The Founding of Korean Buddhism’s Great Head Temple in 1938 and the Role of Governmentality in Modernizing Korean Buddhism

The Founding of Korean Buddhism’s Great Head Temple in 1938 and the Role of Governmentality in Modernizing Korean Buddhism

Hwansoo Kim - Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Duke University

Monday, April 17, 2017 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Room 218, East Asia Library, SML See map
120 High Street
New Haven, CT 06511

This talk concerns the dynamic colonial history of the construction of the Chogye Temple, the spiritual and administrative headquarters of modern Korean Buddhism. After centuries of decline under the restrictive Neo-Confucian Chosŏn Dynasty (1392-1910), in the early twentieth century Korean Buddhist monastics sought to revitalize Korean Buddhism by modernizing their tradition. Establishing a powerful temple in the capital city of Seoul would symbolize Korean Buddhism’s modernity, restore Korean Buddhism’s centrality to the state and society, and create a controlling body to unify and govern Korean Buddhism. Working through complex internal and external challenges, Korean Buddhists were able to achieve their goals by capitalizing on the Japanese colonial government’s need for Buddhist priests to disseminate the state’s propaganda campaign (called the Spiritual Development Movement). In return, the Japanese colonial government provided legal, financial, and logistical support to help Korean Buddhists construct their great head temple. This talk narrates the history behind this impressive piece of architecture, illuminating the dynamic relationship between Korean Buddhists and the Japanese colonial government as well as revealing the process by which Korean Buddhists governmentalized their religion.

Hwansoo Kim is an Associate Professor of Korean Buddhism and Culture in the Department of Religious Studies, with a joint appointment with the Asian & Middle Eastern Studies Department, at Duke University. He received his Ph.D. in the colonial history of Korean and Japanese Buddhism from Harvard University in 2007. His present research concerns colonial, modern, and contemporary Korean Buddhism from a transnational perspective. He is the author of Empire of the Dharma: Korean and Japanese Buddhism, 1877–1912 (Harvard University Asia Center, 2013). His second book, under contract with Harvard University Asia Center, is tentatively titled A Transnational History of Colonial Korean Buddhism, 1910–1945.  

Lunch will be served.