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The Power of the Buddhas: The Politics of Buddhism during the Koryo Dynasty (918 - 1392)

The Power of the Buddhas: The Politics of Buddhism during the Koryo Dynasty (918 - 1392)

by Sem VermeerschSem Vermeersch


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Buddhism in medieval Korea is characterized as “State Protection Buddhism,” a religion whose primary purpose was to rally support (supernatural and popular) for and legitimate the state. In this view, the state used Buddhism to engender compliance with its goals. A closer look, however, reveals that Buddhism was a canvas on which people projected many religious and secular concerns and desires.

This study is an attempt to specify Buddhism’s place in Koryo and to ascertain to what extent and in what areas Buddhism functioned as a state religion. Was state support the main reason for Buddhism’s dominance in Koryo? How actively did the state seek to promote religious ideals? What was the strength of Buddhism as an institution and the nature of its relationship to the state? What role did Confucianism, the other state ideology, play in Koryo? This study argues that Buddhism provided most of the symbols and rituals, and some of the beliefs, that constructed an aura of legitimacy, but that there was no single ideological system underlying the Koryo dynasty’s legitimating strategies.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674031883
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 09/30/2008
Series: Harvard East Asian Monographs , #303
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 486
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Sem Vermeersch is a Fellow at the Kyujanggak Institute for Korean Studies at Seoul National University.

Table of Contents

  • Tables, Maps, and Figures

  • Kings of Unified Silla and Koryo

  • Abbreviations

  • Introduction

    Part I: Historical and Ideological Background

  1. Buddhism and the State in Late Silla

  2. Foundations of a New Buddhist Policy: T’aejo and Buddhism
  3. Part II: The Official Institution of Buddhism

  4. Legal Provisions on the Status of Monks

  5. The Sangha Examination, Ranking, and Administration

  6. The Royal and State Preceptors
  7. Part III: The Ritual and Economic Roles of Buddhism

  8. The Buddhist Temple Economy in Early Koryo

  9. Buddhist State Rituals

  • Conclusion

  • Appendix: Biographical Abstracts of Koryo Monks

  • Character List

  • Bibliography

  • Index

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