The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 101)

Yulgok’s Four-Seven Thesis

Yulgok’s Four-Seven thesis is found in his correspondence with his close friend Song Hon (Ugye, 1536-1598), a scholar who had studied Cheng-Chu thought through reading Toegye’s works in particular. Toegye’s writings were quite influential during his time, and Ugye respected Toegye highly. Ugye wrote to Yulgok asking for clarification especially regarding Toegye’s Four-Seven theory of “alternate manifestation of i and ki” (iki hobal). Yulgok and Ugye, then, began a wide ranging debate had traversed, but also new philosophical concepts and moral issues. Their principal exchanges took place in 1572, six years after the end of the leading scholar-officials and had written a few important philosophical works of outstanding quality while serving several high-ranking government positions.

The Yulgok-Ugye debate includes nine queries and responses, some of which are especially lengthy. Note that, even though Yulgok was writing to Ugye, his real debate was with Toegye; Ugye simply provided him with Toegye’s perspectives. In general, Yulgok’s letters are longer and better organised than Ugye’s; the former’s arguments tend to be original, clearer, and more systematic, whereas the latter’s views are usually unclear and copied after Toegye, lacking originality and systematic thinking.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

London United Korean Fan Club

London United Japanese Fan Club