Zhu Xi and Korean Philosophy

  • Don BakerEmail author
Part of the Dao Companions to Chinese Philosophy book series (DCCP, volume 13)


The Korean literate elite during the Chosŏn dynasty were staunch supporters of Confucianism, particularly Zhu Xi’s Neo-Confucianism. However, they also modified Zhu Zi’s ideas to better fit their concern for moral psychology and their greater sensitivity to human moral frailty. We can see those modifications in disputes between T’oegye Yi Hwang (1501–1570), and Yulgok Yi I (1536–1584) over what role the Four Sprouts and the Seven Emotions should play in moral cultivation, and between Han Wŏnjin (1682–1751 and Yi Kan (1677–1727) over how much of a sanctuary from evil our human nature provided. We also see Korean Confucian creativity on display in the writings of Tasan Chŏng Yag-yong (1762–1836), who argued that we need to believe an anthropomorphic Lord on High is watching over us if we are to be inspired enough to exert the effort necessary to adhere to the high moral standards of Confucianism. The Korean search for an explanation of, and a solution to, the difficulties human beings encounter in trying to live consistently moral lives led them to use the building blocks provided by the philosophy of Zhu Xi to construct a thoroughly Koreanized version of Zhu Xi’s philosophy.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Asian StudiesUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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