Abstract

There is a general consensus in research on the First Koryŏ Tripitaka (aka Ch’ojo taejanggyŏng) that it began in 1011 in fulfillment of a vow: King Hyŏnjong had sworn to undertake the project if the Khitan invasion force would withdraw. The only scholar who has challenged this view is Ikeuchi Hiroshi, who claimed that the First Koryŏ Tripitaka was carved to pray for the repose of King Hyŏnjong’s parents’ souls. Ikeuchi based his arguments on a reading of the Hyŏnhwa-sa stele, erected by King Hyŏnjong as a memorial temple to his parents. This article reexamines Ikeuchi’s thesis and shows that though it is based on a mistaken reading and a colonial agenda, it is still the only research that offers some perspectives that allow us to move beyond single cause theories. His paper is a useful starting point to examine all of the different possible causes and motives that lay behind the project of carving the entire Buddhist canon on wooden printing blocks. Irrespective of whether or not the wish to repel the invaders was the primary cause, this article shows that there were many deeper motivations and contributing factors that irrevocably pushed Hyŏnjong to undertake this project. One of the more important contributing factors, it is argued, was the rebuilding of his legitimacy through a reassertion of the privileged relation the ruling Wang Dynasty enjoyed with Buddhism.

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