Yi Hwang

Also found in: Wikipedia.

Yi Hwang


(pseudonym, T’oegye and Thwedoon). Born 1501, in Ongyeri, Kyongsang-pukto; died there, 1570. Korean thinker and man of letters; one of the major theoreticians of Sung Confucianism.

Yi Hwang was a court scholar; after the “persecution of the scholars” in 1545, he went to the provinces. He expounded his philosophical views in General Codex of the Doctrine of “Li” in the Sung, Yüan, and Ming Periods, Interpretation of the “Book of Changes” for Young People, and Selections From the Works of Chu Hsi.

Yi Hwang believed the teachings of the Chinese Confucianist Chu Hsi to be the only true doctrine; he considered Buddhism and Taoism heresies. He defended the primacy of the ideal first principle li over the material ch’i.

In epistemology, Yi Hwang rejected Wang Yang-ming’s concept of the “unity of knowledge and action”; instead, he proposed that “knowledge precedes action.” Yi Hwang’s theory of the “four constants” as a manifestation of the ideal li and the “seven emotions” as a manifestation of the material ch’i remained an object of dispute among Korean Confucianists for three centuries. The essence of these doctrines amounted to an affirmation of the “innateness” of the norms of feudal ethics. In order to preserve the feudal system, Yi Hwang worked out a plan to make the rural commune an organ of self-government. He contributed much to the propagation of Chu Hsi’s ideas in Korea and Japan. The followers of Yi Hwang formed the idealist chu-rip’a school in Korean philosophy. The works of Yi Hwang (Toegye chip, 68 books) were republished repeatedly; in the 16th century they became the official ideological doctrine of the ruling Yi dynasty until its fall in 1910.

Yi Hwang is also well known as the author of a great many poems in Chinese and as a writer of prose literature.


Chong Ching-sok, Chong Song-ch’ol, and Kim Ch’ang-won. Istoriia koreiskoi filosofii, vol. 1. Moscow, 1966. Pages 158–78.
Tiagai, G. D. Obshchestvennaia mysl’ Korei ν epokhu pozdnego feodalizma. Moscow, 1971.
Hyong Sang-yun. Choson Yuhan sa, Seoul, 1960. Pages 83–103.
Pak Chong-hong. Toegye yongu. Seoul, 1965.