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    Korean Buddhism during the Chosŏn period (1392–1910) has been characterized as a religion whose institutional integrity and philosophical vigor severely declined due to the state policy of oppression. Since such a negative description was promulgated by Japanese scholars during the colonial period, it has been adhered to even by postcolonial era Korean scholars. This article is an attempt to redress such a stereotypical understanding of Korean Buddhism, especially that of the late Chosŏn period, and to bring to light its real nature from a historical perspective.

    As for the factors that contributed to the enhancement of Chosŏn Buddhism’s status, we may adduce some changes in the institutional and social settings. During the years 1550 to 1566, the traditional system of the Sŏn and Kyo schools was restored and government regulations for clerical ordination and the state examination for monks were also reinstated. During the Imjin War, the monastic armies’ military achievements led to the enhancement of their social status. Thereafter, the government publicly utilized their corvée labor, and the Buddhist institution came to receive state support. In the early seventeenth century, along with the rearrangement of religious institutions, various lineages and branches were established and an economic foundation for managing their monasteries was secured. The Buddhist circle in this period proclaimed their self-identity by determining the dharma lineages and established systems for monastic education and practice through combining the practice of meditation and doctrinal studies, in which kanhwa Sŏn took precedence.


    Chos?n Buddhism , monastic army , monastic corvee labor , dharma lineage , monastic education


    Korean Buddhism during the Chosŏn period has been understood as a religion which was politically marginalized due to the state policy of oppression and whose institutional integrity and philosophical vigor severely declined. Since such a negative description was made by Japanese scholars during the colonial period, it has been followed even by post-colonial Korean scholars.2

    In his 1929 work Richō Bukkyō (Yi dynasty Buddhism), Takahashi Tōru, a noted Japanese scholar of Korean studies during the colonial period, divided Chosŏn Buddhism into three periods based on the rise and fall in the general reception of Buddhist doctrine. He stated that the third period—after the late seventeenth century—saw the complete collapse of Buddhism’s religious authority and the disappearance of the Buddha-dharma. This paradigm set early Chosŏn Buddhism against late Chosŏn Buddhism and depicted the latter markedly diminished, thereby providing a typical model of decline.3

    In approaching Korean history and tradition from the disciplinary angle of East Asian studies infused with Orientalism, Japanese colonial scholars, including Takahashi, regarded Korean history as a model of heteronomy and stagnation, overlooking the distinct independent spirit and developmental potential of Korean Buddhism. Such stereotyped descriptions of Korean Buddhism led the scholars of later generations to disregard the Chosŏn period. Even worse, their biased understanding of this period has been intensified as the earlier theories were not verified against concrete historical facts.

    But it should be emphasized that Korean Buddhism played a considerable role in the spread of Buddhist texts and culture and in human exchange and philosophical development within the broader context of East Asian Buddhism throughout the Silla and Koryŏ periods. Furthermore, vigorous efforts were made during the late Chosŏn dynasty to maintain or reconstruct the majority of existing monasteries and to publish Buddhist texts. During this period scholastic studies, annotation of scriptures and treatises, and organization of the Buddhist community were also revitalized. These show Buddhism’s growing prevalence, at least in comparison with early Chosŏn Buddhism.

    This article is an attempt to break the preconception about the Buddhism of the late Chosŏn period and to reveal its significance on the basis of historical facts. For these purposes, I will first examine the aspects of external change, such as the involvement of monastic armies (sŭnggun) in repulsing the Imjin War, which brought the turning point to the state policy toward Buddhism and the environments that surrounded the religion, the resultant rise in the prestige of Buddhism, and the subsequent expansion of the role of monastic corvée labor (sŭngyŏk) in state construction projects. I will also consider the internal adjustments of the Buddhist order, such as the founding of diverse lineages and branches and the establishment of education and practice systems, which led to the formation of the Buddhist tradition in the late Chosŏn. Thus it will be shown that seventeenth-century Korean Buddhism was intimately related with the spirit of that age, which was characterized by national crisis and social change precipitated by war and the turmoil of politico-ideological responses. In this respect we may state that Buddhists of the late Chosŏn period simultaneously sought innovation and continuity in the transformation of contemporary social conditions and that in so doing formed a self-image of the tradition. This selfimage created in this period in turn functioned as the identity of the tradition until contemporary times.

    2Such a negative understanding of Chosŏn Buddhism can be found in scholarly papers as well as introductory books on Korean Buddhism such as Kim Yŏng-t’ae, Han’guk Pulgyosa [A history of Korean Buddhism] (Seoul: Kyŏngsŏwŏn, 1997).  3Takahashi Tōru, Richō Bukkyō [Buddhism of the Yi dynasty] (Osaka: Hōbunkan, 1929), 26–29.


       1. Monastic Armies’ Response to the Imjin War and Subsequent Rise in Prestige

    Shortly after the founding of the Chosŏn dynasty in the early fifteenth century, successive Chosŏn administrations enacted policies officially restricting Buddhist activities and undermining the economic foundations of Buddhist monasteries, placing Buddhism in a state of legally sanctioned religious persecution (p’yebul) from the early sixteenth century onward. A brief fifteen-year period beginning in 1550, however, saw the temporary restoration of the Sŏn (meditative) and Kyo (doctrinal) schools, the reinstatement of government regulation of clerical ordination (tosŭng), and the state examination for Buddhist monks (sŭngkwa). These changes laid the foundations for a possible resurgence in Buddhist popularity and viability. In addition, the elevated prestige earned by the efforts of the monastic armies (sŭnggun) in repulsing the Japanese invaders in the Imjin War that broke out in 1592 and the subsequent expansion of the monastic corvée labor (sŭngyŏk) that officially mobilized monks within the broader national labor conscription program made possible not only the immediate institutional existence of the Buddhist order, but its continued existence as well.

    In order to account for the changes in seventeenth century Chosŏn Buddhism, we need to examine the implication of the sixteenth century restoration of the Sŏn and Kyo schools, which signaled such changes. In 1550 (the fifth year of Myŏngjong’s [r. 1545–1567] reign) the Sŏn and Kyo schools were rehabilitated and the previously abolished government systems for regulating clerical ordination and administrating state examinations for Buddhist monks reinstituted under the auspices of Dowager Queen Munjŏng (1501–1567).4 These measures enabled the Buddhist community—previously situated in a state of legal discrimination by the abrogation of the clause detailing the state’s role in clerical ordination in the Kyŏngguk taejŏn (The great code of national administration) in 1516, during the reign of King Chungjong—to enjoy the right to legal recognition of its monastic members as well as a more stable order. These were built on those candidates who successfully passed the reinstituted state exams for monks. Successful examinees at this time received official appointments to supervisory positions (sŭngjik) at major temples.5 The state exams for monks also enabled such prominent Buddhist leaders as Ch’ŏnghŏ Hyujŏng (1520–1604) and Samyŏng Yujŏng (1544– 1610) to emerge.6

    Although the system of Sŏn and Kyo schools was abolished following the death of the Dowager Queen Munjŏng in 1566, King Sŏnjo’s (r. 1567–1608) subsequent policy of noninterference, rather than heavy-handed oppression, allowed for a passive maintenance of Buddhism. Sŏnjo clarified his propitiatory stance towards Buddhism with the statement, “Should proper principles of governance flourish and customs be purified, there is no need to worry about the decline of our Confucian ways or the rise of heretical Buddhism to prominence. Actions such as the Wei Emperor Taiwu’s execution of Buddhist monks and elimination of Buddhist temples will be unnecessary.”7

