Item ID: 9650 Yija sŏngni sŏ [or] Yija seongni seo 李子性理書 [Writings on Human Nature and Principle by Master Yi]. I. 李珥 YI.

A Master’s Writings on Metaphysics

Yija sŏngni sŏ [or] Yija seongni seo 李子性理書 [Writings on Human Nature and Principle by Master Yi].

Edited by Yi To-jung 李度中. One woodblock text diagram. 62 folding leaves. Large 8vo (307 x 207 mm.), orig. semi-stiff wrappers (wrappers slightly soiled), orig. stitching. Korea: 1816.

Yi I (1536-84) was one of the most important Neo-Confucian thinkers of Chosŏn Korea. This book is concerned with sŏng (Ch.: xing), “human nature,” and i (Ch.: li), “principle” or “coherence.” These were key concepts in Neo-Confucian metaphysics. Indeed, in Chinese, Neo-Confucianism is often called “the learning of nature and principle” (Ch.: xingli xue 性理學). Yi To-jung, the descendant of one of Yi I’s disciples, excerpted texts dealing with human nature and principle from Yi I’s Yulgok chŏnsŏ 栗谷全書 [Complete Writings from Chestnut Valley] to make the present work.

The book’s colophon, written by Pak Ki-jik 朴基稷, is dated pyŏngja 丙子, which the cataloguers of the Kyujanggak copy and those of the Harvard-Yenching copy conjecture refers to 1816. By contrast, the Berkeley catalogue conjectures that it refers to 1876. We believe that the Berkeley catalogue is mistaken. At the back of our copy, inside the wrapper, the date 1848 has been added in manuscript: “219th year of the Chongzhen reign, the pyŏngwu year” 崇禎二百十九年丙午. Assuming that the wrapper was added after the book was printed, the date of print ought to be 1816. The extension of the last Ming emperor’s reign period Chongzhen beyond its endpoint in 1644 was common in Chosŏn Korea as a way to refuse the use of Qing reign names.

There appear to be two recensions of the work. All known copies for which detailed descriptions are at hand (Berkeley 1422.4014.1, Jangseogak MF16-1164, Harvard-Yenching TK 1422 4412, Kyujanggak 奎6265) share these characteristics: heavy line between margin and text (單邊), vertical lines separating columns (有界), 10 columns with 20 characters per column, double inward-facing patterned fish tail (上下花紋魚尾 [Kyujanggak], 內向二葉花紋魚尾 [Jangseogak], 上下內向2葉花紋魚尾 [Berkeley]). However, the Harvard and Kyujanggak copies carry the imprint “printed in Yongsŏng” 龍城開刊, which is not seen on our copy. Like the Berkeley copy, we have 62 folding leaves.


Digital Jangseogak (the Academy of Korean Studies). Han’guk komunhŏn chonghap mongnok 한국고문헌종합목록.


Pŏk’ŭlli taehak Tongasia tosŏgwan sujip Han’guk kojŏnjŏk mongnok 버클리대학 동아시아도서관 수집 韓國古典籍目錄. Seoul: Koryŏ taehakkyo minjok munhwa yŏn’guwŏn, 2009.

Price: $5,000.00

Item ID: 9650

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