Yi Hwang was a prominent figure among the Korean Neo-Confucian Scholars. He led a modest life, applying what he learned to enrich his life. Hwang was a man of absolute character. He always embraced high moral standards during his time. He worked hard in his studies, securing a government job; however, later in his life, he turned down several job offers to pursue his passion of enriching the society through his works.
In this essay, the writer seeks to explore the contributions Yi Hwang to Buddhist and Neo-Confucian thoughts. The author observes that Hwang made profound contribution on Buddhist and Neo-Confucian through his writings, personal ideals, and building academies to entrench his philosophies in the broader society.
Yi Hwang, contributions to Neo-Confucian and Buddhist thoughts, were immense. He wrote several books. His most favorite book was the “Four-Seven Debate” (Hwang). Four-Seven Debate was a collection of writings explaining the Neo-Confucian values. Though Zhu previously developed Neo-Confucian, Hwang played a critical role in shaping its tenets. He complemented his commentaries on the works done by Zhu XI. The Neo-Confucians placed much emphasis on a man’s character; hence, Hwang perfected a formula for evaluating man’s fundamental nature. The method embraced the Yin and Yang; these were the “four beginnings” and the “seven emotions” (Hwang). Further, Yin and Yang were later incorporated as the philosophies that complement the opposing forces of nature. These forces include male and female, day and night as well as summer and winter. Mencius first explained the “four beginnings.” They are primarily translated to mean “the feeling of sympathy is the start of humanity. Conversely, the seven emotions written by Hwang include hate, joy, fear, adoration, grief, joy and anxiety (Hwang). The manner in which the “four” and “seven” interrelate provides a better understanding of human nature and helps to make a sound judgment regarding a good character, behavior and their corresponding opposites.
Another significant contribution of Yi to Neo-Confucianism is the Kyong. Kyong means self-cultivation and beyond. Like other Confucians philosophers, Hwang affirmed that one of the tenets of Confucianism’s was cultivating the nature of self. For him, self-cultivation was not the only way; he emphasized self-cultivation should be geared towards respecting others and a source of inspiration to better oneself. Helping to better others was the surest avenue for one to increase awareness as well as knowledge.
Hwang emphasized moral cultivation through daily practices. Though this was a painstaking and slow process, he believed that by meditation and hard inquiry and with reverence and sincerity attitude, it was achievable. His meditation style became a distinctive characteristic of his Yongnam School. Besides, moral cultivation was adopted in Neo-Confucianism philosophies as a form of ethics.
Hwang devised a theory which was instrumental for taming the meritorious elites in the society. His philosophies that stipulated the “high” principle and “low” (igwi gicheon) were important in attacking the noble elites. These philosophies were coined in the Neo-Confucian and played a role in crippling political powers amid protest from the political actors. This move reflected the veracity of public attitude. His ideals of “I” (penetrating), “gi” (limited) and the philosophy of harmony stressed on the distinctiveness and universality of a phenomenon, giving credence on his conjectural platform for his reforms. Most of these ideals have found their way in Neo-Confucianism (Peterson).
Hwang contributed to spreading Neo-Confucianism ideas though building academies. According to New World Encyclopedia Hwang build the Dosan Seowang, a private academy teaching Confucianism beliefs. Though he died before opening, it was opened and still exists to date (New World Encyclopedia).
Yi Hwang composed poems in Chinese. Besides, he wrote the sijo, a famous three-line poem. In Korea, he produced the Twelve Songs of Tosan. These verses describe the allures of Mt. To. The poems are symbolic in nature. They integrate Confucians teachings such as the eleventh songs of the cycle (New World Encyclopedia). Moreover, his other works such as the Sage Learning attracted massive printings and presently, the work is available in more than two Korean translations. New World Encyclopedia point out that the Sage Learning is part of Neo-Confucian works intended to instruct rulers using ideal examples of the past sages in history (New World Encyclopedia).
Another significant contribution Hwang made was composing the Ten Diagrams. The Ten Diagrams was elaborate pieces of work that detailed the psychological and metaphysical framework that formed ideals of sage hoods and how it can be achieved. This book was equivalent to Buddhist’s Enlightenment tenets (Peterson).
In conclusion, Yi Hwang was an accomplished philosopher of his time. His ideals and morals played a significant role in Neo-Confucians and Buddhism. His views on human nature in aspects such as self-cultivation and respect have continued to define Neo-Confucianism and Buddhism principles.
Peterson, Mark. Master T'oegye, Yi Hwang, Philosopher (1501 – 1570), 2016. Web. 1 May 2016
Hwang, Yi. Friendly Korea, my friend’s country, 2016. Web. 1 May 2016
New World Encyclopedia. Yi Hwang, 2016. Web. 1 May 2016