|The Sung Dynasty Neo-Confucian Revival||1|
|Neo-Confucian Development in Korea||5|
|Yi Hwang (T'oegye, 1501-1570)||14|
|The Ten Diagrams on Sage Learning||24|
The Sung Dynasty Neo-Confucian Revival
There were two interrelated facets in the tradition founded by Confucius (551-479 B.C.): government and proper social order were a major concern on the one hand, and on the other it presented a profound vision of the qualities and modes of conduct necessary to be a full and worthy human being. These were intimately linked, for in the Confucian view morality or humanity consisted primarily in the cultivation and conduct of proper social relationships, and the essence of government was morality. Confucius was China's first private educator. His role was to train young men for service in government and his most fundamental conviction was that the essential preparation for such service must be character formation: true learning was moral learning, and society should be ruled (ordered) by a meritocracy based on such learning.
During the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.) this classical Confucian core was effectively synthesized with elements of what had originally been competing schools of thought, most notably the cosmological speculations of the Yin-Yang and Five Agents philosophies.1 Man, society, and government were woven together with the cosmos in a complex system of correspondences that described an all-encompassing underlying order, a fitting reflection of the unity of the great Chinese empire.
But the vision that reflected the success of the Han dynasty became less plausible when Chinese society again slid toward chaos
as the dynasty declined. In the minds of many the malfunction and disorder of the last decades of the Han discredited not only the government, but the ideology that had been sponsored by the government and legitimated it.
China was ready for something new. In the centuries of disorder and division that followed the collapse of the Han, Indian Buddhism competed with a resurgent religious Taoism for predominance. The foreign tradition brought with it a metaphysical and ascetical sophistication hitherto unknown in China, and as the Chinese came to understand and appreciate these doctrines Buddhism became a magnet for the best minds and most profound spirits. Confucianism as a conventional social morality or a form of learning associated with government service was commonly regarded as a complement to the more profound philosophy and spirituality of Buddhism. But its approach to self-cultivation through good habits and self-discipline seemed mundane and banal in comparison with an enlightenment to be achieved through the inner discipline of meditation; its cosmology looked like naive commonsense in comparison with the metaphysics of emptiness, one mind, all-in-one-one-in-all, and the like with which the various Buddhist schools supported their meditative disciplines.
Buddhism reached a creative and flourishing peak during the Tang dynasty (618-907); but the Sung dynasty (979-1279) saw a reaction to the "foreign" religion and a creative revitalization of the stagnant Confucian tradition. In the political world this took the form of a reform movement which attempted to address the pressing socioeconomic problems of the day by a creative reinterpretation of ancient ideal Confucian institutions. But of more lasting importance was the intellectual and spiritual reshaping of the tradition. In a milieu long shaped by Buddhist predominance, men again began to take the Confucian classics seriously. Not surprisingly, they found what they were looking for: a long "lost" ascetical doctrine dealing with the cultivation of the inner life of the mind, and a metaphysics that could frame this with a philosophical account of sagehood, self-cultivation, and, ultimately, the universe.
The morphology of this renewed or "neo" Confucian vision equals the compass and scope of Buddhism. It was effected, however,
not by borrowing, but by a creative reinterpretation of the traditional Confucian core to meet new intellectual and spiritual expectations. It answers the Buddhist transcendence of the mundane by transcendentally grounding the mundane: human interpersonal relationships and concern for society and government are inseparably united with deepened ascetical practice as the path to ultimate personal fulfillment. There are Neo-Confucian retreats, but no Neo-Confucian monasteries.
The four main architects of this new vision during the early years were Chou Tun-i (1017-1073), Chang Tsai (1020-1077), and his nephews, the brothers Ch'eng Hao (1032-1083) and Ch'eng I (1033-1108). Chou's Diagram of the Supreme Ultimate appears in chapter 1 of the Ten Diagrams; it became the cornerstone of Neo-Confucian metaphysics. Chang Tsai elaborated a monistic metaphysics based, like Chou's Diagram, on the Book of Changes. Although his metaphysical system was largely supplanted by that developed by his nephews, his work was of seminal importance for Neo-Confucian psychological theory.2 Confucian ethics was reestablished on a metaphysical foundation by his famous essay, The Western Inscription, which appears in chapter 2. The Ch'eng brothers were responsible for the introduction of the concept li, "principle," which became the pivot point of Neo-Confucian metaphysics, psychology, and ascetical doctrine.
The central figure in this Confucian revival, however, was Chu Hsi (1130-1200). He creatively synthesized the rather disparate contributions of these earlier thinkers into a coherent, powerful vision. His commentaries on the Four Books3 wove a classical foundation for this vision so persuasively that in 1313 his interpretation was made normative for the civil service examinations. The Ch'eng-Chu school, so called because of the centrality of the Ch'engs' contribution to Chu Hsi's system, thus achieved the status of an officially sanctioned orthodoxy.
Though it maintained this central position down to the modern era, the Ch'eng-Chu school was not the only school of Neo-Confucian thought. The most notable alternative was the school of Wang Yangming (1472-1529), often referred to as the "Lu-Wang school" because
Wang's thought bore a marked similarity to the ideas of Chu Hsi's contemporary and rival, Lu Chiu-yüan (Hsiang-shan 1139-1193).
The "Lu-Wang school" equated mind with li or principle and so followed an approach to self-cultivation that was based on the mind's direct intuitive grasp of the proper way, as opposed to the Ch'eng-Chu emphasis on the need for diligent study or "the investigation of things." Chu Hsi's school vehemently rejected this as a form of Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism decked out in Confucian garb, but the Lu-Wang school became a strong movement, overshadowing the orthodox tradition throughout the remainder of the Ming period. That it found no equal acceptance or popularity in Korea constitutes one of the most obvious of the important differences between the subsequent Chinese and Korean traditions.
The Neo-Confucian movement developed metaphysical and ascetical dimensions essential to revitalizing the Confucian tradition. In the course of this, it also reshaped the classical canon as attention focused particularly on works which spoke to these new concerns. The Great Learning was extricated from its obscure position in the voluminous Book of Rites to become the most authoritative description of the process of self-cultivation. Another section of the Book of Rites, the Doctrine of the Mean, likewise attained new prominence as an independent classic; it furnished vital elements of a metaphysically grounded psychological theory and a depiction of sagehood. The Mencius, long well known but ancillary to the classical corpus, now became one of the most important classical authorities; more than any other ancient source, it spoke to Neo-Confucian concerns regarding the mind, human nature, and cultivation of the inner life. The Analects, the classic containing the words of Confucius himself recorded by his direct disciples, remained, as always, fundamental: the Sung Confucians understood themselves as finally recovering the full meaning of the ancient deposit of sage wisdom, and it was necessary that the words of the Master himself inform and sanction their vision. These four texts, collectively referred to as "the Four Books," became the new core of the Confucian canon; intensively studied, analyzed, and debated, they furnished much of the substance and vocabulary of Neo-Confucian discourse.
