• History of Korea
  • Ⅳ. The Establishment and Development of the Aristocratic Society of Goryeo
  • 2. The Flourishing Aristocratic Society
  • C. A Nation Where Buddhism and Confucianism Thrived

Goryeo was the nation where Buddhism flourished the most. The people of Goryeo believed that Buddhism offered happiness to both individuals and the state, in life as well as in the afterlife.

King Taejo of Goryeo told his descendents that ‘Since Goryeo was a nation built on the strength of Buddhism, many Buddhist temples should be built and the teachings of Buddhism should be practiced’.

Buddhist monks were highly esteemed and many in the royal and aristocratic families desired to become Buddhist monks. It was common that in families with many sons, at least one would become a Buddhist monk. Euicheon, a royal prince, became‘ Guksa’(National Preceptor), and left behind many achievements.

To become a Buddhist monk, one had to cultivate one’s mind for an extended period of time and learn under the high priests. The state determined the status of a Buddhist priest through ‘Seung-gwa’, an examination for Buddhist priests. Those who passed the exam became‘ Daeseon’(Monk Designate), while the highest priest earned the title of ‘Wangsa’(Royal Preceptor), or ‘Guksa’(National Preceptor) both considered the greatest honors that monks could achieve, and were highly esteemed by the state.

Goryeo made woodblock printings of the Tripitaka, a complete collection of Buddhist scriptures, as a kind of supplication to prevent foreign invasion and defend the nation with the strength of Buddha. The Buddhist monks also served and fought for the nation when it was threatened by foreign invaders.

Temples were built in scenic places nationwide. Temples received land allotments and slaves from the state. Donations of land were also made by the royal house, aristocracy and local leaders out of devotion. The Buddhist establishments accumulated enormous wealth based on the land they had bought, or on land that they had reclaimed.

The temples also produced various commodities such as hemp cloth, ramie fabric, roofing tiles, liquor and salt using the labor of slaves or technicians. Commercial transactions were made naturally as many gathered at temples to observe Buddhist ceremonies. As part of a relief program for the poor, the Buddhist establishments also lent grain to the poor at high interest. Temples also prayed for the safety of those traveling while offering them lodging accomodations. As seen here, Buddhism wielded enormous political and economic power, while also playing a certain social role.

However, as the authority and wealth of the Buddhist establishment expanded, it led to many abuses. By the end of the Goryeo period, Buddhism had lost its leading role in society and faced criticism from the newly established ‘sadaebu’, the ruling elite that had accepted ‘seongnihak’, the scientific humanity and natural laws. In Goryeo, Confucianism greatly flourished along with Buddhism. Choi Seung-no, a Confucian scholar during the reign of King Seongjong, said that ‘while Buddhism is the basics for cultivating one’s mind, Confucianism is the principle of governing a state’in presenting his political reform program. In Goryeo, Buddhism served as the principle for cultivating the mind, while Confucianism became the principle of organizing and running the society. While organizing Buddhist events, the state also dedicated religious rituals to Confucius every February and August of the lunar calendar.

The ruling elites of Goryeo were scholars who had a cosmopolitan view of Confucianism. The Confucian classics were taught at‘ Gukjagam’, the state’s highest educational institute. As various private academies were established with the flourishing of Confucianism, the state exerted efforts to breathe new life into state schools. In the local regions, private academies called‘ hyanggyo’were established for providing Confucian education. Scholars who studied abroad also believed in Buddhism. As seen here, Confucianism and Buddhism coexisted and prospered naturally in Goryeo.

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Euicheon, Daegak Guksa
Euicheon, Daegak Guksa
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The fourth son of King Munjong who united the Buddhist sects
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Jangsengpyo
Jangsengpyo
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A monument marking the boundaries of a temple


단원 들어가기
고려
한국사 918 고려 건국 935 신라 멸망 936 후삼국 통일 1019 귀주 대첩 1126 이자겸의 난 1135 묘청의 서경 천도 운동 1170 무신 정변 1231 몽골의 침입 1236 고려 대장경 제작(~1251) 1388 위화도 회군 세계사 960 송의 건국 1192 일본, 가마쿠라 막부 성립 1206 징기즈칸의 몽골 통일 1338 영국과 프랑스의 백년 전쟁(~1453) 1368 원의 멸망과 명의 건국
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단원 요약
고려는 후삼국을 통일하고 발해 유민을 받아들여 한민족 전체를 아우른 통일 국가로 발전하였다. 고려는 불교를 국가의 종교로 숭상하고 유교를 통치의 원리로 삼아 중앙 집권적인 통치 체제를 확립하였다. 고려는 거란, 여진, 몽골 등의 침입을 받아 어려움을 겪었지만 이를 슬기롭게 극복하면서, 고려 대장경, 고려청자와 같은 세계적인 문화 유산을 남겼다. 나아가 개방적인 대외 정책을 통해 고려(코리아)의 이름이 세계에 널리 알려지게 되었다.
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Abstract
Goryeo unified the Later Three Kingdoms, accepted the displaced people of Balhae and united all the people of Korea. Goryeo officially recognized Buddhism as the state religion, while establishing Confucianis as the principle for ruling. Goryeo struggled under invasions from the Khitan, the Jurchen and the Mongols, and wisely overcame these hardships. It left behind such great cultural heritages as the Tripitaka Koreana and Goryeo celadon. Furthermore, through its open foreign policies, it succeeded in making the name Goryeo (Corea) widely known throughout the world.
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