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The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 177)

The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 177)

First of all, we need to address the extent to which Confucianism is a practical learning, as such a topic has been debated in current scholarship. Confucianism (yugyo; literally meaning “the learning of the literati”) was a common intellectual, ethical, and spiritual tradition in East Asia. Even as a form of “ethical humanism,” “socio-political ideology,” […]

The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 176)

The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 176)

Practical Learning (Sirhak) as an Ethico-Political Ideal According to Yulgok, practical learning for “self-cultivation and governing people” must be founded on sincerity. This is, indeed, a vital theme in most of his writings. To understand it, we have to examine his political thought more closely, so that we can determine what kind of practicality it […]

The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 175)

The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 175)

As revealed in Yulgok’s Four-Seven thesis, as well as in its implications for self-cultivation, he was not concerned with the inner-directed, religious practices of Neo-Confucianism. Unlike Toegye, he did not talk about spiritual exercises such as quite-sitting meditation and personal cultivation. On the basis of what we have observed so far in this chapter, we […]

The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 174)

The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 174)

As the foundation of self-cultivation, sincerity enables one to nourish one’s own ki, such that one can transform bad thoughts, feelings, and desires. Perhaps, Yulgok argued from a standpoint of his own experiences and insights. He means that sincerity is not merely specific concept of moral action, but, more important, pertains to the metaphysical and […]

The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 173)

The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 173)

How does one learn to be sincere and abide in sincerity? More specifically, what is the actual method of attaining complete sincerity? According to the Doctrine of the Mean, human nature is said to be a genuine manifestation of Heaven because it is imparted from Heaven. From the Confucian ontological and moral standpoint, the human […]

The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 172)

The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 172)

In his letter to Ugye, a letter written prior to their Four-Seven debate, Yulgok describes variations of success in learning and self-cultivation in terms of difference between the “sage” (songin), the “superior person” (kunja), and the “learning person” (hakja): “one who investigated things to the utmost, extended knowledge to the utmost, made the will sincere […]

The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 171)

The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 171)

The Neo-Confucian concept of the mind is understood as the master of one’s body and the commander of human nature and feelings. Yulgok states: “Without sincerity, the original essence of Heaven’s principle cannot exist.” Because sincerity itself combines Heaven’s principle as its substance and the mind of the human being as its function, it can […]

The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 170)

The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 170)

For Yulgok, one can become a sage if one follows Heaven’s principle in complete sincerity, attaining what he calls the totality of sincerity that can reach Heaven, Earth, and the mind-and-heart. A statement from the Songchaek elucidates Yulgok’s point further: “Heaven has the merit of transformation and nourishment of all things with its real principle […]

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