a different thread: orthodoxy, heterodoxy, and

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Charles Ives
Charles Ives

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Tasan Chŏng Yagyong (1762-1836), one of the most prolific authors and
preeminent philosophers of the second half of the Chosŏn dynasty, once explained
in a couple of brief essays what precisely made “heterodoxy” heterodox.
According to Tasan, “generally speaking, any school of thought which focuses
exclusively on one specific maxim as its guiding precept will be heterodox.”1
Tasan saw danger in any excessively narrow approach to moral cultivation, the
chief concern of Korean Neo-Confucianism. He recognized that not all people are
the same and that the same approach will not be equally effective for everybody.
A specific formula which might work for one person or one group may not work
as well for others.
Wang Yang-ming’s famous injunction to “follow your own innate
knowledge of the good” was one example Tasan gave. In Tasan’s opinion, that
formula worked for Wang, since he was fortunate enough to have been endowed
with a superior moral character. He could trust his own innate sense of what was
right and what was wrong. His followers, however, did not have the same innate
moral compass. When they tried to look within for guidance, they mistook what
felt good for what was good. Wang’s precept lulled his followers into
complacency and kept them from seeking the external guidance they needed in
order to live moral lives. It is the effect Wang’s teachings had on his followers,
not any moral flaws in Wang himself, which convinced Tasan that the Wang
Yang-ming school was dangerous, and therefore heterodox.2
For Tasan, ideas in isolation were neither orthodox nor heterodox. All else being
equal, it was the effect those ideas had on behavior which determined their acceptability
or unacceptability. Such moral pragmatism was not unique in the Confucian world. As
one scholar has noted, as far back as the Warring States Period in China, in which
Confucianism was first formulated, the ethical import of an assertion was a primary
factor in evaluating it.
What were important to the Chinese philosophers, where questions of truth and
falsity were not, were the behavioral implications of the statement or belief in
question. In other words, the Chinese asked; What kind of behavior is likely to
occur if a person adheres to this belief? Can the statement be interpreted to imply
that men should act in a certain way? 3
Mo Tzu (fifth century B.C.E.), condemned as heterodox for his doctrine of
universal love but respected for his theories of knowledge, provides an explicit
formulation of this practical approach to knowledge.
A theory must be judged by three tests. What are these three tests of a theory? Its
origin, its validity, and its applicability…And how do we judge its applicability? We
judge it by observing whether, when the theory is put into practice in the
administration, it brings benefit to the state and the people.4
This pragmatic dimension to concepts of acceptability and orthodoxy continued to
influence Confucian thinking in China and Korea into the modern era. A recent study of
"Orthodoxy in Late Imperial China"5 concludes that in China in the last centuries of the
pre-modern era, religious pluralism prevailed alongside moral orthodoxy. In other words,
Confucian China included a number of religious groups with varying beliefs about the
nature of the supernatural realm and man's relationship to it. The Chinese state, with its
staunchly Confucian bureaucracy, imposed on all religious communities a moral
orthodoxy of Confucian ethical and ritual standards and obligations. Chinese were free,
however, to hold a variety of religious beliefs as long as they remained loyal to the state
and filial to their parents and did not appropriate for themselves the rituals that the state
used to legitimize its own authority and preserve social order and harmony. Only those
religious organizations which seemed to threaten the state by denying its legitimacy, or
threatened society by encouraging their members to act contrary to accepted moral
norms, came under attack by the state.6 The same religious pluralism alongside moral
orthodoxy can be seen in the latter half of the Chosŏn dynasty in Korea.
The religious community in Korea was not as diverse as that in China. There were
nonetheless many practicing Buddhists and shamans on the peninsula. As the papers in
this volume by Buswell and Walraven reveal, they were tolerated by Korea’s Confucian
government. Neither Buddhists nor shamans and their clients were persecuted by
government officials solely for what they believed. Though their beliefs were denigrated
by the Chosŏn dynasty Neo-Confucian ruling elite as superstitious and irrational, as long
as they did not challenge the fundamental moral code of Neo-Confucian Korea, they were
permitted their heterodox (idan) views.
Confucius (551-479 B.C.E.) had warned, “The study of strange doctrines is
harmful indeed!”7 The word Confucius used in denouncing strange doctrines is
idan (C. i-tuan), literally “a different thread.”8 It was the term Tasan and other
Koreans 2,300 years later borrowed from Chinese Confucian tradition to label
ideas and practices such as Buddhism, which did not follow the way laid down by
the sages of ancient China and thus threatened to unravel the common thread of
Confucian morality from which the moral order was woven.9
Confucius spoke in vague generalities when he condemned threats to his
teachings in the sixth century B.C.E. In eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Korea
his followers were more specific in their denunciations. Mencius in the fourth
century B.C. E. had taught them to reject the ideas of Yang Chu and Mo Tzu. Chu
Hsi in the twelfth century had condemned Buddhism and Taoism. T’oegye Yi
Hwang (1501-1570), whom some considered the Korean Chu Hsi, convinced
Koreans to add the teachings of Wang Yang-ming to that list of unacceptable
teachings. Many of T’oegye’s followers in the eighteenth century wanted to add
Catholicism to this list of heterodox schools of thought.
Catholicism had entered Korea in the seventeenth century through books
written by Jesuit missionaries in China and brought back to Korea by visitors to
Beijing. Though there were no Koreans converted to Catholicism by these books
until the last quarter of the eighteenth century, the ideas the Catholic priests
espoused in those publications were debated and denounced as idan as early as
1724.10 Sin Hudam (1702-1761) and An Chŏngbok (1712-1791) were two
staunch eighteenth-century Neo-Confucians who were particularly vocal in this
period in arguing that Catholic teachings hindered rather than helped the
promotion of morality and therefore should be condemned as heterodox.
Those few Korean Confucians who began converting to Catholicism in 1784
defended their conversions with the argument that Catholicism was most
definitely not a strange or heterodox doctrine but was instead completely
orthodox.11 The ensuing debate over the orthodoxy or heterodoxy of Catholicism
became at the same time a debate over the meaning of the terms orthodoxy and
heterodoxy themselves, their range and their reference.
The debate over Catholicism arose among those members of Korea’s NeoConfucian community who had inherited T’oegye’s philosophical and ethical orientation,
particularly those who relied on the interpretation of T’oegye’s teachings by Sŏngho Yi
Ik (1681-1763). This T’oegye-Sŏngho branch of Korean Neo-Confucians, which
included Sin Hudam, An Chŏngbok, and Chŏng Yagyong, relied on four defining criteria
for orthodoxy, in descending order of importance, when evaluating statements whose
validity was not easily empirically apparent:
First of all, orthodoxy, correct ideas, had to be accompanied by orthopraxis, correct
behavior, to merit recognition as true orthodoxy. Only those ideas, assertions, and
claims, whether psychological, philological, philosophical, ontological, or ethical, which
encouraged proper behavior, or at least did not discourage such behavior, could be
accepted as truly orthodox. The traditional Confucian values of loyalty, filial piety, and
selfless dedication to the common good were the touchstones, forming the court before
which all ideas had to come to plead their case for acceptability. This pragmatic approach
is inherited from T’oegye’s vision of truth as primarily a guide to proper behavior.12 As
Sŏngho explained, what difference did it make whether people were “orthodox” or not if
they did not do what they were supposed to do?13 An Chŏngbok made a similar point,
writing to a friend in 1783 that he should not rely on verbal arguments alone in deciding
what to believe but should instead test the practical applicability of ideas in order to
determine their acceptability.14
Equally critical was a grounding in a plausible reading of the Confucian canon.
There was some dispute over how much weight was to be assigned to Sung dynasty
commentaries relative to the original Confucian classics they were commenting on. By
the late eighteenth century there were some in Korea as well as in China who questioned
whether those classics had to be approached only through later commentaries or whether
they could be approached directly.15 Nevertheless, there was broad agreement that
Confucian tradition, grounded in the Classics, provided a standard against which ideas,
assertions, and claims could be evaluated. As An Chŏngbok stated, "Anything that is not
Confucian is heterodox."16 Just as Catholics and Protestants, though they have argued
over whether the Bible should be interpreted by the individual reader or through the
medium of centuries of Christian tradition, have both agreed on the primacy of the Bible's
words, so too Korean Neo-Confucians accepted the recorded words of Confucius and
Mencius as definitive. Supporting this canonical criteria for orthodoxy, another Sŏngho
disciple, Hwang Tŏkkil (?—1767), wrote, true Confucians would not say anything or do
anything the great men of old would not have said or done." We illuminate the great
Confucian Way in order to block the selfishness of individuality and we promote
orthodoxy (chŏnghak) in order to expose non-canonical theories."17
These first two criteria were interrelated. The behavior which orthodoxy
promoted was deemed proper because it was ordained by the Classics. And the
moral message of the Classics was respected and protected because the Classics
taught men the proper way to behave. Consequently, any statements, any
doctrines which undermined fidelity to the Confucian moral code enshrined in the
Classics were idan, heterodoxy.
In addition to textual and behavioral evidence for orthodoxy, Koreans also expected
ideas claiming orthodox status to appear in Chinese dress. Orthodoxy had to have some
connection with China. If it did not originate in China, it at least had to have undergone
some measure of sinicization. Ideas appealing for acceptance by Korean Neo-Confucians
could not come to Korea directly, but could only approach the peninsula through China.
