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The Monks’ Militia in Joseon: Discourses of Memory and Memorialization

Kim Yong Tae 1

1동국대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Although the monks’ militia or monks’ righteous militia played a crucial role to overcome the national crisis during the Japanese Invasions, just as the rightous army did, the monks’ militia was not hardly remembered or memorialized by the state or the literati class, especially compared to the righteous army. Nonetheless, renowned monk-generals, such as Cheongheo Hyujeong 淸虛休靜 and Samyeong Yujeong 四溟惟政, were enshrined in the eighteenth century into Pyochungsa 表忠祠 in honor of their loyalty where the memorial rite for them was sponsored by the government. This paper surveys previous scholarship, focusing on discourses on the monks’ militia in Joseon. The monks’ militia received scholarly attention quite early as research on the monk-general began in the 1910s. This attention to the monks’ militia continued after Liberation as it was regarded as the symbol of state-protection Buddhism. While the dilemma between violating the precept of non-killing and practicing loyalty was recognized, its activities were understood as not only the expression of Buddhist compassion but also the promotion of loyalty, a virtue demanded in a Confucian society. The loayl activities of the monks’ militia during the Invasions served as a turning point for Buddhism to play a meaningful social role in the Joseon society. As the efficacy of the monks’ militia was recognized, the monks’ militia and the monks’ state duty were institutionalized and, as a result, the founadation for the survival of the monks and temples were more firmly in place. The monks were accepted as legitimate people of Joseon and the temples were integrated into the national finance system while the according duties and rights were given to them. These are heritiages of the monks’ militia, the assessment of which is still underway.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.