Wŏnch'ŭk's Place in the East Asian Buddhist Tradition

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Wŏnch'ŭk's Place in the East Asian Buddhist Tradition
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Citation: Cho, Eun-su. "Wŏnch'ŭk's Place in the East Asian Buddhist Tradition." In Currents and Countercurrents: Korean Influences on East Asian Buddhist Traditions, edited by Robert E. Buswell Jr., 173–216. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2005.

Article Summary

Wǒnch'ǔk (613–696) was an influential Korean expatriate scholar-monk active during the seventh century in T'ang dynasty China. Considering his impact on contemporary Chinese Buddhist thought as well as on later Tibetan and Japanese Buddhist developments, it is surprising that Wǒnch'ǔk has yet to receive the attention he deserves from the academic world, including Korean scholarship. Possible explanations for this neglect are the complexity of his philosophy and the fact that one of his major works, Haesimmilgyǒng so, a commentary on the Saṃdhinirmocana-sūtra (The Sūtra of the Explanation of Profound Mysteries), has not been preserved in its entirety.[1] Moreover, Ch'eng wei-shih lun shu, or Sǒngyusingnon so in Korean, his commentary on the Ch'eng wei-shih lun (Vijñaptimātratāsiddhi-śāstra; Treatise on the Completion of Consciousness-Only)[2]—probably his most representative work—has been lost. Despite this dearth of extant materials, what does remain unequivocally demonstrates Wǒnch'ǔk's impact on Chinese interpretations of Indian Yogācāra theories, an area of doctrine that was the subject of fervent contention among noted Sinitic scholiasts. Wǒnch'ǔk stands at the juncture between the period dominated by the translation of Indian and Central Asian Buddhist texts and the era when "Chinese Buddhism" coalesced into a distinct tradition. Given the diverse notions of "Chinese" identity evident during the cosmopolitan T'ang dynasty, during which China subsumed many different cultures and territories, I am also interested in exploring how a figure like Wǒnch'ǔk can be viewed as representing a more abstract notion of "Sinitic" identity. (Cho, introductory remarks, 173)