Text of the Admonition 194
T'oegye's Comments 195
The General Context: The Moral Life as Response 197
Making Quiet the Primary Thing 199
Spontaneity and Naturalness 201
An Alternative Lifestyle 205




The Admonition on "Rising Early and Retiring Late"1 depicts the practice of mindfulness in the context of the fluctuating rhythm of the daily routine. Because of this temporal framework, T'oegye chose it as an ideal complement to the more topical treatment of mindfulness pre­sented in chapter 9. It is also ideal as the conclusion of a work structured to present the inner articulation of the thought of the Ch'eng-Chu school: the Ten Diagrams began with the metaphysical framework, continued with discussions of learning, the constitution and cultivation of the mind-and­-heart, and now culminates with a description of daily life, the ultimate concern to which all this is directed.

In earlier chapters we have considered the role of the investigation of principle and maintaining constant mindfulness in the process of self­-cultivation. This chapter, by describing a well-lived day, gives us a concrete picture of the life-style that is the ideal embodiment of this kind of self­-cultivation. Accounts of T'oegye's own life when he finally managed to escape from holding office bear a close resemblance to what is presented here, and in 1560 he wrote: "The Admonition on `Rising Early and Retiring Late' fully expresses the way of pursuing learning. Although I have not been able personally to carry it out [fully], it is what I wish to practice."2



194              Diagram of the Admonition on "Rising Early and Retiring Late"


Text of the Admonition



When the cock crows and you awake, thoughts grad­ually increase their pace; at this time how can one but compose himself and bring order to them. Sometimes reflect on your past faults; at others follow out what has been newly apprehended. With proper order and sequence, lucidly ponder this matter in silence.

The foundation being thus established, as day breaks, rise, brush your teeth, comb your hair, and don your robes and cap. Then, sitting erect, compose your body and recollect your mind, making it as luminous as the rising sun; become solemn and silent, ordered and even, empty and lucid, still and undivided.

Then open your books and enter the presence of the sages and wise men; Confucius is seated, Yen Hui and Tseng Tzu3 attend before and behind. Personally and reverently attend to the words of the sage Master; carefully going over and recon­sidering the questions and discussions of the disciples, settle them [in your own mind].

When some matter arises, respond to it; then you may experience [what you have been learning] in actual practice. The clear Mandate will shine forth; keep your attention con­stantly upon it. When the matter has been responded to and is finished, be as you were before, with your mind clear and calm. Recollect your spirit and dispel distracting thoughts.

Over the cyclic alternation of activity and quiet, the mind alone presides; it should be possessed in quiet and discerning in activity. Do not allow it to become divided into two or three. In the time left over from reading, from time to time take a swim to relax your mind and refresh and nourish your feelings and nature.

As the sun sets one tends to slacken and a dull spirit easily comes upon one; purify, refresh, order, and settle yourself, rein-


Diagram of the Admonition on "Rising Early and Retiring Late"                               195


vigorating your mind. When the night is far gone, go to bed, lying with your hands at your sides and your feet together; do not let your mind wander in thought, but make it return to abide [in repose]. Nurture it in the restorative atmosphere of the night;4 after Steadfastness there is a return to Origination.5

Be mindful of the matter at hand, industrious day and night.



T'oegye's Comments



The above Admonition was composed by Ch'en Mao-­ch'ing (Po)6 of Nan-yang as a self-reminder. When Wang Lu­chai [Po]7 of Chin-hwa was master of the Shang-ts'ai Academy in T'ai-chou, he emphasized this [admonition] as the basis for his instruction, and had all of the students recite it, become thoroughly versed in it, and follow it in practice.

I have ventured to imitate Wang's diagram of the Ad­monition for Mindfulness Studio and made this diagram to cor­respond with that one. The Admonition for Mindfulness Studio presented the various topics to which one applies himself [in the practice of mindfulness], and so the diagram of it is arranged topically. This admonition presents the application [of mind­fulness] according to the different periods of the day, so its diagram is arranged according to temporal divisions.