Neo-Confucian Development in Korea
THE LATE KORYŎ-EARLY YI TRANSITION PERIOD
When the rising tide of Mongol power finally engulfed China and founded the Yiian dynasty (1279-1368), the Koryŏ dynasty (918-1392) on the Korean Peninsula had already been under Mongol domination for two decades. To solidify their control of Korea, the Mongols now began a policy by which Koryŏ crown princes were raised at the Yiian capital and married to Mongol princesses. Diplomatic missions constantly traveled between the capitals, and this period of enforced internationalism provided the context for the introduction of Neo-Confucianism to Korea. Both of the men associated with the introduction of the new learning, An Hyang (1243-1306) and Paek Ijong (?), studied it first while in residence at the Yüan capital. An Hyang is remembered for establishing a government-supported school and scholarship fund for students of the new teaching, while Paek in 1314 first brought essential Neo-Confucian texts to Korea.
Both Buddhism and Confucianism had been introduced to the peninsula in the late fourth century. The first national Confucian Academy was founded in 682, followed a century later by a civil service examination which tested candidates' ability in reading the Chinese classics. But Confucianism was largely limited to the narrow world of government functionaries, and its vital institutions such as the schools and examination system functioned only sporadically, often lapsing for centuries. The development of Buddhism, by contrast, was continuous and widespread. Buddhism became the cornerstone of government and society, while Confucianism coexisted as a useful discipline in literary skills and mores for public officials.
By the middle of the fourteenth century, there was still only a very limited group of Neo-Confucian scholars in Korea. The government school system was in a state of decay, and the private schools of the aristocracy mainly provided the scions of noble families with the kind of literary education which was still the focus of the civil service examinations. The ongoing close connection with Yüan China
introduced the conditions for change, however. It was not uncommon for young Korean scholars to complete their education with a perk of residence in China where Neo-Confucianism was already the officially sanctioned learning. They competed successfully in the Yüan civil service exams, and some served an apprenticeship in government posts in China before returning to Korea.
By the latter half of the fourteenth century, this process h; generated enough momentum to establish indigenous roots in Korea In 1367 the Confucian Academy was reestablished with a leading scholar-official, Yi Saek4 (1328-1396) as headmaster. Under his leadership the curriculum was revised, and literature was supplanted 1 the Four Books and Five Classics as the core. Young scholars such Chŏng Mongju5 (1337-1392), Yi Sungin (1349-1392), Kim Kuyong (1338-1384), and Pak Sangch'ung (1332-1375), most of whom h. studied Neo-Confucianism in China, lectured a growing student body attracted to the new learning. Yi Saek not only lectured, but also led enthusiastic extracurricular discussions investigating the meaning the new texts.
Koryŏ government and society were at this point in need drastic reform. The central government was in a state of severe economic crisis, its fiscal base eroded by the extensive land-holdings the aristocratic families who dominated the higher levels of officialdom and thwarted any attempt at land reform. Buddhism, long the object of government favor, was now also inextricably bound up in the problem. Numerous Buddhist temples were supported by large endowments of land and slaves which further eroded the government's tax bay The large body of monks sapped the manpower needed for labor and military, and scarce state resources continued to flow into extravagent temple building projects and lavish Buddhist rituals.
Land reform, then, would have to await the advent of some new power on the scene. The Buddhist establishment, however, was more vulnerable to criticism. The new learning offered an alternative base from which critical voices began to be heard. Early Korean NeoConfucians such as Yi Saek criticized Buddhist corruption and strongly opposed expensive building projects and rituals; they stopped short of an outright rejection of Buddhism as such, however, for the tradition
of Buddhist and Confucian complementarity was deeply rooted. But younger Neo-Confucians became more vehement, and the tone of the attack changed: it was no longer just that expenditure on things Buddhist was excessive or that monasteries harbored many unworthy monks, but rather that Buddhist teachings were false and the Buddhist way of life fundamentally wrong. Where earlier critics had called for a strict limitation and restriction of the Buddhist establishment, later extremists endorsed measures that would amount to wholesale repression.
The Koryŏ dynasty had been founded under expressly Buddhist auspices; the symbolic connection was so close that an all-out attack on Buddhism implied a radical alternative: founding a new dynasty on Neo-Confucian principles. Not all Neo-Confucians of the time wished to draw such a conclusion, however. Outstanding Neo-Confucians of aristocratic families, such as Yi Saek, Chŏng Mongju, and Kwŏn Kŭm6 (1352-1409), served in high office and remained loyal to the dynasty even as they desperately sought reform. But a younger and less established group of graduates of the Confucian Academy now filled the lower ranks of officialdom; these men, whose stipends could not be paid by the bankrupt government, were not so hesitant. In 1388 when Yi Sŏnggye, a general who had attained eminence in repulsing the Red Turbans, effected a coup d'etat, this group formed his principle political base. The long needed land reform was set in place, and in 1392 he finally ascended the throne as the founder of the Yi dynasty.
The strategist and architect of Yi's takeover was Chŏng Tojŏn7 (? - 1398). Chŏng, a brilliant political and military tactician as well as an outstanding Neo-Confucian scholar, was the leader of the extremist group of young Neo-Confucians. As teacher and headmaster of the Confucian Academy, his fulminations against Buddhism and expositions of the True Way left a deep impression on many of the young students, contributing much to the radicalization of opinion that made dynastic change a palatable alternative.
The coup Chŏng engineered was history's only Neo-Confucian revolution. It mattered not that the man who became ruler, Yi Sŏnggye, was a devout Buddhist; time would solve the problem of Buddhism
within the royal family. What counted was that the institutions at the foundation of government and society be shaped in terms of Confucian norms and values.
Chŏng and his group, now at the helm of power, set about the immense task of Confucianizing a non-Confucian society. This could not be accomplished in a few years, or even a few decades; it was the main occupation of Confucian minds and talents for much of the next century. During this period the focus of attention was much more on the public than the personal face of Confucianism, on institutions, ritual, and paradigmatic values rather than metaphysics and inner self-cultivation.8 Classical authorities on government and ritual such as the Chou li and Book of Rites were ransacked for guidance and precedents. Both Chu Hsi's Chia li (Family Rituals) and Hsiao hsüeh (Elementary Learning) were recognized as fundamental reference points, the former as a guide to adapting ancient ritual to changed circumstances, the latter as a presentation of essential moral values and conduct. Oral exams in these two works became mandatory preliminaries for the civil service examinations.
Because of this preoccupation with social concerns the record of fifteenth-century Korean Neo-Confucianism offers little regarding more technical philosophical or ascetical thought. The Ming court sent to Korea its officially sanctioned compendia of Neo-Confucian thought, the Hsing-li ta-ch'üan (Great Compendium of Neo-Confucianism) and the Ssu-shu wu-thing ta-ch'üan (Great Compendium on the Four Books and Five Classics), and other works containing Yüan and late Sung interpretations of Ch'eng-Chu thought also gradually found their way to the peninsula. But political relations with the new Ming dynasty were not smooth, and the Chinese consistently denied Korean scholars permission to study in China. The pattern of direct contact that characterized the early years of Korean Neo-Confucianism was now reversed, and Koreans were left on their own to analyze and assimilate this vast and complex material. The groping character evident in the intellectual discussion that emerged in the early sixteenth century reflects men finding their own way with no preestablished "orthodox" interpretation.
