A Survey of the Studies on Korean-Japanese Buddhist Exchanges from 7th-9th Century
Though Buddhist exchanges between Silla and Japan were very vigorous, notably during the 7th and 8th centuries, much of the details have not yet been studied exhaustively. This is not only due to the paucity of historical records, but also a certain lack of interest in the topic.
However, already during the 1970s, the contours of relation between Silla and early Japanese Buddhism beagn to emerge. Thus, during this period it became clear that the collection of treaties had been transmitted by monks who had studied in Silla, and a more general interest in the general impact of Silla Buddhism on Japanese Buddhism arose.
Afterwards, research was conducted on the process of changes concerning the belief in Shotoku Taishi and other topics, such as the formation of a body of scriptures and developments in the production of statues, all under the influence of Silla Buddhism. Furthermore, through the study of manuscript documents it was found that the establishment of Todaiji and the formation of the Avatamsaka sect(Hwa’eom jong) tradition in the middle of the 8th century likewise occurred under the influence of Silla Buddhism. In the 1980s, studies appeared which, based on ancient Japanese materials, shed light on the deatails of the relation between Silla Buddhism and Japanese Avatamsaka sect(Kegon shu). As a result, it became clear that during the latter half of the 8th century Japanese Avatamsaka sect was influenced by Wonhyo and Taehyeon as much as by the Chinese master Fazang and that in 9th century also Uisang’s thought was received.
On the other hand, although it has been pointed out that also other Nara traditions, notably the Yogācāra tradition(Hosso shu), had a close relation with Silla Consciousness-only thought in both centuries, no substantial research on this phenomenon has been done. Given the importance of Consciousness-only thought in both countries, these currents should be given more attention.
Although already quite a few substantial studies on the Buddhist exchange between the two countries have appeared, the results have not yet fully known to the general audience. Both countries still understand Buddhist history from the angle of their own traditions. However, as the pertaining materials are very limited this approach likewise has clear limitations. The comparison of Silla and Nara Buddhism will be very instrumental for advancing the understanding of the individual traditions in both countries.