“Visualizing Koryŏ Buddhism: New Insights from Temple Excavations”
Sem Vermeersch, Seoul National University
Friday, April 3, 2020
6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
918 International Affairs Building
Co-sponsored by Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University; Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia University; Academy of Korean Studies, Seoul, Korea
Despite a growing body of research on the Koryŏ Dynasty (918–1392), in world history it still remains a somewhat peripheral presence. Beyond its celadon, there is not really any image that is readily associated with Koryŏ culture. The Mongol invasions of the 13th century certainly played a role in destroying vital visual documentation, as did the looting of the old capital, Kaesŏng, amidst the vicissitudes of modern Korean history. Kaesŏng is again closed off for archeological surveys, but even with the application of the most advanced archeological techniques may yield little vital new information. By contrast, in the south there is growing awareness of Koryŏ remains within South Korea. The excavation of the Hoeam-sa site in the late 20th century is probably a watershed moment, showing the rich potential of Koryŏ archeology. In this presentation I will focus however mainly on the excavation of early Koryŏ temples located along the middle reaches of the Namhan River. Rather than giving a detailed overview of these sites, however, I will mainly be trying to ascertain how these may help to revise our knowledge of Koryŏ Buddhism and its material culture.
Sem Vermeersch is a historian of Korean Buddhism. He is associate professor at the Department of Religious Studies, Seoul National University, and concurrently serves as the director of the International Center for Korean Studies, Kyujanggak Institute for Korean Studies. His major field is the history of Korean Buddhism, focusing particularly on the organizational aspects of the religion, its social and political contexts, and its position within East Asian Buddhism. His recent publications include A Chinese Traveler in Medieval Korea: An Illustrated Account of the Xuanhe Embassy to Koryŏ (Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2016), “Views on Buddhist Precepts and Morality in Late Koryŏ” (Journal of Korean Religions 7:1 (2016)), and “Archival Practice in Premodern Korea: Record-Keeping as Archive and Historiography” (The Journal of Korean Studies 24:2 (2019)).