    In the fourth month of 1592 (the fourth year of Sŏnjo’s reign), however, a Japanese army invaded the Korean peninsula, leading to the outbreak of the Imjin War and seven subsequent years of national crisis for the Chŏson dynasty. Korean Buddhism, too, suffered incalculable human and economic losses under the duress of war, as well as a general decrease in practice. The military contributions of voluntary regiments of Buddhist monks during the war and the state’s recognition of their fidelity and righteousness, however, led to a rise in the social status accorded Buddhism and became a significant source of support for Buddhism’s continued existence. Three months following the outbreak of war King Sŏnjo, who had retreated to Ŭiju, conferred the leadership rank of Monk Superintendent (sŭngt’ong) upon Ch’ŏnghŏ Hyujŏng of Myohyang Mountain and ordered the mobilization of monastic regiments nationwide.8 Upon receiving these orders Hyujŏng organized a mass rally advocating the duty of service to his monarch at Pŏphŭng Temple in Sunan, assembling over five thousand monks to the cause.9 As Hyujŏng was appointed to the office of a Nationwide Supreme Commander of Military Regiments of the Sixteen Buddhist Sects (p’alto simnyukchong sŏn’gyo toch’ongsŏp), his far-flung disciples, such as Samyŏng Yujŏng in Kangwŏn province, Ŭiŏm in Hwanghae province and Noemuk Ch’ŏyŏng in Chŏlla province, organized a nationwide army.10 In a combat that took place in the eighth month of the same year against the Japanese army, 800 monk soldiers under Kihŏ Yŏnggyu of Ch’ungch’ŏng province and seven hundred citizen soldiers under General Cho Hŏn were involved and all died. This sacrifice of monk soldiers affirmed the Chŏson authorities’ faith in the loyalty and military capabilities of the monastic armies (sŭnggun).11

    In addition to participating directly in military maneuvers and action during the Imjin War, Buddhist regiments performed a broad range of supporting activities as well, from constructing mountain strongholds to supplying rations. Particularly representative of the character of monastic armies’ participation in the war was their distinguished military service in the retaking of P’yŏngyang and the battle of Haengju Fortress outside Seoul,12 as well as their entrustment with the role of royal guards upon Sŏnjo’s return to Seoul. Subsequently, the monastic armies were charged with the construction and protection of mountain strongholds. They were exclusively tasked with the procurement of military supplies and rations. Moreover, they were held responsible for the safeguarding and transport to the northern border of the Chosŏn wangjo sillok (The veritable record of the Chŏson dynasty), formerly held at Chŏnju, along with various national archival materials.13 Leading monk generals, who were by and large disciples of Hyujŏng,14 were offered such formal titles as Military Commander (ch’ongsŏp), while monastic armies under their control were repaid for their active service with a formal designation (sŏn’gwach’ŏp) or the like.15 These designations held a significance similar to the issuance of an ordination license (toch’ŏp) in that the state recognized the status of monk generals as monastic leaders and the monastic qualifications of monastic armies in return for their contributions during the war. Moreover, the state issued rewards for their exemplary service as well.

    Hyujŏng’s most distinguished disciple Samyŏng Yujŏng was renowned for rendering the most distinguished service during the Imjin War and won acclaim not only in his own lifetime but after death as the paragon of a loyal monk. Taking the place of his teacher, Yujŏng was personally active in battles and took on important roles in voluntary military enterprises such as stronghold construction and supply procurement. Furthermore, he participated as a government representative when negotiating the final peace treaty with the Japanese military. He met with Japanese generals, analyzed the contemporary state of affairs, and made proposals for future stability and security.16 Following the conclusion of the war, he assumed responsibility for diplomatic concerns, including the repatriation of prisoners of war and the resumption of diplomatic relations through the dispatch of envoys to Japan.17 Yujŏng’s services in the post of supreme commander (toch’ongsŏp) of the entire monk army, were so highly valued by both king and court that he received elevation to the even higher office, corresponding to Rank 3 in Chosŏn’s official ranking system.18

    Such accolades aside, however, the war and the activities of monastic armies negatively affected the Buddhist community in Chosŏn to no small measure. Wartime plundering, conflagrations, and the desolation of agricultural land devastated the financial bases of Buddhist temples—a phenomenon further aggravated by monastic armies’ activity and economic burdens.19 These events entailed not only financial and human losses, but led as well to a widespread concern that the fundamental contradiction between the vows of monastic life and the military actions of the monastic armies during the war would erode the Buddhist tradition of sincere practice. Chŏnggwan Ilsŏn, who remained secluded in illness during the war although he too was a disciple of Hyujŏng, lamented the situation, writing, “The dharma of the final age has deteriorated, the world has grown exceedingly chaotic, the people cannot find relief, and monks cannot remain at peace. Monks wear the clothes of laymen, go off to war, and die or flee forgetting what it means to be a monk (ch’ulga, lit. to leave one’s family to become a monk). They renounce the practice of moral discipline to pursue empty fame and are unable to turn back, so that the spirit of Sŏn will be halted in the future.”20 In reality, the number of monks who did ultimately leave the monastic life and return to secular life upon rendering and receiving recognition of their war services was not small.21

    On the other hand, the faithful services rendered to the state during this time of national crisis by the monastic armies, particularly compared to the contributions of the righteous armies (ŭibyŏng) led by literati noblemen, won Buddhism high recognition at the time and through subsequent generations. Since the end of the Koryŏ kingdom, Confucian scholars had criticized Buddhism by pointing to the ethical issues of civic loyalty and filial piety and by referring to Buddhism’s lack of a social role. The role of monastic armies in protecting the state during the Imjin War, however, quieted these critiques and earned Buddhism high social regard and prestige. While later generations appreciatively regarded the achievements of those monks who served in the Imjin War, in the eighteenth century representative monk generals such as Hyujŏng and Yujŏng were particularly honored with the erection of memorial shrines such as P’yoch’ungsa in two locations and Such’ungsa in one location. In officially recognizing the shrines such as P’yoch’ungsa, King Chŏngjo eulogized, “In Buddhism compassion has the utmost importance. Hyujŏng manifested the spirit of the religion, aiding the nation in its time of need through a meritorious act of loyalty to the king. Aiding secular society and benefiting the people is indeed an act of true compassion.”22 The achievements of monk soldiers and generals in meeting the national crisis significantly reversed the negative public opinion held of Buddhism and emerged as a factor in the continued existence of Buddhism during the late Chosŏn period.

    Additionally, Buddhist monks found opportunities to offer their religious services during the war. Through ceremonies and prayers, the Buddhist community prayed for the restoration of the monarch’s authority damaged by the war, the wellbeing and prosperity of the nation, and the safety of the people. The task of comforting the souls of war dead was likewise generally entrusted to the Buddhist community. The frequent enactment of Buddhist death rituals such as Ceremony for Guiding the Deceased (Ch’ŏndojae) and Ritual of Water and Land (Suryukchae) at this time, in which prayers were offered up for the posthumous blessing and auspicious rebirth of deceased souls without family members (muju kohon), has been ascertained through historical records.23 The interment of remains was entrusted to monks as well,24 along with the mobilization of the monastic community in restoration enterprises such as the reconstruction of destroyed bridges and roads and the construction of palaces. In these ways the war called attention to the religious functions of Buddhism and created a new demand for faith.

