Andrew L. Markus Memorial Lecture - Transplanting Buddhism on the Korean Peninsula

Robert E. Buswell, University of California, Los Angeles
Robert E. Buswell, University of California, Los Angeles
Tuesday, May 13, 2014 - 7:30pm
Walker-Ames Room (Kane 225)

For nearly seventeen hundred years, Buddhism has flourished on the Korean peninsula and the tradition continues to thrive still today. The Korean peninsula was one of the last stops on the eastward dissemination of the religion, which started in the Indian homeland of Buddhism some twenty-five hundred years ago and traveled through the central Asian steppes to the Chinese mainland before reaching Korea. But the Buddhism of Korea is no mere derivative of those antecedent traditions. Notwithstanding the regrettable “hermit kingdom” appellation that early Western visitors gave to Korea, throughout most of history Korea was in no way isolated from its neighbors. The infiltration of Chinese culture into the Korean peninsula was accelerated through the missionary activities of Buddhists, who brought not only their religious teachings and rituals to Korea but also Sinitic and Serindian culture as a whole. Thus, Buddhists on the Korean peninsula had access to the breadth and depth of the Buddhist tradition as it was being disseminated across Asia and they made seminal contributions themselves to Buddhist thought, practice, and ritual. Indeed, because Korea, like the rest of East Asia, used literary Chinese as the lingua franca of learned communication (much as Latin was used in medieval Europe), Korean Buddhists were in close contact with their educated colleagues across East Asia throughout much of the premodern era, and their own writings were disseminated throughout the entire region with relative dispatch. Korean monks and exegetes were thus also joint collaborators in the creation and development of the Buddhist tradition as a whole, and particularly in the creation of the indigenous Chinese and Japanese Buddhist traditions. This lecture will explore how a region in the far hinterlands of northeast Asia was able to forge these connections with their brethren across the continent, transplant that dharma on the peninsula, and ultimately make Buddhism its own.

Robert E. Buswell Jr. (Distinguished Professor of Buddhist Studies in the UCLA Department of Asian Languages and Cultures) is the Irving and Jean Stone Chair in Humanities at UCLA, and the founding director of the university’s Center for Buddhist Studies and Center for Korean Studies. From 2009-2011, he served concurrently as founding director of the Dongguk Institute for Buddhist Studies Research (Pulgyo Haksurwon) at Dongguk University in Seoul, Korea. Buswell has published fifteen books and some forty articles on various aspects of the Chinese, Korean, and Indian traditions of Buddhism, as well as on Korean religions more broadly.

This lectureship was established in memory of Andrew L. Markus, Associate Professor of Japanese Literature at the University of Washington from 1986-1995.  Established through the generosity of family and friends, this annual lecture honors Professor Markus's contribution to the study of Asian languages and literatures.

The lecture series brings to the University of Washington distinguished scholars in the field of Asian Languages and Literature.  The annual lecture is considered the premiere public event sponsored by the department and is the highest honor that the department can bestow on a scholar in the field.

The Markus lecture is free and open to the public. Parking is available.