As a result the Yi dynasty established a pattern of relative
independence from the Ming intellectual world. Later Korean thinkers might appeal to Yüan and Sung authorities, but they tended rather to sit in critical judgment on Ming developments. Once in mature intellectual command of the Ch'eng-Chu heritage they looked askance at the deviant current of Wang Yang-ming thought sweeping China and saw themselves as defenders of true orthodoxy.
RISE OF THE SARIM MENTALITY AND THE LITERATI PURGES
The term sarim (shih-lin) came into prominence after the first two bloody political clashes (1498, 1504) known, along with twc later ones (1519, 1545 ) as the sahwa or "literati purges."9 Sarim literally "forest of literati," in early sixteenth-century Korea became a term to designate the righteous oppressed, those who were purges and their spiritual forebears and heirs. The oppressors were for the most part the entrenched political establishment, particularly the most senior officials, the High State Councillors who were the king's immediate advisors. Termed the kwanhakp'a or "bureaucratic learning faction" by modern historians, most of these men came from families that attained wealth and power as the result of "merit subject" status awarded for service to the throne at the beginning of a dynasty, at subsequent enthronements, or at times of crisis. Common human tensions were involved in the sarim-kavanhak clash: younger vs. elder, newcomers vs. established, idealists vs. pragmatists. One could also add a particular Confucian tension: the power of remonstrance VS. the executive authority of the throne and high policy makers.
The purges that ensued had the short term-effect of debilitating the Neo-Confucian scholarly community, but in their heat the "sarim mentality" crystallized. The sarim mentality, a rigorous and idealistic moralism that focused on the absolute centrality of moral self-cultivation and exclusive commitment to the true Way, was the self-conscious ambience which prevailed among the men who brought the Ch'eng-Chu school to full maturity in Korea. There was nothing particularly idiosyncratic about these qualities as such; they were
deeply embedded in the Ch'eng-Chu heritage, and it was precisely this aspect that earned for the school the appellation, tao hsüeh (Kor. tohak), "the school of the Way." But the bloody history that attended the emergence of Korean tohak highlighted these qualities in a way that left a distinctive imprint upon subsequent Korean Neo-Confucianism, particularly the thought of T'oegye.
Throughout most of the first century, as we have mentioned, Neo-Confucian energies in Korea were devoted mainly to the transformation of government and social institutions. Understandably, men involved in the world of officialdom had little time or attention to give to the ascetical, meditative, and self-cultivation-oriented aspects of the Ch'eng-Chu tradition. But although this dimension was not much in evidence in the public Neo-Confucian world of the capital, it was being cultivated by a parallel "dropout" tradition evolving in the countryside.
The symbolic ancestor of this movement was Chŏng Mongju, a Koryŏ loyalist who was assassinated in 1392 because of his staunch opposition to the dynastic change. It was continued by Kil Chae (1353-1419); having served Koryŏ, he refused service under the new dynasty and remained in retirement, studying and teaching a large group of disciples. Students moved from the quiet scholarly retreats of the countryside to the busy turmoil of public life, and periodic political crises such as the Sejo Usurpation (1455) renewed the ranks of idealistic dropouts. There was no self-conscious movement involved, but this process was gradually forming the moral idealism inherent in Neo-Confucianism into a political force.
The means by which this current found voice and emerged as a distinctive political force were the three government offices that shared the power of remonstrance: the Office of the Inspector General, the Office of the Censor General, and the Office of Special Counselors.10 The lower ranks of these offices were commonly filled with young men at an early stage of their careers. They functioned as overseers of all aspects of royal, official, and popular conduct and had a limited veto power over official appointments below the fourth rank.
Remonstrance, intended for the corrective guidance and re-
straint of both rulers and officialdom, thus had an exceptionally strong institutional foundation in three offices which could act in concert. In the aristocratic society of Korea the tradition of kingship was not despotic, but rather that of first among equals, and this also added to the possibility of remonstrative powers gaining a disproportionate role in government.
King Sŏngjong (r.1469-1494) was strongly committed to the doctrine of remonstrance and unusually tolerant of its practice. In this permissive atmosphere the power of the remonstrating organs waxed, and use became abuse. Speaking with the voice of unimpeachable moral authority, they became increasingly dogmatic and inflexible when opposed to appointments or policies and increasingly vehement in their criticism of senior officials. They were unwilling to take no for an answer, continuing remonstrance on an issue for months on end and vilifying their opponents as amoral and vicious men. Power tactics such as mass resignations and even strikes by the politicized student body of the Confucian Academy became increasingly common. Replacing one roster of officials with another did little, for their replacements felt honor-bound to maintain the same line.
Unfortunately, Sŏngjong's successor, Yŏnsan'gun (1495-1506) was not only less tolerant, but also of delicate mental balance. After three years of running battles with the censoring organs, in 1498 he learned that a scholar preparing the draft of the official dynastic history had written in a vein critical of his grandfather's usurpation of the throne. He lashed out, executing or exiling over thirty men connected with the school of Kim Chongjik (1431-1492), whose disciple had written the offensive draft. The purge of 1495 was a symbolic warning shot: there was to be no questioning or challenging of established authority.
The message, if understood, went unheeded. Remonstrance continued as Yŏnsan'gun slipped further and further into extravagance, sensuality, and paranoia. In 1504 the dam finally burst: the official world was plunged into a bloodbath. For over a year a series of investigations visited death or beatings and exile upon anyone high or low who had been connected with "improper" remonstrance or comment; gossip was a crime worthy of death. Government personnel
were forbidden to visit with one another; finally the paranoid king forbid officials to visit anyone at all but their parents.
Such madness could not continue indefinitely; finally, toward the end of 1506, high officials organized the almost bloodless coup that put King Chungjong (1507-1544) on the throne. For this deed they became Chungjong's merit subjects, and so stood to continue in powerful positions; at the same time they were vulnerable, tainted by having served in high office under Yŏnsan'gun. Further, because of the insane excess of his predecessor's attempt to repress all criticism, Chungjong had to legitimize himself by strongly supporting Confucian moralism and remonstrance. In effect, a new clash was all but inevitable.
The atmosphere of a Neo-Confucian revival or restoration that prevailed in the first decade of Chungjong's reign fueled the fires of moralistic idealism; the sarim now became a fully self-conscious movement. At its head was the charismatic and brilliant young Cho Kwangjo (1482-1519). He entered office first in 1515; his learning and force of character completely won Chungjong's confidence and in four years he advanced from senior sixth rank to junior second, an unprecedented rise that brought him to the pinnacle of political influence and power. He used this influence to advance like-minded idealistic young officials, and together they set about a thorough program of renovation and reform.
Momentum was now completely with the sarim. Cho and his group firmly believed that Korea was on the verge of attaining once more the legendary perfection of the age of China's sage rulers, Yao and Shun. The Village Contract11 system was set up to regulate and moralize the populace, and austere regulations restrained officialdom: no more wearing of silk robes, no more female entertainers. Earnest young Neo-Confucians prolonged the Royal Lectures into the wee small hours with endless moral preachments to the king. For a brief period the morally serious, self-cultivation-oriented form of Neo-Confucianism became a popular movement. The official historian captures the mood of the time in a passage in the Sillok (Veritable Records): 12
At this time many men of learning attached themselves to the Cho Kwangjo group. They esteemed Chu Hsi-ism and did not hold in high regard the
literary arts. Beginning students too, fell under Cho's spell; they did not study texts but all day long sat rigidly as if in Zen-like meditation. Their teachers all deplored this, but yet did not have the courage to rectify this harmful practice.13
The perfection was not to be. The somewhat jaundiced tone of the passage reflects the suspicion under which this kind of NeoConfucianism fell in the period following the 1519 purge of Cho and his group.