A Chinese pedigree alone was not sufficient grounds for acceptance, of course. The
Korean rejection of Wang Yang-ming is evidence of that. However, proof of either
Chinese ancestry, or at least sinicization, was a necessary, though not a sufficient,
condition for acceptance by Sŏngho and like -minded Confucians in eighteenth-century
Korea. As An Chŏngbok argued in a letter to a disciple who was flirting with
Catholicism, “I have heard of China transforming barbarians but I have never heard of
barbarians transforming China.”18 Sin Hudam echoes that rejection of Catholicism as
Western, and therefore inferior to Confucianism. “The various states of Europe are
nothing but barbarian tribes on the fringes of civilization. Europeans have no basis for
claiming for themselves or their civilization the same respect which China and Chinese
This third criteria is related to the fourth. To win a positive hearing, ideas should
not only be sinicized but also well aged. Novel ideas were automatically suspect. The
only way new ideas could win a hearing was to disguise themselves in old clothing. All
else being equal, the older the better. That is why some Koreans were intrigued by the
arguments of Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) and other Jesuit missionaries in China that
Catholic teachings were more faithful to the earliest Confucian texts than the later
commentaries of the Sung were.20 However, that patina of age, like a Chinese pedigree,
was a necessary but not a sufficient condition for acceptance as orthodoxy. After all, the
heterodox teachings of Buddhism, Mo Tzu, and Yang Chu could also claim a long
history. An Chŏngbok wrote his “An Examination of Catholicism” to show that, though
many of the ideas and practices Catholics espoused resembled ideas and practices
mentioned in Chinese records from centuries past, those ideas and practices had been
rejected back then, so they should be rejected again by his contemporaries.21
Those last two criteria of historical and cultural coloring would usually only
come into play after the first two of ethical and canonical compatibility had been
applied. In eighteenth- and early nineteenth- century Korea, the two questions
Neo-Confucians most often asked in testing ideas to determine whether they were
orthodox or heterodox, whether they followed or threatened the thread of
Confucian tradition, were: Did those ideas encourage or discourage proper
behavior? Did they contradict or support the moral message of the Confucian
This practical Korean approach to distinguishing orthodoxy and heterodoxy,
acceptability from non-acceptability, was of course quite similar to the Chinese
approach. Likewise, it was also quite different from the traditional Western
approach that Jesuit missionaries brought from Europe to China and, via their
writings, to Korea. European Catholics emphasized creed over deed, a tradition
with roots in the first centuries of the Christian Church, when Church authorities
determined who was a true Catholic and who was a heretic by seeing who adhered
to the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures adopted by the institutional church.22
Obedience to Church doctrinal authority was the touchstone and remained so into
the early modern era, as can be seen in the seventeenth-century condemnation of
Galileo by Church authorities.23
The Roman Catholic stress on doctrinal purity as the prime criterion for
orthodoxy contrasts sharply with the emphasis Korean Neo-Confucians placed on
the behavioral implications of claimants to orthodoxy. A Confucian state such as
Chosŏn Korea normally felt no need to compel rigid adherence to specific
formulations of Confucian teachings. There were no Confucian inquisitions
uncovering secret heretics who deviated from Neo-Confucian doctrinal tenets,
neither in China nor in Korea. Scholars could be and often were permitted to
debate freely such contentious issues as the relationship between li and ki, on the
one hand, and the Four Fonts and the Seven Feelings, on the other. Only when
the political authority of the state, or the rituals and ethics that were the core of
Confucian practice, was challenged was the government compelled to intervene in
intellectual disputes.
The Jesuit missionaries who came to China in the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries consequently entered a world which generally tolerated
private deviation from orthodox thinking but condemned such nonconformity if it
went beyond the realm of ideas into organized public action which challenged the
authority of the state. Just as in eighteenth-century Korea, what a person believed
in the privacy of his own heart was of little concern to the Confucian state. What a
person did with others was. Buddhism, for example, was idan, yet Buddhists were
not punished merely for believing in Buddhism or frequenting Buddhist temples.
However, when they met secretly with other Buddhists at night and prepared to
welcome the coming of the Maitreya whom they believed would replace the
emperor, they violated the laws of the state and risked official censure and
punishment.24 The Chinese state had learned from experience that secretive
Buddhist sects could turn rebellious, so they had to be controlled.
Similarly, Confucian governments chastised those who violated the
regulations governing ritual or disobeyed the moral rules governing human
relationships, since ritual and social morality were the glue that held Confucian
society together. Confucian officials acted vigorously to protect the social order.
They showed less concern for how closely the thinking of the masses mirrored the
orthodox interpretations of Confucian philosophy.25 Challenges to the accepted
ethical norms were prohibited, though disagreement on minor philosophical or
doctrinal issues was permitted as long as that disagreement remained within the
boundaries delineated by orthodox morality. Religious pluralism was tolerated, as
long as moral and ritual orthodoxy was maintained.26
Korea, from the seventeenth century on, sometimes put more emphasis on mere
verbal deviation than China did. Interpretations of the Neo-Confucian canon which
challenged an interpretation put forward by a leader of a powerful political faction,
challenging by implication the respect due that leader as well as the moral qualifications
of his faction to dominate the bureaucracy, could be condemned and their proponents
attacked. The case of Pak Sedang discussed in this volume is one example. Nonetheless,
normally orthodoxy in this Korean Neo-Confucian world was defined more in terms of
ethical than doctrinal correctness. Acceptable behavior was the standard more than
conventional ideas. Conversely, teachings which threatened the moral import of
Confucian teachings, any ideas or practices which were seen as preventing, discouraging,
or distracting men from the performance of their moral responsibilities to society, were
heterodox, idan. When Catholic converts first appeared in Korea at the end of the
eighteenth century, they had to prove that they were not promoting idan, that their
religion and behavior were consistent with and supportive of Confucian classical ethical
principles, before they could win acceptance from their staunchly Neo-Confucian
Precedents for Judgment
In evaluating Catholicism, Korean Neo-Confucians in the eighteenth century
relied on precedents from Chinese tradition as well as their own. Those who
declared Catholicism idan invariably directly or indirectly likened it to one or
more of the teachings condemned as ethically dangerous in the past, just as those
who were converted from Neo-Confucianism to Catholicism argued that
Catholicism resembled Confucianism much more closely than it resembled any of
the traditional idan schools of thought.
For example, the frequent anti-Catholic charge that that European religion
lacked proper respect for rulers and parents echoed Mencius's complaints against
Yang Chu and Mo Tzu.27 Yang Chu taught that each man should think of himself
first, that self-interest should be paramount. Mencius argued that such selfishness
was a denial of the just claim of a ruler to our loyalty and obedience. Mo Tzu
went to the opposite extreme, in Mencius's view. By advocating that men should
love everyone equally, Mo Tzu denied the special claim parents have on the heart.
Mencius concluded that to refuse to acknowledge special obligations to rulers and
to parents was to show oneself more beast than human.28 Catholic converts in
Korea had to argue both in their actions before arrest and in their answers when
interrogated after they were arrested that they, unlike Yang Chu and Mo Tzu, did
recognize the importance of loyalty and filial piety.
Another accusation revived from the past to be used against Catholics was
that they, like the Buddhists and the Taoists before them, destroyed the moral
bonds that made a human community possible.29 Catholic converts in Korea, in
order to support their claim to orthodox status, were forced to show that, despite
their belief that two of the three major enemies of virtue humanity faced were the
flesh and the world, they were not like the Buddhists and the Taoists and did not
reject either the bodies which their parents had given them or the world in which
human relationships were realized.30
One prominent theme in early Chosŏn dynasty Neo-Confucian attacks on
Buddhism was that Buddhists frightened people with talk of heaven and hell.
Hope of illusionary future reward or fear of imaginary future punishment turned
men's attention away from the real world. Another frequent accusation was that
the Buddhist mode of self-cultivation, because of its stress on individual
enlightenment, encouraged selfish withdrawal from society.31 Both themes
reappeared in the eighteenth century when many Neo-Confucians in Korea saw
Catholicism as bearing a dangerous resemblance to the Buddhism their
forerunners had condemned, raising additional barriers for Catholics to cross on
the road to recognition as adherents of orthodoxy.32
Though Koreans relied heavily on Chinese precedents in distinguishing
orthodox teachings from the heterodox, they did not limit themselves to pious
repetitions of Chinese judgments. They felt enough confidence in their own
command of Confucian principles to decide for themselves if doctrines even the
Chinese tolerated fit Korean Neo-Confucian criteria for orthodoxy. Mainstream
Korean Confucian scholars in the eighteenth century not only would not accept
any of the schools of thought the Chinese Confucian tradition condemned, many
went farther and branded as idan some ideas Chinese had found acceptable.
For example, Sŏngho and Sin Hudam, among others, mistakenly believed
that Catholicism was flourishing in China, since there were European priests
serving as official astronomers in Peking and many of the Jesuit books that had
made their way into Korea included laudatory prefaces by Chinese Confucian
officials. This alleged cachet of Chinese approval was not enough to sway
Confucian scholars such as Sin and Yi Hŏn’gyŏng (1719-1791), who felt that
Koreans should proudly proclaim their rejection of Catholicism so that all the
world would know that in Korea, at least, there were still scholars who held fast to
the legacy of Mencius and Chu Hsi and had not been deluded by evil doctrines.33
This eighteenth-century rejection of Catholicism was not the first time
Korean thinkers had differed from their fellow Neo-Confucians in China. Three
centuries earlier, T’oegye had condemned the teachings of Wang Yang-ming
(1472-1529), which were popular in China at that time. Wang insisted on the
identity of mind and principle, the unity of knowledge and conduct, and innate
knowledge of the good. He taught further that there was no need to engage in the
exhaustive study of principles in external things and events that Chu Hsi had
demanded, since principle resided complete within our own minds. T'oegye had
argued that Wang Yang-ming was wrong in challenging some of Chu Hsi's
interpretations of the Classics, particularly those dealing with the Great Learning.
T'oegye charged that Wang's suggested emendations to Chu Hsi's commentaries
were not only a distortion of the original meanings of the characters under dispute
but also would lead to a denial of Confucian moral principles.
To T’oegye, Wang's stress on truth within, on innate knowledge of the good,
was dangerously one-sided and self-centered. He wrote that unless subjective
insights into principle were confirmed with the objective principles in the external
world, the original impartial mind that alone makes men truly human would be
lost. T'oegye cautioned that Wang Yang-ming would have men turn inward, as
the Zen Buddhists do, rather than reaching outward with their moral strength, as
good Confucians should do.34 Wang Yang-ming's etymological errors disturbed
T'oegye less than the psychological and behavioral implications of those errors.
Wang was not only incorrect, his teachings were morally dangerous and had to be
condemned alongside those of Mo Tzu, Yang Chu, Buddha, and Lao Tzu.35
T'oegye's writings were a major influence on Korean Neo-Confucian
thought for the rest of the Chosŏn dynasty. Never was Wang Yang-ming to have
in Korea the respectability he won in China. Moreover, T’oegye’s distrust of the
body and its emotions, expressed through his rejection of Wang’s overreliance on
innate knowledge of the good, as well as an emphasis on i (C.li ) and the four
fonts over ki (C. ch’i) and the seven emotions along with stress on blocking
desires as a major thrust of Confucian moral discipline, stimulated an ascetic and
morally pessimistic strand in Korean Neo-Confucianism. That tendency toward
rigid self-denial and moral frustration became particularly strong in the eighteenth
century among the Namin, the political faction to which Sŏ ngho and his disciples
These Namin were the group which produced the first Korean converts to
Catholicism, as well as its the first critics. Both the converts and the critics were
motivated by a common desire to overcome the moral frailty of the human mind.
The critics, because of their recognition of the strength of selfish desires, reacted
strongly against Catholic teachings which seemed, in their view, to encourage
self-centered, and therefore immoral, attitudes and behavior. The converts, on the
other hand, became convinced that faith in the Catholic God provided a way to
overcome the selfishness which was so often the cause of ethical lapses.
Many Namin in the eighteenth century were growing increasingly frustrated
with the gap between their intention to live moral lives and their inability to
consistently act and think morally.37 More and more, they found themselves
drawn to a pair of terms Chu Hsi had used to highlight the essential difference
between right and wrong. Chu Hsi had written, “All affairs have only one of two
fonts: the right one is the impartiality (kong) of heavenly principle, and the wrong
one is the selfishness (sa) desires.”38 Both those who became Catholics and those
who became anti-Catholics drew on this dichotomy to condone and condemn
ideas and practices they approved and disapproved of.