Indeed, the uninterrupted flow of the Tao throughout the affairs of daily life is such that there is nowhere one can go that it is not present; thus there is not a single foot of ground in which principle is absent. What place is there that one may cease his diligence? And [the Tao] does not pause for the least instant; thus there is not a moment's time in which principle is absent. What time is there that one must not apply himself? Therefore Tzu Ssu has said: "As for the Tao, one may not depart


196              Diagram of the Admonition on "Rising Early and Retiring Late"


from it for the least moment; if one could depart from it, it would not be the Tao. Thus the superior man is careful and cautious even when he is not seen, fearful and anxious even when he is not heard."8 And again: "Nothing is more visible than what is concealed, nothing more manifest than what is subtle; therefore the superior man is cautious when he is alone."9

This is how, in harmony with the alternation of quiet and activity and in accord with the time and the place, one carries to the utmost the complementary practices of preserving and nurturing [one's innate, good dispositions in quiescence] and exercising reflection and discernment [in activity]. When one is finally able to conduct himself in this manner, there will be no topic which is neglected, and so there will not be "a hair's breadth disparity"; there will be no time of day which is not attended to, so one will not "falter for a single moment."10 One must advance in both respects in unison; in this lies the essence of becoming a sage.


[T'oegye's note:]

The above five diagrams are based on considerations of the mind and the nature; their essential theme is the exercise of diligence in cultivating oneself in the course of daily life, and esteem for the practice of mindfulness and reverent fear.


Diagram of the Admonition on "Rising Early and Retiring Late"              197





This chapter presents mindfulness as practiced in the course of a daily routine characterized by an alternating rhythm of quietness and activity. Quietness and activity represent not only the ebb and flow of events, but, as we have seen, fundamental conditions of the mind, each of which must have its appropriate cultivation through mindfulness. Our comments, then, will first address various aspects of self-cultivation through mindfulness as it applies to these two conditions, a matter which was a constant source of questions for young Neo-Confucians as they embarked upon serious practice.


The General Context: the Moral Life as Response



If, as is common in the West, the moral life is conceived of primarily as a question of deciding between and doing either good or evil, attention is naturally directed toward the exercise of judgment and will, the decisive and directive functions of the moral subject. In the Confucian tradition, however, the moral question is primarily framed as one of appropriately responding to a situation; this leads to a focus on what distorts or hinders the appropriate response, and results in a mode of self-cultivation designed to minimize or remove the distorting factor. In this context self, or self-centeredness, emerges as the principal problem. The philosophy of principle set up a framework for self-cultivation which de jute solved this problem in terms of the transcendent unity of principle, the one, all-embracing normative pattern which transcends the distinction of self and other. T'oegye says:


Although there are ten thousand differentiations among things, principle is one. Because principle is one, the nature has no distinction between inner and outer. The means by which the mind-and-heart of the superior man is able to be vast and empty in exercising all-embracing impartiality is that he


198             Diagram of the Admonition on "Rising Early and Retiring Late"


is able to make his nature integral and so be without the distinction of inner and outer [i.e., self and nonselfJ. The means by which he is able to respond appropriately to something that presents itself is that he follows the oneness of principle with no distinction between this or that. If one only understands that things are external and does not understand that principle has no dis­tinction between this or that, this is to distinguish principle and things as if they were two; this is certainly impermissible. Or if one only understands that things are not external but does not recognize principle as the standard, this means that there will be no mastery within and things will finally seize control; this likewise is impermissible. The superior man understands that there is no distinction between inner and outer in the nature, and in his response to things he uniformly follows principle. Therefore although he continually deals with external things, such things can cause no hindrance to the self; [within] he is limpid with nothing [having a hold on him] and so his nature is settled. (A, 13.16a-b, p. 353)


That is, dealing with affairs is problematic only insofar as self­centered desires give things a hold over the mind, which causes dis­turbance, confusion, and inappropriate responses. Accordingly the ideal condition of the mind is presented in terms appropriate to its perfect responsiveness:


[Yi] Tŏkhong asked: As for not a single thing being permitted [to have a hold] within the mind-and-heart, does that mean that even such a thing as a norm of what is appropriate likewise should not be permitted?


[T'oegye] said: No, that's not it. The integral substance of the mind is perfectly empty and perfectly still, like a clear mirror that reflects things. When some­thing presents itself one responds to it but it does not clog up [the mind]; when it goes, one is as previously, empty and clear. If [the mind] becomes fixated with something it is like a mirror soiled with mud; it is entirely unable to attain its empty, clear, quiet, undivided condition. (ŎHN 1.14a, B, p. 795)


Buddhists were fond of the mirror image as a description of a selfless consciousness untouched by the phenomena reflected in it, but here the point of the image is totally Confucian: quiet, emptiness of self or any fixed object, and clarity are not ends in themselves, but mental qualities that make one perfectly responsive to the ever-changing


Diagram of the Admonition on "Rising Early and Retiring Late"           199


situations encountered by one involved in the affairs of the world. Mindfulness is the practice by which such qualities are cultivated.