Cho Kwangjo, and even more, his enthusiastic and uncompromising young followers, pushed too far too fast, alienating conservative opinion and making enemies of powerful figures who feared their criticism. Chungjong became surfeited with moralizing, and Cho's enemies skillfully planted in his mind fears that a movement was afoot to put Cho on the throne. Worse, Cho's group again began using the unyielding power tactics of remonstrance that threatened to hamstring royal authority. Their final mistake was: to force a bitterly opposed Chungjong to delete almost three-quarters of the names on the merit roster of those responsible for his enthronement.
A few days later the purge began: denounced for cliquism, Cho and his closest associates were condemned to death. A wave of protest from all levels of officialdom resulted in temporary mitigation to beating and banishment, but the plotters of Cho's downfall now had the king's full support. The censoring organs were soon filled with opponents of the Cho group, and as the atmosphere became more hostile Chungjong repented his leniency and had Cho commit suicide. In the course of the next two years virtually all those associated with Cho's group were purged from the government and their reforms and innovations were rescinded. The kind of Neo-Confucian learning they represented was under a cloud, and a more pragmatic and conventional group of senior officials resumed control.
Cho Kwangjo failed politically, bur his martyrdom made him a permanent symbol of sarim values and commitment to the true Way. With his downfall the sarim movement was for a time eclipsed, only to emerge half a century later finally victorious. Then, however, it was not the sarim as a political movement, but rather the sarim mentality itself that won general acceptance as the indisputable orthodox
core of genuine Confucianism. This became clear as a mature grasp of the Ch'eng-Chu vision in its interlinked intellectual and ascetical dimensions emerged in the Korean world. The central figure in this development was the author of the Ten Diagrams, Yi Hwang (T'oegye).
Yi Hwang (T'oegye, 1501-1570)
T'oegye had no direct connection with Cho Kwangjo or members of his group, but he is nonetheless considered Cho's spiritual heir. His immense learning reconstructed for the first time the complete edifice of Ch'eng-Chu thought on the peninsula, and at the center of that edifice stands the profound moral concern and emphasis on self-cultivation that was the sarim hallmark. In T'oegye's legacy this orientation is so thoroughly worked out in relation to all the elements of Chu Hsi's teaching that its rightful place was henceforth beyond question.
The events we have described in the foregoing pages set the milieu of T'oegye's life. The period of his early childhood coincided with the debacle of the Yŏnsan'gun's final purge. He was in his teens when the resurgent sarim movement became the center of attention and hopes, and just beginning serious involvement in Neo-Confucian teaming when Cho Kwangjo was purged. Most of his active career as an official was under King Chungjong, who reigned until 1544. These circumstances, as we shall see, strongly affected the development of T'oegye's life and thought. 14
Yi Hwang was born of a relatively modest yangban lineage in the village of Ongyeri,15 located near Andong in modern Kyŏngsan Pukdo, about 200 kilometers southwest of Seoul. His courtesy name was first Kyeho, but later changed to Kyŏngho. He is
universally known, however, by the honorific name he took from the site of his scholarly retreat in later years, T'oegye.
When T'oegye was only seven months old his father died, leaving his wife to raise seven sons and a daughter. The household eked out a meager existence by agriculture and sericulture, but the widow somehow put enough aside to see to the education of her sons. Character deficiencies were commonly supposed in children raised without a father, and she constantly exhorted hers that they must be outstanding in deportment and conduct if they were to escape this stigma.
When he was 11 years old, T'oegye went with his elder brother, Hae (1496-1550), to begin their classical education by studying the Analects with their father's brother, Yi U (1469-1517). Their uncle, who had passed the civil service examinations in 1498, was a stern teacher, but he had high praise for the talents of his young nephews. Yi U had a reputation for poetry, and T'oegye quickly developed a deep and lifelong fondness for it; he was particularly attracted to the poetry of T'ao Yiian-ming (365-427), the Chinese poet whose themes of rural retirement and closeness to nature deeply resonated with his own inclinations.
Introspective and quiet by nature, T'oegye loved reading and study. Even in these early years he frequently would sit quietly facing the wall, absorbed in his reading while those about him were socializing. At nineteen he tackled the Book of Changes and became so engrossed that "he almost forgot to eat and sleep." In this case the conventional phrase was all too accurate: he overdid it to such an extent that he ruined his health and had to drastically curtail his studies for several years. He never fully recovered, and through the remaining years of his long life ill-health was to be a constant burden; later he continually cautioned his own serious young students against repeating his mistake.
T'oegye married at twenty, and remarried at twenty-nine, having lost his first wife shortly after she gave birth to their second son. In 1523 he directly experienced the debilitating effects of the 1519 purge when he entered the Confucian Academy, Sŏnggyun'gwan. His fellow students were unruly and little interested in serious study;
T'oegye, who presented a marked contrast in both respects, was made an object of mockery. Before long he returned home.
In 1527 and 1528 he passed the two lower level civil service examinations. This was enough to maintain the family's tradition of learning; he had no intention of going on to take the final examinations which led to an official career. His brother Hae, however, had passed the final exams in 1528 and embarked upon an official career, and he now prevailed upon his mother to persuade his younger brother to do the same. T'oegye could not refuse: in 1534 he placed second in the exams and entered government service.
For most of the next 15 years T'oegye served in office, rising gradually to a position of Junior Third Rank. In general he was appointed to the ministries concerned with drafting royal documents, compiling dynastic history, or composing documents addressed to the Ming court, that is, the kinds of position that utilized his scholarly and literary talents. As he describes his life during this period, "I was immersed in the dusty world without a day's leisure, and there is nothing else worth mentioning."16
During this period T'oegye established a reputation as a conscientious official and a man of integrity, but in general did not attract much attention. He began his career somewhat under a cloud by refusing an invitation to visit the corrupt but powerful Kim Allo (1481-1537). In 1542 he was responsible for the impeachment of a high official whose corruption he discovered on a provincial tour as a royal inspector. In 1545 he stood almost alone in memorializing in favor of accepting proffered peace overtures from the Japanese, rightly assessing the potential for disaster from those quarters.17 Such instances reflect his consistent courage and integrity, but they were exceptional moments in a routine life of bureaucratic chores that was not particularly noteworthy.
In any case, it was not a period in which an idealist could hope to accomplish much. The decades that followed the downfall of Cho Kwangjo were characterized by a dreary succession of power brokers, each dominating the scene for a few years before being supplanted by another in the constant maneuvering for power. The fervent selfcultivation orientation symbolized by Cho was viewed with suspicion, and men like T'oegye were well advised to keep a low profile. Within
a few decades he was to become famous as the foremost scholar of Ch'eng-Chu thought and and outstanding representative of the School of the Way (tohak, tao-hsüeh), but during this period, as a disciple remarked, "even his friends did not yet realize he was a Confucian of the School of the Way,"18 and another comments that most thought of him primarily as a poet. 19
In fact, the scholarship that was to bring him fame was a late accomplishment, beginning in earnest with his years of retirement after 1549. His love of learning was constant, but the circumstances of his life and time had deprived him of the opportunity for teachers or intercourse with learned friends. Then in 1543 the Chu Tzu ta-ch'ŭan (Chi Hsi's Complete Works) was finally printed in Korea. T'oegye had not previously known such a work existed, and now burned with a desire to immerse himself in its study. His resolve to resign from public life dated from this time.