       2. Utilization of Monastic Manpower and Expansion of the Monastic Corvee Labor

    Still reeling from the damage inflicted upon the nation from the Imjin War caused by the Japanese army invading from the south, the Chosŏn dynasty was confronted in the early seventeenth century with yet another national crisis in the form of the Manchu War of 1636 (Pyŏngja horan) caused by a northern tribe, a struggle that embodied a shift in the perception of Chinese dominance in East Asia. The most pressing tasks of this era were restoring both the welfare of the war-worn people and rebuilding the economy. The extraordinary exploits of the monk armies during the Imjin War that had restored public regard for Buddhism as well as the Buddhists monks’ noted superb manpower and organizational efficiency strengthened the monastic corvée (sŭngyŏk) system, leading ultimately to a change in policy that allowed the monastic corvée labor to be incorporated into the nationwide corvée labor (kugyŏk) system. This was made possible because the monk armies’ achievements during the war enhanced the social recognition of Buddhism and the state appreciated the excellence of monastic manpower and their organization. More than anything else, it was due to the drastic decrease in the labor force consisting of commoners who had been in charge of public services and the worsened financial situation of the state. In return for the utilization of monastic manpower during the wars, the state in the early seventeenth century had to recognize both the activities and qualifications of monks, and Buddhism came to survive within the domain of legal legitimacy.25

    Kwanghaegun (r. 1608–1623), who succeeded King Sŏnjo and initiated the state restoration project, felt the need to incorporate the monk armies into the national defense force in response to the expansion of the Later Jin (composed of the unified Jurchen tribes). He also mobilized 1,500 monks in post-war restoration enterprises such as palace construction projects. These monks who participated in conscript labor projects received in return ordination licenses or identification tags (hop’ae) from the state, which systematically guaranteed recognition of the validity of their activities in a Buddhist capacity. But we must take note of subtle changes in the state policy between the sixteenth century and the seventeenth century. In the sixteenth century the government implemented a temporary measure of granting identity tags to the monks mobilized for the labor services (yŏksŭng kŭpp’ae) in an effort to curb the growth in monastic numbers because of corvée evasion and apply monastic manpower to state labor projects.26 During the seventeenth century, however, the use of monastic manpower and recognition of monastic rights had been systematically institutionalized.

    During the reign of Injo, who succeeded Kwanghaegun, the need for constructing defenses in the capital in anticipation of war with Qing, which was founded by Later Jin in 1636, gained precedence among the concerns of officials, in response to which a stronghold was established on Namhan Mountain to the south of the Han River. In this fortification construction project monks primarily from the three southern provinces—Kyŏngsang, Chŏlla and Ch’ungch’ŏng—were conscripted as transfers from military regiments, under the authority of Pyŏgam Kaksŏng (1575–1660). In 1626 nine Buddhist temples were erected within the completed Namhan Mountain Fortress, where monastic armies consisting of about 350 monks were stationed and entrusted with the defense of the capital through the late Chosŏn dynasty.

    Meanwhile, the monks that had served in the conscript construction labor forces for the fortress were issued ordination licenses in addition to receiving identity tags. This simultaneous awarding of ordination licenses with identity tags denoting military employment demonstrates the integration of the monastic corvée labor program into the nationwide labor system. At that time, regulations concerning public affairs defined the qualification of new monastics on the basis of the Kyŏngguk taejŏn’s stipulations on the issuance of an ordination certificate.27 This indicates that the conferment of monastic status had become systematized.

    In 1627 Later Jin invaded Chosŏn, precipitating the Chŏngmyo War (Chŏngmyo horan) in which Samyŏng Yujŏng’s disciple Hŏbaek Myŏngjo was appointed high general (p’alto taejang), leading over 4,000 monk soldiers at the military actions in Anju, P’yŏngan province. During the following Pyŏngja War (Pyŏngja horan), which broke out due to Qing’s invasion in 1636, King Injo retreated to Namhan Mountain Fortress while the fortress commander Pyŏgam Kaksŏng gathered some three thousand monk soldiers in Chŏlla province. They formed the Hangma-gun (Māra-Conquering Army), thereby continuing the monastic military tradition begun during the Imjin War. Along with such military activity, the seventeenth century was also a time of mobilization of monks in a wide range of projects ranging from the erection of fortresses and palaces to the construction of mountainside tombs and river dams. Including the reassignment of two thousand men during Hyojong’s (r. 1649–1659) time, between the time of Kwanghaegun and that of Hyŏnjong such mobilizations in the service of palace construction projects took place a total of six times. Likewise, in the case of mountainside tomb construction projects King Injo conscripted 1,420 monks into labor forces—a mobilization that reoccurred twenty times through the mideighteenth century.28

    As noted above, the seventeenth century can be characterized by the emergence of the monastic corvée labor program, which is the systematic utilization of monastic manpower. This was intimately related with the destabilization of the state’s mandatory labor conscription programs (yoyŏk), which were based on the labor force of adult males (yangyŏk), due to the increase in the number of men avoiding labor duty because of war or natural disasters. The incorporation of monks as new elements in the state labor establishment was intended to alleviate the sharp decline in the financial condition of the state and the insufficient man power, which had been supplied by commoners (yangin) but had suffered great losses due to the war and famine. The incorporation of monastic manpower, whose labor efficiency was relatively high, into the state’s mandatory labor conscription system was equivalent to the issuance of monastic licenses and identification tags. Such a policy of monastic recognition became customary in this period. Furthermore, in order to substitute for insufficient compulsory labor, there was a push to convert to taxation in kind or payment of tribute in goods such as rice, as part of the Uniform Land Tax System (Taedong Pŏp), a law permitting the substitution of goods with grain when paying tribute. Accordingly, the burden of tax payment in goods or other miscellaneous services borne by monasteries also increased. This clearly shows the interwoven development of Buddhist policies within the government and social economic changes. Unlike the previous situation, the seventeenth century gave rise to a situation in which, although monastics and monasteries encountered some difficulties because of the increase in economic burdens, in return they received the benefit of qualification and publically recognized activities and the operation of a monastic economy within the system.29

    The usage of monastic armies likewise became customary, and monastic corvée labor was systematized within the state’s labor system. Accordingly, the framework of the commander system (ch’ongsŏp) was maintained. After Pyŏgam Kaksŏng was appointed supreme commander (p’alto toch’ongsŏp) while building Namhan Mountain Fortress,30 the supreme commander of Namhan Mountain Fortress and Seoul’s Pukhan Mountain Fortress (completed during the reign of Sukchong [r. 1674–1720]) mobilized the nation’s monastic armies and held a central role in directing them.31 Under this kind of command system, each commander received his responsibility from the state.32 For instance, the monastic army supervised by the commander was responsible for the protection of historical records and documents, such the Chosŏn wangjo sillok and the royal clan’s registry Sŏnwŏnlok.33 This commander system was not legally stipulated, but when monastics were mobilized for various kinds of public service and distinct responsibilities, the monastic commander was placed in control of them. As time went on, however, the votive temples for the royal family (wŏndang) or some major monasteries deliberately appointed the office of commander and there were numerous instances of their performance of duties outside the government’s control.34

    As mentioned above, as monastic corvée labor was gradually intensified together with tributes and miscellaneous services, it became a great burden on the monastery economy. In the first half of the seventeenth century, while the legal substitution of rice for goods or articles when paying tribute (i.e., Taedong Pŏp) was enforced, some portion of responsibility for the tributary and service taxes passed from ordinary individuals to monastics and monasteries. A representative case is that of the excessive burden of the paper tax imposed on monasteries. Whereas there had been many cases of people evading taxes by illegally becoming monks in the previous period, as the monastic taxes became increasingly burdensome, the number of cases in which the monks resisted the state policy and returned to lay life or went into hiding, called “evading the tax evasion,” increased. Reflecting on this, the necessity for systematic control and management of the monks’ manpower led to the development of a program for registering monastics in the census. The result was that from the second half of the seventeenth century, a shift in control arose, in which monastics were considered as a unit of taxation and monastic registration was recorded in their hometown registers.35 With this, the targets of the levied tax, monastics of common birth, were largely registered. Their parents, teacher, and any students living with them were also reported. In this way, the late Chosŏn’s policies toward Buddhism shifted from the earlier oppression and noninterference to a positive incorporation and official recognition that was intertwined and developed along with societal change.

