Daoist Studies in Korea

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Daoist Studies in Korea

The Korean Peninsula is connected with the northeast of China. Before World War II the Korean Peninsula was a united nation. Chinese Daoism was transmitted to Korea many times throughout history, which accounts for the fact that there were people studying Daoism in Korea a long time ago, of whom Yi Gyugyeong was one of the most famous.

Yi Gyugyeong (1788 -- ? )

He was a scholar of the practical school in the Korean Dynasty. The Five-State Disorderly Manuscripts of Long Sheets on Redundant Words ( 《五洲衍文長散稿》Wuzhou Yanwen Changqian Sangao ) consists of 60 volumes, among which there were 1500 articles written in ancient Chinese that are considered as the encyclopedia of ancient Korea. His articles on Daoism in this book series are:

  1. Discrimination on Daoist Scriptures and Books of Immortality
  2. Discrimination on the Origin of Daoism in Japan
  3. Discrimination on the Problem of Three-Korea
  4. Discrimination of Womhyo Uisang
  5. Discrimination on Mt. Back Dusan
  6. Discrimination on the Two Dippers' Descending
  7. Discrimination on the Barrack System ( 營室制度 Yingshi Zhidu )
  8. Discrimination on Chart of the Ranks of the Perfect Souls of Numinous Treasure ( 靈寶真靈位業圖 Lingbao Zhenling Weiye Tu )
  9. Discrimination on the Origin of the Perfect Man Zhang

His work The Five-State Disorderly Manuscripts of Long Sheets on Redundant Words known as "the Single Copy in the World" was never printed until 1959 by Dongguk Publishing House of South Korea.

In 1910, the Korean Peninsula was invaded and occupied by the Japanese militarist government and the Korean people persisted in their struggle against the Japanese. Unfortunately the economy and culture in Korea were deeply affected by the Japanese. Along with the Daoist studies in Japan, the Korean academic circle did the research on Daoist history in Korea. And Yi Newnhwa was one of the most remarkable figures.

Yi Newnhwa (1869 - 1943)

He was a famous historian and scholar of folklore. He wrote a lot on Korean history such as History of Gods in Korea, History of Buddhism in Korea, A Textual Research of Witchery Customs in Korea, and A Survey of Religions. History of Daoism in Korea is the first history book written in ancient Chinese on Daoist transmission into Korea. It is probably because he was not allowed to write in Korean, nor willing to write in Japanese under the Japanese domination. It might, as well, account for the fact that he called himself Lay Daoist of Disablement so as to indicate his helplessness. History of Daoism in Korea was not published during his lifetime. In 1958, it was printed by photography by Dongguk University Publishing House of South Korea. In 1981, it was translated into Korean by a professor from the State University of Han Yang. His book has 29 chapters. The author discussed the connection between the legends of Dan-gun and the Three Divine Mountains and the legends in ancient China, the Daoist transmission into Goguryeo, Baek-je, and Silla, the different Korean sects of alchemy, and the Daoist influence on Korean customs. Prof. Cha Junwan, the contemporary Korean researcher of Daoism, announced as he commented on Yi's works that the Korean Daoist studies used to be attached to the studies of Buddhism and the customs, and the Daoist study was just sort of brief introductions. The scholars did not pay attention to the Daoist transmission into Korea until Li's book was published, which changed the scholars' minds on the Daoist studies. His book was a worthy masterpiece. Yi Newnhwa will never be forgotten for his achievements in his paving the way to the Daoist study and hard work in collecting, and rearranging information. Miura Kunio the Japanese professor claimed that Yi's History of Daoism in Korea was the first general history of Daoism in Korea, which had unexpectedly made such great achievement, we had nothing to say but praise and admiration.

Daoist Studies in Korea after World War II

After World War II, the Korean Peninsula had to be separated into two independent countries, and in the 1950s there was a civil war against. As a result Daoism in Korea was not studied until the1970s. In the1980s, there were two academic societies of a group of scholars established in Korea with a number of essays and books published. The representative figures in this period were Do Gwangsun and Cha Junwan.

