The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi T'oegye and Yi Yulgok

A Reappraisal of the 'Four-Seven Thesis' and its Practical Implications for Self-Cultivation

By Edward Y. J. Chung

Subjects: Asian Religion And Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Korean Studies
Paperback : 9780791422762, 353 pages, July 1995
Hardcover : 9780791422755, 353 pages, July 1995

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Table of contents

Foreword by Julia Ching



A Note on Style and Translation


Historical Background: Korean Neo-Confucianism

The Rise of Neo-Confucianism in the Koryo Period

Neo-Confucianism in the Early Choson Dynasty

Songnihak before T'oegye and Yulgok in Sixteenth-Century Korea

Yi Hwang (T'oegye, 1501-1570)

Yi I (Yulgok, 1536-1584)

Why the Four-Seven Controversy Developed in Korea:Some Historical Reflections

I. Philosophical Introduction: The Fruitful Four-Seven Legacy

The Locus Classicus for the Ideas of the Four Beginnings and the Seven Emotions

The Ch'eng-Chu Interpretation in China

Questions and Issues Raised in the Korean Four-Seven Debates /

II.T'oegye's Four-Seven Thesis

Kobong's Challenge to T'oegye: The Continuum of the Four and the Seven

T'oegye's Response to Kobong's First Challenge: The Distinction of the Four and the Seven

Kobong's Second Challenge: The Inseparability of I and Ki and the Oneness of Human Nature

T'oegye's Revised Four-Seven Theory of "Alternate Manifestation"

The Last Exchange on the Moon-Moonlight Analogy: Unity or Duality?

III.Yulgok's Four-Seven Thesis

Human Mind and Moral Mind: The Unity and Duality of the Mind

The Continuum of Feelings: The Four in the Seven

The Oneness of Human Nature

A Critique of T'oegye's Theory of Alternate Manifestation: The Working of Ki

The Inseparability and Harmony of I and Ki

IV. Practical Implications for T'oegye

Principle and Self-Cultivation

Feelings and the Learning of Mind-and-Heart (Simhak)

Sagehood and the Learning of Reverential Seriousness (Kyonghak)

Self-Cultivation as an Ethico-Spiritual Ideal

V. Practical Implications For Yulgok

Good And Evil: The Nourishment Of Ki

Self-Cultivation And Emotional Integration

Sagehood And Learning Sincerity (Songhak)

Practical Learning (Sirhak) As An Ethico-Political Ideal

VI. Conclusions: A Comparison Of T'oegye And Yulgok

Epilogue: The I-Ki And Four-Seven Controversy After T'oegye And Yulgok

The School Of The Primacy Of

The School Of The Primacy Ofki

The Eclectic School

Appendix 1
T'oegye's Diagram Of The Mind, Human Nature, And Feelings

Appendix 2
Yulgok's Diagram Ofthe Human Mind And The Moral Mind

Appendix 3
A Chronological And Annotated List Ofyi T'oegye's Major Writings Cited

Appendix 4
A Chronological And Annotated List Ofyi Yulgok's Major Writings Cited


Major Terms, Names, and Titles Cited


Selected Bibliography

This is a study of the most significant debate in Korean Neo-Confucianism between the two most eminent Neo-Confucian thinkers, summarizing their philosophies and providing refreshing insights into Confucian language and culture.


This comparative study of Yi T'oegye (1501-1570) and Yi Yulgok (1536-1584), Korea's two most eminent Neo-Confucian thinkers, is a seminal work on the Four-Seven Debate, the most significant and controversial intellectual event in the Korean Confucian tradition. The Four-Seven thesis, a magnificent example of East Asian Confucian discourse at its best, remains each thinker's masterpiece, a compressed but integrated systemization of metaphysics, ethics, and spirituality. It addresses fascinating philosophical, moral, and psychological questions about the fundamental problem of feelings and emotions, as well as their implications for moral and spiritual self-transformation.

This book is indispensable for those interested in Korean thought or intellectual history. It will enable specialists in Confucian studies to understand unique paradigms of Korean Neo-Confucianism. It will stimulate comparative philosophers or religionists and general humanists to consider Korean Neo-Confucianism seriously as a major resource for understanding East Asian philosophy and religion.

Edward Y. J. Chung is Assistant Professor of Religion and Asian Studies, University of Prince Edward Island.