Gwon Geun

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Gwon Geun
Hangul 권근
Hanja 權近
Revised Romanization Gwon Geun
McCune–Reischauer Kwŏn Kŭn
Pen name
Hangul 양촌
Hanja 陽村
Revised Romanization Yangchon
McCune–Reischauer Yangch'on
Courtesy name
Hangul 가원,사숙
Hanja 可遠,思叔
Revised Romanization Gaweon,Sasuk
McCune–Reischauer Kawŏn, Sasuk
Posthumous name
Hangul 문충
Hanja 文忠
Revised Romanization Munchung
McCune–Reischauer Munch'ung

Gwon Geun (1352–1409) was a Korean Neo-Confucian scholar at the dawn of the Joseon Dynasty, and a student of Yi Saek. He was one of the first Neo-Confucian scholars of the Joseon dynasty, and had a lasting influence on the rise of Neo-Confucianism in Korea.


Gwon Geun was a Korean Neo-Confucian scholar at the time of the change from the Goryeo dynasty (during which Buddhism was a prominent philosophy) to Joseon.[1] He was a member of the Andong Gwon clan that was very influential in the Goryeo court. He was a student of Yi Saek, and passed the first level of civil service examinations at the age of fourteen. He later went to Yuan China, and during his six years stay there he passed the second and the third level examinations. After his return to Korea, he became associated with the loyalist faction, and was exiled in 1389 for his defense of the loyalist minister Yi Sungin (1349–1392). While in exile he got involved in the faction’s attempt to prevent the rise of Yi Seonggye, by alerting the Ming Dynasty. His was acquitted when a flood that stopped the trial was accepted as an omen. A year later he returned from his exile and retired to the village of Yangchon, on which he based his pen name. However, king Taejo (R. 1392 - 1398) convinced him to devote his talent for the new dynasty.[2]:219–232

At first, resentment from Jeong Dojeon's faction kept his role minimal, but Jeong Do-jeon and many of his colleagues were wiped out during the succession straggle of 1398. From that point until his death, Gwon Geun became the most important scholar in the government. During this time Gwon Geun directed the education system back toward literary accomplishments.


Gwon Geun lived and served during the dynastic change, and became eventually one of the architects of the Neo-Confucian ideology that provided both reasoning for the change, and ideological framework for the Joseon literati. He introduced Zhu Xi to the Korean audience, and his writings served as the basis for future scholars.

Among his writing on Neo-Confucianism, the most influential is probably the Iphak toseol (Diagrammatic Treatise for Entering upon Learning). He created this book for some students who came with questions in 1390 while he was in exile. He also wrote commentaries on the Book of Rites – A task entrusted by Yi Saek. He rearranged the text and added his own commentaries as well as those of Chinese contemporaries. The work began in 1391 but ended only in 1404. Unfortunately his commentaries on the other classics are lost now. Gwon Geun developed a theory of ritual and emphasized the role of ritual in social order. He rearranged the Classic of Music, taking the first part as the original and the second part as a commentary.[2]:92

Gwon Geun was a prolific writer, and he is also known for his contributions to several anti Buddhist texts, including his preface to Jeong Dojeon’s Pulssi chappyeon (Arguments Against Mr. Buddha), as well as a contribution to the standardization of the sacrifices to pacify restless spirits.[3]


  • Iphak doseol - Diagrams and Explanations upon Entering Learning (Hangul: 입학도설, Hanja: 入學圖說)
  • Ogyeong cheongyeonnok - Superficial Reflections on the Five Classics (Hangul: 오경천견록, Hanja: 五經淺見錄)
  • Saseo ogyeong gugyeol - Mnemonics for the Four Book and the Five Classics (Hangul: 사서오경구결, Hanja: 四書五經口訣)
  • Gwonhaksaui paljo - Eight Articles on Recommendations for Learning (Hangul: 권학사의팔조, Hanja: 勸學事宜八條)
  • Dongguk ssaryak - Concise History of the Eastern State (Hangul: 동국사략, Hanja: 東國史略)
  • Daeganjik imsamok - Admonition to the Appointment of Officials (Hangul: 대간직임사목, Hanja: 臺諫職任事目)
  • Yegi Cheon'gyeonnok - Comments on the Book of Rites (Hangul: 예기천견록, Hanja: 禮記淺見錄)
  • Sangdae byeolgok (Hangul:상대별곡, Hanja: 霜臺別曲)
  • Yangchonjip - Collected Works of Yangchon (Hangul: 양촌집, Hanja: 陽村集)

Additional reading[edit]

  • Ralston, Michael K. “Ideas of Self and Self Cultivation in Korean Neo-Confucianism.” PhD diss., University of British Columnbia, 2001.
  • Kalton, Michael C. "The Writings of Kwon Kun: The Context and Shape of Early Yi Dynasty Neo-Confucianism." In Wm. Theodore de Bary and JaHyun Kim Haboush, eds. The Rise of Neo-Confucianism in Korea. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985.
  • Kalton, Michael C. "Early Yi Dynasty Neo-Confucianism: An Integrated Vision." In Laurel Kendall and Griffin Dix, eds. Religion and Ritual in Korean Society. Berkeley: Center for Korean Studies, Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley, 1987.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Michael K Ralston, Ideas of Self and Self Cultivation in Korean Neo-Confucianism, PhD diss., UBC, 2001. p. 73
  2. ^ a b Kalton, Michael C. "The Writings of Kwon Kun: The Context and Shape of Early Yi Dynasty Neo-Confucianism." In Wm. Theodore de Bary and JaHyun Kim Haboush, eds. The Rise of Neo-Confucianism in Korea. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985.
  3. ^ Boudewijn Walraven, “Popular Religion in a Confucianized Society,” in Culture and The State in Late Choson Korea, ed. Jahyun Kim Haboush and Martina Deuchler (Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 1999), 164.

External links[edit]