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Toegye's descendant publishes book about Toegye's philosophy

2016/01/17 | 248 views | Permalink | Source

"I still think that doing ancestral rites and hosting guests are exhausting and difficult. However, now I know why I should continue to do so".

When I heard that he was a Confucian scholar, I thought he would appear boring. I was wrong. He looked like a middle-aged movie star. Lee Chi-eok (41, photo) is a visiting professor at Sungkyunkwan University and the 17th descendant of Teogye Lee Hwang. He studies the philosophies of Teogye. His father is the 16th descendant of Teogye and Lee Chi-eok is his second son. Lee recently wrote a book, "Toegye, Life Guideline", with Kim Gi-hyun who is an expert in Toegye studies. Ironically when he started studying Confucianism long time ago, his motive was to find a way to eliminate the Confucian culture.

"The house of the eldest descendant of Toegye is always open to customers. There is no privacy. When I was a child, every time I heard 'You are going to be the eldest descendant of the house, so be gentle and exemplary', I felt too much pressure", Lee said.

Lee was fascinated by the thought of Laotzu and the philosophy of Spinoza in his 20s. "I concluded that there is nothing in Confucianism that is not relevant", Lee remarked. "I came to accept the way of our ancestors".

In Lee's Father's House in Andong City, North Gyeongsang Province, they hold over 10 ancestral rites every year including "bulcheonwi" (dedicated for Toegye) and "yuduchasa" (to offer newly harvested grains to their ancestors on June 15 of the lunar calendar). The family held more ceremonies when Lee was young. He said he and his wife both join the rites. "Through ancestral rites, we can reaffirm our identity as part of the family. Such a beautiful culture should not perish", Lee said.

Lee said his father was once worried about Lee being a scholar of Toegye out of all Confucian studies. His concern was that Lee might find flaws while studying Toegye's philosophy, and that it would be disgraceful as his descendant. "I thought my father was going to scold me when I decided to study Toegye studies", Lee said. "Now he likes it. My father also studied Toegye's philosophy a lot. I am afraid that my book might not be good enough in his eyes".

The book deals with questions about life and attempts to provide answers in the perspective of Toegye. "If you apply rationalism to humans, you will learn that no one is evil", Lee said. "The reason that people seem evil is that they do not know that they were born with noble nature. The same goes for the world".

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