For them, the degree to which an idea represented kong (Chinese, kung ),
selflessness, or sa (Chinese, szu ), selfishness, determined whether that idea was
orthodox or idan. An assertion that appeared to represent concern for personal
benefit without regard for the needs of society as a whole was immoral and
therefore unacceptable. A contrary assertion which placed the needs of the
community above those of the individual was moral and therefore orthodox. The
anti-Catholic An Chŏngbok stated it as clearly as anyone. “The difference
between the basic approaches of Confucianism and Catholicism is the difference
between selflessness (kong) and selfishness (sa).”39 An, of course, meant that it
was Catholicism which represented selfishness, as he again made clear in his
closing paragraph in a lengthy essay criticizing Catholicism. “Catholic doctrines
and practices are all manifestations of individual selfishness. There is no
comparison with the purely selfless stance of our Confucianism.”40
Kong means much more than the English translation selflessness indicates.
In English selflessness implies a willingness to sacrifice one's own interests for
the good of others as well as a lack of excessive longing for the rewards power,
prestige, and money can bring an individual. In Neo-Confucianism, kong meant
all this and more. Kong implied not just deference to the needs of others, but
identification with others. A person infused with a kong spirit knows that he exists
only as part of a much larger whole and therefore thinks and acts morally and
correctly only when he thinks and acts as a member of society rather than as an
isolated individual. Such a person will not only be unselfish, he will also be
impartial. By identifying with the world around him, he will be able to react to
and judge people and events as they are in themselves, not just as they relate to
his personal self-interest.
Sa also means more than its English counterpart indicates. A person
dominated by sa not only puts his own interests first, greedily pursuing personal
profit at the expense of others, he also turns inward, away from the external world
and thus denies a very important part of himself. His self-centered thoughts and
actions isolate him from the social and material environment that surrounds and
shapes him. A person with a mind distorted by sa reveals himself by his biases, by
his incomplete understanding of how everything, including himself, relates to
everything else. Unable to fully comprehend that which is going on around him
and unwilling to recognize his responsibilities, he fails to properly develop the
social vision which would enable him to become truly human and truly moral.41
It is this distorted vision that Sin Hudam believed lay behind heterodoxy. “There
are thousands of deviant doctrines (idan), all different, yet all flow from the
common spring of selfishness.”42 Sin supports this judgment by citing Chu Hsi,
who had warned his followers to distinguish those thoughts which originated in
our true human nature, and were therefore free of the distortions of selfishness
and could be trusted, from those which were generated by our bodies and
therefore could be corrupted by considerations of individual self-interest and
should be viewed with caution.43
If the description of kong and sa above is correct, selfishness in eighteenthand early nineteenth-century Korea was both an ethical and a cognitive flaw.44
Ideas rooted in selfishness were seen as both immoral and irrational. Conversely,
selflessness was both an ethical and a cognitive value. Ideas generated by, and
supportive of, an unselfish and impartial perspective were seen as moral, rational,
and correct. Such was the eighteenth-century Korean Neo-Confucian judgment of
idan and orthodoxy, a perspective which dominated the intellectual world in
which the first Korean Catholics appeared.
Sŏngho, Tasan and The Broadening of Horizons
This was a perspective shared by Sŏngho, the philosophical father of many of the first
Korean Confucians to take Catholicism seriously. Sŏngho was a staunch follower of the
T'oegye approach to Neo-Confucian thought and practice Confucianism. He carried
T'oegye’s mistrust of ki and sa even further than T'oegye had and taught what can only
be called a form of Confucian asceticism. Sŏngho's deep suspicion of the body and its
temptations led him to advocate severe restraint on the exercise of even those normal
human desires for food and sex which are necessary to the survival of the human race.
For example, he encouraged husbands and wives to sleep in separate rooms in order to
make it easier for men to resist the pull of the flesh. He also suggested that men eat less
than one full bowl of rice at every meal so that they will be accustomed to leaving
physical desires less than completely satisfied.45
Though he was a committed Neo-Confucian, Sŏngho was open to advice on selfdiscipline from heterodox schools. He once compared Buddhist monks favorably to
Confucian scholars because of their compassion, their respect for their teachers, and their
self-control and said that Confucians would do well to imitate some Buddhist ascetic
practices.46 Moreover, he was impressed by some Catholic advice on cultivating virtue..
He read Ch’i k’e (“Seven Victories”) by Fr. Diego de Pantoja (1571-1618), a
missionary tract extolling the seven cardinal virtues of humility, charity, patience,
compassion, temperance, diligence, and self-restraint, and commented afterwards that
that book surpassed all Confucian writings in its use of similes to elucidate the
relationship between vice and virtue. Sŏngho wrote, “this book will be a great help in our
effort to restore proper behavior.” However, he added,
It is surprising, though, to find talk of God and spirits mixed up in this otherwise fine
work. If we excise all such non-essential bits of grit and copy down only the parts in it
that are worthwhile, then we can treat it as orthodox Confucianism.47
In rejecting the theological distractions the Jesuit missionary author of that
book introduced, Sŏngho displayed a stance he also exhibited toward Buddhism.
He was willing to borrow techniques for cultivating virtue from whomever could
offer them to him, though he would brook no challenges to his Confucian vision
of the ultimate aim of that moral discipline. His guiding philosophy was an ethical
pragmatism rooted in Confucian respect for loyalty, filial piety, and other
expressions of selflessness.48
When Catholic books offered techniques for overcoming selfish tendencies,
he approached them with an open mind. If their ideas worked, he would use them.
However, he found their talk of God more of a hindrance than a help, since it
turned men away from the problems of this world and focused their attention on
an illusionary supernatural realm instead. In a comment on the T'ien-chu shih-i,
the catechism of Matteo Ricci, Sŏngho warned, “Their Lord of Heaven is the
same as the Sangje of we Confucians, but the way they respect, serve, fear, and
trust God is just like the way the Buddhists treat Sakyamuni.”49
The ambiguity Sŏngho displayed toward Catholicism, his willingness to see both
good and bad points in Chinese beliefs and practices, produced both anti-Catholic and
pro-Catholic disciples. Sin Hudam, An Chŏngbok, and Yi Hŏn’gyŏng (1719-1791), for
example, wrote detailed critiques of Catholic doctrines and practices.50 However,
another disciple, Tasan Chŏng Yagyong was even more open to ideas and suggestions
from heterodox sources than Sŏngho had been. Tasan never met Sŏngho but he was a
member of that faction of Korean Neo-Confucianism, the Namin, which was guided in
its thinking by the writings of T'oegye and Sŏngho. Tasan, too, made Confucian virtues
the unassailable foundation upon which he erected a moral and political philosophy with
bricks taken from both orthodox and heterodox sources. As he made clear in his
commentary on the passage from the Analects dealing with orthodoxy, heterodox schools
should not be ignored or condemned out of hand. They must not be the primary focus of
attention, but they could be mined for the practical techniques they offer which could be
used to pursue Confucian aims. Of course, they should never be allowed to encroach on
fundamental Confucian assumptions about human nature and morality, however.51
Confucians must remain Confucians.
Unlike Sŏngho, however, Tasan was willing to see some ethical advantages to
belief in God. He believed that belief in God was necessary to inspire men overcome
their natural selfish tendencies and do good and avoid evil. That may be because he, even
more than Sŏngho, was acutely conscious of human moral weakness. Tasan took to heart
T’oegye’s “Diagram of the Admonition for Mindfulness Studio.” In that diagram,
T’oegye borrowed Chu Hsi's Admonition on Seriousness to explain the importance of
always keeping a calm and focused mind, as though in the presence of the Lord on High.
He counseled being constantly cautious and careful without a moment’s relaxation of
vigilance, for the consequences of even the slightest slip were awesome.
Falter for a single moment and selfish desire will burst forth in full force. Make the
slightest mistake, and heaven and earth will be turned upside down, destroying the basic
moral principles governing society and bringing about the collapse of civilization. 52
Though attention to this admonition was not new, the seriousness and literalness
with which Tasan, and a few of his relatives and friends, took that admonition was.
Though previous generations of Neo-Confucians had tended to treat such demands for
constant vigilance against the slightest slip into selfishness as the ultimate goals toward
which all men should strive, that small band of Sŏngho's disciples read that admonition as
a demand which had to be met perfectly everyday. Just as few Christians, outside of the
pacifist sects such as the Quakers, have tried to immediately implement Christ's
command to love one's enemies, so, too, few Neo-Confucians had truly expected to
immediately gain total mastery over the distractions of the mind and the selfish desires of
the body. Tasan was an impatient exception. He expected to be able to achieve instant
moral perfection.
Such stringent moral expectations create feelings of guilt in those unable to remain
constantly calm and unperturbed and filled with nothing but selfless thoughts twenty-four
hours a day. Tasan once recalled a conversation with his older brother Yakchŏn (17581816) in which Yakchŏn told him," I have a lot to repent. Everyday I remind myself of
all that I have done wrong." Tasan commented that his brother's remark caused him to
reflect on the frailty of man. He noted that men are unable to reach perfection, no matter
how wise or diligent they are, since they are not just a disembodied mind but also possess
a body filled with passion and carnal urges. Even the sages of ancient China were not
perfect. If they had been perfect, they would not have been human. But, Tasan went on,
man can turn this evil into good. Just as manure can be used to fertilize rice fields, regret
and contrition can serve to fertilize minds. If men constantly remind themselves of
serious mistakes they have made in the past, even mistakes they no longer commit, then
that feeling of remorse can stimulate them to reform. Repentance can build virtue from
man's sins.53
Tasan's recognition of man's inherent weakness, of guilt as an inescapable yet
useful feature of the human condition, contradicts one of the fundamental assumptions of
Confucian ethics: that men are inherently perfectible. Frustration at repeated failures to
conform to the Neo-Confucian vision of rectitude led to guilt. That guilt led to
disillusionment with one of the cornerstones of Neo-Confucian thought. Conventional
Neo-Confucian moralists presumed that all men have within themselves the strength to
eventually become a sage, to form a trinity with heaven and earth. Tasan asked if all men
can be sages, why are not all men sages? Especially, he asked himself, why was he, who
tried so hard to eliminate self-centered biases and follow moral principles, unable to go
through even a single day without going astray at least once in thought or action? The
guilt Tasan felt at his inability to live up to the high standards of self-denial and selfdiscipline Sŏngho raised for himself and his followers prepared Tasan to respond
favorably to Catholic writings which claimed to identify a source of moral strength in the
personal deity found in the earliest Confucian classics.54
In Tasan's view, living virtuously required more effort than Chu Hsi and the other
Neo-Confucians, with their theory of inherent virtue, had realized. Tasan rejected the
mainstream position that when the mind is in a state of non-arousal, that is, when the
mind is not responding to external stimulation with feelings of pleasure, anger, sorrow, or
joy, it need only be kept calm and unmoving, focused inward with serious concentration.