Making Quiet the Primary Thing



Looking at the mind as a basis of response easily leads to the view of the mind as essentially empty and quiet when not responding, as we have seen above. A distinctive Neo-Confucian development was the systematic expression of this view in terms of two interrelated states or conditions of the mind: quiescence (sub­stance) and activity (function).

As the basis of response, the quiet state has a certain analytic priority. Chou Tun-i emphasized quietness as primary, and Ch'eng Hao instructed his students in a meditation method known as "quiet-­sitting" (ching-tso, chŏngjwa. ) Ch'eng I admired the spirit of seriousness and discipline in this practice, but also was concerned lest this quietness become a countervalue to activity and take on a Buddhist rather than a Confucian cast; thus he introduced the doctrine of mindfulness.

As applied to the quiet state, what is entailed in the practice of mindfulness may be virtually identical with quiet-sitting; the im­portant difference is that mindfulness was explicitly formulated as a practice that encompasses both quiet and activity and gives priority and preference to neither. One is quiet when it is time for quiet, active when it is time to be active, and that is all. It was Chu Hsi, who had himself been trained in the quiet-sitting tradition by his teacher Li T'ung, who most clearly formulated the mindfulness doc­trine in such a way as to balance one-sidedness in either direction.

"Balance" can also mean tension, however, and there was clearly scope within the mindfulness doctrine for widely differing life­styles vis-a-vis the place of activity and quiet. T'oegye approached the question of quiet and inwardness with caution due to its proximity to Buddhism; we have seen his emphasis on external propriety as a fun­damental and reliable approach to cultivating mindfulness. But in his view quietness occupies a fundamental and important place; mind-


200          Diagram of the Admonition on "Rising Early and Retiring Late"


fulness is a doctrine to ensure balance, but not to undermine that place:


The purport of making quiet the primary thing has been spoken of by Con­fucius, Mencius, Chou [Tun-i], and the Ch'engs; in the school of Kuei-shan [Yang Shih] what was passed on as the essential key until it reached Hui-am [Chu Hsi] likewise consisted in this. How much more is it so since it is the medicine which fits your particular problem! But if one makes a single slip in this matter he will fall into Zen. Therefore Master Ch'eng [I] and Master Chu also have a thesis about employing mindfulness rather than quietness. This was because they feared people would mistakenly slip into [Zen] and so they put forth this explanation to save them; it was not that they regarded making quiet the primary thing as impermissible. Nevertheless one likewise should not get fed up with the complexity of broad study and restraining oneself with propriety, and exclusively devote oneself to concentrating on quietness. (A, 28.29b-30a, p. 666, Letter to Kim Ijŏng)


Mindfulness, then, is a broad-gauge doctrine that ensures balance; it encompasses and goes beyond quiet-sitting, but does not supplant that practice. T'oegye had the highest respect for Li T'ung and his teaching regarding self-cultivation, and he accepted the deliberate, disciplined approach to cultivating quietness entailed in quiet-sitting:


[Kim Sŏngil] asked about Master Yen-ping [Li T'ung]'s theory of quiet-sitting.


Master [T'oegye] said: Only after [practicing] quiet-sitting can one's mind and body become recollected and moral principles finally all come together and be anchored. If one's form and bones are heedlessly relaxed and without restraint, then the body and mind are darkened and disordered and moral principle no longer has a place to which to gather and be anchored. Therefore Kao-t'ing [Chu Hsi] quiet-sat facing Master Yen-ping for an entire day, and after he had parted from him likewise did so on his own.


[Further] question: How about if one has the problem of feeling constrained in quiet-sitting?