    In this way monastic corvée labor was utilized on the basis of state policy that reflected the circumstantial changes of the period. And this utilization of monastic manpower contributed to the survival of monks and the Buddhist institutions. But previous studies have just considered the offering of the monastic labor force and the burdens on monasteries to have been an indicator of the state policy of oppressing Buddhism and the religion’s decline. Moreover, these scholars adduced the conscription of monastic manpower as evidence of their thesis that monks were socially disgraced and their status equaled that of the low people (ch’ŏnmin). Since Takahashi Tōru, in his Richō Bukkyō, stated that the monastic class was no different from the low class and that especially during the late Chosŏn they were considered one of the eight types of lowly people and almost identified as the lowest class,36 a number of early studies on Buddhism during the Chosŏn period have asserted that monastics were given a contradictory status that was the middle class and the low class at the same time and that they received the same reception as the low class and were despised in society.

    However, monastics had a specific occupational status, bearing no relationship to their social and legal rank. In other words, they were not subordinate to their social rank. While they came from diverse social backgrounds, including the twofold aristocratcy (yangban), commoners, and low people, they did not experience discrimination based on their social rank. The only thing that concerned them in the religious institution was their capabilities in practice and study. Furthermore, in the late Chosŏn period they were responsible to pay a tax levied from the middle class. In this way their capabilities came to be recognized by the state. Considering this, it is not possible to find legal evidence that monastics were regulated according to social rank or that they were decisively seen as being members of the low class. The conventional wisdom that monastics were socially despised and that the legal regulations considered them to hold the social rank of the low class is completely irrelevant to their actual role in society. Rather, we should say that they were able to participate in society as a crucial member through their corvée services and receive social qualification as a monk, which enabled them to actively work and their religion to survive in the late Chosŏn period.

    4Myŏngjong sillok [The veritable record of Myŏngjong], fasc. 11 [1551/1/16].  5Myŏngjong sillok, fasc. 13 [1552/1/27].  6Ch’ŏnghŏdangjip [Collected writings of Ven. Hyujŏng], fasc. 7, “Sang Wansan Nobu Yun sŏ [A Letter to the Prefect of Wansan Surnamed No],” Han’guk Pulgyo chŏnsŏ [The collected works of Korean Buddhism; hereafter HPC] 7: 719–721; Samyŏngdang Taesajip [Collected writings of Ven. Yujŏng], fascicle 7, “Samyŏngdang Songun Taesa haengjŏk [A biography of Ven. Yujŏng],” HPC 8: 73–75.  7Sŏnjo sillok [The veritable record of Sŏnjo], fasc. 5 [1571/3/6].  8Takahashi, op.cit., 374.  9P’yŏnyangdangjip [Collected writings of Ven. Ŏn’gi], fasc. 2, “Sŏsan haengjŏk ch’o [A biography of Ven. Hyujŏng],” HPC 8: 254–255.  10Sŏnjo sujŏng sillok [The revised veritable record of Sŏnjo], fasc. 26 [1592/7/1].  11Sŏnjo sujŏng sillok, fasc. 29 [1592/8/26].  12An Kye-hyŏn, “Chosŏn chŏn’gi ŭi sŭnggun [Monastic armies during the early Chosŏn period],” Tongbang hakchi 13 (1972), 27–96.  13Sŏnjo sillok, fasc. 53 [1594/7/20]; Sŏnjo sillok, fasc. 82 [1596/11/7]; Sŏnjo sillok, fasc. 115 [1599/7/8]; Sŏnjo sujŏng sillok, fasc. 26 [1592/7/1].  14Sŏnjo sillok, fasc. 48 [1594/2/27]; Sŏnjo sillok, fasc. 53 [1594/7/19]; Sŏnjo sillok, fasc. 80 [1596/9/12], etc.  15Sŏnjo sillok, fasc. 39 [1593/6/29], [1593/7/20]; Sŏnjo sillok, fasc. 83 [1596/12/5].  16Punch’ung sŏnallok [A wrathful record of the war], “Kabo kuwŏl ch’ijin kyŏngsa sangso ŏn t’ojŏk pomin saso [Going to the capital in the ninth month of 1594, writing a petition to expel the enemy and protect the people],” HPC 8: 90–93. Sŏnjo sillok, fasc. 87 [1597/4/13].  17Sŏnjo sillok, fasc. 146 [1602/2/3]; Sŏnjo sillok, fasc. 152 [1602/7/20]; Sŏnjo sillok, fasc. 172 [1604/3/14]; Kwanghaegun ilgi [A daily record during Kwanghaegun’s reign], fasc. 35 [1610/11/12].  18Sŏnjo sillok, fasc. 36 [1593/3/27]; Sŏnjo sillok, fasc. 37 [1593/4/12]; Sŏnjo sillok, fasc. 57 [1594/11/1].  19Sŏnjo sillok, fasc. 49 [1594/3/1].  20Chŏnggwanjip [Collected writings of Ven. Ilsŏn], “Sang Todaejang yŏnhyŏng [A letter to the elder general],” HPC 8: 30–31.  21Punch’ung sŏnallok, “Ŭlmi p’abyŏng hu Pibyŏnsa kye [A report sent to the Border Defense Council after the dissolution of armies in 1595],” HPC 8: 97.  22Ch’ŏnghŏdangjip, Poyu [Appendix], “Chŏngjong Taewang ŏje Sŏsan Taesa hwasang tangmyŏng pyŏng sŏ [King Chŏngjong’s funerary inscription and record of Ven. Hyujŏng],” written in 1794, HPC 7: 735–736.  23Nam Hŭi-suk, “Ch’osŏn hugi Pulsŏ kanhaeng yŏn’gu: chinŏnjip kwa Pulgyo ŭisikchip ŭl chungsim ŭro [A study of the publication of Buddhist texts during the late Chosŏn period: Focusing on the dhāraṇī collections and ritual manuals]” (Ph.D. diss., Seoul National University, 2004); Puhyudang Taesajip [Collected writings of Ven. Sŏnsu], fascicle 5, “Ch’u chŏnsa mangnyŏng so [A prayer for the war dead],” HPC 8: 82; Samyŏngdang Taesajip; Kiamjip [Collected writings of Ven. Pŏpkyŏn], etc.  24Sŏnjo sillok, fasc. 43 [1593/10/2]; Sŏnjo sujŏng sillok, fasc. 27 [1593/10/1].  25Kwanghaegun ilgi, fasc. 161 [1661/2/1].  26Chungjong sillok [The veritable record of Chungjong], fasc. 81 [1536/4/12]. Yi Chong-yŏng, “Sŭngin hop’ae ko [A study of the identity tags of monks],” Tongbang hakchi 17 (1963), 189–217; Kim U-gi, “Ch’ŏksin chŏngch’igi ŭi Pulgyo chŏngch’aek [State policy toward Buddhism during the period of regency by the king’s maternal relatives],” Chosŏnsa yŏn’gu 3 (1994), 59–104.  27Kwanghaegun ilgi, fasc. 35 [1610/11/12].  28Yun Yong-ch’ŏl, “Chosŏn hugi ŭi puyŏk sŭnggun [Monastic armies conscripted for corvée labor during the late Chosŏn period],” Pusan Taehakkyo Inmun nonch’ong 26 (1984), 453–475.  29Kim Yong-t’ae, “Chosŏn chŏn’gi ŏkpul chŏngch’aek ŭi chŏn’gae wa sawŏn kyŏngje ŭi pyŏnhwa sang [The state policy of oppressing Buddhism during the late Chosŏn period and changes in the monastic economy],” Chosŏn sidaesa hakpo 58 (2011), 5–33.  30“Hwaŏmsa Pyŏgam pimyŏng [An epitaph for Ven. Kaksŏng in Hwaŏm Monastery],” in Han’guk kosŭng pimun ch’ongjip: Chosŏn cho–kŭn hyŏndae [A comprehensive collection of inscriptions of eminent Korean monks: From Early Chosŏn to the contemporary period], ed. Chigwan (Seoul: Kasan Pulgyo Munhwa Yŏn’guwŏn, 2000).  31Yŏ Ŭn-gyŏng, “Chosŏn hugi sansŏng ŭi sŭnggun ch’ongsŏp [Monastic armies and commanders at the mountain fortresses during the late Chosŏn period],” Taegu sahak 32 (1987), 49–87.  32Injo sillok [The veritable record of Injo], fasc. 4 [1624/7/23].  33Sŏnjo sillok, fasc. 53 [1594/7/20]; Sŏnjo sillok, fasc. 82 [1596/11/7].  34Kwanghaegun ilgi, fasc. 63 [1613/2/25].  35Chang Kyŏng-jun, “Chosŏn hugi hojŏk taejang ŭi sŭngnyŏ tŭngjae paegyŏng kwa kŭ yangsang [Historical backgrounds and aspects of listing the names of monks in the registries during the late Chosŏn period],” Taedong munhwa yŏn’gu 54 (2006), 255–302.  36Takahashi Tōru, op.cit., 17, 548–549.