He charged that such quietism was nothing more than Zen Buddhist doctrine disguised in
Confucian language. Rather than trying to clear the mind of thought and feelings, man
should instead maintain a constant sense of awe and apprehension, remaining ever aware
how difficult it was to be consistent in the pursuit of virtue and how easy it was to fail.55
Awe and apprehension combined in Tasan to produce an attitude of kyŏng. In NeoConfucian writings, kyŏng was a major term rendered into English by various translators
as earnestness, seriousness, mindfulness, composure, attentiveness, and prudence.56
Kyŏng referred to an internal state of complete control over the mind in which thoughts
were not allowed to wander or feelings to stir and total attention was directed toward one
thing. As one prominent Western scholar of Chinese Neo-Confucians has noted, “often
this one thing represented the unity of all things in principle.”57 In the oldest Confucians
Classics, those written before the Han dynasty, however, kyŏng is best translated as
reverence and refers to the attitude men outwardly display toward another or toward
heaven. Tasan emphasized that original meaning of kyŏng. He called for men to
reinforce a stance of cautious apprehension of their own moral frailty through a feeling of
reverence for Sangje, the God of the Confucian Classics.
Tasan's introduction of God at this point was not, on the surface, a radical departure
from Neo-Confucianism. As noted above, in his Admonition on Seriousness, Chu Hsi
had advised his disciples to cultivate a calm and focused mind as though they were
always in the presence of Sangje, the God of the Confucian Classics. Chu Hsi placed the
presence of God in the hypothetical because, to him, God did not exist as a person but
was simply another name for the impersonal i, the normative pattern which gave order to
the universe.58 T'oegye, though he too talked of God, supported Chu Hsi's gloss of this
personal term as a figurative reference for an impersonal moral force.59 Tasan, however,
repudiated that interpretation, pointing out that in the earliest Confucian texts the terms
for God clearly referred to an intelligent personality governing the universe.60
Tasan had noticed a significant contradiction in Neo-Confucian thought and
practice. Confucianism was built on social morality, with ethics defined in terms of
man's relationship with his fellow man. Men were considered virtuous only if they
displayed the proper attitudes and behavior toward superiors and inferiors, parents and
children, older and younger siblings, and spouses and friends. Yet Neo-Confucianism
also demanded that men maintain an attitude of kyŏng, and kyŏng could most easily be
cultivated by withdrawing from the distractions of the external world of men and objects.
Though kyŏng was intended to be a means to an end, the necessary mental preparation for
moral action, Tasan feared that for some it had become an end in itself. Men who
achieved inner peace often, like the Buddhists, hesitated to risk that pleasant state in
encounters with the real world. He believed that the danger of such a lapse into quietism
could be lessened by replacing the abstract metaphysical terminology of Sung NeoConfucianism with the concrete anthropomorphic language of the Classics.
The Neo-Confucian turn inward undermined the link between internal moral
attitudes and external ethical behavior that was the mark of earlier Confucian morality.
Tasan sought to revive that link by reversing the Neo-Confucian orientation and
reclaiming an external object of reverence from the original Confucian tradition. Just as
men should show respect for their elders, loyalty to their superiors and filial piety to their
parents, when they were alone they should display respect and reverence for God so that
they would always remain in a proper moral frame of mind even when no one else was
around. Always and everywhere morality for Tasan involved a relationship with
another.61 He rejected the Neo-Confucian concern for disinterested attentiveness and
substituted reverence for God in its place.
Tasan reasoned that only if men were conscious that God watched their every move
and knew their every thought would they be able to maintain constant attention to
propriety. Abstract impersonal i had no power to instill righteous fear into the hearts of
men. But awe of God's unlimited vision would keep men from relaxing their guard
against selfish desire for a single moment. Men could be persistent and consistent in
watching over themselves even when alone only if they were aware that God, too, was
watching them.62
The ever-watchful God Tasan believed in was not the Christian God, however. He
was instead a Confucian God, the personification of the Confucian virtues of selflessness
(kong), benevolence, and righteousness.63 Tasan called God the ruler of the cosmos, not
its creator. His God combined the objectivity of impartiality and selflessness with the
intentionality of a personal deity. As objective subjectivity, Sangje implanted and
managed the pattern (i) that provided order in the universe, providing a personal
grounding for an ethics of personal relationships. In Tasan's Confucian universe,
however, the physical material which made up that universe appears to have had no
beginning in time and needed no creator. Nor did his God appear directly to man to
impart revelation. Tasan wrote that we learned the will of God by listening to our own
Furthermore, Tasan said nothing of God passing judgment on the souls of the dead
and passing out rewards and punishments for the deeds of this life. In fact, Tasan said
little about God's nature or activities, except that God was to be held in awe as the
intelligent governor of the normative pattern that directed the universe. Tasan did not
bother with the detailed description of the divine attributes that occupied so much of the
attention of Catholic theologians. His God was solely a moral force. That was what made
him a Confucian God.65
Tasan may have been stimulated to look for a personal deity in the Confucian
Classics by his reading of Matteo Ricci's T'ien-chu shih-i.66 However, as the
personification of that fundamental Confucian virtue of selflessness, Tasan's sangje was
different from Ricci's Deus.67 As objective subjectivity, sangje remained within the
bounds of Confucian orthodoxy, a supporter rather than a subverter of Confucian
morality. Despite the arguments of some scholars that Tasan was a closet Catholic those
last decades of his life when he was writing his theistic commentaries on the Classics,
Tasan showed until the end that he placed Confucian values, and the rituals that
enshrined them, above any theological assertions.68 He recognized the merits to the
Catholic argument that men should honor Sangje but he felt that Catholics did not pay
sufficient attention to the need to properly honor their parents and their rulers as well.
Just as Wang Yang-ming had led men astray with his overly narrow prescription to
follow innate knowledge of the good, so too the theo-centric Catholic approach to ethical
obligations posed a threat to Confucian values and praxis.
Though Korean Catholics knew from 1790 on that Catholic doctrine forbad the
performance of traditional Confucian ancestor memorial services, Tasan wrote volumes
on the proper performance of such rituals and left strict instructions for his descendants to
perform those rituals properly.69 That, in addition to the lack of uniquely Christian
characteristics in the God he describes in his commentaries, shows that Tasan believed in
a God who undergirded rather than undermined orthodox Confucian morality and ritual.
Using the late Chosŏn dynasty Confucian yardsticks of moral pragmatism and canonical
conformity, in which ethical dictates determined what could be accepted as true more
than abstract truth determined what was deemed moral, Tasan was a Confucian theist, but
a Confucian nonetheless.
Paul Yun: Martyr for the New Orthodoxy
The same cannot be said for his cousin, Yun Chich'ung (1759-1791). Yun was one
of the first Koreans converted to Catholicism after Tasan's brother-in-law Yi Sŭnghun
(1756-1801) returned from Beijing in 1784 as the newly-baptized Peter Lee and began
preaching his new faith to his friends and relatives. In 1790, when another Korean
returned from a trip to China with a message from the French priests in Beijing that
Catholic law forbad the standard Confucian ancestor memorial service, the stage was set
for a confrontation between Confucianism and Catholicism.
In the spring of 1791 Paul Yun Chich'ung's mother died. He and his Catholic cousin
James Kwŏn Sang'yŏn (?-1791) decided that they would follow all the customary
Confucian mourning rituals except the rites involving the ancestral tablets. Going
beyond the instructions from Bishop Gouvea in Peking, they not only did not make a
tablet for Yun's mother, they burnt all the ancestral tablets in their possession and buried
the ashes. Given the central role of the tablets in the mourning ceremonies, their absence
could not go unnoticed by relatives who came to Chinsan county in Chŏlla province to
join Yun in mourning the loss of his mother.70
Soon rumors spread of Yun and Kwŏn's violation of the regulations governing
Confucian mourning ritual and they were arrested by the magistrate of Chinsan county.
In the account Yun Chich'ung provides of his interrogation by Magistrate Sin Sawǒ n and
Governor Chŏng Minsi, the depth of this Catholic challenge to mainstream NeoConfucian conceptions of orthodoxy and orthopraxis is readily apparent.
Yun attempted to justify his destruction of ancestral tablets by using logic and
reason to show the absurdity of the ancestor memorial service. Yun's defense, adopted
from the Catholic insistence on the irrational and superstitious character of Confucian
ritual, clashed with the Confucian concern for the symbolic and ethical significance of
that rite. Yun's account of his interrogations shows Yun and his interrogators talking
past each other rather than to each other. Yun kept insisting that he had acted the way he
had in order to ensure that his actions were in accordance with what he believed to be
true. His interrogators kept insisting that Yun admit that what he had done and what his
Catholic books taught were immoral. Yun could not understand how actions that
offended against logic and reason could be moral. Neither the magistrate nor the
governor could understand how considerations of logical truth or falsity could affect a
person's performance of his social obligations.71
When he converted to Catholicism, Yun shifted from the pragmatic orientation of
Neo-Confucianism, in which the purpose, the moral import, of a ritual determined how
that ritual was interpreted, to the doctrinal orientation of Catholicism, which imposed a
literal interpretation on both ritual objects and ritual behavior. In other words, Yun had
moved to a stress on the ideas that a ritual implied while his Neo-Confucian interrogators
held on to the primacy they placed on the ritual itself and its ethical behavioral
Yun argued that it was an affront to the dignity owed his father and mother to treat
pieces of wood, the ancestral tablets, as though they held parental souls. He noted that
the fourth commandment ordered Catholics to honor their fathers and mothers. If their
parents were actually present in those wooden ancestral tablets, then Catholics would be
obligated to show respect for the tablets. But those tablets were made of wood.
They have no flesh and blood relationship with me. They did not give me life nor
educate me... How can I dare to treat these man-made pieces of wood as though
they were actually my mother and father?72
Yun argued further that it was foolish to place food and drink before a block of
wood, even if a soul were present in it. Yun pointed out that the soul was not a material
object and could get no nourishment from material goods. No matter how delicious the
wine and nutritious the meat, the soul could get no benefit from the offering.
Furthermore, even the most filial son did not try to serve his parents food and drink when
they were asleep.
If people cannot eat while they sleep, how much more foolish is it to offer food to
our parents when they are dead? How can anyone who is sincere in his filial piety
try to honor his parents with such an absurd practice?73
This Catholic Korean even dared to challenge the fundamental assumption of
Confucian morality that made loyalty and filial piety the absolutes from which all other
value and virtue were derived. He denied that those two virtues were complete and
axiomatic in themselves but instead argued that “the basis of loyalty to the ruler is the
laws of God, and the basis of filial piety towards one's parents is also the laws of God.”