Master [T'oegye] said: If this body made of flesh and blood has been entirely without restraint from its youth, and then in a single morning one suddenly wants to quiet-sit and be recollected, how can there but be the problem of feeling constrained? It is necessary to steadfastly endure a very painful period during which there is no feeling of lively animation; then after a long period of years of practice one finally will no longer have the problem of feeling


Diagram of the Admonition on "Rising Early and Retiring Late"   201


constrained. If one dislikes constraint and expects to do this with natural spontaneity, this is what pertains to the state of sages and wise men whose entire body follows what is ordained with reverence and serenity; it is not something that is possible for a beginning student. In general the problem of feeling constrained is in fact due to one's continually wanting to steal some relaxation while one's practice of maintaining mindfulness is not yet perfect. If the mind is bright and alert and not slack and unrestrained, then the entire body naturally becomes recollected and composed and follows what is or­dained. (ŎHN 1.16b-17a, B, pp. 796-797)


Quiet, objectless consciousness is a unitive, integrating experience that takes on different meaning and different experiential significance in different philosophic or religious frameworks. In the above passage, T'oegye's phrase, "moral principles all come together and are an­chored," indicates its meaning in the Neo-Confucian context. In activity the mind pursues and concentrates on this or that matter, or principle in this or that manifestation; in quietness, there is a co­alescing and unification that transcends what may be spoken or ex­pressed, but is nonetheless intimately related to the particularity of what is experienced and understood in the active state. The relation­ship of activity and quiescence thus understood is an experiential reiteration of the philosophical dictum, "principle is one but mani­fested diversely." The gathering together of principle reflects the tran­scendent unity and nonspecificity of the Supreme Ultimate, the sum of all principle which is also the substance of the mind. "Nurturing the nature in quietness" is an experience of this all-embracing unity; but the Supreme Ultimate as real and concrete value is nothing apart from its diversified manifestation in the beings and affairs of the real world, and this likewise must be the final reference point and value of quietness.


Spontaneity and Naturalness



Neo-Confucians accepted the tradition that commonly described the sage as spontaneously perfect: his response to every situation would be invariably correct with no need for deliberation or


202          Diagram of the Admonition on "Rising Early and Retiring Late"


thought. The key to this perfection, it was agreed, was the fact that in the sage there is no self-will. Activity is physically the activity of the self or person, but there is no self-centeredness disjoining the person from the Tao or principle, and so actions are spontaneously in accord with the norm.

With such assumptions regarding the nature of the ideal con­dition, the temptation was to construe spontaneity not only as an attribute of the perfect state, but as a means to its attainment. The mind in quiescence is in perfect unity with principle, its substance; if in moving into activity one could avoid deliberation, a function of the self, would not activity of itself become perfect? The doctrine of mindfulness counters this Taoistic approach; it makes unremitting self­-possession and attentiveness, not spontaneity, the key to self-culti­vation. T'oegye says:


In general, the way one should pursue learning does not take into account the presence or absence of affairs [to be dealt with] or the presence or absence of intention; one should only regard mindfulness as the primary thing and then neither activity nor quiescence will miss the norm. Before thoughts have arisen the substance of the mind will be empty and clear and its fun­dament deep and pure; after thoughts have arisen moral principle will be clearly manifest and [selfish] desire will recede and be cut off. The problem of a confused and disordered [state of mind] will gradually diminish in pro­portion as one accumulates [practice] and comes closer to becoming fully accomplished. This is the essential method. But now if one does not concern himself with this and instead regards the spontaneous arising of thoughts as one deals with affairs and interacts with others as what is permissible, then he will want to be absolutely without thought when there is no affair to be dealt with. If one regards having [deliberate] intentions and thoughts as a hindrance to the mind, this means one would have to be like a sage who has no [deliberate] intentions or thoughts; then there would be no hindrance to the mind. Wanting to cut off thoughts is close to [Taoist] sitting in forgetfulness; being without [deliberate] intention or thought, furthermore, is not something that one who is less than a great wise man can approach. I fear this is all wrong. What's more, as for what has been said about there being a self-centered intent as soon as there is [deliberate] thought, that is certainly true if one is speaking with regard to someone whose original nature has been ensnared and submerged. But if one considers it in terms of moral principle, how can the arising of self-centered intentions be considered the


Diagram of the Admonition on "Rising Early and Retiring Late"    203


fault of [deliberate] thought? Mencius says, "The office of the mind is to think. If one thinks one apprehends [what is right]; if one does not exercise thought, he does not attain it."11 . . . This means that the arising of self-­centered intentions in ordinary people is in fact due to their not exercising thought. (A, 28.17a-b, p. 660, Letter to Kim Tonsŏ)


According to the Ch'eng-Chu school the no-thought/sponta­neous-response paradigm of cultivation fails to take into account the ordinary person's imperfect psychophysical endowment, the "physical nature." The physical nature has no role in the quiescent state, but exercises a potentially disruptive function as soon as there is activity. Its imperfection is manifested both as self-centered inclinations and lack of clear knowledge; these can be remedied only by long and strenuous application to the discipline of mindfulness and the inves­tigation of principle. Thus constant self-possession and alertness is paired with study and reflection in this chapter's presentation of an ideal daily routine.

