- Yi I
Infobox Korean name
Yi I (
December 26, 1536-1584) was one of the two most prominent Korean Confucian scholars of the Joseon Dynasty, the other being his older contemporary, Yi Hwang(Toegye). Yi I is often referred to by his pen nameYulgok (" Chestnutvalley"). His mother was Sin Saimdang, an accomplished artist and calligraphist.
Yi I was born on
December 26, 1536, in Bukpyeong, in Gangwon Province. He was a child prodigy who knew Chinese scriptat the age of three and composed poems in Classical Chinesebefore he had reached his seventh birthday. By the age of seven, he had finished his lessons in the ConfucianClassics, and he passed the Civil Service literary examination at the age of 13.
At the age of 29, Yi I passed a higher Civil Service examination—with full marks—and he started government service. His winning thesis, titled "Cheondochaek", was widely regarded as a literary masterpiece, displaying his knowledge of history and the Confucian
philosophyof politics, and also reflecting his profound knowledge of Taoism.
At 34, Yi I authored "Dongho Mundap", an eleven-article treatise devoted to clarifying his conviction that righteous government could be achieved even within his own lifetime, showing his aspirations and also measures to achieve it.
Yi I temporarily renounced the world by secluding himself in the Diamond Mountain following his mother's death when he was 36. It is not known why he did this, although it is thought that either: he sought three years of lamentation until the
Buddhistphrase, "life is transient", eased his sorrow; he may have understood that the Confucian teaching, "preserve your mind and nurture your nature", was synonymous with the Buddhist teaching, "open your mind and see your nature"; or he may have regarded it as a pleasure simply to retire to the countryside to rest.
Following his return to society, he authored "The Essentials of Confucianism" in 1576, which was considered to be a most valuable book, showing examples for a good Confucian life.
Yi I died in 1584, and the "Yulgok Jeonjip" ("The Complete Works of Yulgok") was compiled after his death on the basis of the writings he bequeathed.
He is also well-known for his foresight about the
national securityof Joseon Dynasty. He proposed to draft and raise 100,000 men against possible Japanese attack. Rejected by central government, his worry was found to be well-founded soon after his death, when Hideyoshi Toyotomi's Japanese forces invaded Korea in 1592. The "Yulgok Project", a recent modernization project for the South Korean military, was named after him.
According to a legend, he had a villa built near the ford of the
Imjin Riverin his lifetime and instructed his heirs to set it ablaze when the king had to flee northward from Seoul, to provide a guiding beacon. This took place during Hideyoshi's invasions of Korea at the Battle of the Imjin River (1592).
* Haboush, JaHyun Kim, and Martina Deuchler, eds. "Culture and the State in Late Choson Korea." Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.
List of Korea-related topics
List of Joseon Dynasty people
History of Korea
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