74 This was a radical contradiction of the core of Confucian thought. Rather than
accepting the virtues of filial piety and loyalty as the standards by which all else was to
be judged, Yun claimed that filial piety and loyalty were themselves only conditional
obligations, binding on man only because God, the source of all value, has so willed.75
Paul Yun was well aware that his stance differed dangerously from the behavioral
orientation of his Korean Confucian contemporaries, who placed concern for what should
be done ahead of concern for what should be believed. When told to provide a short
summary of Catholic teachings, he presented them in as strong a Confucian light as
possible. Rather than explaining his belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ and his power to
redeem men from their sins, Yun simply stated, “What we practice can be reduced to the
ten commandments and the seven virtues.”76 In order to persuade his Confucian
interrogators that Catholic was more orthodox than heterodox, Yun reduced Catholicism
to its moral commands and defined it essentially as a collection of guidelines for ethical
behavior, guidelines for the most part identical to those of Confucianism though they
were generated by a non-Confucian God.
His interrogators and jailers were not fooled. Yun’s claim to be a true Confucian at
heart was dismissed.77 From Magistrate Sin on up, his jailors and judges recognized that
Catholicism was not just Confucian morality cloaked in Western theological rhetoric.
Yun’s actions, even more than his beliefs, sealed his fate. As Governor Chŏng pointed
out to him, King Chŏngjo had ordered the destruction of all Catholic books in 1788.78
By reading books that the king himself had condemned, Yun has displayed disloyalty.
But that was a minor mistake compared to the more grievous error of acting on the
precepts taught in those forbidden writings. When Yun refused to perform proper
mourning ritual, destroying his family’s ancestral tablet instead, he lowered himself to the
level of beasts and brought on himself the most severe of punishments.79
The language of the many memorials demanding the death penalty for Yun and
Kwŏn further supports the conclusion that it was what Yun and Kwŏn did and did not do,
more than what they did and did not believe, which provoked the animosity of so many
of Korea’s Neo-Confucian scholars both in and out of the government. The most
common charge levied against them was not merely that they held heterodox ideas but
that they acted contrary to fundamental moral principles, “wounding morality and
perverting righteousness (sangnyun p’aeŭi).”80 And, when King Chŭngjo agreed to
order their execution, the excuse he used was that they had behaved immorally, not that
they held non-canonical beliefs. It was their destruction of ancestral tablets in accordance
with their Catholic faith, more than their Catholic faith itself, which provided the grounds
for their beheading.81
If Yun had merely entertained Catholic ideas while continuing to follow Confucian
rules of morality and ritual, he might have escaped with no more than a severe warning
for dabbling in heterodoxy.82 However, he was not content to merely believe in
Catholicism. He was determined to practice it as well. Yun’s redefinition of orthodoxy,
grounding it in belief in God’s existence and obedience to God’s will rather than in the
cosmic network of appropriate interrelationships and interaction (i) which underlay
Confucian behavior and ritual, allowed Catholic theological doctrine to dictate his
behavior. His Catholic conception of orthodoxy thus became the framework for a
challenge to the very foundations of Neo-Confucian morality which could not be
overlooked. By rejecting the traditional subordination of religion to morality, Yun
brought on his own death sentence. He moved beyond idan, which could be tolerated,
into the much more dangerous realm of sahak (perverse teachings), which could not.83
On December 8, 1791, Paul Yun, together with James Kwŭn, was martyred for his
fidelity to his new Catholic faith. His belief that religious truths determined morality ,and
his denial that Confucian moral presuppositions determined what could and could not be
believed, cost him his life.84
Defining the New Orthodoxy
This fatal shift in not just the content but also the very definition and conception of
orthodoxy was probably introduced into Korea by Christian missionary publications
written by Jesuit priests in China. Ricci’s T'ien-chu shih-i was particularly influential in
converting Korean Confucians to the Catholic way of thinking.
In this basic introduction to the fundamentals of Catholic doctrine, Ricci, though
claiming that Catholicism was the fulfillment, not a rejection, of pristine Confucianism,
subtly attempted to shift the ground on which the debate over orthodoxy would take
place. Ricci ignored the important Confucian criterion of moral pragmatism and offered
instead the standard for orthodoxy that prevailed in the Europe of his day. Ricci argued
that men had to know what something was before they could decide how to relate to it,
which contrasts sharply with the Korean Neo-Confucian notion that relationships
determine what something is rather than the other way around. In practical terms, Ricci
taught that men had to decide whether God really existed, and precisely what sort of God
he was, before they could decide what moral principles to follow. Orthodoxy, including
orthodox behavior, had to be based on correct beliefs, particularly belief in the true
In eighteenth-century Neo-Confucian Korea, however, belief in gods was
instrumental rather than fundamental. Proper and appropriate behavior was the goal and
all effective means to that goal, including the gods of popular religion, were tolerated.
Consequently, Korean Neo-Confucians generally humored belief in gods among the
peasantry, and in those gods’ powers to dispense rewards and punishments, because such
beliefs had traditionally encouraged adherence to Confucian values rather than generating
opposing moral commands of its own.
In both the Chinese and the Korean popular religious traditions, the gods punished
those who failed to honor their parents because the gods are offended by violations of
accepted standards of conduct, contrary to the Catholic position that men must honor
their parents because God has so commanded. In other words the Catholic God both
created and enforced moral commands, whereas gods in Neo-Confucian Korea merely
enforced moral codes which i, the cosmic normative pattern, created. Most Neo-
Confucian scholars, of course, disclaimed personal belief in the actual intervention of
supernatural beings in human affairs. Nevertheless, they tolerated such beliefs among the
masses because fear of the supernatural inspired peasants to act morally. Catholicism,
which refused this subordinate role, could not be as easily tolerated.
Catholicism not only denied that religion was subordinate to morality, it reversed
that relationship and made morality dependent on religion. God, not society, the state or
tradition, determined what was moral and what was not. As Thomas Aquinas (12241274), the Chu Hsi of late medieval Catholicism, definitively explained,
Morality is based primarily on God’s wisdom. It is his wisdom that establishes
creatures in their proper relationship with each other and with him; and it is
precisely in that relationship that the essence of a creature’s moral goodness
consists. 86
If anything, it was society therefore which should follow religion's pronouncements
rather than religion merely reflecting and supporting society. This difference between
Neo-Confucian and Catholic expectations of the role of religion in society made the
practical implications of the disagreement between Catholics and Confucians over the
nature of orthodoxy potentially explosive, since it allowed Catholics to claim an
independent of society, a subversive notion in the Neo-Confucianism
One reason Catholics and Neo-Confucians disagreed on the relationship between
religion and morality is that they did not use the same religious or philosophical
language. Even in translation into classical Chinese, conceptual gaps yawned wide. The
key Neo-Confucian concept of i is one good example.
I was morality itself, the cosmic network of appropriate interrelationships, the
universal moral pattern of selfless harmonious interaction. It was i, through its
universalizing tendency, which held the universe together. Orthodoxy, to NeoConfucians, by definition was that which conformed to i. Yet Ricci dismissed i as nothing
more than a parasitical abstraction of no moral significance. Ricci, and the Catholic
converts who followed him, misunderstood i to mean static principle rather than dynamic
Ricci argued vigorously that i could not be the active organizing force in the
universe Chu Hsi said it was. According to Ricci, i, which he interpreted as an abstract
rational principle defining what something was and how it should function, could not
itself be an object or entity. I, as Ricci defined it, could only exist in conjunction with
some concrete object. In Thomistic terminology, a principle was an attribute, a secondary
characteristic of an entity, rather than a substance, the core entity itself. Before the
universe began, there were no principles, since before individual objects existed, their
attributes could not exist either. Only when God created the universe did principles
appear. God, not i, was the Creator and Organizer of the universe.87
In addition, a defining principle was unconscious and incapable of self-movement
or volition. Therefore it could not have created on its own the world that contains the
conscious and moral mind of man. “A principle can not give other things what it itself
does not have. The true source of all things must have a mind capable of conscious
knowledge and able to make moral decisions.”88 This insistence on treating NeoConfucian references to i as references to some thing, either a substantial entity or a
characteristic of an entity, rather than to a pattern or network which was more function
than substance, meant that Ricci misunderstood one of the defining concepts of NeoConfucians thought and therefore misunderstood what Neo-Confucians meant by
I as pattern was far from the dead abstraction Ricci believed it to be. When Ricci
derided i as a subordinate property, an attribute or accident incapable of creative activity,
he was thinking of i as comparable to the white color on a white horse. The horse may be
truly white, yet he would still be a horse if he were brown instead. Therefore in no way
could whiteness be conceived as essential to the horse's existence nor could whiteness be
credited somehow with any part in the production of horses.90 However, when NeoConfucians talked of i, they talked, not of properties or attributes, but of functional
relationships. A example frequently used was the normative pattern which governed the
behavior of a subject toward his superior and of the ruler toward his subject or that which
regulated the duties of a son toward his father and the obligations of a father toward his
son. As understood by Neo-Confucians, i determined more what someone should do than
what he looked like.
Therefore, when Korean converts to Catholicism, such as Paul Yun, abandoned
their commitment to i for a commitment to God, they did more than simply change the
philosophical and ethical doctrines to which they had subscribed. In Neo-Confucian eyes,
they had abandoned morality itself. All the arguments Catholics in Korea presented to
make belief in God the core of their new definition of orthodoxy failed to convince those
to whom orthodoxy was inseparable from orthopraxis, adherence to Confucian morality.
Among those joining Paul Yun in making that Catholic argument, which fell on mostly
deaf ears, was Yun’s cousin, and Tasan’s brother, Augustine Chŏng Yakchong (17601801).
Chŏng Yakchong was one of three Chŏng brothers active in the Korean Catholic
community in its formative years. His younger brother Tasan and his older brother Chŏng
Yakchŏn (1758-1816) soon retreated back within the walls of Confucian orthodoxy
when the martyrdom of Paul Yun made it clear to them that Catholicism and NeoConfucianism were not as compatible as they had originally thought.91 They both
condemned Catholicism as an evil heterodoxy when they were arrested and interrogated
in the anti-Catholic persecution of 1801. Yakchong, on the other hand, became more, not
less, fervent under persecution and was a major figure in keeping Catholicism alive on
the peninsula between the execution of Paul Yun in 1791 and the great persecution of
When Augustine Chŏng faced his persecutors in 1801, he boldly defended his
beliefs as the true orthodoxy, telling his interrogators
Do you think I would follow these teachings if I thought they were evil, heterodox
doctrines? I follow Catholic teachings because I know that they are the most fair
and impartial (kong), the most correct and orthodox (chŏng), and the most genuine
and true . 92
He went on to explain that God is the both the supreme ruler and the paramount
parent of the cosmos and any teachings that did not include respect for God were an
offense against both heaven and earth.