       1. Denominational Development and Establishment of the Tradition of Dharma Lineages

    As the Buddhist order was being systematized through the activity of monastic armies and the expansion of monastic corvée labor, various lineages and branches were established during the first half of the seventeenth century. The establishment of theories of dharma lineages, which determined proper dharma transmission, also contributed to solidifying the membership consciousness within the lineages and branches and the self-identity of Chosŏn Buddhism as a proponent of the Sŏn school. The formation of diverse Sŏn lineages and branches, which took the transmission of dharma as the most important criterion, implies that human resources in the Buddhist order came to be organized and inheritance of this immaterial foundation to future generations became possible. There is a relationship between this and the formation of Buddhist organizations with a lineage structure, which was accompanied by the expansion of monastic corvée labor following the activities of the monastic armies during the Imjin War.

    From the seventeenth century on, the Ch’ŏnghŏ lineage (kye) and the Puhyu lineage, which represent the dharma transmission of Ch’ŏnghŏ Hyujŏng and Puhyu Sŏnsu (1543–1615) respectively (both of whom succeeded Puyong Yŏnggwan’s lineage), were most influential in the Buddhist community. The Ch’ŏnghŏ lineage, in which Ch’ŏnghŏ Hyujŏng’s status was well reflected, established its influence throughout the nation. This lineage then ramified into various other branches, beginning with the P’yŏnyang branch, the main branch, and including the Samyŏng branch, the Soyo branch, etc. The Puhyu lineage based itself at Songgwang Monastery and kept its activities mainly within its stronghold of Chŏlla Province. Compared to the Ch’ŏnghŏ lineage, the Puhyu lineage remained unified.37

    In relation with the formation of Sŏn lineages, we should take note of the emergence of the central patrilineal clan code of kin relationships which was strengthened in society from the seventeenth century on. As this happened, the basis of the clans, formed by patrilineal blood relationships within the same family name, was established and villages of the same clan came into being. Denominational development in the Buddhist order was closely related to such social changes. As the hierarchical relationship based on this patrilineal kinship was applied to the master-disciple relationship within the Buddhist order, the lineages and branches based on the dharma transmission, which resembled the kinship organizations centering on blood ties, were established. This is well reflected in the production of monastic registers or genealogical charts of dharma transmission within a certain lineage, which resembled the patrilineal family registers of lay people. Such monastic writings, which recorded the master-disciple relationship within a lineage or branch, seem to have been used as supporting documents in the case of inheritance or legal disputes.

    The first half of the seventeenth century was a period in which the Confucian system of ritual and public order grew stronger. Rules and ritual studies stipulating patrilineal kinship and decorum actively spread throughout society. The compilation of ritual manuals focusing on mourning rituals, such as the Sŏngmun sangŭich’o (A handbook for the Buddhist mourning ritual), the Sŏngmun karyaech’o (A handbook for the Buddhist family ritual), and the Sŭngga yeŭimun (Buddhist ritual writings) in the Buddhist circles reflected this. This is an example of the naturalization of the Confucian social structure, where the necessity of performing Buddhist mourning rituals that accorded with the Chosŏn dynasty’s particular characteristics was evident. At the same time, tied in with the prescribed behavior of the Chosŏn dynasty, these manuals make their objective clear: “We supplement the contents [of those Chinese Buddhist works such as] the Chanyuan qinggui (Rules of purity for Chan monasteries) with the secular decorum of the Zhuxi jiali (Family rituals of Zhu Xi), thereby summarizing their import.”38 In their ritual manuals, the direct influence of secular models on the content is evident in their acceptance of the “system of five types of mourning clothing.” This system was based on the centrality of a patrilineal clan code of conduct, wherein kinship was divided into degrees, and this degree of closeness or distance determined the period of mourning during which mourning clothes were worn. These Buddhist ritual books contained illustrations such as “Illustration of the five types of Buddhist mourning clothes” (Sŭng opokto), “Illustration of the five types of mourning clothes of the tradition” (Ponjong opok chi to), “Illustration of Buddhist mourning clothes” (Sŭngsang pokto), “Pedigree diagram” (Ch’onsudo), etc. The particular characteristic of these manuals is that they express the relative degree of intimacy in secular family relations and monastic relationships between students and teachers in terms of degrees of consanguinity.

    As another indication of the instillation of secular order into the Buddhist circle, we may refer to the legal codes that regulate the land ownership of monks. Because of disturbances in the first half of the seventeenth century, land under temple ownership was devastated. The resultant disorder regarding rights of possession allowed for individual monastic property increased. This situation required different legal regulations. “A miscellaneous decree promulgated in 1657(the eighth reign year of Hyojong)” stated: “If a monastic possessing fields for agriculture dies, the fields will be returned to the clan, and the other articles in his possession will be given to his students.” This decree limited inheritance of land to secular kin.39 The establishment of diverse lineages and branches based on the dharma transmission, however, allowed for dharma “clans” to form. In situations in which the possession and management of a temple was determined by each dharma clan, the stipulation that a monastic’s land be transferred entirely to his secular family was not appropriate. In 1674, the decree was amended: “A [dead] monastic’s land will be divided equally between his relatives within four ch’on and his students. If he has no relative within four ch’on or students, land will be ceded to the government; however, that land will be re-granted to the temple to cover monastic corvée labor (sŭngyŏk).”40 In short, systematic permission was granted to pass half the personal property of monastics onto their students, and according to circumstances the entirety could be returned to the relevant temple.

    In this way, land left to disciples or returned to temples was restored to the monastery’s economy. In the latter period of the Chosŏn dynasty the private property of temples was divided into several categories, according to usage;41 for the most part, however, these were lands the monastery received from Buddhist monks or laypeople but managed under the pretext of providing for the memorial rites of masters and patriarchs, or for regular memorial ceremonies. In the case of some temples where a number of dharma clans and ordination lineages were mixed and dharma transmission of one lineage broke off, the property associated with that lineage would be returned to the temple and become public land. Likewise, as new circumstances regarding the formation of dharma clans and succession and the inheritance of land and division of rights to property arose, there was a need for strict regulation of the relationships between students and teachers within the Buddhist order. The existence of Buddhist manuals of mourning which used the “system of five types of mourning clothing” reflects this need.

