The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 39)

It is interesting to speculate what would have happened if the Four-seven debate had occurred in sung or Yuan China before the rise of the Wang Yang-ming school in the Ming period. In Ming China, most Neo-Confucians were insets occupied with philosophical issues concerning human nature and the mind as rival topics in the competing Cheng-Chu and Lu0Wang schools of thought. By contrast, there was no such competition in Choson Korea where the Cheng-chu Songnihak (School of human nature and principle) dominated the whole scholarly and political enterprise since the beginning of the Choson dynasty in the late fourteenth century. This was part of the reason why, in sixteenth-century Korea, Toegye, Yulgok, and their challengers addressed those ambiguous questions and issues that relate not only to Chu Hsi’s metaphysics and ethics, but also to the entire Confucian literature, including the early classics, in regard to its moral and pycho-logical philosophy of mind, human nature, and feelings and its implications for the practice of self-cultivation.

From an intellectual perspective, then, the Korean Neo-Confucians wished to interpret the basic problematic inherent in Chu Hsi’s philosophy through a broader and deeper inquiry into the Four-Seven controversy of mind, human nature, and feelings and its relationship to Chu Hsi’s metaphysics of i and ki. In comparison to China, their absolute dependence on the Cheng-Chu tradition as the orthodox school of Neo-Confucianism contributed to the rise and development of the Four-Ceven controversy. As the state permitted no schools of thought other than Songnihak, the academic and scholarly circles of the Choson dynasty were restricted to it. In a historical context, then, this limited but focused scholarship led to specific studies and challenging debates on it, which resulted in many sophisticated interpretations of it.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

London United Korean Fan Club

London United Japanese Fan Club