In 1539 the oppressive political atmosphere began to change and sarim figures again found their way into government. But the clouds soon began to gather as rival factions gathered around the uncles of Chungjong's two potential heirs. Chungjong died in 1544, and was succeeded by Injong, but Injong died after only 8 months and was succeeded by Myŏngjong (r.1546-1566). This reversal brought on the final literati purges of 1545 and 1546, for the majority of the literati had been arrayed against the faction of Myŏngjong's uncle, Yun Wŏnhyŏng (? - 1565). Myŏngjong was just a boy when he ascended the throne, and Yun and his faction dominated the political scene for the next twenty years.
T'oegye's name was on the list of those to be dismissed from office in the 1545 purge, but was removed when someone in Yun's faction defended him: to dismiss a conscientious official who kept as far from factional politicking as T'oegye would have undercut the plausibility of charges being brought against others. The aftermath of the purge touched him painfully, however, when in 1550 his brother Hae was sentenced to beating and exile, but died from the severity of the beating. T'oegye had already taken steps to extricate himself from public life.
In 1548 and 1549 he had obtained posts as magistrate of Tanyang and P'unggi counties, from whence he planned to move into full
retirement. In 1549, after three resignation requests sent to the province governor went unanswered, T'oegye finally packed up his bags and left his post without permission. The result was a reprimand and a two grade reduction in rank, but that meant little. T'oegye had never really desired an official career, and now his longing for an opportunity to immerse himself in study, coupled with a strong distaste for the political climate, overrode all other considerations. His period of scholarly retirement had begun.
Students quickly gathered about him at the retreat he had prepared at T'ogye (renamed T'oegye), a stream not far from his birthplace. He outgrew this, however, and built another with more ample quarters for students on Tosan, a neighboring mountain, where he moved in 1561.
He was not allowed to simply retire and immerse himself in his studies and teaching, however. Throughout the twenty-one years of his retirement period he was hounded by a series of appointments that rose in rank as his reputation grew. During these years he wrote some fifty-three documents either resigning from or refusing official appointments. From 1552-1555 he was again in office, and again served for five months in 1558. Myŏngjong's uncle finally fell from power in 1565 and T'oegye's friends and disciples soon began to fill the government and exert pressure for his return. He returned in 1567, but the king died just three days after T'oegye arrived at Seoul. Hearing reports that his friends were urging the young successor, Sŏnjo (r.15671607) to appoint him Prime Minister,20 he fled the capital without notice or leave, even before the final rites for Myŏngjong had been completed, a serious breach of propriety that caused much comment. Pressure continued, however, and he returned to accept a position in the Royal Lectures. His stay of eight months produced two famous documents, the Six Section Memorial advising the young ruler on fundamental matters of conduct and policy, and the Ten Diagrams, a summation of Neo-Confucian learning proffered to the king on the eve of T'oegye's return to retirement. These, famous as his last political and intellectual testaments respectively, were subsequently often published bound together as the epitome of his learning.
He returned to Tosan in very ill health, but continued his
study and teaching during the year left to him. He died in the last month of 1570, sitting up in bed, peaceful and alert to the very end.
The literati purges of T'oegye's childhood and youth effectively destroyed the spiritual and intellectual milieu which would have furnished the indigenous roots of his learning. He himself states that in his formative years he had no teachers or intellectual friends.21 The sarim movement may have deeply affected his general orientation, but its representatives were purged and their writings destroyed. The intense fervor with which he immersed himself in Chu Hsi's Complete Works when it became available to him in middle age was fueled by the frustration of years he felt to be sterile. In the thousands of pages of Chu Hsi's correspondence he finally found the kind of guidance and dialogue that addressed his own questions and doubts. Having no teacher, Chu Hsi became his master, and the absolute respect and reverence he held for Chu Hsi was but a reflection of what he experienced as a direct and personal master-disciple relationship.
T'oegye did not grow up with access to broad collections of Neo-Confucian works, but a few that he did manage to obtain left a deep impression on him. Undoubtedly the most important of these was the Hsin-ching (Simgyŏng) or Classic of the Mind-and-Heart by Chen Te-hsiu (1178-1235),22 a leading scholar of the late Sung period. This work, a collection of passages dealing with self-cultivation compiled from classical and major Sung Neo-Confucian sources, circulated in Korea in a greatly expanded version, the Hsin-ching fu-chu (Classic of the Mind-and-Heart Supplemented and Annotated), by the Ming scholar, Ch'eng Min-cheng (1445-1499). T'oegye obtained a copy sometime in his early twenties, and it became his constant and daily reading matter to the end of his life. Although it was later lost in China, T'oegye's love for this work helped it attain a permanent and important place in the Korean Neo-Confucian world, where it went through some twenty-five printings from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. 23
The Classic of the Mind-and-Heart is a crystallization of Ch'eng-Chu thought dealing with personal self-cultivation, an aspect often called hsin-hsüeh (simhak), "the learning of the mind-and-heart," or hsin-fa (simbŏp), "the system of the mind-and-heart." It deals almost exclusively with the inward cultivation of the spiritual life, and emphasizes above all ching (kyŏng), "mindfulness,"24 as the central practice of all self-cultivation. The last five chapters of the Ten Diagrams are devoted to various aspects of the learning of the mind-and-heart and T'oegye deliberately makes mindfulness the central theme of the whole work, a clear reflection of .the lasting impression of Chen's Classic on his thought. In his later reading of Chu Hsi's works, he likewise continued to make these themes the special object of his attention, leading him to value Chu's letters as the central portion of his opus.
The centrality of these matters is well-substantiated in Chu Hsi's own writings. But the Classic devotes little attention to study, "the investigation of principle," the external inquiry that must balance and complement internal asceticism in Chu Hsi's approach to self-cultivation. Ch'eng Min-cheng's preface explains this one-sided emphasis as Chen Te-hsiu's deliberate attempt to correct the scholastic intellectualism that had arisen among Chu Hsi's followers. T'oegye accepted this view wholeheartedly and constantly warned against separating study from its mooring in self-cultivation and making intellectual concerns an end in themselves.
But Ch'eng went further, suggesting in an annotation that late in life Chu Hsi repented his earlier emphasis on the role of study in the self-cultivation process.25 Toward the end of T'oegye's life certain flaws in Ch'eng's character became known and this passage was recognized as an effort to steer Chu Hsi's school toward a rapprochement with the Lu-Wang approach. This deeply distressed T'oegye, but he was unwilling to reject the Classic. Instead, he wrote an epilogue to explain the error and redress the balance. This epilogue was published in all subsequent Korean editions, making this popular work, in effect, a part of the bulwark protecting Ch'eng-Chu orthodoxy from the penetration of the Lu-Wang school into the peninsula.
