Korean Buddhism - Frederick Starr - ebook
Opis

The author does not overestimate the importance of this little book: it is nothing more than its title claims. It consists of three lectures given to popular audiences, with the accompaniment of many illustrations. It represents, however, a considerable amount of work in an almost virgin field. It has involved hard journeys to remote mountain monasteries, and days and nights of conversation and inquiry with many monks and priests. It is not, however, a profound study nor an exhaustive presentation. It barely touches many a subject, which would alone furnish more material than could be treated in three such lectures. It but scratches the surface.

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Table of contents

INTRODUCTION

KOREAN BUDDHISM: HISTORY

KOREAN BUDDHISM:CONDITION

KOREAN BUDDHISM: ART

BIBLIOGRAPHY

NOTES

INTRODUCTION

The author does not overestimate the importance of this little book: it is nothing more than its title claims. It consists of three lectures given to popular audiences, with the accompaniment of many illustrations. It represents, however, a considerable amount of work in an almost virgin field. It has involved hard journeys to remote mountain monasteries, and days and nights of conversation and inquiry with many monks and priests. It is not, however, a profound study nor an exhaustive presentation. It barely touches many a subject, which would alone furnish more material than could be treated in three such lectures. It but scratches the surface.The material which it presents is however new. Outside of Mrs. Bishop’s account of her visit to the Diamond Mountain monasteries and scattered references in her book to a few local temples, there is almost nothing on the subject of Korean Buddhism accessible to English readers. A glance at our bibliography will show that not one of the books or articles there listed appeared in the West. All were printed at Seoul, Shanghai and Tokyo and publications appearing at those centers are little known outside. To aid serious readers, who may care to secure them, the publishers’ names are given in our list. The author has carefully read all the items listed and acknowledges indebtedness to all the authors.The actual amount of material for the full study of Korean Buddhism is enormous. There are many voluminous works in Chinese and Korean dealing with Korean history; when carefully sifted, these will yield many important facts. Many, perhaps all, of the monasteries have records of their history somewhat after the nature of annals; most of these are in manuscript, but a few have been printed, presumably from wood-blocks cut at the establishment by the monks. There is a third source of information, as vast in bulk as either of the other two; it is the inscriptions on monuments, which are scattered in thousands over the peninsula. The gleaning of information from these three sources—for the work must absolutely be of the nature of gleaning—will require many years, but the work is worth the doing. It is urgent also. Every one of these three sources is subject to destruction and even now is threatened. Old books in Korea are being constantly lost and destroyed; new editions of them are often carelessly and inaccurately reproduced; in some cases, the new editions are intentionally mutilated, important passages being suppressed. The monastery records are less secure than ever before; with the new life and energy in these old establishments, renovation and clearing out of nooks and corners and overhauling of accumulations of papers, places documents, the value of which is unknown or unappreciated, in serious jeopardy. As for the monuments many are disappearing and others are becoming undecipherable through weathering. There is pressing need then of promptly securing these materials and making them available for study.The Japanese are doing much good work. They are gathering old books and records. Up to 1915 more than one hundred and fifty thousand books, manuscript and printed, had been gathered by the Government-General. Among these were the “Annals of Yi” numbering sixteen hundred and thirty-three volumes and the “Royal Diaries,” aggregating thirty-one hundred and ninety-nine volumes, “all hand-written with the brush.” Of the “Annals” there were four sets made under the Korean government for the four old royal libraries. The “Royal Diaries” were compiled at the king’s orders; they dated from Yi Tajo himself, but those up to near the end of the sixteenth century were burned by the Koreans at the time of the Hideyoshi invasion; those now existing cover the period from 1623 to 1907. Japanese scholars have organized a society for reprinting old and rare Korean books and have gotten out many volumes. They are piling up direct observations also. From 1909 to 1915, they conducted a peninsula-wide survey of ancient monuments and have printed the results in four fine volumes, with splendid illustrations, under the title Chosen ko seki gafu. They have taken steps toward the preservation and, where necessary, the reconstruction of important monuments and notable buildings. They are copying the monastery records and ultimately will have a complete set of all that remain. The originals ought to be left in possession of the monasteries themselves, with the obligation to guard and keep them safely. As to monumental inscriptions, the Government-General has been equally industrious. Up to March, 1915, there had been made thirteen hundred and seventy-seven direct rubbings from inscribed stones, of which forty-four represented Sylla, forty-three the period of the Koryu Dynasty and thirteen hundred and three the Yi Dynasty. It is fortunate that this preservation of material is being undertaken. The world will profit by it, though it may still be long locked up in Chinese characters.In this book the work of Yi Nung Hwa is mentioned. His Buddhist magazine should yield some data of value. If his History of Korean Buddhism is printed it ought to be of high importance, as he naturally has a much easier task in consulting the original sources than any foreigner. If his work is done with care and critical judgment it should be the necessary foundation for all future study. All depends upon how he performs his task. Readers who become interested in our lectures are advised to read Bishop Trollope’s admirable Introduction. It clears the ground and indicates the direction of further studies.The author has hundreds of negatives illustrating Korean Buddhism. One hundred and fifty pictures were used in the original lectures. When cutting down to what seemed the absolute limit, in selecting pictures for the book, he found that he had more than double the number permitted by the necessary conditions. Further reduction was difficult and many pictures have been rejected, which are more beautiful or interesting than some of those that are included. The final choice was based upon the desire to give as clear an idea as possible of actual conditions and to represent all the important phases presented in the lectures. One or two of the pictures were made by Manuel Gonzales in 1911; all the others are the work of Maebashi Hambei, who accompanied me, in my last three expeditions to Korea, as photographer.

