Pioneers of reformist ideas, Culture and art flourish
Kim Yuk 金堉 1580~1658
Kim Yuk (pen-name: Jamgok) was a civil official of the mid-Joseon period, a Neo-Confucian thinker, and one of the progenitors of Silhak School. His tomb is located in Namyangju, Gyeonggi-do along with a stone stele commemorating the Daedongbeop (Uniform Land Tax Law) whose establishment is mainly attributed to his commitment. His memorial tablet is enshrined in a Confucian shrine-academy called Jamgokseowon in Gapyeong, Gyeonggi-do.
Now widely regarded as one of the greatest administrative officials of the mid-Joseon period, he is also respected for his role in the process of establishment of Daedongbeop during the reign of King Hyojong (r. 1649-1659) and King Hyeonjong (r. 1659-1674) and the use of currencies. Kim Yuk believed that the law would provide an effective means of eradicating bureaucratic corruption and injustice from the taxation process, the main cause of devastation of the farming communities. His experience as a local administrator in many different parts of the country led him to conclude that the real root of the crisis that his country was going through lies in the hardship and poverty of people.
“We need the Daedongbeop urgently to save our people. The law has already been implemented in the provinces of Gyeonggi-do and Gangwon-do, so why not in our province [i.e., Chungcheong-do]? … If we can enforce it now, we need not give our people too much pain or shout at them. What we need to do is collect one pil of cotton and two mals [i.e., 36 liters] of rice, so there will be no better way of keeping our people from starvation.” (Injo Sillok “Annals of King Injo” )
Yi Ik 李瀷 1681~1763
Yi Ik (pen-name: Seongho) was a great Silhak scholar of the late Joseon period. His tomb, along with his shrine and a memorial hall, is located in Ansan, Gyeonggi-do.
Yi Ik received the academic legacy left by Yu Hyeong-won (1622-1673), who is widely regarded as a progenitor of the Silhak movement, and developed it further. He was particularly interested in studies focusing on practical issues and measures to cure evil practices in the society where he belonged. He proposed a variety of reform ideas that he believed would lead to practicable solutions and change society in a gradual rather than drastic manner. He led a secluded life in a rural area, trying to experience the importance of pragmatism himself, keeping bees and raising chickens. His ideas wielded strong influence on the great Silhak scholars of the later generation, including Jeong Yak-yong (1762-1836).
“Reading the holy scriptures is not an easy work at all. As for the commentaries made after Zhuzi, the Doctrine of the Mean [Jungyong] and the Great Learning [Daehak) are better than others. Even these classical texts contain misguiding commentaries, yet no Confucian scholars have spotted them so far. If one points out an error in the commentaries or raises doubts, such is regarded as an act of irreverent misunderstanding. Likewise, if one tries to find evidence through comparison with other texts, one’s activity is interpreted as sinful. If we continue to allow such tradition, scholarship in this country will inevitably fall behind.” (Seongho saseol “Miscellaneous Writings by Seongho”)
King Jeongjo 正祖 1752~1800
King Jeongjo (pen-name: Yi San) was the 22nd monarch of the Joseon Dynasty. He built the Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon, and he is buried in the Geolleung Royal Tomb in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi-do.
According to Ildeungnok “Records for Daily Enlightenment,’ a book on King Jeongjo’s daily conversations with officials and scholars, the king was an avaricious reader, studying hard to deepen the knowledge he needed.
“There are three pleasant activities in this universe. First is looking into the profound, mysterious secrets hidden in the works by old sages by studying holy books and learning from old truths. Second is giving clear solutions to problems that remain unsolved for the past one thousand years by understanding and using old wisdom. Third is strolling in the grove of old masters and discovering the secret to the enigmatic harmony of the world by producing outstanding writings full of wisdom and manly skills”
Jeong Yak-yong 丁若鏞 1762~1836
Also known by several different pen-names such as Saam, Dasan, Tagong, Taesu, Jahadoin, Cheolmasanin, and Yeoyu, Jeong Yak-yong is regarded by many as the greatest Silhak scholar of late Joseon period. His tomb, birthplace, and memorial hall are located in Namyangju, Gyeonggi-do.
The achievements of Jeong Yak-yong as a leading Silhak scholar were far and wide, including numerous books covering almost all academic disciplines available to him that day such as politics, economy, philosophy, geography, literature, medicine, pedagogics, military, and even natural science. His extensive oeuvre of about 500 books is now regarded as most precious gems of Korean classics.