    Thus, the increase in monastics’ private property and its inheritance played a significant role in laying the groundwork for temple finances in the late Chosŏn period. Moreover, based on such a foundation, diverse methods for creating profit and securing new sources of revenue were sought. Among these we can include as a representative method the formation of “temple fraternities” (sach’al kye) for the purpose of supporting activities to help the temple and ceremonies which would provide for the expenditures of managing the temple.42 Along with this, the backing and assistance of the royal court and other influential people continued to form a central support for the management of monastic economy. Votive temples for the royal family (wŏndang) held numerous properties and received exemptions from regular taxes and miscellaneous corvée. Monastics also contributed to the expansion of temple finances by such means as the production of handicrafts, cultivation or purchase of land, and inheritance. Property held privately by monastics in particular became an important means for supporting the operation and finances of the temple. In the late Chosŏn’s “Record of land transactions” (T’oji maemae mŭn’gi), we can find numerous examples concerning monastic purchase and inheritance of land.43 Likewise, despite the increase in monastic corvée labor and other financial burdens after the Imjin War, the Buddhist order was able to rebuild, repair, and manage a great many monasteries thanks to the formation of dharma clans, active organization of human resources, and varied self-reliant financial efforts.

    On the one hand, the formation of lineages and branches and integration of the Buddhist order in the seventeenth century was in large part due to the establishment of a religious tradition (pŏpt’ong) through the formalization of the entire genealogy of the Sŏn school’s dharma transmission. In the first half of the seventeenth century, Chosŏn Buddhism established the so-called “Imje-T’aego tradition” which identified itself as a successor of the dharma lineage of China’s Linji (Kor., Imje) school. In 1612, according to Hŏ Kyun, the author of Hong Kiltong chŏn, the first proposed explanation of the dharma lineages of Korean Buddhism was the theory of “Koryŏ Naong tradition.” This theory indicates that the lineage of the Imje School transmitted by Naong Hyegŭn in the late Koryŏ period was succeeded by that of Hyujŏng, while attaching great importance to the Sŏn tradition of the Koryŏ period, which included Pojo Chinul. However, in 1618 Hŏ Kyun was executed for treason, and for approximately fifteen years, from 1625 to 1640, P’yŏnyang Ŏn’gi (1581–1644), a student from Hyujŏng’s later years, established the theory of the “Imje-T’aego tradition,” in which the Sŏn school of the Koryŏ period was disregarded and the Chinese Linji sect’s dharma transmission to Korea through the efforts of T’aego Pou was considered legitimate.

    As this period from 1625 to 1640 saw the transition from the Ming to the Qing dynasty in China, it brought upheaval to the Sino-centric order in East Asian countries. During this period, the Chosŏn kings tended to emphasize fidelity to the Ming dynasty, still holding on to the Sino-centric view (Hwairon). The dharma tradition established in this period reflected the self-awareness that Chosŏn Buddhism directly inherited the Chinese tradition just as in the case of the Confucian vision of the transmission of the Way (Tot’ongnon). It is also noteworthy that Naong Hyegŭn’s disciples, who were active Buddhist leaders in the early Chosŏn era, were omitted from the dharma tradition. This fact can be compared to the Confucian vision of history in which the influential royal supporters of the early Chosŏn were excluded, and the men out of central power were considered orthodox transmitters of the Way. In this way, the contents of the religious tradition reflect the historical character and consciousness of the period. With this, Buddhists of the Chosŏn period rehabilitated a transmission lineage which had, in fact, been broken off during the Buddhist persecutions of the first half of the sixteenth century. By means of the Imje School of the Sŏn tradition, Buddhists in the Chosŏn period were able to elucidate their own identity and orthodoxy in accordance with their historical circumstances.44

    The formation of lineages and branches along with the establishment of the religious tradition indicates that the transmission of dharma functioned as a primary factor in the relationship between teachers and students. The publically bilateral Sŏn and Kyo schools of the Koryŏ period were present at the beginning of the Chosŏn dynasty. In the early Chosŏn, the preceptors and enlightened teachers affiliated with particular sects occupied a position of relative importance in the relationship between student and teacher; however, after the seventeenth century the position of those who transmitted the lineage rose greatly. As the sectarian affiliation of the monastic order and regulations concerning ordination were abolished and institutional legal force disappeared, the monastic relations that existed via the dharma lineage within dharma clans in actuality carried the greatest meaning.45 The formation of lineages and branches, along with the establishment of the religious tradition, were intertwined with the development of the teacher-student relationship that took the dharma transmission as the most important criterion. In the above mentioned Buddhist ritual manuals, when the period of mourning for a teacher is stipulated, the longest mourning period, that of three years, is reserved for a teacher who instructs a monastic student (suŏpsa) or a teacher who sponsors a monastic student (yangyuksa), both of whom represent a teacher who transmits the lineage.46 In this respect, the late Chosŏn period, during which the reception of dharma lineages was a primary cause for master-disciple relationship, can be labeled “the age of transmission.”47 And in the Haedong Buljo wŏllyu (Source of the Buddhas and Patriarchs of Korea), published in the second half of the eighteenth century, each dharma clan’s genealogy was described on the basis of who the dharma-transmitter was. Furthermore, as the headquarters for each dharma clan was decided and the inheritance of dharma lineages between a master and disciples and economic inheritance became important factors, many cases arose in which entering the monastic path, ordination, and transmission took place in the same monastery.48 In short, the establishment of lineages and branches on the basis of dharma transmission, along with the designation of headquarter monasteries and the procurement of inherited property, contributed to the Buddhist order’s survival and stabilization during the late Chosŏn period to a great degree.

       2. Establishment of Systems for Monastic Education and Practice

    As noted above, the seventeenth century was a period in which the Buddhist organization such as lineages and branches were formed on a stabilized economic foundation. Based on this, the systems for monastic education and practice were established which took the combined dual cultivation of meditation and doctrinal teachings (Sŏn-Kyo kyŏmsu) as a basic principle and endeavored to escalate the spirit of kanhwa Sŏn (the Sŏn of observing the critical phrase). The establishment of these systems enabled the Buddhist order to maintain its internal integrity.

    Ch’ŏnghŏ Hyujŏng, who represents Chosŏn Buddhism, left numerous writings such as Sŏn’ga kwigam (A mirror of Sŏn), and presented the Buddhist order’s ideology and objectives for spiritual practice. He advocated the method of “discarding Kyo and entering Sŏn,” in which Kyo (doctrinal study) is considered the entrance to spiritual cultivation, and although Sŏn and Kyo are cultivated together, one should not become entangled in intellectual understanding and ultimately take up the practice of “investigating the hwadu (keyword),” or the kanhwa Sŏn method. The central point is that the superiority of kanhwa Sŏn underlay the balanced practice of Sŏn and Kyo. As in the first half of the seventeenth century, conditions were right for the establishment of a monastic curriculum (iryŏk kwajŏng), which precisely reflected Hyujŏng’s guidelines for practice and has been carried on in that system from the late Chosŏn period to modern times in the monastic college (kangwon) education system.49

    Roughly, the monastic curriculum is divided into the Four-fold collection course (sajip kwa), the Four-fold doctrinal course (sagyo kwa), and the Great doctrinal course (taegyo kwa). First, the Four-fold collection course consists of: Gaofeng Yuanmiao’s Chanyao (Essentials of Chan), Dahui Zonggao’s Shuzhuang (Collected letters), Guifeng Zongmi’s Chanyuan zhu quanji douxu (Prolegmenon to Chan, abbreviated as Douxu), and Pojo Chinul’s Pŏpchip pyŏrhaengnok chŏryo pyŏngip sagi (Excerpts from the Dharma collection and Special practice record, abbreviated as the Chŏryo) in which Chinul’s commentary to Zongmi’s writing is included. The Chanyao and the Shuzhuang are texts which aid in the learning and cultivation of kanhwa Sŏn through the study of the oral records and letters of the patriarchs of Chinese Linji Chan (Kor. Imje Sŏn). Inspired by the Analects (Dahui yulu) of Dahui Zonggao of the Song dynasty, who was known as a promoter of kanhua Chan (Kor. kanhwa Sŏn), Chinul came to accept it as a method for awakening. As a monastic of the Yuan dynasty, Gaofeng Yuanmiao systematized the kanhua Chan tradition and had a large influence on the Sŏn tradition from the late Koryŏ period onwards. Next, the Douxu and the Chŏryo are respectively written by Zongmi who advocated the identity between Sŏn and Kyo, or the meditative and doctrinal schools, and Chinul who annotated Zongmi’s work. These texts made the theory of “dual cultivation of meditation and doctrinal teachings” (Sŏn-Kyo kyŏmsu) their central point by presenting the “twin cultivation of samādhi and prajñā(chonghye ssangsu) and “sudden awakening, gradual cultivation” (tono chŏmsu).50 Acceptance of the expedience of Kyo with an inclination toward the combined cultivation of Sŏn and Kyo together with a high appraisal of kanhwa Sŏn’s freedom from intellectual understanding constituted the central point of the Four-fold collection course. This bears a strong resemblance to Chinul’s system of practice and attitude.

