Open main menu

Yi Saek (Korean: 이색, Hanja: 李穡, 1328 – 1396), also known by his pen name Mogeun (Korean: 목은), was a Korean writer and poet. His family belonged to the Hansan Yi clan. Yi Saek played a crucial role in the introduction and localisation of philosophy of Zhu Xi. He studied Neo-Confucianism in Yuan Dynasty China and opened an academy after his return to Goryeo, and from his academy the founders of Joseon Dynasty were educated.

Yi Saek
Revised RomanizationLee Saek
McCune–ReischauerYi Saek

Many of his disciples, such as Jeong Do-jeon and Gwon Geun, used Neo-Confucianism as the ideological basis for overthrowing the Buddhist kingdom of Goryeo and establishing Confucian Joseon. However, Yi Saek himself remained loyal to the Goryeo Dynasty and didn't believe the wiping out of Buddhism, as Jeong Do-jeon insisted, would be of any benefit. Yi Saek believed in the co-existence of the "Three Disciplines": Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. Yi Saek resigned from all political positions after the founding of the Joseon Dynasty.

Not much is known about how he died, but some say that he was murdered while crossing a bridge, like Jeong Mong-ju (four years earlier in 1392). When he was offered the position of Prime Minister by Yi Seong-gye, Yi Saek turned the offer down and told him that he could not serve two kings (of Goryeo and Joseon). Yi Seong-gye subsequently ordered his men to kill him if he was not able to cross the bridge in time, and if he does cross it in time, to let him go. He died because he didn't cross the bridge in time.

Yi Saek left various poetry, essays and letters compiled in The Collected Works of Mogeun.

Popular cultureEdit

See alsoEdit