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Cultural figures

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Seongho Lee Ik

Seongho Lee Ik

A teacher who overcame hardships and difficulties

Sir Seongho Lee Ik was born in Unsan, Pyeongan Province, where his father was exiled. Eventually, he moved to the place that became his hometown, Cheomseong-ri (Il-dong), and started learning letters from the second older brother.

As Sir Lee Ik was a bit undisciplined, he had difficulties in his studies, and failed the civil servant test at the age of 25. The next year, his brother Lee Jam was involved in party strife and served jail time, and the family wealth declined due to political persecution. In his later years, he suffered from poverty due to a persistent illness. Despite the political strife and his illnesses, Sir Lee Ik devoted himself to learning.

In later days, Dasan Jeong Yak-yong recorded that "Sir Seongho became a well-known academic, despite hardships in his family, and saw achievements that were unmatched by the offspring of wealthy families.” Since his learning was well-known, many pupils came to Ansan for his stewardship. Seongho’s pupils made great strides in the development of Silhak thought and academics in the late Joseon Dynasty. At the age of 47, he was summoned for a public position for his studies and virtues, but turned down every offer and dedicated himself solely to his studies while he farmed. He stayed true to his saying that ‘Confucian scholars must maintain their living by farming.’.

In his 60s, the malignant tumors on his back and chest worsened. While he cared for his many relatives and treated his illness, he went through all his wealth and suffered financial and physical hardships. However, he continued his studies until he passed away at 83.

His academia
and thoughts

Sir Lee Ik believed that academics ‘should not just deal with beautiful sentences or poetry, but must also be useful in people’s lives.’ He also claimed that noblemen should not idle with many servants, the public civil service test should be scrapped, and talented farmers should be hired for public office.

He offended many noblemen by arguing that the slave system should be eliminated and slaves set free. In terms of the farming land system, he insisted that there should be limitations on land ownership in order to prevent any individual from owning an overly broad area of land, and that every transaction of farming land must be approved by the public office.

Sir Lee Ik rejected the idea of China-oriented thoughts that put China at the center of the world. He supported the identity and independence of a nation by saying that ‘China cannot be the only nation of the emperor, and each nation’s independent identity shall be respected.’

His writings

SeonghoMunjip
SeonghoMunjip

SeonghoMunjip has a wide range of poetry, prose, books, miscellaneous writings, prefaces, postscripts and writings for memorial services, writings for tomb stones, writings for tombs, inherited books, epics, writings for the deceased and writings of ancestral achievements. The literary collection consists of the Toiro publications of 27 books and the Sapo publications of 36 books.

Seonghosaseol
Seonghosaseol

These are Seongho’s representative writings. Seongho’s nephew Lee Byeong-hyu collected Seongho’s writings spanning a period of 40 years when Seongho was 80 years old. The book is similar to an encyclopedia in various fields of current affairs, astronomy, history, institutions, economy, ceremonies, folk, Western learning, and literature. The Miscellaneous writings were what Seongho in his humility named ‘trivial and unimportant writings.’

Yijasueo
Yijasueo

Leeja is the honorific title of Lee Hwang, and Sueo refers to words of innocence. The book is a collection of works selected from among the books and principles of Seongho for their value in studies and self-discipline. The fact that people who carried on Lee's studies learned 'Yijasueo' when they first started studying his thoughts shows that Seongho's studies were a continuation of the studies of LeeHwang. It also means that Seongho appreciated moral discipline based on the Confucian classics, in addition to his emphasis on realism studies.

Seonghojilseo
Seonghojilseo

Jilseo refers to writings written in haste, an expression of his humility. Instead of following the Neo-Confucian interpretation of Confucian scriptures in a dogmatic manner, his studies are critical and research-based in terms of Chinese classics. 「Mencius Jilseo」,「Daehak Jilseo」,「Analects Jilseo」,「Moderation Jilseo」,「Adversity Jilseo」, 「Seogyeong Jilseo」and 「Sigyeong Jilseo」 are referred to as Seongho Jilseo, in the order of priority of the classics studied by Seongho.

Kwakwurock

Kwakwoo refers to the civil concerns of those outside of public office, also known as ‘bean eaters,’ as opposed to those decision makers in high-ranking positions, also known as ‘meat eaters.’ The writings cover a wide range of topics, including the management ideas to correct the King’s thoughts, talent nurturing, official selection, legal reform, general management, finance and currency issues, land ownership issues, military, and political reform.

Other writings

There are over 100 books, including the 「Sachilshinpyeon」 which deals with major issues of Neo-Confucianism, 「Sir Seongho ceremonies」 that emphasizes frugality in four ceremonies, the 「Yeseolyupyeon」, the 「Gwanmulpyeon」 with his ideas on nature, and the 「Baekeonhae」 recording the usage of proverbs.

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