This paper tries to deepen our understanding the viewpoint of Dasan Jeong Yak-yong in Classical studies, who has been known as Sirhak Scholars(實學者) in the late Joseon dynasty, through the lens of ‘Mangja-youi’(Key points of Mencius, 『孟子要義』). The analysis of this paper is conducted based on nine issues which have been raised in ‘Jachanmyojimyoung’(Self-Written Epitaph, 「自撰墓誌銘」).
Dasan left more than five hundred journals, which were collectively published in 1938, with the name of ‘Yeoyoudangjunseo’(The collective works of Dasan, 『與猶堂全書』). In particular, ‘Mangja-youi’(『孟子要義』) is one of the most important journals in 『與猶堂全書』 in the sense that it is possible to infer Dasan’s viewpoint on Mencius via his own interpretation. (introduces several scholars’ comments on 153 selected statements from Mencius and particularly reveals Dasan’s viewpoint by annotating his own interpretation.)
Additionally, ‘Jachanmyojimyoung’ (「自撰墓誌銘」), which is one of Dansan’s latest writings written in the period of completing his voluminous work, suggests nine important frameworks that could be critical in understanding Mencius. Therefore, this paper aims to understand (a) the conception of Dasan in Classic studies, and (b) the distinctive feature and implications of his standpoint to the present day through the study of ‘Mangja-youi’(『孟子要義』) from the framework introduced in ‘Jachanmyojimyoung’(「自撰墓誌銘」).
The nine important analytical frameworks suggested in ‘Jachanmyojimyoung’(「自撰墓誌銘」) are the following: (1) the positive verification about feudal tenures of both a kingdom of ten thousand chariots and a kingdom of one thousand chariots suggested by Zhu Xi (2) the meaning of ‘He who does not like killing men’ (3) difference between Xia and Shang dynasty in regard to the Well-field system (4) the relation between the haoran zhi qi(vast, overflowing qi), morality and justice (5) the establishment of new theory about human nature insisting that it is more like ‘preference’ not identical with Principle (6) How to define 'Original Nature(本然之性)' and 'Physical nature(氣質之性) (7) the meaning of ‘All things are already complete in us' (8) Address an issue of Mencius being dependent on principle(理) rather than qi(氣) while explaining human nature (9) the relation between the matter of clarity or murkiness of one’s qi and issues of good and evil etc.
Dasan’s answers for these nine topics illustrated in ‘Mangja-youi’(『孟子要義』) reveal that his approach in comprehending Mencius is more practical and rational rather than ideological. The evidences for this conclusion are that (a) he uses mathematical measure in order to criticize the “feudal tenure system of a kingdom of ten thousand chariots and a kingdom of thousand chariots” insisted by Zhu Xi, (b) he argues to adopt a comprehensive analytical approach to thoroughly understand Mencius by explaining the implication of the statement ‘He who does not like killing men’, (c) he insists the importance of keeping the objective and critical stance in understanding Mencius (and from the comparison with other Classics in order to verify the well-field system of Xia and Shang dynasty so that being objective rather than passive in regard to understanding Mecius), (d) he tries to be as precise as possible in defining the philosophical terminology such as 義(justice)·and 道(morality) in order to correctly understand the true intention of Mencius, (e) he suggests a new theory of human nature different from that of Zhu Xi and his followers, (f) he sheds light on the key idea of Confusion (Doctrine that of all-pervading unity) to correctly interpret the statement ‘All things are already complete in us' in Mencius, (g) he justifies Mencius being dependent on Principle while explaining human nature by introducing the concept ‘the order of host and guest’ so that proving his theory’s flawlessness (h) he points out Mencius making the mistake of hasty generalization when he explains on the relation between the matter of clarity or murkiness of one’s qi and issues of good and evil.
Thus, it is possible to conclude that Dasan’s viewpoint in understanding the reality is rational, practical and highly empirical. We name this unique approach as ‘understanding Classics in a way of Sirhak(實學).’ Dasan’s viewpoint for Mencius is important not only in terms of expanding the horizon of current academic boundaries, but also deepening our understanding in his practicalism which is gaining its importance nowadays.