Ksitigarbha painting, Goryeo Korea
Buddhism in medieval Korea evolved in ways which rallied support for the state.
Initially, the new Seon schools were regarded by the established doctrinal schools as radical and dangerous upstarts. Thus, the early founders of the various “nine mountain” monasteries met with considerable resistance, repressed by the long influence in court of the Gyo schools. The struggles which ensued continued for most of the Goryeo period, but gradually the Seon argument for the possession of the true transmission of enlightenment would gain the upper hand. The position that was generally adopted in the later Seon schools, due in large part to the efforts of Jinul, did not claim clear superiority of Seon meditational methods, but rather declared the intrinsic unity and similarities of the Seon and Gyo viewpoints. Although all these schools are mentioned in historical records, toward the end of the dynasty, Seon became dominant in its effect on the government and society, and the production of noteworthy scholars and adepts. During the Goryeo period, Seon thoroughly became a “religion of the state,” receiving extensive support and privileges through connections with the ruling family and powerful members of the court.
Although most of the scholastic schools waned in activity and influence during this period of the growth of Seon, theHwaeom school continued to be a lively source of scholarship well into the Goryeo, much of it continuing the legacy ofUisang and Wonhyo. In particular the work of Gyunyeo (均如; 923-973) prepared for the reconciliation of Hwaeom and Seon, with Hwaeom’s accommodating attitude toward the latter. Gyunyeo’s works are an important source for modern scholarship in identifying the distinctive nature of Korean Hwaeom.
Another important advocate of Seon/Gyo unity was Uicheon. Like most other early Goryeo monks, he began his studies in Buddhism with the Hwaeom school. He later traveled to China, and upon his return, actively promulgated the Cheontae(天台宗, or Tiantai in Chinese) teachings, which became recognized as another Seon school. This period thus came to be described as “five doctrinal and two meditational schools” (ogyo yangjong). Uicheon himself, however, alienated too many Seon adherents, and he died at a relatively young age without seeing a Seon-Gyo unity accomplished.
Gwangyeongseopum Byeonsangdo, Goryeo buddhist painting.
The most important figure of Seon in the Goryeo was Jinul (知訥; 1158–1210). In his time, the sangha was in a crisis of external appearance and internal issues of doctrine. Buddhism had gradually become infected by secular tendencies and involvements, such as fortune-telling and the offering of prayers and rituals for success in secular endeavors. This kind of corruption resulted in the profusion of increasingly larger numbers of monks and nuns with questionable motivations. Therefore, the correction, revival, and improvement of the quality of Buddhism were prominent issues for Buddhist leaders of the period.
Jinul sought to establish a new movement within Korean Seon, which he called the“samādhi and prajñā society”, whose goal was to establish a new community of disciplined, pure-minded practitioners deep in the mountains. He eventually accomplished this mission with the founding of the Seonggwangsa monastery at Mt. Jogye (曹溪山). Jinul’s works are characterized by a thorough analysis and reformulation of the methodologies of Seon study and practice. One major issue that had long fermented in Chinese Seon, and which received special focus from Jinul, was the relationship between “gradual” and “sudden” methods in practice and enlightenment. Drawing upon various Chinese treatments of this topic, most importantly those by Zongmi (780-841) and Dahui (大慧; 1089–1163), Jinul created a “sudden enlightenment followed by gradual practice” dictum, which he outlined in a few relatively concise and accessible texts. From Dahui, Jinul also incorporated the gwanhwa (觀話) method into his practice. This form of meditation is the main method taught in Korean Seon today. Jinul’s philosophical resolution of the Seon-Gyo conflict brought a deep and lasting effect on Korean Buddhism.
The general trend of Buddhism in the latter half of the Goryeo was a decline due to corruption, and the rise of strong anti-Buddhist political and philosophical sentiment. However, this period of relative decadence would nevertheless produce some of Korea’s most renowned Seon masters. Three important monks of this period who figured prominently in charting the future course of Korean Seon were contemporaries and friends: Gyeonghan Baeg’un (景閑白雲; 1298–1374), Taego Bou (太古普愚; 1301–1382) and Naong Hyegeun (懶翁慧勤; 1320–1376). All three went to Yuan China to learn the Linji (臨濟 or Imje in Korean) gwanhwa teaching that had been popularized by Jinul. All three returned, and established the sharp, confrontational methods of the Imje school in their own teaching. Each of the three was also said to have had hundreds of disciples, such that this new infusion into Korean Seon brought about considerable effect. Despite the Imje influence, which was generally considered to be anti-scholarly in nature, Gyeonghan and Naong, under the influence of Jinul and the traditional tong bulgyo tendency, showed an unusual interest in scriptural study, as well as a strong understanding of Confucianism and Taoism, due to the increasing influence of Chinese philosophy as the foundation of official education. From this time, a marked tendency for Korean Buddhist monks to be “three teachings” exponents appeared.
