CHOI Young-Jin: The Horak Debate in Eighteenth-Century Joseon
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  The Horak debate was a Neo-Confucian polemic among Confucianscholars of Joseon in the eighteenth century. In the Joseon era, Neo-Confucianism was formed, developed, and matured through threewaves of debates lasting for an extended period of time: the Four-Seven ( sadan chiljeong  ) debate in the sixteenth century, the Horak(Chungcheong region versus Seoul) debate in the eighteenth century,and the Theory of Mind ( simseol ) debate in the nineteenth century.These debates led to the construction of a new theory, enabling thedevelopment of Korean Neo-Confucianism in distinction from its Chi-nese counterpart, the Zhu Xi school of thought.In the term “Horak,” “Ho” denotes the Chungcheong region and“Rak” denotes Seoul, reflecting literally the nature of the debate,which was a dispute between scholars residing in Chungcheong regionversus those living in Seoul. The Giho School (Gyeonggi-do andChungcheong-do provinces), which succeeded Yi I’s academic lin-eage, was divided in 1683 into the Noron (Old Doctrine) faction,headed by Song Si-yeol, and the Soron (Young Doctrine) faction, cen-tered around Yun Jeung. Later, Song Si-yeol’s teachings were inherit-ed by Kim Chang-hyeop in Seoul and Kwon Sang-ha in Chungcheong,who developed Nak-ron (Seoul theory) and Ho-ron (Chungcheongtheory), respectively.What madescholars belonging to the same Noron faction engage The Horak Debate in Eighteenth-CenturyJoseon CHOI Young-Jin On this topic   6  KOREA JOURNAL / SPRING 2011 in such a fierce debate? The demise of the Ming dynasty in China in1645 led to its replacement by the Qing dynasty. In Japan, the EdoShogun regime was set up in 1603. In accordance with such changesof immense magnitudes occurring in Northeast Asia, Korea alsounderwent changes of similar scales. The Japanese invasions of Korea (1592-1598) caused the shift of power from the meritoriouselites ( hungu 勳舊 ), founders of the Joseon dynasty and dominantpolitical power, to the Neo-Confucian literati ( sarim 士林 ), whichremained more faithful to the tenets of Neo-Confucianism. In termsof the economy, rising land productivity spread the notion of proper-ty ownership. As witnessed in the emergence of the idea of nationalreconstruction under the widely supported slogan “Let’s Rebuild theNation,” seventeenth-century Joseon experienced enormous structur-al changes in many areas of society. In response to the changesoccurring in Northeast Asia, Joseon intellectuals had no option but toseek a new social paradigm. They did so by resorting to Korean Neo-Confucianism, which was established by Yi Hwang and Yi I in the six-teenth century. In addition, some other Confucian schools of thoughtwere developed in the seventeenth century, such as the Wang Yang-ming School and Silhak (Practical Learning), leading to diversificationwithin the academic community.The academic community faced a geographic division into groupsin the Seoul and vicinity areas versus ones in the provinces in the eigh-teenth century, the former more strongly influencing the intellectualscene. Inevitably, geographic reformation engendered differences intheir scholastic preferences, political stances, and most particularly,views on the Manchu tribe, the founders of Qing China who Joseonscholars once denounced as barbarians (You 1992, 15-16). This mighthave been a factor that can explain why scholars in Seoul andChungcheong came to develop arguments against each other despitetheir common affiliation with Noron. The problems implicated in theNeo-Confucian tenets established by Zhu Xi also contributed to thisconflict. Zhu Xi built a theoretical scheme, which offered systematicexplanations for human mind, society, and nature based on the doc-trines of  li 理 (“principle”) and qi 氣 (“material force”), but his writ-  7 The Horak Debate in Eighteenth-Century Joseon ings were strewn with many contradictory arguments. These prob-lems surfaced in the milieu of the era and scholars of the two factionsapproached them from different angles, having intense academic dis-cussions in the course of the debate. The dispute eventually causedthe fission of Noron into Seoul-based Nak-ron and Chungcheong-based Ho-ron. Nak-ron scholars dominated the political scene andtheir arguments were linked to Silhak of the Northern Learning Sec-tion. In the mid-nineteenth century, the Giho School was formed,combining the conflicting arguments of Ho-ron and Nak-ron and cre-ating a new Neo-Confucian theory.It was the dispute between Han Won-jin (pen name: Namdang,1682-1751), a disciple of Kwon Sang-ha, and Yi Gan (pen name:Oeam, 1677-1727) that caused the division of Noron. After that, HanWon-jin’s assertions formed the basis of Ho-ron, while Yi Gan’sformed the core of Nak-ron with the support of Seoul-based scholars. 