Because of the objectively rooted imperfection of the physical nature, then, reflection, deliberation, and self-possession are required. Pure spontaneity does not mean pure perfection. But on the other hand, principle or the Tao is not just an abstract norm, but a reality operative within us and in the world around us. Self-cultivation is in one respect a process of overcoming oneself, but it is also and more ultimately a matter of becoming truly natural:


The substance of the Tao flowingly operates in the course of one's daily dealing with affairs and interacting with others without a moment's cessation or pause; therefore "[the mind] must be occupied and one cannot be heed­less."12 It does not permit the least bit of manipulation; therefore "one must not look for results or help it grow."13 Only then will the mind-and-heart be one with principle and the [function of the] substance of the Tao be faultless and without obstruction. (A, 25.37a, p. 609, Letter to Chŏng Chajung)


This perspective balances the critique of spontaneity. Diligent self-restraint and reflection are necessary, but on a deeper level the mind-and-heart is naturally quiet and properly responsive. A gentle, quiet, and protracted corrective tendency will allow these qualities to


204          Diagram of the Admonition on "Rising Early and Retiring Late"


emerge; a deliberate, aggressive attempt to subdue the mind-and-heart will only cause problems. In the following passage, T'oegye reviews and answers the question of a student having difficulty finding the proper balance:


[Your letter says]: "Formerly in teaching how to practice maintaining mind­fulness you [i.e., T'oegye] said if there is an intention to seize and hold [the mind] it will become burdened and disturbed. As I think it over again now­adays, in times of quietness sometimes it is possible for [the mind] to be possessed of itself with no need for me to try to seize and hold it. But when it comes to activity, if I do not make efforts to seize and hold it, it wanders far afield and is not settled and fixed. How is this? In general, my old habits have not yet been gotten rid of, so it is difficult for the new efforts to take hold. If I strain my mind and employ effort, it is close to being doable, but when external things approach I always experience the problem of hunting after the happiness of my mind-and-heart, which turns me about and soaks in, until finally I do not myself recognize it as wrong. If one wishes to scrape away the old habits to strengthen the new work, what way is there to make this possible?"

How can a beginning student be able to have the strength to deal with the active aspect without an intent to seize and hold [the mind]? But it is absolutely impermissible to be excessively intent and be too urgent in holding it; one should just apply oneself to a timely practice which falls between not exercising a deliberate intent and not not exercising a deliberate intent. When one has practiced this for a long time and is thoroughly versed in it he will gradually see that activity and quiet become as one. My meaning is that truly one cannot expect rapid results which are arrived at overnight. How much more so in a case like yours where one is entangled in old habits; how can it but be extremely fearful! Nevertheless, this likewise is just a matter of earnestly fixing one's intention, diligently practicing, concentrating on mindfulness, clarifying principle, and repressing and reforming [old habits]. (A, 31.1a-b, p. 720, Letter to U Kyŏngsŏn)


The Ch'eng-Chu school of thought constantly emphasized the need for earnest and diligent practice over a long period of time. Taken alone, such exhortations seem to present self-cultivation as an ex­tremely arduous process of continual and strenuous exertion. Concrete advice such as the above, however, puts this in a somewhat different light. The length of time reflects not so much the difficulty as the


Diagram of the Admonition on "Rising Early and Retiring Late"           205


quiet, patient, almost indeliberate nature of "earnest and diligent practice." One does not storm the gates of heaven; natural processes are constant but gradual in effecting their results. The assurance that the desired goal is in line with the innermost tendencies of nature is the Neo-Confucian's surety that over a sufficient period of time this gentle but continuous effort will bear fruit.


  An Alternative Lifestyle



The Admonition on "Rising Early and Retiring Late" depicts a daily routine of quiet-sitting, reflection, and scholarly pursuits, in­terrupted only occasionally by the need to attend to some other affair. It is not the life of a busy government official, but of a scholar living in relative retirement from the affairs of the world-the life T'oegye longed for and finally achieved in the last decades of his life. The routine described here is the natural expression of the type of self-­cultivation we have been considering. In theory it might be possible to pursue the investigation of principle and maintain constant mind­fulness in virtually any kind of life situation, but in fact this type of self-cultivation could hardly be pursued by a busy official unless he were already deeply grounded in it by prior training in a more secluded and quiet environment.

