Hwansoo Kim is an Associate Professor of Korean Buddhism and Culture in the Department of Religious Studies with a joint appointment of 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. He is the author of Empire of the Dharma: Korean and Japanese Buddhism, 1877–1912 (Harvard University Asia Center, 2013), and is now finishing his second book tentatively titled, A Transnational History of Colonial Korean Buddhism.
A Buddhist Christmas: The Buddha’s Birthday Festival in Colonial Korea
This talk examines the dynamic aspects of the Buddha’s Birthday festival as it was celebrated from 1928 to 1945 in colonial Korea. A joint Japanese and Korean Buddhist event sponsored by the state, it became the signature religious and state festival. Although much politicized, the festival was also a culmination of Buddhist efforts in Asia to respond to modernity, nationalism, colonialism, and Christian missions. Paralleling the reinvention of Christmas in the modern period, Buddhists reconfigured the Buddha’s birthday as a symbol of their religious identity and power. The Buddha’s Birthday festival should be understood in the context of increasing contact and exchange among Buddhists in the East and the West. The festival’s prominence was the result of complex negotiation and collaboration between Korean and Japanese Buddhists who both hoped the festival would advance their overlapping visions of Buddhism. The festival was not so much an imposition of the colonizer on a native culture as it was a dynamic, creative feature of modern Korean Buddhism in the colonial context.
- Friday 5 May 2017, 14:00-16:00, Maison d’Asie - 22, avenue du Pdt Wilson 75116 Paris
Building a Buddhist Empire: The Reprinting and Distribution of the Koryŏ Canon in and beyond Colonial Korea (1910-1945)
In this talk, I will discuss the powerful political, religious, and diplomatic symbolism historically embodied by the material form of Buddhist Canons—like the Koryŏ Canon. The power of the Koryŏ Canon as an object is not unique to Canons generally nor to the modern period. I argue that the Canon’s powerful symbolism did not fade but rather intensified in the modern period. To understand the power of the Canon in the modern period, I will look at it through a transnational lens, examining its influence in both religious and ostensibly secular contexts. Reprints of the Koryŏ Canon, for example, were on permanent exhibit in museums for public viewing, and with the rise of Orientalist scholarship on Buddhism also gained prominence as objects of scholarly research. These more secular aspects of the colonial-era valorization of the Koryŏ Canon can best be seen in the two printing projects the colonial government implemented in 1915 and 1937, and in their effect on the understanding of the nature of the Canon. I will demonstrate that these projects, sponsored in response to the colonizing, nationalizing, and globalizing discourses on the Canon, further attest to the persistent importance of religion—manifested in a material form—for modernity, nationalism, and imperialism.
- Thursday 11 May 2017, 14:00-16:00, Université Paris Diderot (481 C) - 5, rue Thomas Mann 75013 Paris
Competing Transnational Buddhisms: Yu Guanbin’s Contribution to Taixu’s Buddha-ization Movement in 1920–30s Shanghai
This talk concerns the work of the prominent Korean lay-Buddhist and entrepreneur Yu Guanbin (1891–1933) in Shanghai during the mid-1920s and early-1930s. Yu collaborated with the Chinese Buddhist reformer Taixu (1890–1947) in order to promote a transnational Buddhist discourse called “The Buddha-ization Movement” (fohua yundong). Yu also acted as a bridge between Korean and Chinese Buddhism by undertaking the project of rebuilding an 11th-century Korean temple, Koryŏsa, in Hangzhou. In this talk, I examine how, due to the intersections and conflicts between national/transnational and religious/political visions, Yu’s engagement in these projects was a distinctive case of modern East Asian Buddhism.
- Friday 12 May 2017, 10:00-12:00, Maison d’Asie - 22, avenue du Pdt Wilson 75116 Paris
A Modern Buddhist and Colonial Monument: Manufacturing the Great Head Temple T’aegosa in 1938 Downtown Seoul
This talk examines the tumultuous process leading up to the completion of the T’aegosa temple and how its construction encapsulated the decades-long endeavor of Korean Buddhist reformers to centralize, unify, and governmentalize Korean Buddhism. In this talk, I trace the history of Korean Buddhists’ struggles to reach this goal and analyze the complex internal and external factors that culminated in the temple’s construction, with its unveiling in 1938 closely followed by the establishment of the unified order of Korean Buddhism, Chogyejong, in 1941. I also analyze the historical debates among Buddhist leaders on how to articulate the institutional role of the temple, how to manufacture the symbolic significance of the building for Korean Buddhism, and how to relate the temple to the colonial government’s policy. I would ultimately like this talk to illuminate the ways in which, despite its colonial space, this architecture came to manifest a locus of Korean Buddhist modern, traditional, and national identity.
- Friday 19 May 2017, 10:00-12:00, Maison d’Asie - 22 avenue du Pdt Wilson 75116 Paris