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Jewoldang Gyeongheon’s Life and Activities Seen from the Epitaph of Grand Master Jewoldang

  • The Review of Korean History
  • 2016, (123), pp.47-91
  • Publisher : The Historical Society Of Korea
  • Research Area : Humanities > History

Gyu-ri Yi 1

1동국대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Zen(K. Seon) master Jewoldang Gyeongheon(霽月堂敬軒1544~1633) was a disciple of Cheongheo Hyujeong(淸虛休靜) who entered the Buddhist priesthood at the age of fifteen and immersed himself in Buddhist practice for 75 years until he died at 91. He was well versed in Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism and was also so thorough about keeping Buddhist commandments that he practiced ‘silence asceticism’ for many years. He distinguished himself at the Imjin War and received a letter of appointment to the governmental office from King Seonjo. However, he refused to take the post and devoted himself on Buddhist practice and edification of his students. He was an exemplary priest who practiced both Zen and Doctrinal (K. Gyo) Buddhism, a practice perception of Joseon Buddhism, and played an important role on establishing the tradition of Buddhist education that is called ‘Enter Zen via Gyo(由敎入禪)’. After his death, Gyeongheon’s disciples collected the ashes of his body after cremation ceremony and erected a pagoda and stupa. In 1636(the 14th year of King Injo’s reign), his student named Seolhyeon(雪玄) installed, to pay a tribute to Gyeongheon’s charitable deeds, ‘the Epitaph of Grand Master Jewoldang (K. Jewoldangdaesabi)’ in Simwon Temple on Mt. Bogae. Dragons and clouds are engraved beautifully on the head of the stele. The epitaph was composed by Commandant of Dongyang Sin Ikseong and written by King Seonjo’s fourth prince Lord of Uichang Lee Gwang. His epitaph was shipped to Jingpa Port from Hongseong, South Chungcheong Province and then transferred by 5,600 soldiers, monks and people on land. In the following year (the 15th year of King Injo’s reign), his disciples published the Literary Collection of Grand Master Jewoldang (K. Jewoldangdaesajip) as well. In the early 17th century, it was said that there were three religious traditions of Zen Buddhism in Joseon. The disciples of Gyeongheon, the School of Jewol(霽月派) asserted the religious tradition of Imje-Naong which means that they received the mantle handed down through Naong(懶翁), Younggwan(靈觀), Hyujeong(休靜), and Gyeongheon. Because it was the recognition of one school’s religious tradition by the Buddhist society that determines the status of the school, Buddhists at the time engrossed in establishing the identity and authenticity of their schools via erecting a stone stele and publishing an anthology of their masters. The fact that Gyeongheon’s disciples such as Doil(道一) visited Sin Ikseong, who was renowned as a fine prose writer, several times to ask him to compose the epitaph, erected Jewoldangdaesabi, and compiled Jewoldangdaesajip can be understood as an effort to secure the School of Jewol’s legitimacy by highly praising Gyeongheon’s.

Citation status

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