    Next is the Four-fold doctrinal course, which consists of the Diamond Sutra, the Śūraṃgama Sutra, the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment, and the Lotus Sutra. Even prior to the introduction of the system of the Four-fold doctrinal course, these scriptures were of great central importance.51 Of these, the Diamond Sutra, the Śūraṃgama Sutra, and the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment established the Sŏn school’s theoretical foundation through a consideration of the problem of “mind” as their main point. As these scriptures also concerned the unified vision of Sŏn and Kyo from the Song dynasty onwards, they received great attention. These scriptures hold in common an analysis of the mind’s composition, and as they presented a systematic theory about the mind’s substance and function, both the Sŏn and Kyo schools considered them important.52 The Lotus Sutra’s philosophy of the “one vehicle” made it the main scripture of Ch’ŏnt’ae (Ch. Tiantai) scholasticism, and it was widely read in the Silla, Koryŏ, and Chosŏn dynasties. During the Chosŏn period this scripture became important to Buddhist forms of ritual and worship.53 However, before the eighteenth century the Lotus Sutra was excluded from the Four-fold doctrinal course and the Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana was inserted instead.54 As a treatise which unites Tathāgatagharba (Buddha-womb) theory and Yogācāra thought and closely examines the systematic composition of the “one mind,” the Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana has had a strong influence on the development of Buddhist scholasticism in East Asia. As a text with a logical and analytic character, it made for suitable teaching material at monastic colleges. Furthermore, after the second half of the seventeenth century, as study of and lectures on Hwaŏm (Ch. Huayan) scholasticism became active, the make-up of the mind was a matter of common concern to both Sŏn and Kyo. The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana appears to have been substituted for the Lotus Sutra because it examines the mind’s composition.

    The Great doctrinal course includes the Flower Garland Sutra (Huayan jing, Avataṃsaka Sutra), the Jingde chuandeng lu (Records of the Transmission of the Lamp from the Jingde period), and the Sŏnmun yŏmsong (Selected gathas for Sŏn monasteries). In the first half of the Chosŏn dynasty, these classics were teaching materials in the monastic examinations and were the most important texts in both the Sŏn and Kyo traditions.55 The Flower Garland Sutra, which expounds the ideology of the “one vehicle,” held the highest position in the doctrinal school. In the monastic curriculum as well this scripture was incorporated into the highest stage of the curriculum, the Great doctrinal course. The Jingde chuandeng lu was written at the beginning of the eleventh century and as a record of the genealogy of the Sŏn sects follows the lineage of transmission from the Buddha through the Indian and Chinese patriarchs. The Sŏnmun yŏmsong was compiled by Chinul’s student, Chin’gak Hyesim (1178–1234), for the purposes of encouraging the cultivation of kanhwa Sŏn. This book contains the stories (lit., “public cases” or kongan), dharma speeches, and verses of the patriarchs transmitted up to that time.

    From the overall structure and contents of the monastic curriculum, we can clearly see that the tradition of the combined cultivation of Sŏn and Kyo that continued from Zongmi to Chinul and the Imje sect’s kanhwa Sŏn tradition that became the main current of Buddhism from the late Koryŏ onwards are intimately unified. The subjects in the Four-fold collection course indicate an orientation toward the combined cultivation of Sŏn and Kyo accompanied by the kanhwa Sŏn practice; the Four-fold doctrinal course is also composed of scriptures relating to mind, which was the central concern of both the Sŏn and Kyo schools. The Great doctrinal course continues with the representative scripture of the doctrinal sect, the Flower Garland Sutra, and texts presenting the ethos and history of the Sŏn school. These show the influence of Chinul’s philosophy, which emphasized the combined cultivation of Sŏn and Kyo, Hwaŏm scholasticism, and kanhwa Sŏn practice. This system also coincides with Hyujŏng’s practice objective, that of the unified cultivation of Sŏn and Kyo with the ultimate emphasis on kanhwa Sŏn. Although the kanhwa Sŏn and Imje tradition seems to contradict the combined cultivation of Sŏn and Kyo and Hwaŏm scholasticism, the existence of these conflicting elements within the monastic curriculum, it should be emphasized, well represents the situation in which Chosŏn Buddhism identified itself as the Sŏn school, while it had also inherited and had to continue the scholastic tradition as well.

    On the one hand, we can organize the educational contents of the monastic curriculum in the following order: mind – principle – patriarchal tradition. This order is similar to that of the Neo-Confucian curriculum proposed by the representative Confucian scholar Yulgok Yi I (1536–1584), in which one, having discerned the principle, is encouraged to cultivate the mind and by sequential historical study foster insight. Having composed Korean editions of the Four Books of Confucianism, including the Analects and the Mencius, Yi I laid out a system of Neo-Confucian study. He explained: “The Five Books and Five Classics are for the attainment of awakening and righteousness; the Neo-Confucian texts are for the mind’s constant absorption in righteousness; the histories are for the fostering of insight by penetrating the permutations of the past and the present.”56 In the explanation concerning the monastic curriculum, Yŏngwŏl Ch’ŏnghak stipulates: “The scriptures of the Four-fold doctrinal course are awakening to the principle; the gradual cultivation and investigation of the phrase (ch’amgu) of the Four-fold collection course shows the awakening of the mind. Also, the Great doctrinal course’s Jingde chuandeng lu and Sŏnmun yŏmsong are for the study of the patriarchal tradition and the correct method of cultivation.”57 At the same time, taking into account the presence of such phrases as “study of the principle of the Four Classics” (sagyŏng kyoŭi) and “questions about the Four Books” (sasŏ ŭisim) in the written civil service exam, we can see that the designation and contents of the monastic curriculum come from the Confucian social background of the time.

    On the other hand, in the latter half of the Chosŏn the combined cultivation of Sŏn and Kyo together with the verbal recitation of the name of Amitabha Buddha (yŏmbul) was included within the system of practice. Hyujŏng outlined the “three gates” (sammun) as Sŏn, Kyo, and yŏmbul. P’yŏnyang Ŏn’gi systematized this, corresponding Sŏn, Kyo, and yŏmbul to the “short-cut gate” (kyŏngjŏlmun), “complete and immediate gate” (wŏndumun), and “Buddha-remembrance gate” (yŏmbulmun) respectively. These “three gates” indicate the kanhwa Sŏn practice for extraordinary capacities; the study of doctrine which illuminates one’s original mind; and the method of Buddha-remembrance, which awakens the practitioner to one’s own nature of Amitabha Buddha. This system expresses recognition that although the capacities of sentient beings are different from each other, all dharmas arise from the “one mind” and the “three gates” are thus equal to each other.58

    As an officially recognized religious sect did not exist, all Buddhist traditions had to be included into the systems for monastic education and practice. Reflecting this, the integrated character of the “three gates” was required. However, the “three gates” system does not mean integrating all the practice methods into the “cultivation of every aspect of practice method” (chŏnsu 全修); rather, its perspective is one which places Sŏn at the center and includes Kyo and yŏmbul as parallel practices. Therefore, we should interpret these three gates as an open system of coexistence that recognizes the unique character of each method of cultivation rather than an unconditional consolidation or an indiscriminate combination. The Sammun chikchi published in 1769 says, “The three gates are respectively different, but the essence is the same,”59 recognizing the two aspects of basic accord and individual differences among methods. Likewise, in the latter half of the Chosŏn, the traditions of Sŏn, Kyo, and yŏmbul were all sustained and numerous examples show that although the practitioners took the “exclusive practice” (chŏnsu 專修) as their basic premise and focused on one single practice, they included other methods of cultivation under the rubric of “combined cultivation (kyŏmsu 兼修).”