Another important influence in T'oegye's early years was the Hsing-li ta-ch'üan (Great Compendium of Neo-Confucianism),26 an
encyclopedic compendium of the discussions of Sung and Yüan NeoConfucians topically arranged to cover the most fundamental works, concepts, and issues in the Ch'eng-Chu tradition. Containing extensive quotations from over one hundred authors, it was a predigested reference library that was of major importance in fixing the orthodox parameters and reference points of Neo-Confucian thought in both China and Korea.
T'oegye later became thoroughly familiar with this work; references to it are scattered throughout his correspondence with his students and most of the quotes of authorities other than Chu Hsi and the Ch'eng brothers in the Ten Diagrams can be traced to its pages. But in his early years he possessed only the first and last of its seventy fascicles, which he obtained when he was nineteen years old. The first, containing the Diagram of the Supreme Ultimate, together with Chu Hsi's commentary and extensive additional comments, was of special importance, for it provided him with a fundamental grounding in Neo-Confucian metaphysics. He later told his students that it was this that first really opened his eyes and provided him his point of entry to the Way.27 Although some looked askance at introducing young students to such "lofty" matters, he regarded it as so fundamental that it figured prominently in his lectures to his students, and he made it the subject of the first chapter of the Ten Diagrams.
Those familiar with the system of Ch'eng-Chu thought will find this quite unexceptional, even basic. But there is little indication that Neo-Confucian intellectuality was securely integrated with the ascetical, self-cultivation aspects of the tradition that had occupied the sarim; one of T'oegye's most important contributions was to make this systematic integration of the Ch'eng-Chu vision henceforth a commonplace.
The third work that was of decisive importance to T'oegye's formation has already been mentioned: the Chu Tzu ta-ch'üan, (The Complete Works of Chu Hsi), which he discovered only in his forty-third year. The study of this work became his consuming interest, and at every opportunity he shut himself away to pour over it. About one, third of its 120 fascicles are made up of Chu Hsi's voluminous correspondence; this portion he read and reread so often that his disciples several times had to replace his worn-out copies with new ones. He
absorbed the ideas, attitudes, and phraseology of the letters until they became virtually second nature to him, constantly echoed in his own discourse. In the words of a disciple, "he employed them [as naturally as] the grasping of the hand, the stepping of the foot, the hearing of the ear, or the seeing of the eye. "28
The letters are an invaluable source for understanding the history and development of Chu Hsi's ideas, but for T'oegye this was not their main import. Self-cultivation, not theory, was ever the center of his concern, and he prized the letters because they offered a personal encounter with a master spiritual director whose response and advice was unfailingly appropriate to the many circumstances, personalities, and spiritual/intellectual levels of those he addressed.29 In the letters he sought out not so much the theoretical system as the mind and spirit of Chu Hsi, and it is this that enabled him to recreate Chu Hsi's vision with rare accuracy and balance.
From 1549 until his death in 1570 T'oegye's life in the main was devoted to study, writing, and teaching the ever-growing number of disciples who sought him out. In spite of continual problems with his health, his output during these years was prodigious.
T'oegye's intense involvement with Chu Hsi's letters is reflected in his first major work, a recension of the letters, the Chu sŏ chŏryŏ (The Essentials of Chu Hsi's Correspondence). It is a selection of about one-third of the original corpus of Chu Hsi's letters emphasizing particularly his discussions of matters related to self-cultivation.
T'oegye's second work relates to his early interest in the Book of Changes. He had great respect for Chu Hsi's analysis of this work, found in his Chou-i pen-i (Fundamental Meaning of the Book of Changes), and his I-hsüeh ch'i-meng (Instruction for Beginners on the Study of the Changes). The complex and obscure emblematic and numerological interpretation found in the latter work, however, left him with many questions. Over the years he pondered these and searched the ancient sources of this tradition of interpretation to discover the origins of Chu Hsi's comments or shed further light on obscure points. In 1557 he arranged the hundreds of pages of notes he had accumulated on this, producing the Kyemong chŏnŭi (Problems Relating to the Ch'i-meng).
In 1559 he began the massive task of compiling a record of
everyone involved in the transmission of Chu Hsi's learning. The result was the Songgye Wŏn Myŏng ihak t'ongnok (Comprehensive Record of Southern Sung, Yüan, and Ming Neo-Confucianism). In ten fascicles he passes in review some 517 persons, recording the available data on their biographies and the character of their learning. It is an invaluable historical source, but T'oegye's motivation, as indicated in his introductory remarks,30 was not merely to preserve the historical record, but rather to make the essence of the true Way apparent through the record of the twists and turns, depths and shallows of its actual historical transmission down from Chu Hsi. The sense of responsibility for preserving the true Way was heightened by the spectacle of the rising tide of Lu-Wang popularity in China, and T'oegye directly addressed the problem in several influential essays attacking Wang Yang-ming and his forerunner, Ch'en Hsien-chang (Po-sha, 1428-1500).31 T'oegye's concern with defending and transmitting the imperiled Way was inherited by his students and contributed greatly to making Korea a self-conscious bastion of Ch'eng-Chu orthodoxy.
In 1559 T'oegye also became involved in what was to become the most celebrated and important controversy in Korean Neo-Confucian history: the "Four-Seven Debate," which he carried on in correspondence with Ki Taesŭng (1527-1572).32 In this debate he broke new ground in the metaphysically based psychological theory of the Ch'eng-Chu school and launched a theory that was to divide the Korean intellectual world and set the intellectual agenda for generations to come. It is fully discussed in chapter 6. The correspondence relating to the debate is unmatched in its quality of argumentation, clarity of focus, and level of mutual understanding.
Finally, mention must also be made of T'oegye's extensive correspondence, which fills thirty-six fascicles of his Complete Works (T'oegye Chŏnsŏ). As is the case with Chu Hsi, whom he was undoubtedly emulating, in the letters one gets a full view of T'oegye as a teacher, guide, and friend; they are the best resource for assessing not only the intellectual, but the personal and human quality of his learning. He himself collected those he considered especially important-less than one hundred in all-into a separate compilation, the Chasŏngnok (Record for Self-Reflection).33
By the end of his life T'oegye was already referred to. as the
"synthesizer and complete integrator" (chipdaesŏngja) of the Ch'eng-Chu school in Korea, and this assessment has stood the test of time. Korea's mature and integral appropriation of the Ch'eng-Chu vision in both its intellectual and spiritual dimensions began with T'oegye. This maturity would undoubtedly have come in any case, but perhaps with a balance other than the one he gave it by emphasizing the learning of the mind-and-heart while not neglecting "the investigation of principle." And most decisively, his Four-Seven Debate shaped the future of Yi dynasty intellectual endeavor, focusing its attention on fundamental questions of the relationship of principle (li) and material force (ki, ch'i) in their vital application to understanding the constitution of human beings. His influence also extended to Japan, where the self-cultivation orientation of his learning of the mind-and-heart became fundamental in the important school of Yamazaki Ansai (1618-1682).