Before his arrest on February 11, 1801, and his execution on April 8 of that same
year, Chŏng Yakchong wrote an introduction to the principle doctrines of Catholicism in
hangŭl. 93 That book, the Chugyo yoji [Essentials of the Lord’s Teachings], survived his
martyrdom to become the basic catechism of the Korean Catholic Church for another
century and beyond.94 It is a perfect example of the new model of orthodoxy—doctrine
provides the basis for moral principles rather than the other way around.
That catechism opens, not with exhortations to the cultivation of virtue but with
logical arguments for God’s existence.95 Even the trinitarian doctrine of three persons in
one God is introduced early in this text, long before the ethical implications of the
assertion of God’s existence are addressed.96 The first moral principle Yakchong
specifically mentions is the need to worship the one true God and the related sin of
worshipping false gods.97 Worship of the true God is thus given clear priority over
loyalty to political rulers or filial piety to parents, a sharp break with Korean tradition.
The other nine commandments are given only a glancing mention, showing how moral
principles have retreated into the background of this theological conception of orthodoxy.
As a result of this subordination of morality to theology, Yakchong was condemned not
as a doctrinal heretic but for moral perversion, accused of promoting sahak and
undermining the ethical foundations of society.98
Despite growing up in a Confucian literati household and receiving a traditional
Confucian education, Yakchong showed little influence of his Confucian youth in his
introduction to Catholic doctrines. That may be because he was writing for the already
converted, the less educated members of the infant Korean Catholic community who
were not steeped in the Confucian Classics and their Neo-Confucian interpretation. Or it
may be because his catechism is not so much the product of his own independent
thinking as it is his translation into Korean of what he had read in Jesuit missionary
publications from China and what he had learned from conversations with Fr. Chou Wenmo (1752-1801), the Chinese priest who ministered to the Korean Church from 1794
until his martyrdom in 18901 and worked closely with Augustine over those six years.99
His catechism is framed therefore entirely within the imported Catholic paradigm of
His son, Paul Chŏng Hasang (1795-1839), did not receive the standard Confucian
education his father had received, since his father had been executed and his uncles
scattered into exile when he was only five years old. Nevertheless, Hasang shows a
greater sensitivity to how Korea’s Neo-Confucian ruling elite evaluated moral,
philosophical, and religious claims than Yakchong had. Knowing that he would be
arrested someday for inheriting his father’s central role within Korea’s nascent Catholic
community, Hasang prepared a defense of his Catholic faith to present to the Korean
court.100 That defense, entitled Sang chaesang sŏ[A letter to the State Council], shows
Hasang trying to justify his advocacy of a new orthodoxy by appealing to the standards of
the old orthodoxy.101 In a little under 3,700 Chinese characters, Paul Chŏng argues that
the Chosŏn dynasty is laboring under a misapprehension when it condemns Western
religion as heretical, immoral, and subversive.
Hasang began his defense by reminding the State Council that, before a doctrine
could be condemned, that doctrine first must be tested against the dual standards of
righteousness and rationality. Only if it was ascertained that that doctrine was contrary to
righteousness and rationality (i) could it be condemned. On those grounds, Catholicism
should not be condemned. First of all, it did not offend against righteousness. It could do
no harm to Confucianism and could not threaten the social order, since it was nothing
more than the Way everyone from the emperor down to the common man should behave
in their everyday life.102
"Does Catholicism harm the family? Does it harm the state? Look at what
Catholics do, study their behavior, and you will see what kind of people we are and
what kind of teachings we follow. Catholics are not rebels. Catholics are not thieves.
Catholics do not engage in lewd activities or murder." 103
He also pointed out that Korea already tolerated Buddhists, shamans, geomancers,
and fortunetellers, so why did it not tolerate Catholics as well, especially since Catholic
teachings, and Catholics themselves, were much more rational, and much less of a threat
to society and morality, than those superstitious practices , and those who practiced them,
Unlike his father, Hasang did consider the Ten Commandments important enough
to discuss in his explanation of the foundations of his faith. He lists them all and then
points out that only the first three deal directly with man’s relationship with God while
the other seven all enjoin man to interact properly with his fellow man.105 While the
latter seven are similar to what Neo-Confucians have expected of their followers, the first
three add a dimension, Hasang argues, which makes Catholicism even more supportive of
righteousness and rationality than Neo-Confucianism is.
His argument is based on his Catholic usage of the term i. He uses that term more
in the Riccian sense of rational principle than in the mainstream Neo-Confucian sense of
moral pattern. He plays on the ambiguity of that term, however. That allows him to put
forth logical arguments for the existence of God which then lead him to conclude that,
since God exists as the creator and sustainer of all in the universe, include mankind, men
should display filial piety toward their Father in heaven, just as i requires that they
display filial piety toward their parents on earth.106
Hasang knew that basing his arguments on i, whether in the Neo-Confucian sense
of normative pattern or the Catholic sense of abstract principle, would probably not in
itself be sufficient to convince his persecutors that Catholicism was not heterodox. He
therefore appealed to the other standards Neo-Confucians used in evaluating claims,
assertions, and ideas of moral and philosophical import.
He knew that Neo-Confucians expected acceptable ideas to be based on language
found in the Confucian Canon. Though Rome had ordered Catholic missionaries in
China to cease equating the Catholic God with Sangje, the God of the Confucian
Classics, Hasang sidestepped those orders to argue that early Confucians did make
specific references to a Supreme Being. He goes on to argue that Catholicism has its own
classics as well, classics even more complete and error free than the Confucian
classics.107 Therefore, on the basis of both canonical conformity as well as ethical
implications, Catholicism should at least be tolerated by Confucians, if not recognized as
the superior Way.
That argument from the Classics, that not only do the ancient Confucian Classics
recognize God’s existence but that Catholic records are even older and more complete,
also allowed Hasang to argue that Catholicism was acceptable according to two less
critical standards of evaluation as well. Not only did God appear in the first Chinese
texts, but Christianity itself had a long history in China. Moreover, at a time when Korea
was persecuting Catholics, China not only did not outlaw Catholicism, if even permitted
Catholics from abroad to enter China and live there. Therefore Catholicism not only had
a Chinese seal of approval, it had the patina of respectable old age besides.108
Ultimately, however, Hasang argues, whether Catholicism is orthodox and worthy
of support or heterodox and deserving of suppression is resolved by one basic question:
do Catholic teachings run counter to morality and encourage men to act in unacceptable
ways? Do Catholics act properly or not?109 The answer Paul Chŏng Hasang gives is a
straightforward claim for the acceptability and orthodoxy of his religious beliefs. Rather
than being the evil heterodoxy Korean government officials were claiming it was,
Catholicism instead was “most holy and sagely, the most fair and impartial (kong), the
most correct and orthodox (chŏng), the most genuine and true, the most perfect and
complete, and the most singular and unique of all teachings.”110
Paul Chŏng was no more successful in convincing Korean Confucian officials that
Catholicism was harmless and orthodox than his father Yakchong or his father's cousin
Yun Chich’ung had been. Instead, he joined them in martyrdom, suffering execution at
Sŏsomun on September 22, 1839 for giving priority to Catholic doctrine over Confucian
morality, and for fidelity to the new definition of orthodoxy that entailed. Despite his
attempt to disguise his Catholicism in Confucian colors, Hasang was condemned as a
villain devoid of moral principles who had betrayed both his nation and his cultural
When Yun Chich’ung, Chŏng Yakchong, Chŏng Hasang and their fellow Catholic
pioneers converted to Catholicism and provoked this deadly confrontation with NeoConfucianism, they inadvertently opened a window into the world of eighteenth-century
Korean Neo-Confucian concepts and values. When Korean Neo-Confucians debated
among themselves such issues as the relationship between i and ki, or even the orthodoxy
or heterodoxy of Wang Yang-ming’s writings, most of their shared assumptions remained
implicit. There was no need to state explicitly what all parties already thought or
However, when Korean Neo-Confucians encountered Catholicism in the eighteenth
century, they confronted an alien intellectual world. Catholicism was a product of a
comprehensive world view, a Weltanschauung, radically different from that which
underlay Neo-Confucianism.112 The questions Catholics raised, the answers Catholics
expected, and, more importantly, the way those questions and answers were formulated
and evaluated, presupposed a conceptual and axiological framework even more foreign to
the Neo-Confucian stance toward the world than those assumed by Buddhism and
shamanism. Forced to justify and defend their values and beliefs against such an alien
challenger, Korean Neo-Confucians in the eighteenth century unveiled the tacit
assumptions that supported those beliefs and values. Under attack, the implicit became
explicit. Thrown into sharp relief by comparison with opposing preconceptions from the
West, the hidden premises of mainstream Korean intellectual life in the eighteenth
century can be uncovered and identified.
Two concepts highlighted into greater clarity by this clash of opposing world views
are orthodoxy and heterodoxy. The arguments both for and against Catholicism put
forward by Koreans in the late 1700s and the early 1800s suggest that it is risky to rely
only on Western concepts of heterodoxy (doctrinal deviation) or orthodoxy (doctrinal
acceptability) in analyzing that dispute. For those attacking Catholics and Catholicism,
heterodoxy, idan, covered a much broader range than simply doctrinal differences. In the
moralistic perspective of the Namin, doctrinal claims could not be fully examined and
evaluated outside of their behavioral context. The ethical implications of ideas, as much
as the ideas themselves, provided the criteria for distinguishing heterodoxy from
The converts to Catholicism offered an alternative definition, privileging belief over
practice. They argued that they could not be justifiably labeled heterodox, since their
beliefs were sound and any deviation from traditional Confucian moral practice was an
unavoidable consequence of those true beliefs. That argument assumed a concept of
orthodoxy which placed greater emphasis on doctrinal correctness than Korean NeoConfucians, particularly the Namin, were usually willing to grant. Though both the early
Korean Catholics and their Neo-Confucian opponents agreed that correct ideas and
proper behavior were important, they disagreed sharply over which was more important.
Traditionally, Neo-Confucians in Korea had accepted only those beliefs that were
compatible with their moral principles. Catholics reversed that, accepting instead only
those moral principles that were compatible with their beliefs. That reversal presented a
radical challenge to previous definitions of heterodoxy and orthodoxy.
A term for orthodoxy which appears throughout the debate over Catholicism is
chŏnghak, “orthodox learning.” When used by Catholics, chŏnghak usually means
“correct ideas,” but when that same word is wielded by Neo-Confucians as a weapon
against Catholics, it has a much broader range. In the classical Chinese language of NeoConfucianism, Chŏng functions more like an adverb than an adjective, giving it a more
dynamic reference than the static term “orthodox” normally indicates in Catholic writing.
Chŏnghak in Neo-Confucian arguments refers as much to appropriate or accepted
behavior as it does to appropriate or accepted ideas. Thus, by the Namin definition,
Catholics could never be considered orthodox, even if their heterodox beliefs were
ignored, since they did not behave properly.
