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A study on the Tombstones for Monks at Early Goryo Dynasty

  • Journal of Humanities
  • 2016, (62), pp.301-340
  • Publisher : Institute for Humanities
  • Research Area : Humanities > Other Humanities
  • Received : August 2, 2016
  • Accepted : August 11, 2016

Jaebum Lee 1

1경기대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This study has examined the epitaphs of 18 tombstones of Buddhist monks from the reign of King Taejo to King Gwangjong of the Goryeo dynasty with regard to the period of their creation and erection and the estimated social status of the monks based on their contents. It found that the tombstones of the senior Buddhist monks were usually built within 10 years after their death but some were erected 30 years after they passed away. All of the tombstones of the Buddhist monks that have been handed down today are those erected after 937 when the Goryeo dynasty unified the Later Three Kingdoms period. Most of the priests were known to have been closely related to Wanggeon, the founder of Goryeo. Some of them had closely served Gyeonhwon and Gungye but came to stand by Wanggeon later. Those figures met the unification of the Later Three Kingdoms on the side of Wanggeon. The epitaphs of the tombstones erected during the reign of Wanggeon, or King Taejo, show that the two priests had already passed away before the reunification of the Later Three Kingdoms. Because the epitaphs of the tombstones had been written totally in favor of Wanggeon by using lots of symbols and metaphors, the contents should be analyzed carefully. The social status of the monks was estimated to be the middle class or of the lesser position. Their ancestors did not seem to have been influential and those in the maternal line had not exerted influence on them. It was estimated that there had been no student in their families. Meanwhile, their motive of becoming a Buddhist monk was mostly attributed to the financial problems of the families, and, considering that the average age to became a buddhist monk was fifteen, to their wish to avoid the duty of national defense or forced labor. They succeeded on their own, rather than making use of their forefathers’ influences. Interestingly, political aspirations, rather than the aspects of religion or faith, stood out prominently in the process of their rise to become highranking Buddhist priests. The monks had never been one-sided in favor of a particular faction constantly during the fluctuating period of the Later Three Kingdoms period. The monks preserved their temples and adhered to their religious doctrines on the side of the stronger factions. The currently remaining tombstones of the monks are mostly situated on the border areas of the Later Three Kingdoms. In other words, those monks whose activities were written in the epitaphs of the tombstones, were marginal men or peripheral figures.

Citation status

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