The Ten Diagrams on Sage Learning
The Ten Diagrams is T'oegye's last great work, and of all his writings it has perhaps been the best known and most popular. It went through some twenty-nine printings during the Yi dynasty, and now circulates in at least three modern Korean translations. Generally regarded as expressing the essence of T'oegye's learning, it is at once profound and fundamental. Generations of students have appreciated the clarity with which this brief work presents the essential framework and basic linkages of Neo-Confucian metaphysics, psychological theory, and ascetical practice. Mature scholars returned to it continually for the subtlety, balance, and soundness of this integral presentation of the vision by which they lived.
This is indeed a summation of what T'oegye thought it essential to understand. He composed it in 1568 to leave behind with the young King Sŏnjo as he retired. Worn out and ill, he could not continue to instruct the king, and the Ten Diagrams was his substitute for the teaching he could no longer offer in person. Its composition was by
no means an erudite research project, though it expresses the learning of a lifetime. The old teacher carefully arranged and ordered materials he had long used in his teaching and personal life, weaving them together to encompass the scope of a learning by then self-evident to him.
"Sage Learning" is a term frequently used in a genre of NeoConfucian literature designed for the instruction of rulers. Its usage reflects the particular duty of the ruler to learn from and model himself after the ideal sage rulers of the past. The circumstances of its origin clearly place the Ten Diagrams within this provenance. This fact is somewhat misleading, however, for as T'oegye himself says, when it comes to questions of learning and self-cultivation, there is no essential difference between the ruler and everyman.34 The king needs particular kinds of knowledge to govern, but Confucians traditionally considered the essential learning for all government to be the cultivation of oneself as a full and proper human being, and it is to this that the Ten Diagrams is addressed.
While it belongs to the learning of rulers, "sage learning" also had a particular place in the new kind of learning developed by NeoConfucians. In a famous passage in his T'ung-shu (a chapter itself entitled "Sage Learning")35 Chou Tun-i put the question, "Can one learn to become a sage?" He answered with a resounding "Yes!" and set out to explain how. This reflects a new and important development. Traditionally Confucians had affirmed that any man could become a sage, but had let it remain a theoretical ideal. Now they elaborated a metaphysical, psychological, and ascetical framework that showed the path to sagehood, making this lofty ideal as realistic and immediate as was enlightenment for the Buddhist. The term "sage learning" in T'oegye's title signifies his intent to present that framework and path.
The Ten Diagrams is an extremely compressed work, more a distillation of the essential elements of the Ch'eng-Chu vision than an exposition of them. The commentary that accompanies this translation draws heavily on T'oegye's more expository writings to fill in the background modern readers will need. The format of the Ten Diagrams is ten sections or chapters. Each begins with a diagram and related text drawn from Chu Hsi or other leading authorities, and concludes with a few brief remarks by T'oegye. The brevity is in part
due to his intention that it be made into a ten-paneled standing screen as well as a short book.
The brief format and the idea of presenting it on a screen are closely related to the purpose of the Ten Diagrams. It is intended for repeated reading and reflection. In moments of leisure the eye could play over the screen and the mind be gently but constantly engaged with its contents, so that one might finally totally assimilate this material and make it a part of himself.
T'oegye sees the structure of the Ten Diagrams in several ways. Basically it is split down the middle: the first five chapters present the essential framework, "based on the Tao of Heaven," as he says. They include a description of the universe (metaphysics), society (ethics), and their import for human life (learning). The remaining five chapters deal directly with self-cultivation, the "learning of the mind-and-heart." They begin with an analysis and characterization of man's inner life (psychology) and conclude with concrete practice (ascetical theory).36 Or from a slightly different perspective, the chapters on learning are the core of the whole work; the first two chapters present the great foundation which must be properly understood and the later chapters detail the fruition of learning in the actual process of selfcultivation.37 This perspective brings out the underlying unity of the two halves of the Ten Diagrams, in which intellectual considerations and moral practice are the interdependent and dialectically related facets of the single process of self, transformation called learning. T'oegye makes a special point of this in his remarks presenting the Ten Diagrams to King Sŏnjo.
T'oegye explicitly makes mindfulness (kyŏng, ching) the central theme of the whole Ten Diagrams.38 It is absolutely fundamental for both study and practice. On the side of intellectual investigation, it stands for the mental recollection and concentration necessary for such pursuits. As for moral practice, the same mental recollection is a token of the self-possession and reverential seriousness that are the basis of a sound and proper response to the world around us. The final two chapters are devoted entirely to the topic of mindfulness, but it is a constant subject throughout the other chapters as well.
Most of the material used for the first five chapters, those dealing with the basic framework, are so fundamental and well known
as to be virtually self-selecting. The Diagram of the Supreme Ultimate, the Western Inscription, and the Great Learning certainly are such. In Korea, as in Yüan China, the Elementary Learning was esteemed as a classic, so pairing it with the Great Learning was also a matter of course. The rules Chu Hsi wrote for his White Deer Hollow Academy were likewise well known, being inscribed on the walls of Korea's own Confucian Academy. But to extend the discussion of learning to three chapters by including them is a bit surprising. One explanation may be T'oegye's great concern with these issues, which were currently being seriously challenged in China by the Lu-Wang school. Further motivation may have been T'oegye's concern for private academies, a Neo-Confucian institution that with his help was just getting underway in Korea.
Personal preference played a larger role in compiling the last five chapters which deal with the learning of the mind-and-heart. This was a fundamental aspect of the Ch'eng-Chu school, but by nature it was more diffuse and personal and did not crystallize into universally recognized reference points such as the Diagram of the Supreme Ultimate. Chen Te-hsiu's Classic of the Mind-and-Heart was, of course, a major reference point for T'oegye. It's influence is clear in the central position accorded mindfulness throughout the Ten Diagrams, and the Diagram of the Study of the Mind and Heart (chapter 8) prefaces the Classic as an expression of the essence of the work. Chu Hsi's Admonition for Mindfulness Studio (chapter 9) likewise appears in its pages. Chu Hsi's famous Treatise on Jen does not appear in the Classic itself, but it epitomizes a formulation of jen (humanity) that was prominent in the thought of Chen Te-hsiu and occupied an important position in the Classic.
The sixth chapter, however, merits special attention. Chen's Classic avoided intellectualism, but T'oegye here reintroduces it to the learning of the mind-and-heart by a chapter that serves to establish a metaphysical framework for man's inner life. It is actually three diagrams, each with its own text. The first is a fairly standard presentation of basic Ch'eng-Chu psychological theory. The second and third, however, are T'oegye's unique contribution, a summation, in effect, of his final position in the Four-Seven Debate. In an unprecedented way they undertake a metaphysical analysis of the function
of different feelings, the active life of the mind. Far from being cut off from intellectuality, the learning of the mind-and-heart was henceforth to become the central and distinctive area of Neo-Confucian intellectual discussion in Korea.
1. For a discussion of these early cosmological schools, see Feng Yu-lan, A History of Chinese Philosophy, vol. 1, pp. 159-169.
2. This is discussed in chapter 6 below; the title of the chapter, "The mind combines and governs the nature and the feelings, "is itself a quotation from Chang.
3. These are the Lun-yü chi-chu (Collected Commentaries on the Analects, ) the Meng Txu chi-chu (Collected Commentaries on the Mencius), the Ta-hsüeh changchü (Commentary on the Great Learning), and the Chung-yung chang-chiA (Commentary on the Doctrine of the Mean).
