Life of Manjeon-dang Hong Ga-sin has been a series of hardships and frustrations. He was not only at the center of political turmoil that was characterized by Literati Purge of 1589, Imjin-Jeongyu Waeran of 1592~1598, and the Rebellion of Lee Mong-hak, he also suffered greatly from poverty and poor health. Nevertheless, while enduring all the hardships in his official and private capacity, he left behind an exemplary record as an innovative administrator, a leader in the activities of righteous army during Japanese invasion, and in pacification of the Rebellion of Lee Mong-hak.
An illumination of his life track will make it readily available what he wanted to pursue throughout his life. In a reading of Man-jeon Jib --literary collections of his writings— and the Annal of King Seon-jo, one cannot fail to discover traces of his honesty, integrity, and patriotism, and from the poems and literary essays he left behind, one can easily grasp his orientation of life, a genuine desire to return to nature, a thirst for Confucian learning, and patriotism that drove his official and private life. What follows is the result of an analysis of his life track and orientation of his life based on available historical writings and his literary works:
First, with regard to his life track, 1) Manjeon-dang inherited the legacy of Neo-Confucian learning that was transmitted from Hwadam Seo Gyeong-deok to Seupjeong Min Soon, 2) His uprightness based on honesty is expressed in a series of his official and private actions, 3) His entire life was characterized by integrity, and this quality is nowhere better illustrated than in his career as an innovative administrator. 4) His patriotism is revealed in a series of actions he has taken on such occasions as Literati Purge of 1589, Imjin Waeran, and the Rebellion of Lee Mong-hak.
Second, his orientation in life is revealed eloquently through his poems and literary essays as follows: 1) He always entertained his desire to return to nature while serving the country as an official, 2) His thirst for Neo-Confucian learning bordered on the realm of ju-jeong (‘emphasizing tranquility’), 3) His loyalty to the King is nowhere better illustrated than in his forthright or straight statement.
As can be seem from the above examples, Manjeon-dang’s honesty, integrity, forthrightness, longing for homecoming, quest for Neo-Confucian truth, and patriotism were based on genuine unselfishness, and the meaning of this spirit can be grasped from the perspective of tranquility that was transmitted from Hwadam and Seupjeong. In this sense, his entire life can be regarded as grounded on a practice of tranquility principle (ju-jeong).