KOREAN BUDDHISM: HISTORY

Since 1911 it has been my privilege to make four journeys into Korea, so long known as “The Hermit Kingdom.” To-day Korea has ceased to be an independent nation; she has been completely absorbed by Japan and forms part of the Japanese Empire. I found much of interest in the country. I studied the people and their daily life; I visited many of the famous points of interest and beauty; I have studied somewhat into Korean history. Nothing, however, has more interested me than the study of Korean religions, particularly Buddhism. When asked to give some public lectures this summer, I consented gladly to speak for three evenings on the subject of Korean Buddhism. My three lectures will deal with History—Condition—Art.The history of Korea falls into three sharply marked periods. The first is known as the era of the Three Kingdoms—it ended with the year 918, a year easy to remember because exactly one thousand years ago. The second is the period of the Koryu Dynasty; it began with the year 918 and ended in 1392, a date easy for us to remember because precisely a century before the discovery of America by Columbus. The third period, known as the period of the Yi Dynasty, began with 1392 and continued until 1910, when the independent history of Korea ended with its absorption by Japan.The history of Buddhism in Korea is divided into the same three periods, as the things which caused breaks in the national history were related to the religion. We shall then speak of the Buddhism of the Three Kingdoms, of the Koryu Dynasty and of the Yi Dynasty.PLATE IIGeneral view: Pomo-saThe early period is called the era of the Three Kingdoms because at that time the peninsula was occupied by three different nations. The largest, in the north, was called Koguryu. Japanese pronounce the name as Koma. It occupied more than half of the peninsula. Its capital city was P’yeng-Yang, still a city of importance. The second kingdom was smaller; in the southwest of the peninsula, it was known by the name of Pakche, which is pronounced by the Japanese Kudara. The third kingdom occupied the southeastern section of the peninsula. It was larger than Pakche, but smaller than Koguryu, and was called Silla, Japanese, Shiragi. Such then, were the three kingdoms which existed through a period of hundreds of years.Unfortunately all names in Korea have several pronunciations. They are usually spelled with Chinese characters. If a Chinese pronounces the name, he will pronounce it in a certain way, dependent upon what part of China he comes from; a Korean will pronounce the same characters quite differently; a Japanese has still a different pronunciation. It is for this reason that the Korean and Japanese names of these kingdoms differ; the same characters are pronounced Koguryu by the Koreans and Koma by the Japanese; Pakche on the Korean tongue becomes Kudara with the Japanese; and where the Korean says Silla, the Japanese says Shiragi.Such then was the condition of the peninsula preceding 918. It was divided into three kingdoms, each with its own ruler. Buddhism, a religion which began in India, came to Korea by way of China. It naturally first reached the northern kingdom. It was introduced in 369 A.D. and its introduction was the result of foreign missionary effort. In those days there was an Empire of China, but there were also various small Chinese kingdoms along the northern border of the Korean peninsula. Buddhism came to Koguryu from one of these little Chinese kingdoms, the king of which sent its message by the hands of a priest named Sundo, who brought idols and sacred texts. He was well received on his appearance in P’yeng-Yang. The king of the country placed the crown prince in his care for education. In a few years the new religion had made great headway. It had brought with it art and education, and the kingdom of Koguryu became a center of culture and advancement.PLATE IIIGeneral view: Yuchom-sa, Diamond MountainsFive years later, in 374, another priest named Ado was sent from the same Chinese kingdom. His coming added impetus to the religion and two great monasteries were founded near P’yeng-Yang, over one of which Ado was placed, while Sundo had charge of the other. These two monasteries were not only centers of religion, they were full-fledged universities according to the ideas of the universities in those days.After they were founded Buddhism continued to spread rapidly so that in 392 it became the official religion of the kingdom.