Yi Hwang (Toegye), A Korean Confucian Way of Life and Thought: The Chasongnok (Record of Self-Reflection).
Translated by Edward Y. J. Chung. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2016.
Yi Hwang (1501–1570)—best known by his literary name, T’oegye—is one of the most eminent thinkers in the history of East Asian philosophy and religion. His Chasŏngnok(Record of self-reflection) is a superb Korean Neo-Confucian text: an eloquent collection of twenty-two scholarly letters and four essays written to his close disciples and junior colleagues. These were carefully selected by T’oegye himself after self-reflecting (chasŏng) on his practice of personal cultivation. The Chasŏngnok continuously guided T’oegye and inspired others on the true Confucian way (including leading Neo-Confucians in Tokugawa Japan) while it criticized Buddhism and Daoism. Its philosophical merit rivals T’oegye’s monumental Sŏnghak sipto (Ten diagrams on sage learning) and “Four-Seven Debate Letters”; however, as a testament of T’oegye’s character, scholarship, and teaching, the Chasŏngnok is of greater interest. The work engages with his holistic knowledge and experience of self-cultivation by articulating textual and historical material on various key doctrines and ideas. It is an inspiring practical guide that reveals the depth of T’oegye’s learning and spirituality.
The present volume offers a fully annotated translation of the Chasŏngnok. Following a groundbreaking discussion of T’oegye’s life and ideas according to the Chasŏngnok and his other major writings, it presents the core of his thought in six interrelated sections: “Philosophy of Principle,” “Human Nature and Emotions,” “Against Buddhism and Daoism,” “True Learning,” “Self-Cultivation,” and “Reverence and Spiritual Cultivation.” The bibliography offers a current catalogue of primary sources and modern works in Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and English. As the first comprehensive study of the Chasŏngnok, this book is a welcome addition to current literature on Korean classics and East Asian philosophy and religion. By presenting T’oegye’s thought-provoking contributions, it sheds new light on the vitality of Confucian wisdom, thereby affording scholars and students with an excellent primary source for East Asian studies in general and Confucian studies in particular.