the constitutional thought of reconciliation between political fact and constitutional value in sovereign succession. It also highlights the feature of the ritual discourse, which lies in the fact that the tensions between the logic of sovereignty and the constitution of primogeniture were raised after a king's death. This suggests that Confucian royal rituals were the ex-post symbolic mediation between fact and value. In the ritual controversy (yesong), in which the tensions between them escalated, Song Siyŏl attempted to harmonize them but only by separating political succession from ritual representation. This constitutional thought of reconciliation represented the autonomy of politics, yet maintained the demarcation between fact and value. In conclusion, the Confucian ritual discourse of kingship was not the priestly power of Confucian scholar-officers but the practical reasoning of the theoretical conundrum of the throne.