This paper aims to bring clarity to the different views on li and qi of Yi Hwang 李滉 and Yi I 李珥, more specifically following their respective interpretations of the Taijitushuo 太極圖說. While the two agreed that Zhuzixue 朱子學 should maintain its firm place as the national ideology of Joseon, they differed in their views concerning post-Zhuzixue trends in Ming China, especially concerning the thoughts of Luo Qinshun 羅欽順. Yi Hwang based his interpretation of the Taijitushuo on that of Zhu Xi, emphasizing the priority of li over qi. Yi Hwang inherited Zhu Xi’s claim that the activity-tranquility was the taiji’s function, and sought to specify what the function was in his interpretation of sheng 生. For Yi Hwang, should li be without function, it is a “dead thing” that has no capacity or role, and cannot be the foundation on which Confucian ethics are grounded. Yi I never dealt with li as the cause of qi’s movement or being; his point of emphasis was that the taiji and yin-yang, or li and qi, were inseparable; and there was no chronological priority or posteriority between the two. Unlike Zhu Xi, he refused the priority of the taiji, claiming that the taiji was within the movement of qi, which was akin to Luo’s view.
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