Los Angeles Lecture: Korea’s Jōdōshinshū: Lay Monk Villages in Colonial Korea (25 April 2013)

The USC Center for Japanese Religions and Culture is pleased to present a lecture by Professor Hwansoo Kim, Duke University on Thursday, April 25, 2013.

Thursday, April 25, 2013
5:00 PM to 6:30 PM
East Asian Seminar Room (110C), Doheny Memorial Library, USC

Korea’s Jōdōshinshū: Lay Monk Villages in Colonial Korea (1910-1945)


A newspaper editorial from 1930s colonial Korea characterized the
isolated villages of married Buddhist monks spread across the northern
border between Korea and China as “the mystery of the century”. These
lay monk villages (K. jaega-seung burak or Jp. zaikeso) existed from the
seventeenth century until the 1960s. The males in these villages shaved
their heads and had wives and children, and they ranged in number from
thousands to tens of thousands at their peak. These lay monks and their
families comprised the descendents of the Jurchens, an ethnic group from
northern China who migrated to Korea and later mixed with Koreans.

In this presentation, based on previous scholarship and on untapped
primary sources, he would like to take up two questions. First, how did
these villagers come to take on a monastic identity (or, at minimum, the
appellation)? Second, how should we understand the history of these
communities within the context of Korean Buddhism? While scholars
conventionally understanding the origin of this monastic identity as
coincidental and unauthentic, he argues that Korean monks fleeing or
relocating as a result of Choson Korea’s anti-Buddhist policies perhaps
contributed to the formation of a monastic identity of the males in
these villages. Finally, he will address how the Neo-Confucian Choson
dynasty, imperial Japan, and North Korean authorities politicized these
communities for their own purposes. These lay monk communities were an
unusual manifestation of Korean Buddhism and as such force us to
consider what, and who, defines Korean Buddhism and monastic.

Hwansoo Kim, Duke University

Hwansoo Kim is an assistant professor at Duke University in the field
of Korean Buddhism and culture with the departments of Religion and
Asian & Middle Eastern Studies. He received his doctorate from Harvard
University in 2007, followed by a post-doctoral appointment with the
Harvard Reischauer Institute. He then taught Japanese religions as an
assistant professor at the University of Arizona. Kim’s most recent
article is “A Buddhist Christmas: The Buddha’s Birthday Festival in
Colonial Korea (1928–1945).” He is the author of Empire of the Dharma:
Korean and Japanese Buddhism, 1877–1912 (Harvard Asia Press, 2012).

More details about him at

** This event is free and open to the public. Please RSVP to
cjrc@dornsife.usc.edu **

Center for Japanese Religions and Culture
USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
825 Bloom Walk, ACB 130D
Los Angeles, CA 90089-1481
Tel. (213) 821-4365

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