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T'oegye's Ten Diagrams on Sage Learning: A Korean View of the Essence of Chu Hsi's Teaching Michael C. Kalton THE TEN DIAGRAMS ON SAGE LEARNING Yi Hwang (1501-70), better known by his penname, T'oegye, is generally reputed as Korea's foremost Ñeo-Confucian tlünker^From the very beginning of the Yi dynasty (1392-1910) the Neo-Confucian doctrine of the Ch'eng-Chu school was the officially sanctioned ideology , but with T'oegye it arrived at its full maturity on the peninsula, for he was the first to present it with a fully sophisticated and integral grasp of its scope, unity, and implications. Consequently his teaching became a constant reference point for subsequent generations of Korean Neo-Confucians and his understanding of Chu Hsi's vision exercised a profound and lasting influence. One ofhis last and most important works was the TenDiagrams on Sage Learning (Songhak sipdo), which he composed for the instruction of young King Sönjo (r. 1567-1608) in 1568, two years before his death. Considered the summation of T'oegye's lifetime of learning, the Ten Diagrams became one of the classics of the Korean Neo-Confucian tradition: during the course of the Yi dynasty it was reprinted at least twenty-four times, and it now circulates in three modern Korean translations. "Sage learning" is a phrase that appears frequendy in Neo-Confucian works meant for the instruction of rulers, reflecting the view 97 98Journal ofKorean Studies that the essential duty ofa ruler is to learn from and emulate the ideal ancient sage kings. In terms of its origin, the Ten Diagrams is certainly such a work. But T'oegye's title is ambiguous, for "sage learning" also means "learning how to become a sage," that is, a fully perfected human being. This is a kind of learning that has to do with not only kings, but every human being. Thus the provenance of this work is universal, and through the centuries it has served as a basic handbook for generations of serious Neo-Confucians in their endeavor to understand and cultivate the full perfection of their humanity. This kind of "sage learning," in its full scope, is a distinctively Neo-Confucian development. With the Neo-Confucian revival of the tradition in the Sung dynasty, Confucians finally developed a metaphysical , psychological, and ascetical framework that could fully describe the status of sagehood and delineate a path towards achieving it. Sagehood became a practical goal rather than a theoretical ideal. T'oegye's object in the Ten Diagrams is to present that framework and path. Doing this, of course, amounts to presenting a structured summation of the essence of Ch'eng-Chu tiieoretical and practical learning . One could devote a large book to this topic; T'oegye compressed it into ten chapters, each brief enough to be mounted on a single panel of a ten-paneled screen. Each chapter begins with a diagram and is followed by a text. T'oegye's own remarks are only a short portion of each chapter. As far as possible he tried to make this a compilation of diagrams and words from other authoritative sources so that the work would clearly represent the cumulative wisdom ofthe Confucian tradition, notjust his own private opinion. The modern reader looking for a simplified outiine of the essentials of Neo-Confucian learning would be frustrated by the Ten Diagrams . Although it is large in scópe and brief in length, it is nothing like a simple summary or overview. It presupposes a lot; one might also add, it implies even more. The compressed format is not a concession to hasty readers or beginners needing a simple introduction. Quite the opposite; whether as a short book or a screen placed in one's quarters, T'oegye intended this as a work to be lived with and absorbed slowly through repeated reading and leisurely reflection. In that way its compressed contents would unfold gradually and become a part of oneself through the lengthy and personal effort of apprehending its full meaning. The diagrammatic format he chose is ideal for such use, for the categories, correspondences, and relationships suggested by spatial arrangement...


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