Do Gwangsun (1927 --)

Do Gwangsun graduated from Gyeong Buk University, he was once Professor of Hanyang University, chairman of the Daoist Society of Korea, and head of the Institute of Human Sciences of Korea. He is proficient in Chinese and Japanese, getting along very well with the Japanese researchers of Daoism. He became the international member and consultant of it as the Daoist Society of Japan was set up. He was rich in his works with his studies of Chinese Daoism and Confucianism. He translated the Analects of Confucius, Mencius, Recent Records of Meditation, and Records of Meditation of Gentleman Tuixi. And he wrote a number of books, including Daoism in Korean Culture, Theories of Immortality in Korea, A Historical Research on the Legend of Dan-gun ( 檀君神話 Tanjun Shenhua ), and Religious Characteristic of Dungryudo ( 風流道 Fengliu Dao ). In 1983, he wrote an article Korean Daoism for the publication of the three volumes of Daoism. In 1994 when Dictionary of Daoism was published in Japan, he wrote such entries as Dungryudo, Dan-gun, and Hwarang ( 花郎 Hualang ). In the1980s, the Daoist Society of Korea launched many academic activities under his leadership, including the international conferences of "Korean Culture and East Asia Culture" in 1986, and of "Daoist Culture and Science in East Asia" in 1989. In 1987, the Daoist Society of Korea started publishing the academic journal Daoist Studies every six months. After his retirement, the present chairman of the Daoist Society of Korea is a professor from Suk Myeong Women University.

Cha Junwan (1920 --)

Cha Junwan graduated in 1948 from Department of Chinese Language of College of Human Sciences in Seoul University with BA, and after his graduation he worked there as a lecturer, associate professor, and a professor. He was once the member of the Academic Committee of South Korea, chairman of the Society of Daoist Ideology of Korea, and head of the Dunhuang Society of Korea. After retirement he became the honored professor of Seoul University and a professor head of the Society of Japanese Studies in Dan-guk University. He began his Daoist studies in the 1970s, and set up the Society of the Daoist Ideology of Korea in 1986. He launched reading "the Master who Embraces Simplicity" in a club and a conference to issue their essays. Most of the members in the club were young scholars. Six volumes of collected essays published from 1987 to 1992, including Daoism and Korean Ideology, Daoism and Korean Culture, Development of Daoist Thoughts in Korea, Understanding of Daoisot Thoughts in Korea, Koean Daoism and Daoist Ideology, and Modern Enlightenment of Korean Daoism. The Korean scholars surveyed the connection between Chinese Daoism and the culture and ideology of the Korean Peninsula and the Daoist influences on the Korean social life. In 1978, Cha Junwan published his masterpiece A Study on Daoist Ideology in Korea and it was republished after it was collected in the series of books of Korean history and renamed as Daoist Ideology in Korea with some supplementary in 1984. In 1990, Miura Kunio and Nozaki Mitsuhiko, the Japanese scholars, translated his book into Japanese and published it with the title Daoism in Korea. Miura thinks Cha Junwan takes a new perspective in his research, that is, to discuss whether Daoism would hinder the process of modernizing Korea with Daoism as a fundamental religion. In Cha's book there is one basic axis that interacted with five round axes. The five round axes are

  1. theories of immortality,
  2. Daoist rituals,
  3. cultivation and refinement of Daoism,
  4. theory of graphic interpretation of geography,
  5. popular Daoism.

Miura commented that Cha wrote it with his versatile talents, bringing the Korean Daoist study onto a higher level by discussing it from the ancient time to the present and it was of great significance indeed. Nevertheless, Cha's book is very redundant with too much duplication, which might be his special style or that of Korean scholars. What is remarkable is that Cha thinks that Chinese skills of geomancy and Chinese theories of the graphic interpretation of geography were transmitted into Korea from China. And some intellectuals dissatisfied with reality mastered them and saw the tendency of the times and the direction of its movement and forecast the decline of the Ming and the rising of the Qing so that they had the clear sense of resisting China. Sooner or later, Korea would have such a destiny that it could force Japan to surrender from oppressing China and dreaming of the union of the world. If such an idea was viewed as active, enterprising, and exclusively self-reliant, if such an idea of national history was regarded as the consequence of the Daoist transmission into Korea, it should be taken into serious consideration by those who study the history of Daoist transmission.