1 1.Was Yi Gan a scholar of Ho-ron (Chungcheong theory) or Nak-ron (Seoul theory)?There is no disagreement among modern-day scholars that Han Won-jin was astaunch advocate of Ho-ron, but critical views are being cast against the existingnotion that Yi Gan, Han’s adversary, was a scholar of Nak-ron. Some scholars areeven skeptical of calling the debate the “Horak debate.” The logic of the criticismis that Yi Gan, like Han Won-jin, resided in the Chungcheong region and was adisciple of Kwon Sang-ha (1641-1721), a leading figure of Ho-ron (Moon 2006,234-235). However, one’s place of residence cannot be an absolute criterion of one’s doctrinal classification, as evidenced by the example of scholar Yi Ik; thoughhe created a doctrinal faction while residing in the Giho area (Gyeonggi-do andChungcheong-do provinces), he cannot be categorized as a scholar of the GihoSchool. Scholars should be classified according to the content of their ideas andtheories. Even if Yi Gan cannot be classified as a member of the Nakhakpa (SeoulTheory Faction) because he did not physically belong to the Nakhak circle, it can-not be denied that his theory belongs to Nak-ron. This is affirmed in the followingaccounts in  Jeongjo sillok (Annals of King Jeongjo), vol. 52, 15th day of the tenthlunar month, the 23rd year of King Jeongjo’s reign: “Early on, Han Won-jin formu-lated the notion that the unaroused mind already has temperament in it andhuman beings and other beings are different in terms of the five constant virtues.”This conception is different from what is held by Kim Chang-heup, Yi Jae, and YiGan, and the disciples criticize each other. This created the appellations “Hohak”(Chungcheong thought) and “Nakhak” (Seoul thought). In this record, Yi Gan isregarded as endorsing the same arguments as Kim Chang-heup and Yi Jae, whoare representative figures of the Nakhak group.  8  KOREA JOURNAL / SPRING 2011 The debate between Han and Yi can be divided into the followingthree phases:1. Preliminary Phase: In 1705-1706, Han Won-jin exchangedviews with fellow scholars Han Hong-jo and Choe Jing-hu throughletters, mainly regarding the points he raised in his papers released in1705, “Sidongji seol” (Thesis on the Endowment of the Same Intent)and “Insim dosim seol” (Thesis on Human Mind and Moral Mind). Inthe autumn of 1706, Han Won-jin summarized the discussions andhis own ideas to produce another paper titled “Bonyeonji seong gijiljiseong seol” (Thesis on Original Nature and Temperamental Nature).Choe Jing-hu wrote letters to Han Won-jin in the autumn of 1707 andto Choe in 1708 to exchange views on this topic. Han also sent lettersto his master Kwon Sang-ha elaborating his views on the issuesraised in the discussions. He advocated the idea that nature has threelevels. Han Won-jin had a debate with Han Hong-jo in the early partof 1709.2. Development Phase: In January 1709, Han Hong-jo visited YiGan and presented him with the letters exchanged between HanHong-jo and Han Won-jin in the preliminary stage. Yi Gan sent Choe Jing-hu a letter articulating his criticisms of Han Won-jin’s argumentsin the following month, to which Han Won-jin sent Choe Jing-hu aletter refuting those criticisms in March. In April, Han Won-jin and YiGan met face-to-face at Hansansa temple in Boryeong, Chungcheong-nam-do province, in a meeting arranged by Choe Jing-hu and HanHong-jo; many scholars attended their week-long discussion. Debatesbetween Han Won-jin and Yi Gan continued until 1713.3. Conclusion Phase: From 1713 to 1715, Yi Gan released hisarguments in “Itonggiguk byeon” (Thesis on the Universality of   LI  and the Specificity of  Qi ), “Mibal yuseonak byeon” (Thesis on thePresence of Good and Evil in Unarousedness), “Mibal byeon” (Thesison Unarousedness), and “Osang byeon” (Thesis on the Five ConstantVirtues). Between 1715 and 1716, Han Won-jin released refutationsto Yi’s arguments in “Uidap igonggeo” (My Reply to Sir Yi in Refuta-tion). In 1719, Yi Gan published “Mibal byeon huseol” (Postscript tothe Thesis on Unarousedness), his final critique of Han Won-jin. In
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