4. His courtesy name was Yŏngsuk, and his honorific name was Mogŭn. He studied Neo-Confucianism in China from 1348-1351, and returned again in 1354, when he placed first and second in the two final stages of the civil service exam. He enjoyed great favor with Koryŏ's King Kongmin (r.1351-1374) and was responsible for the legal institution of the three-year mourning period in Korea. Yi was famed as the foremost Neo-Confucian scholar of the times and also as an outstanding poet and literary stYList. In the last decades of the dynasty he was the leader of the conservative Koryŏ-loyalist group.
5. His courtesy name was Talga, and his honorific name was P'oun. An outstanding scholar and man of letters, he rendered important service on several missions to China during the early years of the new Ming dynasty. His attempts to prevent Yi Sdnggye's founding of a new dynasty led to his assassination in 1392, but his reputation was utilized by the new dynasty, which made him a symbol of loyalty. Although there is no record of his scholarship, his reputation continued to grow, and on the basis of his moral character, strong stance against Buddhism, and direct contact with China, he came to be regarded as the true father of Korean Neo-Confucianism and his tablet was placed in Korea's Confucian Shrine.
6. Kwŏn's courtesy name was Kawŏn, and his honorific name was Yangch'ŏn. He was one of Yi Saek's leading disciples. Although he opposed the dynastic change, he eventually accepted office and in the first decades of the new dynasty was regarded as the foremost scholar of the time. His Iphak tosŏl (Diagrammatic Explanations for Beginners) is one of the earliest Korean treatises on Neo-Confucian thought.
7. His courtesy name was Chongji, and his honorific name was Sambong. He was a disciple of Yi Saek. Coming from an obscure background, he rose to become the real power behind the throne as the chief merit subject of the new dynasty, until he and his group were suddenly purged as the result of the first succession struggle of the Yi dynasty in 1398. His writings, the Sim ki i py'ŏn (Essay on the Mind, Vital Force, and Principle) and the P'ulssi chappyŏn (Various Arguments Against the Buddhists), are, along with the Iphak tosŏl (see note 7), the sole examples of early Korean Neo-Confucian intellectualism. Both are anti-Buddhist tracts that attack Buddhism on intellectual grounds, the first and most important works of this nature in Korea.
8. For an excellent account of early attempts to use ritual norms and institutions as a means to transform Korean society, see Martins Deuchler, "Neo-Confucianism: The Impulse for Social Action in Early Yi Korea."
9. For a detailed account of the first three purges, see Edward W. Wagner, The Literati Purges: Political Conflict in Early Yi Korea.
10. The Sahŏnbu, the Saganwŏn, and the Hongmun'gwan, respectively. Here, as elsewhere, I have followed the translation of government posts and offices established by Wagner, comprehensively listed in Literati Purges, Appendix A, pp. 125133.
11. Village Contracts (hyangyak, hsiang-yüeh) are said to have been originated in China by Lu Ta-chün (1031-1082), but it was Chu Hsi who further developed and championed this institution. They were pacts made by local communities and enforced through community-based organizations designed to order conduct in the various aspects of village life, with Confucian morality and values furnishing the essential structure and content.
12. The Sillok is the official daily record of the operations of the government.
13. Sillok, 1517.8.7, as tr. by Wagner, Literati Purges, p. 90.
14. Most of the following account is taken from T'oegye's Chronological Biography (yŏnbo, nien fu) found in T'oegye chŏnsŏ (hereafter, TGCS), B, pp. 553620.
15. Yangban, lit. "the two divisions,"is the term that designates Korea's elite or aristocratic class. The term itself is derived from the two types of government officials, the civil and the military.
16. TGCS, A, 10.26, p. 282, Letter to Cho Konjung.
17. In 1592 and again in 1597 Korea was devastated by large-scale Japanese invasions that were finally beaten off only with the assistance of Ming armies.
18. Ŏnhaengnok (hereafter, ŎHN), 6.18a, B, p. 872 (Pak Sun).
19. ŎHN, 6.15a, TGCS, B, p. 871 (Chŏng Yuil).
20. This is the reason his disciple Kim Sŏngil offers for T'oegye's precipitous departure (ŎHN, 3.12a, TGCS, B, p. 824); although it is not mentioned elsewhere, it is a plausible explanation of an act otherwise quite at odds with T'oegye's character.
21. ŎHN, 1.2a, TGCS, B, p. 789.
22. Chen's courtesy name was Ching-yüan and his honorific name was His-shan. He was one of the key figures in the transmission of Chu Hsi's learning. His best known work, the Ta-hsüeh yen-i (Extended Meaning of the Great Learning, became a constant fixture in the education of rulers in China and Korea. For an excellent discussion of Chen Te-hsiu, the Extended Meaning, and the Classic of the Mind-and-Heart, see. Wm. Theodore deBary, Neo-Confucian Orthodoxy and the Learning of the Mind-and-Heart, pp. 67-126.
23. The Hsin-ching fu-chu was published in China in 1492. Within the next 70 years three editions were published in Korea, attesting its popularity on the peninsula. For a study of T'oegye and this work, including its prior and later publication history, see Yun Pyŏngt'ae, "T'oegeywa Simgyŏng puju," (T'oegye and the Hsin-ching fu-chu, and "Simgyŏng puju yuhuron ponŭi kanbon" (The Publication of Editions of the Hsin-ching fu-chu with T'oegye's Epilogue).
24. For a discussion of this term, see the Appendix on Terminology.
25. Hsin-ching fu-chu, 4.286.
26. The Hsing-li ta-ch'üan was the product of a large compilation project carried out under imperial auspices directed by Hu Kuang (1370-1418). First published in 1415, the Ming emperor had it presented to the Korean ruler in 1426.
27. ŎHN, l.lb, TGCS, B, p. 789.
28. ŎHN, 1.5a, TGCS, B, p. 791.
29. See his remarks in his preface to his recension of Chu Hsi's letters, the Chu sŏ chŏryo, TGCS, A, 423a-b, p. 939.
30. Ihak T'ongnok, table of contents (mongnok) 3a, TGCS, B, p.250.
31. The "Chŏnsŭmnok nonbyŏn " (Critique of Wang Yang-ming's Ch'uanhsi lu), TGCS, A, 41.236-356, pp. 922-925, and the "Paeksasigyo chŏnsŭmnok ch'ojŏn insü kihu" (Postscript to Conveyed Copy of Ch'en Po-sha's Shih-chiao and Wang Yang-ming's Ch'uan-hsi lu), TGCS, A, 41.296-35a, pp. 925-928.
32. Ki's courtesy name was Myŏngŏn and his honorific name was Kobong. He passed the civil service examinations in 1558. One of the best minds and most broadly and deeply learned of his generation, he became a leading exponent of sarim concerns at court. He served as Headmaster fo the Confucian Academy and Censor General, but his promising career was cut short by illness and he died just two years after T'oegye.
33. TGCS, B, pp. 151-190.
34. See below, chapter 5, T'oegye's Comments.
35. T'ung shu, chapter 20.
36. This structure is indicated by T'oegye in annotations at the end of chapter 5 and chapter 10.
37. T'oegye presents this view in his remarks at the end of chapter 4.
38. See his remarks at the end of chapter 4.