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Toegye's Appraisal of Daoism



Vladimir Glomb – 2020

There have been many studies documenting the relation of Joseon Confucian scholars toward a broad range of texts, institutions, and motives which can be grouped under the general label of Daoism. Of a special interest is a sixteenth century period, often described as a formative stage of the Korean Learning of the Way. Commentary and critiques of Laozi or Zhuangzi, attacks on what remained of Goryeo Daoist institutions or debates on longevity techniques were an integral part of Confucian discourse, and it would be difficult to find a scholar who did not have at least some contact with these alternative intellectual currents. Nonetheless, a precise picture of the everyday interaction of the literati with heterodox topics remains evasive. The greater amount of the cases studied present texts and scholars who were interested in Daoist motives either through positive or negative motivations. But how widespread were those topics on an everyday level? How much were these topics known and discussed by common scholars? There are several indicators that the knowledge of Laozi and Zhuangzi’s texts belonged to the common proficiency of sixteenth century Confucian students: this is demonstrated by the entry in Jeungbo munheon bigo (Revised and Enlarged Complete Examination of Documents 增補文獻備考), stating that “in the thirty third year of the [King Seonjo] (1600) students were prohibited from the use of Laozi and Zhuangzi textual expressions during state examinations.”1 Does this mean that the knowledge of Daoist Classics was so common among students that it was necessary to explicitly prohibit their use? If Laozi and Zhuangzi were studied, what about other Daoist Classics or alchemy?

Toegye's Appraisal of Daoism
The Academy of Korean Studies (AKS)
Erschienen in
The Review of Korean Studies, Vol. 24, No.1 (June 2020), 89-112