“Soldiers-Turned-Laborers/Guards: Buddhist Monks in Chosŏn Korea at the Turn of the Sixteenth Century”
Nam-lin Hur, The University of British Columbia
Moderated by Michael Como, Columbia University
6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
Friday, March 8, 2019
Seminar Room 2, Faculty House
Buddhism in Late Chosŏn fared far better compared to that to the end of the sixteenth century. The signs of Buddhism’s improved status were visible: Buddhism was hailed as a religion helping to protect the country (hoguk Pulgyo); the royal family, particularly its female members, extended their financial support to a number of temples recovering from the ruins of the war; the state embraced Buddhist monks as an important and useful element for national defense; and Buddhism gained more and more popularity as an avenue of ritual care for ancestral spirits. What caused Buddhism to be transformed into a religion beneficial, not detrimental, to society and the state? In this talk, Hur will discuss the activities in which Buddhist monks were involved during the war of Japan’s invasion of Chosŏn Korea in 1592-98 – ones that helped Buddhism be reshaped in Late Chosŏn Korea. For this, Hur will pay attention to three activities which Buddhist monks performed: they fought as voluntary soldiers against Japanese invaders; they offered free labor in building defense fortresses; and one of them, Yujŏng (also known as Samyŏngdang), was even charged to conduct diplomacy for the government. All these were previously unprecedented in the history of Buddhism in Chosŏn Korea. In assessing the enhanced status of Buddhism after the war, Hur will particularly explore the financial structure of Chosŏn Korea’s governance that was at the root of Buddhist transformation in times of national crisis.
Co-sponsored by the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures; the Department of Religion; the Academy of Korean Studies