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What Bangye suggests for today’s rapidly changing society

What Bangye suggests for today’s rapidly changing society

Posted January. 17, 2018 08:47,   

Updated January. 17, 2018 09:15


“While calling for thorough social reform, Bangye also believed that the tradition of Confucianism should be kept, paradoxically. If the Renaissance was a movement to recover the values of ancient Greece and Rome in the Western history, we had Bangye, who cried for the Renaissance of the Joseon Dynasty,” said Lim Hyeong-taek, an emeritus professor at Sungkyunkwan University, last Tuesday at “Ikseonjae,” a space he arranged to study the classics and discuss with fellow researchers. Recently, Professor Lim published “Bangyeyugo,” a book that compiled Bangye Yoo Hyung-won’s poems and writings, together with researchers at Ikseonjae.

Being the pioneer of Silhak, the practical learning school, Bangye was an influential scholar during the late Joseon period. Seongho Yi Ik, another famous scholar, once likened Bangye’s representative work “Bangyesurok” to medicinal herbs with mysterious efficacy, saying, “A sick person is dying here while herbs are rotting away over there, and neither can be of use.”

Yet, Bangye is not as famous as other Silhak scholars such as Dasan Jeong Yak-yong. “As if a bird does not fly with one wing, you have to look at both academic writings and the collection of literary works of a person to understand his or her true character,” said Lim. “The reason Yoo Hyung-won could not receive as much spotlight may be partly because his thoughts had to be remained unknown due to the loss of his collection of six books, “Bangye Seonsaeng Yujipseo.”

Professor Lim spent more than three years on collecting and translating Bangye’s poems and proses. The book contains 182 poems of Bangye as well as his proses about various subjects such as history, geography and philosophy. Also included are records that King Jeongjo and Bangye’s fellow and junior scholars wrote of him. One of his poems titled “Thinking of the Two Friends” shows the characteristic of Bangye as a practical scholar, saying, “I strive to follow the deceased and solidify the foundation in order to shake off ostentation.”

In an answer to a question asking if there is any reason Bangye should be paid attention to in 2018, Professor Lim said, “Bangye was a person who called for fundamental change through aggressive monetary policies and land reform when there were increased confusion in society due to the transition of the Ming to the Qing Dynasty. His thoughts thus have great implications for today’s society, which is beset with challenges in various areas and is going through drastic change.”

Won-Mo Yu onemore@donga.com