The pattern Weon-Hyo consists of 28 movements and is required
for advancement from 6th geup (green belt) to 5th geup (high green belt). This
pattern is named for the Buddhist monk Weon-Hyo (617-686 A.D.), who is credited with having completed the introduction of
Buddhism to the general population of the kingdom of Silla just prior to his death.
Weon-Hyo, born in northern Kyongsang Province, was said to be wise from birth.
As legend has it, he was born in a forest in Chestnut Valley under a sal tree. The
sal tree is significant, as reference to it is usually only found in the legends of very revered figures.
|The Buddha at Popjusa Temple
Weon-Hyo's official name,
given to him at birth, was Sol-Se-Dang. He derived the pen name Weon-Hyo, meaning
"dawn," from his nickname "Se-Dak," which had the same meaning. He assumed this
pen name in later years after he had become more accomplished as a Buddhist philosopher and poet. In the past, Koreans were identified by many names; each person
had a nickname as well as an official name. A person of intellectual or artistic
talents might also be given a pen name, and monks and apprentices were often given yet another name by their masters.
Weon-Hyo started his career at the age of 20 when he decided to enter the Buddhist priesthood and converted his own
home into a temple. Buddhism, however, was not a popular religion in Silla at
that time. Although this religion had been introduced into the kingdom of Goguryo
in 372 A.D. and Baekje in 384 A.D., the general population of Silla was reluctant to accept it. The monk A-Tow was supposed to have introduced it to Silla between 417 A.D. and 457 A.D., but the religion
was mainly confined to the royal family and rejected by the people.
This religious isolation,
however, was to change during the 7th century. At that time, Silla was at war
with the kingdoms of Baekje and Goguryo. It was under constant invasion from
Baekje, and in the year 642 A.D., it lost 40 castles to Baekje attacks, including the great castle of Taeya near the capital
of Silla. This atmosphere dramatically influenced the Buddhist faith of all three
kingdoms. Religion became more nationalistic, which tended to intensify the ferocity
of the conflicts.
|Dabotap Pagoda in Popjusa Temple
In order to accelerate the
development of this type of national spirit in Silla, King Pop-Hung wanted to officially recognize Buddhism in 527 A.D. He tried to establish it as an official state religion in the area around Gyongju. The attempt was met with vehement opposition by members of the court. However, in 528 A.D., these members of the court pressured the King into agreeing to the execution of a
22-year old monk named Ichadon to convince them that Buddhism was a worthwhile religion.
Ichadon's death for his belief in Buddhism resulted in stories of his blood being white as milk at the execution. These stories made him a martyr to this cause, and the King issued a royal mandate
that granted freedom of Buddhist belief. Shortly afterward, Buddhism was accepted
by the people. Ichadon was named as one of the ten sacred monks of Silla by King
Hun-Duk in later years, but the study of Buddhism during the reign of King Pop-Hung required the ability to read and
write Chinese. Therefore, serious study was still confined mainly to the monks
and the aristocratic population
Unfortunately, not many places
were open for the serious Buddhist student to study in Silla. Therefore,
Weon-Hyo and the noted monk Ui-Sang, like other monks of the time, set out to
study Buddhism in China in 650 A.D. The overland journey took them to Liaotung
in Goguryo. Mistaken as spies along the way by several Goguryo sentries, they
barely escaped captivity and were able to return to Silla. There is no further
record of Weon-Hyo traveling to China to study although one more attempt was made shortly after Baekje was defeated in 660
A.D. by Silla and Tang troops from China. Such study was not necessary however,
because wisdom was Weon-Hyo's from birth and he did not need a teacher. He therefore became the only monk of his time who
did not study in China.
|Four-Lion Pagoda in Hwaomsa Temple
The many monks who did study in China had a broad impact on the religious culture of the Korean peninsula. In fact, there were at least five main sects of Buddhism being practiced
in Silla during this period: Kyeyul, Yulban, Chinpyo, Popsong, and Hwaom. Chinpyo and Popsong were introduced by Weon-Hyo with Popsong being based on his book, Sipmun Hwajongnon (Treatise
on the Harmonious Understanding of the Ten Doctrines), from which Weon-Hyo's posthumous title of "Hwaong Guksa" was derived. Weon-Hyo was, in fact, the most influential of the many monks of the 7th century. He used his power in an attempt to unify the five existing sects and reduce
their constant sectarian rivalries. He is also considered to be one
of the most prolific writers in all of the Buddhist countries of his time. His
works include over 100 different kinds of literature consisting of about 240 volumes.
Unfortunately, only 20 works within a total of 25 volumes have survived.
One of the forms he chose to use was a special Silla poetic form, Hyangga. These
poems were mainly written by monks or members of the Hwarang concerning patriotism, Buddhism, and praise of the illustrious
dead. Weon-Hyo's poem "Hwaomga" is said to be among the most admired of these
Weon-Hyo's writing was not
the only area in which he gained recognition. He was well known both to the general
population and to the members of the royal family and their court. He was often
asked to conduct services, recite prayers, and give sermons at the royal court. In
660 A.D., King Mu-Yol became so interested in Weon-Hyo that he asked him to come and live in the royal palace of Yosok. A relationship with the royal princess Kwa developed and was soon followed by their
marriage and the birth of their son Sol-Chong.
Sol-Chong grew up to become one of the ten Confucian sages of the Silla era.
He is recognized for his scholarship in Chinese literature and history, and for his adaptation of Idu, the system of
using Chinese characters phonetically to record Korean songs and poems. As Korea
had not yet developed an alphabet this adaptation was very important. It made
Chinese literature available to the general public by creating, in effect, a method for translation. Sol-Chong is said to have been the author of many original works; however his Kye-Hwa-Wang is his only
|Mount Kumgang, where Weon-Hyo taught
Shortly after his son was
born, Weon-Hyo left the palace and began traveling the country. In 661 A.D.,
he experienced a revelation in his Buddhist philosophy and developed the Chongdo-Gyo (Pure Land) sect. This sect did not require study of the Chinese Buddhist literature for salvation, but merely diligent prayer. His belief was that one could obtain salvation, or enter the "Pure Land," by simply
praying. This fundamental change in Buddhist philosophy made religion accessible
to the lower classes. It soon became very popular among the entire population. And, in 662 A.D., Weon-Hyo left the priesthood and devoted the rest of his life
to traveling the country teaching this new sect to the common people.
Weon-Hyo's contributions to the culture and national awareness of Silla were instrumental in the unification
of the three kingdoms of Korea. By 660 A.D., Baekje was defeated by the
allied armies of Silla and the Tang Dynasty of China. Later, in 668 A.D., the
king of Silla, Mun-Mu, was finally successful in defeating the kingdom of Goguryo. This
victory was tainted, however, when the Tang troops set their goals on also conquering Silla.
But, in 677 A.D., after nine years of resistance, the Tang armies were driven from Korea and the unification of the
three Kingdoms of Korea was completed.
|Stone Pagoda in Punhwangsa Temple in Kyongju
died in 686 A.D. and was laid in state by his son Sol-Chong in Punhwangsa temple. He had seen the unification
of the Three Kingdoms of Korea in his own lifetime and had helped to bring about a brilliant culture in Korea through his
efforts in Buddhist philosophy. He had a profound influence on quality of life in Silla and on Buddhism
in Korea, China, and Japan.