[KS] RAS lecture on Koryo monks - May 8 , Seoul

Sem Vermeersch sem.ver at btinternet.com
Mon May 7 01:08:50 EDT 2007

Dear colleagues,
  Apologies for the late posting, and for any cross-posting... and also for plugging my own lecture! Please find below details about the contents, venue and time of the lecture.
  The Eminent Koryo Monk
  The Royal Asiatic Society will hold its first semi-monthly Lecture-Meeting of May this coming Tuesday the 8th, at 7:30 pm, in the 2nd-floor Resident’s Lounge of the Somerset Palace Residence (downtown, near Anguk Station, west of Exit #6; north of Jogye-sa Temple. All in English, open to the public (small donation requested from non-members, w5,000 recommended), as always; more info: 763-9483 and www.raskb.com (includes location-map).
  abstract, bio
  Some years ago, John Kieschnick wrote a book called The Eminent Monk, in which he discussed the representation of Chinese monks in biographic and hagiographic literature, and what such images tell us about religious ideals and reality. China of course has a much more extensive literature on this subject than Korea, at least in terms of written or published documents; however, Korea has a virtually unexplored wealth of unique source materials, namely inscriptions on stone. Especially in the Koryŏ period, dozens of huge stone monuments were erected to commemorate the deeds of eminent monks. 

In this lecture, I will look at the life of an eminent Koryŏ monk as it appears in such stele inscriptions. On the basis of one representative example, I will sketch what the typical life of a monk looked like, from his birth to his final nirvana and beyond. Besides factual information about his monastic career, the inscriptions also contain stories about miracles, beliefs and practices that add some color to the life and times of medieval Korean monks. Buddhism was one of the main religions of Koryŏ, but a look at the ideal (and some not so ideal) monks can tell a lot of what kind society Koryŏ actually was. 

Sem Vermeersch lectures on Korean culture and religion at Keimyung University. He graduated from SOAS, University of London, with a PhD in history, and specializes in the history of the Koryŏ period. He is particularly interested in the history of Korean Buddhism. His book, entitled “The Power of the Buddhas: The Politics of Buddhism during the Koryŏ Dynasty,” is being prepared for publication.

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