Conversely, if Catholics had behaved properly and conformed to Confucian codes
of behavior, though they still will have been considered heterodox, it is unlikely they
would have encountered such fatal hostility. Idan which merely distracted men from the
proper performance of their ritual and ethical obligations was slighted but seldom
persecuted. However, when heterodoxy became perverse teachings (sahak ), when it
moved beyond distracting men to actively encouraging them to act contrary to the
demands of loyalty and filial piety, then the Confucian scholars and the Confucian state
felt compelled to attack it and its followers. The difference between idan and sahak was
merely a matter of degree. All sahak fell under the heading of idan, though not all idan
was sahak. The difference between heterodoxy which was tolerated and perverse
doctrines which were persecuted lay less in greater divergence from the accepted
readings of the Neo-Confucian canon than in the behavioral implications of that
divergence. The contrast between the latitude shown believers in Buddhism and
shamanism and the harsh treatment meted out to Catholics is clear evidence that in late
eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Korea, actions were more important than words.
unnumbered note
This article began as a paper at a conference on Confucianism and
late Chosŏ n Korea held at UCLA in Jan, 1992. Martina Deuchler, JaHyun
Haboush, Wm. Theodore de Bary, Peter Bol, Michael Kalton and others at that
conference pointed out weaknesses in my argument which made it less persuasive
than it could have been. I have revised that paper in response to their criticisms, but
the overall argument which remains, and all surviving flaws in it, are of course my
sole responsibility.
Chŏng Yagyong, Chŏng Tasan chŏnsŏ [The complete works of Chŏng Yagyong], I
(Seoul: Munhŏn py’ŏnch’an wiwŏnhoe, 1960), “Ch’i yangji byŏn,”[On exerting
innate knowledge of the good] p. 245 (I: 12, 18a).
Chŏng, I: 12, 17b-19a. Tasan had a similar evaluation of the ideas of Mo Tzu and
Yang Chu and of the impact of their guiding precepts on their followers. “Maengja
yoŭi.”[Essential Points of the Mencius], pp. 660-661 (II: 5, 48b-49a).
Donald J. Munro, The Concept of Man in Early China (Stanford, California:
Stanford University Press, 1969), p. ix; A similar point is made in Chad Hansen,
“Chinese language, Chinese Philosophy, and “Truth,” in JOURNAL OF ASIAN
STUDIES, vol. XLIV, n. 3 (May, 1985), pp.491-519.
Basic Writings of Mo Tzu, Hsün Tzu, and Han Fei Tzu, translated by Burton
Watson (New York: Columbia University Press, 1967), p.118.
Kwang-ching Liu, ed. Orthodoxy in Late Imperial China (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1990).
James Watson has made a similar argument in The Confucian World Observed, (
Tu Wieming, et.al., editors, [Honolulu: East-West Center, 1992] p. 96) He argues
that “Rather than orthodoxy or correct belief, it is orthopraxy or correct practice
that matters.…It is not what people carry in their heads that matters; it is what they
did on the ground that made them Confucian or Chinese or whatever.”
Analects, II, 16.
See the translation by Arthur Waley, The Analects of Confucius (New York:
Vintage Books, 1938), p.91.““He who sets to work upon a different strand destroys
the whole fabric.”
Chŏng Yagyong, "nonŏkokŭmju" [Commentaries, old and recent, on the Analects
], Chŭng Tasan chŏnsŏ II. 7:31a.
Sin Hudam (1702-1761) debated Catholic ideas with Yi IK (1681-1763) in 1724
and Sin wrote his “Sŏhak pyŏn”, a lengthy analysis of three Catholic missionary
publications, shortly thereafter. For more information on Sin and his critical
reaction to “Western learning”, see my “The Use and Abuse of the Sirhak label,”
KYOHOESA YŎ N’GU, vol. 3 (1981), pp.183-254.
A brief summary of the birth of the Korean Catholic Church can be found in my
“The Martyrdom of Paul Yun: Western Religion and Eastern Ritual in 18th Century
Sasoon Yun [Yun Sasun], Critical Issues in Neo-Confucian Thought: The
Philosophy of Yi T’oegye, translated by Michael C. Kalton (Seoul: Korea
University Press, 1990), p.31, says T’oegye conceived of truth as “basically
subjective practical knowledge that is directly related to moral conduct.” Yun adds
(p. 46),”the kind of truth that was T’oegye’s main focus is the kind of practical
knowledge or truth needed for the practice of morality rather than the objective sort
of truth that is ‘truth for the sake of truth.’”
Yi Ik,"idan" [Heterodoxy], Sŏngho sasŏl yusŏn [Selections from the Sŏngho sasŏl],
edited by An Chŏngbok (Seoul: Myŏngmundang, 1982), p. 371-72.
An Chŏngbok, Sunamjip,VIII: 28b.
See, for example, the discussion in An Chŏngbok’s letter to Kwŏn Ch’ŏlsin,
Sunamjip, VI, 15b-18b.
Sunamjip, II, 27 b.
Hwang Tŏkkil, Haryŏ sŏnsaeng munjip [The collected writings of Hwang Tŏkkil],
IX: 35b.
Sunamjip, VI, 29b.
Sin Hudam, “Sŏ hakpyŏn” [On Western Leaning] in Yi Manch'ae, ed.,
Pyŏgwip’yŏn [In defense of orthodoxy against heterodoxy](Seoul: Yŏlhwadang,
1971), p.90.
See, for example, Ricci's T’ien-chu shih-i [The true meaning of the Lord of
Heaven] in Li Chih-tsao, ed. T’ien-hsü eh ch’u-han [An introduction to Heavenly
Learning] (Taipei: Taiwan Student Bookstore, 1963), vol. 1, pp. 351-636.
Sunamjip, “Ch’ŏnhak ko, “ XVII: 1a-8a.
Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (New York: Random House, 1979).
For a fascinating study of the interplay of Catholic dogma and scientific theory, see
Raymond Rosenthal, trans., Pietro Redoni, Galileo, Heretic (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1987).
Taemyŏngnyul chik'ae [The Ming law codes explained] (reprint, Seoul: Pŏ pjech'o,
1964), p. 294-5; J.J. M. de Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution in China
(New York: Paragon Books, 1970), pp. 137, 147. The Ming law codes served as the
basis for the law codes of the Chosŏ n dynasty.
Dan Overmyer, "Attitudes Toward Popular Religion in Ritual Texts of the Chinese
State: The Collected Statues of the Great Ming," unpublished paper presented at the
University of British Columbia, April, 1990, provides pages of evidence that the
Chinese state was concerned much more with controlling the public rituals
performed by commoners than with what personal religious beliefs those
commoners held.
Kwang-ching Liu, passim.
For example, see An Chŏngbok’s 1784 letter to Kwŏn Ch’ŏlsin, Sunamjip,
VI: 29a-b.
Mencius. III, 2, IX.
For example, see Hong Nagan's letter to Ch'ae Chegong in Yi Kigyŏng, ed.,
Pyŏgwip'yŏn [In defense of orthodoxy against heterodoxy] (Seoul: Kyohoesa
yŏn'guso, 1979), p.26.
An Chŏngbok, "Ch'Ŏnhak mundap" [A dialogue on Catholicism], Sunamjip
Martina Deuchler, “Neo-Confucianism: The Impulse for Social Action in Early Yi
Korea” THE JOURNAL OF KOREAN STUDIES, 2 (1980), pp. 75-79; Kŭm
Chang-t'ae, “Chungjongjo t'aehaksaeng ŭi pyŏkpul undong” [The anti-Buddhist
campaign of Confucian students during the reign of King Chungjong], Han'guk
Yugyo ŭi Chaejomyŏng [A new light on Korean Confucianism]
(Seoul:Chŏnmangsa, 1982), pp. 199-208.
For example, see Yi Ik as cited by An Chŏngbok, Sunamjip, 17:26b.
Letter by Yi Hŏn’gyŏng to Hong Yangho before Hong's departure on an official
mission to Peking, Kanongjip [The works of Yi Hŏn’gyŏng], 9:36a-38a; also note
Pak Chiwŏn’s criticism of the arrogant assumption of moral and cultural superiority
some Koreans displayed in China, Yŏlha ilgi [Peking diary], in Yŏnamjip [Pak
Chiwŏn's collected works], 14:la-4a.
Kŭm Changt'ae, “T'oegye ŭi Yangmyŏnghak pip' an” [T'oegye' s criticism of the
Wang Yangming school], Han'guk Yugyo ŭi Chaejomyŏng, pp.209-l8; Kim
Kilhwan, Chosŏnjo yuhaksasang yŏn'gu [A study of Confucianism in the Yi
dynasty] (Seoul: Iljisa, 1980), pp. 69-76.
Martina Deuchler, "Reject the False and Uphold the Straight: Attitudes Toward
Heterodox Thought in Early Yi Korea," The Rise of Neo–Confucianism in Korea
(New York: Columbia University Pres, 1985), pp.375-410, and, in the same
volume, Miura Kunio, "Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy in Seventeenth-century Korea:
Sŏng Siyŏl and Yun Hyu," p.411-443, discuss sixteenth and seventeenth definitions
of orthodoxy in terms of fidelity to the moral and ritual message of the Classics and
to the interpretations of those Classics by Chu Hsi. I differ with them only in the
emphasis I place on the moral underpinning of those particular definitions of
Michael Kalton, To Become a Sage (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988)
provides a particularly illuminating glimpse of the ascetic and pessimistic elements
in T’oegye’s thought, particularly on p. 24 and p. 172. In my "Metaphysics and
Morality in Chosŏn Neo-Confucianism," in Journal of Korean Thought, vol. I
(1996), I trace the growth of that ascetic and pessimistic strand into the eighteenth
See, for example, the letter Kwŏn Ch’ŏlsin wrote to An Chŏngbok saying that no
matter how hard he studied Confucian texts and tried to practice Confucian moral
discipline, he was unable to makes much progress. Sunamjip, VI: 27b.
Chu Tzu yülei, I:418 (Taipei: Cheng-chung shu-chü, 1962), cited in Donald J.
Munro, Images of Human Nature: A Sung Portrait(Princeton; Princeton University
Press, 1988), p.39
Sunamjip, VI, 34a.
Sunamjip, XVII: 26a.
For an illuminating discussion of selfishness and selflessness in Chinese Confucian
writings, see Donald Munro, “The Concept of Interest in Chinese Thought”,
JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF IDEAS, 41, no. 2, pp.179-97.
Sin Hudam, “Sŏhakpyŏn” in Yi Manch'ae, p.40.
Sin Hudam, p. 60. Sin uses chŏng instead of kong for lack of selfishness here. That
is the same chŏng that is used in other contexts to mean orthodoxy.
Munro, “The Concept of Interest in Chinese Thought”, p. 180.
Yi Ik, Sŏngho sasŏl [The miscellaneous writings of Yi Ik] (Seoul: Minjok munhwa
ch'ujinhoe), 1977-78, 26: 15a-b.
Yi Ik, Sŏngho sasŏ l 13: 22a-b; 30: 39b-40a.
