[KS] NEW BOOK> Korea's Great Buddhist-Confucian Debate: The Treatises of Chŏng Tojŏn (Sambong) and Hamhŏ Tŭkt’ong (Kihwa)

Charles Muller acmuller at l.u-tokyo.ac.jp
Fri May 22 01:54:35 EDT 2015

NEW BOOK> Korea's Great Buddhist-Confucian Debate: The Treatises of 
Chŏng Tojŏn (Sambong) and Hamhŏ Tŭkt’ong (Kihwa)

Translated and with an introduction by
A. Charles Muller

University of Hawai`i Press
192pp. May 2015
Cloth - Price: $20.00
ISBN: 978-0-8248-5380-8


This volume makes available in English the seminal treatises in Korea’s 
greatest interreligious debate of the fourteenth and fifteenth 
centuries. On Mind, Material Force, and Principle and An Array of 
Critiques of Buddhism by Confucian statesman Chŏng Tojŏn (1342–1398) and 
Exposition of Orthodoxy by Sŏn monk Kihwa (1376–1433) are presented here 
with extensive annotation. A substantial introduction provides a summary 
and analysis of the philosophical positions of both Neo-Confucianism and 
Buddhism as well as a germane history of the interactions between these 
two traditions in East Asia, offering insight into religious tensions 
that persist to this day.

Translator Charles Muller shows how, from the time Confucianism and 
Buddhism met in China, these thought systems existed, along with Daoism, 
in a competing relationship that featured significant mutual influence. 
A confrontative situation eventually developed in China, wherein 
Confucian leaders began to criticize Buddhism. During the late-Koryŏ and 
early-Chosŏn periods in Korea, the Neo-Confucian polemic became the 
driving force in the movement to oust Buddhism from its position as 
Korea’s state religion. In his essays, Chŏng drew together the gamut of 
arguments that had been made against Buddhism throughout its long 
history in Korea. Kihwa’s essay met Neo-Confucian contentions with an 
articulate Buddhist response. Thus, in a rare moment in the history of 
religions, a true philosophical debate ensued.

This debate was made possible based upon the two religions’ shared 
philosophical paradigm: essence-function (ch’e-yong). This traditional 
East Asian way of interpreting society, events, phenomena, human beings, 
and the world understands all things to have both essence and function, 
two contrasting yet wholly contiguous and mutually containing 
components. All three East Asian traditions took this as their 
underlying philosophical paradigm, and it is through this paradigm that 
they evaluated and criticized each other’s doctrines and practices.

Specialists in philosophy, religion, and Korean studies will appreciate 
Muller’s exploration of this pivotal moment in Korean intellectual 
history. Because it includes a broad overview of the interactive history 
of East Asian religions, this book can also serve as a general 
introduction to East Asian philosophical thought.


A. Charles Muller is professor in the Graduate School of Humanities and 
Sociology at the University of Tokyo. His main work lies in the fields 
of Korean Buddhism, East Asian Yogācāra, East Asian classical 
lexicography, and online scholarly resource development.

A. Charles Muller

Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology
Faculty of Letters
University of Tokyo
7-3-1 Hongō, Bunkyō-ku
Tokyo 113-8654, Japan

Office Phone: 03-5841-3735

Web Site: Resources for East Asian Language and Thought

Twitter: @H_Buddhism

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