“The goal of learning of a true Confucian scholar should be to help run a country effectively, give peace to people, protect them from foreign enemies, increase national wealth, and improve the ability to deal with both civil and military affairs. He is not supposed to lack in any of the above. Who can say then that the goal of learning is simply to copy poems from old masters, make comments on insects, fish, and so on, and wear a wide-sleeved scholar’s robe as well as matching ceremonial headgear? (Sogyuron “On Secular Confucianism” )
Heo Gyun 許筠 1569~1618
Heo Gyun (pen-name: Gyosan or Seongsu) was a Confucian scholar-statesman and a great writer of the mid-Joseon period. His tomb is located in Yongin, Gyeonggi-do.
He is known as the author of Honggildongjeon “The Story of Hong Gil-dong” and a brother of renowned poetess Heo Nanseolheon (1563-1589). He was born into a rich and prestigious family but led an adventurous life full of ups and downs, guiding him to Utopian ideas and literature drastically different from those of his contemporary elites.
“I have been reading Buddhist scriptures since long ago because there have been none others I could turn to. … I have already drifted far away from an opportunity to serve in the government, so why should I worry about the dismissal letter sent to me? Human beings are supposed to live according to the Heavenly Mandate, so I will dream a dream of returning and serving Buddha. For you, write your own laws; as for me, I will live my own life.” (Munpagwanjak “After Hearing of the Dismissal from Office”)
Kim Jeong-hui 金正喜 1786~1856
Kim Jeong-hui was a calligrapher, epigraphist, historical researcher, and Neo-Confucian scholar during the late Joseon period. His pen names include Chusa, Wandang, Yedang, and Siam. The Chusa Museum and Gwajichodang Residence are located in Gwacheon-si.
He is known to have the highest number of pen-names in the history of Korea – in fact, a total of 72 names have been confirmed to date. He had that many names because he used different pen-names for each of his paintings. He is famous for his original calligraphic style called “Chusache,” which was created by mimicking ancient Korean and Chinese epitaphs. He was also good at painting, particularly in drawing orchids. According to legend, his acquaintances predicted that he would become a famous calligrapher because he liked to play with calligraphy brushes as a child. In the latter years of his life, he established Gwajichodang Residence in Gwacheon and spent his final years teaching students. When he turned 71, he wore a Buddhist monk’s robe and went to Bongeunsa Temple. In October of the same year, he came back to Gwacheon and passed away. Legend has it that he wrote books until the moment he passed away.
Gang Se-hwang 姜世晃 1713~1791
A renowned literati artist, writer, and art critic of late Joseon period, Gang Se-hwang is known by several different pen-names including Pyoam, Cheomjae, Pyoong, Nojuk, and Sanhyangjae. He lived in Ansan, Gyeonggi-do.
Gang Se-hwang was a key figure in the world of painting and art criticism in the late Joseon period, contributing to the establishment of the Literati Painting of the Southern School by proposing a new direction for the Korean art of his time. He was interested in the development of -- and exerted strong influence on -- a wide range of art genres including genre paintings and portraits of the late Joseon period. He is also known as a tutor of Kim Hong-do. Although born into a powerful, prestigious family, he was not interested in starting his career in the government. He moved to Ansan where his wife's home was at the age of 32 and lived there for about 30 years since then. It was after he turned 61 years old that he was able to serve in some government positions of the late Joseon period including Vice Mayor and Mayor of Seoul, the capital city of the Joseon Dynasty.
600 Years of Gyeonggi-do
Planning | Gyeonggi-do, Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation
Organization | The Center for Gyeonggi Studies, Gyeonggi-do Institute of Cultural Properties
Co-authors | Jingap Gang(professor at Gyeonggi University
Jonghyuk Kim(professor at Research Institute of Korean Studies, Korea University)
Sangdae Lee(head of Future Vision Department at Gyeonggi Research Institute)
Jihoon Lee(senior researcher at Gyeonggi-do Institute of Cultural Properties)
Hyungho Jung(cultural properties specialist at Cultural Heritage Administration)
Project support | Taeyong Kim, Seoyeon Choi, Youngdae Kim, Hakseong Lee, Sohyun Park, Hyungmo Seong, Hogyun Kim, Kyeongmin Kim, Sujin Jo(PR & Marketing Team, Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation)
For the celebration of Gyeonggi's 600 years(1414-2014), this exhibition is organized based on 『Gyeonggi-do 600 years』 which was published to remind us of the valuable history of Gyeonggi-do and encourage us to work further towards Korean reunification.
ⒸGyeonggi Cultural Foundation