Traditionally there was but one ideal Confucian lifestyle: that of an official career in government. Self-cultivation had been regarded as the preparation for that career. But, as we have seen, the Neo-­Confucian movement deepened the inner dimensions of self-culti­vation, arriving at a full cultivation of the mind-and-heart that could rival the profundity of Buddhist asceticism. And like its Buddhist rival, this new Confucian self-cultivation could constitute a total way of life. The new style of life related ambivalently to office holding: like traditional self-cultivation, it could be thought of as an ideal prepa­ration for an official career, but it could also be considered as an attractive and worthy alternative to such a career. In either case, new and distinctive tensions were involved.


206          Diagram of the Admonition on "Rising Early and Retiring Late"


T'oegye's young friend and correspondent in the Four-Seven Debate, Ki Taesŭng, passed the civil service examinations and was on the threshold of a promising career; but instead he wished to pursue a life of quiet retirement, study, and self-cultivation and wrote to T'oegye for advice. T'oegye observed that he had already gone too far: had he made this choice earlier in his career it would have worked out, but now there is no chance the government would permit him to live in retirement. Then he warned:


But if you once make a slip with regard to what I have said, you will fall into being content with common practice and fitting in with convention, following the ignoble way of the world in every respect. One must without fail constantly maintain a firm intention that cannot be wrested away, a spirit that cannot be bent, a discernment that cannot be clouded, and a strength of learning that is tempered and hardened as days and months pass; only then will you perhaps be able to stand firm and not be taken up and overturned by worldly fame, profit, and majesty. If not, what you now have a taste for will become insipid and you will not be able to attain it; it will "get harder as you bore into it,, 14 and you will not be able to enter in. If you allow a slight gap you will not be able to avoid your mind becoming lazy, your intention becoming lax, and your thoughts being turned about. The worldly notion of what constitutes profit and loss, disaster or blessing, con­sequently acts as a pressure and threat that gradually dissolves and melts [one's original resolve]; thus there are few who do not change from the ends they initially served and come to regard accommodation with the world as ac­ceptable and turning their backs on the Tao for the pursuit of gain as the most profitable course. This is the most fearful thing of all. (A, 16.6a-b, p. 404)


The value conflict spoken of here is to a certain extent a common theme in Confucian writings of whatever period, and the negative aspect has undoubtedly been heightened by T'oegye's personal expe­rience. But there is a difference in T'oegye's frame of reference: he speaks not just of negative forces, but of a total environment char­acterized by such forces. It is "the world" in the sense of the term as used by ascetics of virtually all religious traditions in speaking of the common way of life in contrast to their own special and pure way of life and spiritual cultivation. It is a viewpoint that arises from different


Diagram of the Admonition on "Rising Early and Retiring Late"       207


and contrasting types of life that may be entered upon or left; to be "in the world," is in this perspective a choice, since an alternative is possible.

Life in retirement was not totally cut off from "the world," however; a deliberate rejection of society could be viewed by Con­fucians only as an aberration. Rather a life of scholarly retirement and self-cultivation was viewed as the ideal preparation for life in the world as well as an alternative to such a life. The point was not to produce delicate spiritual flowers that could survive only in a pure environment:


[Yi] Tŏkhong asked: Confucius said: "Do not have friends who are not as good as yourself."15 Does that mean that if someone is not better than oneself one should have absolutely nothing to do with him?


[T'oegye] said: Ordinary people's feelings are that they like having as friends those who are not better than themselves and dislike having friends who are better. Therefore the Sage spoke in this way; he did not mean one should have absolutely nothing to do with them. If one wishes wholly to select only the good as friends, this likewise is one-sided."


[Tŏkhong] said: But as for having to do with evil men, how about being swept away and falling to their level?