A significant historical event of the Goryeo period is the production of the first woodblock edition of the Tripitaka, called the Tripitaka Koreana. Two editions were made, the first one completed from 1210 to 1231, and the second one from 1214 to 1259. The first edition was destroyed in a fire, during an attack byMongol invaders in 1232, but the second edition is still in existence at Haeinsa in Gyeongsang province. This edition of the Tripitaka was of high quality, and served as the standard version of the Tripitaka in East Asia for almost 700 years.
Small-scale contact with predominantly Muslim peoples continued on and off. During the late Goryeo period, there were mosques in the capitalGaeseong.
Among such Muslims was Samgha who was renamed Jang Sunnyong, he married a Korean and became the founding ancestor of the Deoksu Jang clan. His clan produced many high officials and respected Confucian scholars over the centuries. Another Muslim named Seol Son fled to Korea when the Red Turban Rebellion erupted near the end of the Yuan dynasty. He, too, married a Korean, originating a lineage called the Gyeongju Seol clan.
Tripitaka Koreana (팔만대장경) is a Tripitaka with approximately 80,000 Buddhist scripts. The scripts are stored in Haeinsa, South Gyeongsang province. Made in 1251 by Gojong in an attempt to fight away the Mongol invasions by Buddhism. The scripts are kept clean by leaving them to dry outside every year.
The ceramics of Goryeo are considered by some to be the finest small-scale works of ceramics in Korean history. Key-fret, foliate designs, geometric or scrolling flowerhead bands, elliptical panels, stylized fish and insects, and the use of incised designs began at this time. Glazes were usually various shades of celadon, with browned glazes to almost black glazes being used for stoneware and storage. Celadon glazes could be rendered almost transparent to show black and white inlays.
While the forms generally seen are broad-shouldered bottles, larger low bowls or shallow smaller bowls, highly decorated celadon cosmetic boxes, and small slip-inlaid cups, the Buddhist potteries also produced melon-shaped vases, chrysanthemum cups often of spectacularly architectural design on stands with lotus motifs and lotus flower heads. In-curving rimmed alms bowls have also been discovered similar to Korean metalware. Wine cups often had a tall foot which rested on dish-shaped stands.
Lacquerware with Mother of Pearl Inlay
During the Goryeo period, lacquerware with mother-of-pearl inlay reached a high point of technical and aesthetic achievement and was widely used by members of the aristocracy for Buddhist ritual implements and vessels, as well as horse saddles and royal carriages. Inlaid lacquers combine texture, color, and shape to produce a dazzling effect in both large and small objects. Although Korean lacquerware of the Goryeo period was highly prized throughout East Asia, fewer than fifteen examples are known to have survived, one of which is this exquisite box in the Museum’s collection. This paucity of material is largely attributable to the fragility of lacquer objects and, to a certain extent, to wars and raids by foreign powers, notably those launched from Japan by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536–1598) in the late sixteenth century.
More info on Goryeo lacquerware
These ceramics are of a hard porcellaneous body with porcelain stone as one of the key ingredients; however, it is not to be confused with porcelain. The body is low clay, quartz rich, high potassia and virtually identical in composition to the Chinese Yueh ceramics which scholars hypothesize occasioned the first production of celadon in Korea. The glaze is an ash glaze with iron colourant, fired in a reduction atmosphere in a modified Chinese-style ‘dragon’ kiln. The distinctive blue-grey-green of Korean celadon is caused by the iron content of the glaze with a minimum of titanium contaminant, which modifies the color to a greener cast, as can be seen in Chinese Yueh wares. However, the Goryeo potters took the glaze in a different direction than their Chinese forebears; instead of relying solely on underglaze incised designs, they eventually developed the sanggam technique of inlaying black (magnetite) and white (quartz) which created bold contrast with the glaze. Scholars also theorize that this developed in part to an inlay tradition in Korean metalworks and lacquer, and also to the dissatisfaction with the nearly invisible effect of incising when done under a thick celadon glaze.
Jikji, Selected Teachings of Buddhist Sages and Seon Masters, the earliest known book printed with movable metal type, 1377. Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris.
In 1234, the world’s first metal movable type printing was invented by Choe Yun-ui in Goryeo. Sangjeong Gogeum Yemun were printed with the movable metal type in 1234. Technology in Korea took a big step in Goryeo and strong relation with the Song dynasty contributed to this. In the dynasty, Korean ceramics and paper, which come down to now, started to be manufactured.
During the late Goryeo Dynasty, Goryeo was at the cutting edge of shipboard artillery. In 1356 early experiments were carried out with gunpowder weapons that shot wood or metal projectiles. In 1373 experiments with incendiary arrows and “fire tubes” possibly an early form of the Hwacha were developed and placed on Korean warships. The policy of placing cannons and other gunpowder weapons continued well into the Joseon Dynasty and by 1410, over 160 Joseon warships had cannons on board. Choe Mu-seon, a medieval Korean inventor, military commander and scientist who introduced widespread use of gunpowder toKorea for the first time and creating various gunpowder based weapons.