    As seen above, the Buddhists in the seventeenth century attempted to strengthen the inner solidarity of the Buddhist order and confirm their identity as Sŏn monks on the institutional basis of lineages and branches and the economic foundation of inherited property, which was embodied into the establishment of the religious tradition. They also endeavored to inherit and continue the Sŏn and Kyo schools’ traditions of practice and philosophy simultaneously. Such changes in seventeenth-century Buddhism are historically significant insofar as they are intimately related to the establishment of the Buddhist tradition during the late Chosŏn dynasty. Following these changes, Korean Buddhist monks endeavored to maintain an economic foundation, as well as philosophical and soteriological traditions, without making great changes through the beginning of the modern era.

    37Kim Yong-t’ae, Chosŏn hugi Pulgyosa yŏn’gu: Imje pŏpt’ong kwa kyohak chŏnt’ong [A study of the history of Buddhism of the late Chosŏn: The religious tradition of Imje and the scholastic tradition] (Seoul: Sin’gu Munhwasa, 2010), chap. 2.  38Sŏngmun sangŭich’o, “Sŏngmun sangŭich’o sŏ [A preface to the Sŏngmun sangŭich’o],” HPC 8: 237; Sŏngmun karyech’o, “Sŏngmun karyech’o pal [A postscript to the Sŏngmun karyech’o],” HPC 8: 288.  39Sinbo sugyo chimnok [A new and amended collection of royal decrees], “Hojŏn chamnyŏng [A miscellaneous decree on field-possession],” promulgated in 1657 (Hyojong year 8).  40Sinbo sugyo chimnok, “Hojŏn chamnyŏng,” promulgated in 1664 (Hyojong year 15).  41Yi Nŭng-hwa, Chosŏn Pulgyo t’ongsa [A comprehensive history of Korean Buddhism] (Seoul: Sinmun’gwan, 1918), 2: 985–986.  42Han Sang-gil “The Activities and Significance of Temple Fraternities in Late Chosŏn Buddhism.” Journal of Korean Religious 3, no 1 (April 2012), 29–63.  43Kim Yong-t’ae, op.cit., 81–82.  44Ibid, 171–186.  45Samno haengjŏk [Biographies of the three elders], “Palmun [A postscript],” HPC 7: 757.  46Sŏngmun sangŭich’o, “Sŭng obokto [Illustration of the five types of Buddhist mourning clothes],” HPC 8: 237.  47Kim Yŏng-su, Chosŏn Pulgyo sago [A survey of the history of Korean Buddhism] (1939; Seoul: Minsogwŏn, 2002 photoprint edition).  48Takahashi Tōru, op.cit., 599.  49Lee Jong-su “Monastic Education and Educational Literacy in the Late Chosŏn.” Journal of Korean Religious 3, no 1 (April 2012), 65–84.  50Yŏngwŏltang Taesa munjip [Collected writings of Ven. Ch’ŏnghak], “Sajip sagyo chŏndŭng yŏmsong Hwaŏm [Four-fold collection, Four-fold doctrines, prose and poetry on the transmission of the lamp, Hwaŏm],” HPC 8: 234–235.  51Kim Yŏng-su, op.cit., 142.  52Kimura Kiyotaka, Chŏng Byŏng-sam trans., Chunguk Hwaŏm sasangsa [A history of Chinese Huayan thought] (Seoul: Minjoksa, 2005), 300–306.  53Nam Hŭi-suk, op.cit.; Son Sŏng-pil, “Simnyuk (16)-segi Chosŏn ŭi Pulsŏ kanhaeng [Publication of Buddhist texts in sixteenth-century Chosŏn]” (M.A. thesis, Dongguk University, 2007).  54The inclusion of The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana in the Four-fold doctrinal course has been verified in the eighteenth-century records.  55Takahashi Tōru, op.cit., 257.  56Han Yŏng-u, 1980, “Sarim ŭi yŏksa sŏsul kwa yŏksa insik [Local literati’s descriptions and views of history],” Tongyanghak 10 (1980), 145–184; Kim Hang-su, “Simnyuk (16)-segi sarim ŭi Sŏngnihak ihae: sŏjŏk ŭi kanhaeng p’yŏnch’an ŭl chungsim ŭro [Sixteenth-century local literati’s understanding of the learning of nature and principle: Focusing on the publication of books],” Han’guk saron 7 (1980), 121–178.  57YŏngwŏltangTaesa munjip, “Sajip sagyo chŏndŭng yŏmsong Hwaŏm,” HPC 8: 234–235.  58P’yŏnyangdangjip, fascicle 2, “Sŏn-Kyo wŏllyu simin sŏl [Probing the origins of Sŏn and Kyo],” HPC 8: 256–257.  59Chinhŏ P’algwan, ed., Sammun chikchi [Directly pointing to the three gates], “Sammun chikchi sŏ [A preface to the Sammun chikchi],” HPC 10: 138–139.


    Following the activities of the monastic armies during the Imjin War, in the seventeenth century monastic man-power was utilized in the form of monastic corvée labor. Monastic qualifications were approved and the foundations for the monastic clans together with the tradition, educational process, and system of cultivation were also established. In particular, through private land holdings and inheritance thereof, each sect’s own economic activities, and external financial support and donations, the financial foundations for temples were secured. On the basis of this economic backing, temples were able to settle to a degree the excessive burden of monastic corvée labor and other tributary payments, taxes, and so on. In the late Chosŏn dynasty, therefore, Buddhism was able to cast off the prior persecutions and devise a plan for its own economic subsistence.

    Based on this institutional and economic foundation, from the seventeenth century on the Buddhist circle was able to aim for an independent existence within a Confucian society. It also continuously responded to the needs of the times. We can see this evidenced in a variety of areas: the Buddhist emphasis on loyalty, filial piety, and moral principle; establishing a traditional explanation of the teachings which corresponded to the Confucian vision of the transmission of the Way; a paralleling structure in curriculum between the Buddhist monastic education and the Neo-Confucian school system; the accommodation of the Zhuzi jiali in Buddhist ritual manuals, etc. Moreover, as the Buddhist order established systems for monastic education and practice that were based on the combined cultivation of meditation and doctrinal studies, the pursuit of scholastic studies and commentarial texts came to be prevalent to a great extent, and the inheritance of scholastic studies also became a critical point in the dharma transmission during the eighteenth century. It has been confirmed that Hwaŏm scholasticism in particular became important and the doctrinal tradition that placed the study of the Flower Garland Sutra as the highest subject of study stood in juxtaposition with the Imje tradition of the Sŏn school. The orthodoxy of the Imje lineage on the one hand and the emphasis on the doctrinal study, especially Hwaŏm scholasticism, which originated from the combined cultivation of Sŏn and Kyo, on the other hand, constituted a paradoxical two-fold tradition of Buddhism and its identity in the late Chosŏn era. In this way the coexistence of Sŏn and Kyo as an important asset of the Korean Buddhist tradition was established in the late Chosŏn dynasty.

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