[T'oegye] said: If good, one emulates it; if bad, one emends it. That way everyone is my teacher. If you are swept away and fall to their level, for what have you been pursuing learning? (ŎHN, 3.3a-b, B, p. 820)


From Confucius onwards the orthodox Confucian view was that the foundation for office holding must be sound character for­mation. Neo-Confucian self-cultivation practices were ideally suited to that end. But the emergence of this type of self-cultivation aggra­vated a long-standing Confucian tension regarding the chief institu­tionalized means of recruitment to office, the civil service examination system. The basic problem was that moral cultivation could not be measured by objective examination; such examinations could assess only such matters as literary skill, familiarity (memorization) with the classics and their orthodox interpretation, etc. Not only could "real learning" not be tested, but preparation for such examinations in­volved a time commitment, methodology, and cast of mind that were


208          Diagram of the Admonition on "Rising Early and Retiring Late"


often perceived as antithetical to the demands of self-cultivation or "real learning" in Neo-Confucian terms. One section of T'oegye's recorded conversations (Ŏnhaengnok) is entitled, "On the Corruption of the Examinations." What is meant is not that the examination system was itself corrupt, but that its influence tended to corrupt those who submitted themselves to the process. The following illustrates T'oegye's sentiments:


I [Chŏng Sasŏng] was sitting in attendance in the study. The Teacher [T'oegye] said to those assembled there: "The meaning of the Confucian school is of itself something apart. Proficiency in literary skills is not Con­fucian; passing the civil service examinations is not Confucian." Then he sighed and said: "In the world a great number of men of excellent ability become completely absorbed in conventional studies. Who is there that is able to succeed in liberating himself from the mortar-bowl of the examina­tions!" (ŎHN, 5.lla, B, p. 855)


If committed Neo-Confucian scholars felt the exam system ground up men of great potential, parents and relatives concerned with the worldly fortunes of their families felt the problem from the opposite direction. They were not pleased to see their promising young men absorbed in a form of learning that had little direct connection with conventional careers and worldly success. Proponents of the new learning of the mind-and-heart such as T'oegye were under pressure to focus on more immediately "relevant" kinds of teaching:


Our Teacher [T'oegye] also said: "Fathers and elder brothers nowadays always regard expounding the Classic of the Mind-and-Heart and the Reflection on Things at Hand as wrong and criticize their sons and younger brothers [for engaging in such studies]. Scholars likewise are intimidated by public opinion and few expound this learning. In my lecturing on the Classic of the Mind­-and-Heart I feel a certain uneasiness, but I am unwilling to put aside our kind of learning and lecture on other texts." (ŎHN, 5.18b-19a, B, pp. 858-859)


There was, then, a very imperfect fit between the Neo-Con­fucian pursuit of learning and self-cultivation as described in the Ten Diagrams, and the institutionalized criteria of achievement related to government careers. This warns us that in reflecting upon the "Neo-


Diagram of the Admonition on "Rising Early and Retiring Late"          209


Confucian society" of Yi dynasty Korea it is important to distinguish between Neo-Confucianism as an institutionalized ideology and Neo­Confucianism as a way of life. As an ideology it furnished the entire elite class with a shared vocabulary and a common conceptual frame­work that served to order and legitimate their world. But as a way of life it marked out a distinctive and demanding path of spiritual cul­tivation that was pursued by a self-conscious minority who were often at odds with the mundane values and systems accepted by their fellows.








10. Diagram of the Admonition on "Rising Early and Retiring Late"


1. The title is a reference to a passage in Book of Odes, #256. The author of the Admonition is Ch'en Po, a Sung dynasty scholar. His courtesy name was Mao-­ch'ing and his honorific name was Nan-t'ang. There is no mention of him in the Sung-Yüan hsüeh-an or other standard biographical sources.

2. A, 10.14a, p. 288, Letter to No Susin.

3. Yen Hui and Tseng Tzu were two of Confucius' foremost disciples.

4. Ref. to Mencius, 6A:8, which describes how the atmosphere of the night tends to restore human nature to its proper condition and repair the violence done to it during the day.

5. Changes; the Ch'ien (Heaven) hexagram mentions four characteristics of Heaven. These were commonly matched with the four seasons, with steadfastness and origination belonging to winter and spring, respectively.

6. See above, number 1.

7. See chapter 9, number 25.

8. Doctrine of the Mean, ch. 1.

9. Ibid., ch. 1.

10. Reference to the final passages of Chu Hsi's Admonition for Mindfulness Studio, which appears above, chapter 9.

11. Mencius, 6A:15.

12. Ibid., 2A:2.

13. Ibid., 2A:2.

14. Analects, 9:11. In admiration on Confucius' teaching, Yen Hui says, "The more I try to bore into it, the harder it becomes."

15. Ibid., 1:8.