Yi Ik, Sŏngho sasŏl 11:2b.
Yi Ik,"idan" [Heterodoxy], Sŏngho sasŏl yusŏn p. 371-72.
Sŏngho chŏnjip [The complete works of Yi IK], 55:27b, included in Sŏngho
Sŏnsaeng munjip [The collected works of Yi Ik] (Seoul: Kyŏngin munhwasa,
Sin Hudam, “Sŏhakpyŏn” in Yi Manch'ae, pp. 38-103; An Chŏ ngbok, "Ch'ŏnhak
mundap" [A dialogue on Catholicism], Sunamjip, XVII: 8a-26a; Yi
Hŏn’gyŏng,"Ch'ŏnhak mundap," Kanongjip , XXII: 39a-44b.
Chŏng Yagyong. "nonŏkokŭmju" Chŏng Tasan chŏnsŏ II. 7: 31a-b.
Yi Hwang, T'oegye sŏnjip [Selected writings of T'oegye], translated by Yun Sasun
(Seoul: Hyŏnamsa, 1988), p. 368. Kalton, Michael C. To Become a Sage: The Ten
Diagrams on Sage Learning (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), chapter
IX, pp. 175-189. T’oegye is citing Chu Tzu Ch’üan-shu LXXXV: 6a. The
translation here is mine.
Chŏng I. 13: 37b-38a; II, 2:23a.
Ricci, Ch'ŏŏ nju silŭi, (Seoul: Kwangdŏksa, 1972) p. 283-4. This is a Korean
reprint of T’ien-chu shih-i.
Chŏng, II, 3: 6a-7b; 4: 5b-8b.
Chan Wing-tsit, trans., A Sourcebook in Chinese Philosophy (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1969).p. 785.
Wm. Theodore de Bary, Neo-Confucian Orthodoxy and the Learning of the Mindand-Heart (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981), p. 14.
Wing-tsit Chan, "Chu Hsi on T'ien," Chu Hsi: New Studies (Honolulu: University
of Hawaii Press, 1989), pp.184-196. Hoyt C. Tillman , “Consciousness of T’ien in
Chu Hsi’s Thought,” HARVARD JOURNAL OF ASIAN STUDIES, 47, no. 1
(1987), p.35, argues, however, that "caution should be exercised in asserting that
Chu Hsi never used the word t'ien in its meaning of a deity."
"Chin sŏnghak shipdo", T'oegye chŏnnsŏ [The complete works of Yi Hwang]
(Seoul: Sŏnggyun'gwan University Taehan Munhwa yŏn’guso, 1958), vol. 1, p.209
Chŏng, II, 3: 4b-5b.
Chŏng., II. 8:19b.
Chŏng, II. 3: 5b; 4: 21a-23b.
Chŏng, II:19, 46a.
Chŏng, II. 3: 3b-4am 30b; 15: 35b.
Ch'oe Tonghŭi, "Tasan ŭi sin'gwan" [Tasan's concept of God], HAN'GUK
SASANG, no. 15 (1977), pp. 106-34; Han Chongman, " Tasan ŭi ch'ŏn'gwan"
[Tasan's concept of Heaven], TASAN HAKBO, 2 (1979), pp. 121-49; Ha Ubong,
"Chŏng Tasan ŭi S'ŏhakgwan'gye e taehan ilgoch'al" [ A look at Chŏng Tasan's
relationship with Catholicism], KYOHOESA YŎ N'GU, 1 (1977), pp. 71-112, esp.
pp. 97-101.
Kang Chaeŏn, "Chŏng Tasan ŭi Sŏhakkwan" [Tasan's attitude toward Western
Learning], Tasanhak ŭi t’amgu [Research in Tasan Studies] (Seoul: Minŭmsa,
1990), pp. 58-62. For an English translation of Ricci's catechism, see The True
Meaning of the Lord of Heaven , translated by Douglas Lancashire and Peter Hu
Kuo-chen, S.J.,(St. Louis, Missouri: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1985). Pp. 123131 gives Ricci's argument that the God of Catholicism is the God of the Confucian
Chŏng, II, 15: 15b.
Ch'oe Sŏ gu, "Chŏng Tasan ŭi Sŏhak sasang" [Chŏng Tasan's Catholic thought],
Chŏng Tasan kwa kŭ shidae [Chŏng Tasan and his times] (Seoul: Minŭ msa,1986),
pp.105-137, is the classic exposition of the Tasan-was-a-Catholic argument. For a
counter-argument, see Kim Sanghong, Tasanhak yŏn'gu [Studies on Tasan], (Seoul:
Kyemyŏng munhwasa, 1990), pp.11-85.
Ch'oe Kibok, "Chosŏnjo Ch’ŏnju kyohoe ŭi chesa kŭ mnyŏng kwa Tasan ŭi
chosang chesa kwan" [The Catholic prohibition of memorial services during the
Chosŏ n dynasty and Tasan's attitude toward ancestor memorial services], Han'guk
Kyohoesa nonmunjip [Essays on the history of the Korean Church], II. (Seoul:
Han'guk kyohoesa yŏn'guso, 1985), pp.97-198.
Dallet, Charles. Histoire de L’Église de Corée (Paris: Victor Palmé, 1874) I.
pp. 37-8.
Dallet, pp. 42-53.
Dallet, p. 48.
Dallet, p. 49.
Dallet,, p. 47. This statement by Yun is repeated by Governor Chŏŏ ng in his report
to the throne urging severe punishment for Yun and Kwon. See Chŏngjo sillok, vol.
33, 55a-56a (15. 11. muin).
Note the statement by Ricci, which Yun had surely read, that ” the term ‘God” does
not refer to morality itself but rather to the Lord from Whom morality originates.”
Ricci, Ch'ŏnju silŭ i,p. 65.
Dallet, I. p. 43.
See, for example, the memorial by Sin Ki. Chŏŏ ngjo sillok, vol. 33: 43b (15:10,
Chŏngjo sillok, vol. 26: 7a-b (12.8.ŭ lmi).
Dallet, p.44.
Sin Ki, Chŏngjo sillok, vol. 33: 43b, is just one of many who uses this phrase. For
more examples of the language used in criticizing Yun and Kwŏn and their Catholic
religion, see Chŏŏ ngjo sillok, 33: 40b-57b passim.. Also, see Yi Kigyŏng, ed.,
Pyŏgwip'yŏn, pp. 17-108.
See King Chŏngjo’s decree of execution, Chŏngjo sillok, 33: 57a.
See, for example, Magistrate Sin Sawŏn's October 2, 1791, letter to Hong Nagan in
which he explains that there was nothing wrong with reading Catholic books and
that he took action against Yun only after he had clear evidence that Yun had been
led by such books to act improperly. Yi Kigyŏ ng, pp. 22-25.
Note Censor General Kwŏn Igang's memorial of October 29, 1791, which points
out that Catholicism is no ordinary idan but poses a much more serious threat to the
moral foundations of society than any heterodoxy before it. That is why Kwŏn
condemns Catholics for using sasŏl (perverse language) and mangling moral
Yi Kikyŏng, p. 58.
Dallet, pp. 53-4.
Ricci,Ch'ŏnju silŭi, p. 243-44 states that only someone who believes such Catholic
doctrines as the existence of God and of heaven and hell deserves to be called a
gentleman, that is to say, someone who is orthodox.
Aquinas, De Veritate, 23, 6, cited in Eric D’Arcy, “Worthy of Worship: A
Catholic Contribution,” Gene Outka and John P. Reeder, Jr., ed. Religion and
Morality (Garden City, New York: Anchor Books, 1973, p. 191.
Ch'ŏnju silŭi, pp.76-84.
Ch'ŏnju silŭi,, p.81.
For more on Ricci’s categorical misunderstanding of li, see Gernet, Jacques. China
and The Christian Impact: A Conflict of Cultures, translated by Janet Lloyd (New
York: Cambridge University Press, 1985), esp. pp.201-212, and John D. Young,
Confucianism and Christianity: The First Encounter (Hong Kong: Hong Kong
University Press, 1983), esp. pp. 33-35.
Ch'ŏnju silŭi, p.76.
Tasan tells of Yakchŏn’s early involvement with, and later withdrawal from, the
infant Korean Catholic Church in his “sŏnjungssi Chŏng Yakchŏn myo jimyŏng”
[an epitaph for Chŏng Yakjŏn], in Chŏng Tasan chŏnsŏ I, 15, 38b-42b.Tasan’s
account of his own involvement can be found in his “chach’an myo jimyŏng” [an
epitaph for myself], Ibid, I, 16, 1a-30a. Tasan’s condemnation of Catholicism can
also be found in his responses to his interrogators as recorded in Ch’uan kŭp Kugan
[Records of special investigations by the State Tribunal], vol. 25 (Seoul: Asea
munhwasa, 1978), esp. pp. 13-19, 39-40.
Ch’uan kŭp Kugan vol. 25, p. 49.
Dallet, I., pp. 115-125; Hwang Sayŏng, Hwang Sayŏng paeksŏ [The silk letter of
Hwang Sayŏng], edited and translated by Yun Chaeyŏng (Seoul: Chŏngŭmsa,
1975), pp. 48-51.
Chŏng Yakchong, Chugyo yoji [ Essentials of the Lord’s Teachings ] (Seoul:
Hwang Sŏkdu Luga sŏwŏn, 1984); Hector Diaz, A Korean Theology Chu-Gyo YoJi: Essentials of the Lord’s Teaching by Chŏ ng Yagjong Augustine (Switzerland:
Neue Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft, 1986), pp.53-73.
A modern Korean translation of the entire text by Ha Sŏngnae is available in the
1984 edition above. Diaz has a complete English translation alongside the original,
Diaz, p.297-301.
Diaz, p.327.
Ch’uan kŭp Kugan vol. 25, p. 48; Yi Nŭnghwa. Chosŏn kidokkyo kŭp oegyosa [A
history of Christianity and foreign relations in Korea] (Seoul: Han’gukhak
yŏn’guso, 1977), p. 118.
Diaz, pp.85-107.
Chŏng Hasang, Sang chaesang sŏ, [A letter to the State Council ] (Seoul: Asea
II, p. 168.
munhwasa, 1976)
Chŏng Hasang, p. 3-4.
Chŏng Hasang, p.24-25.
104 Chŏng Hasang, pp. 11-12.
Chŏng Hasang, pp. 11-12.
Chŏng Hasang, pp. 10-11.
Chŏng Hasang, pp. 8-9.
Chŏng Hasang, pp. 9, 23-24.
Chŏng Hasang, pp.3, 23.
110 Chŏng Hasang, p.18.
Yi Kigyŏng, p. 398.
For an in-depth and multi-faceted analysis of this conceptual gap dividing
Catholicism from Neo-Confucianism, see Jacques Gernet, China and The Christian
Impact: A Conflict of Cultures.

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