King of the Dragons: The Yong-wang and other Dragons in Korean Shrines

Lecturer: 
David Mason
Date: 
Tuesday, November 28, 2017 -
7:30pm to 9:00pm
Venue: 
Second floor Residents’ Lounge, Somerset Palace
Admission: 
10,000 won for non-members and 5,000 won for students (student ID checked at the door); free for members

 

Dragons have always played a key role in Oriental traditions, especially in religious and governmental artworks. They are plentifully employed in Korean royal palaces, Shamanic and Confucian shrines, and Buddhist temples as uplifting and protective spiritual guardians of the heavens. They are found depicted on furniture and on many artifacts, believed to bring good fortune to the owners.

“Dragon” is one of the 12 auspicious figures of the oriental zodiac, as the leader of them all. The word itself is heavily employed in all eastern languages, and appears within an extremely high percentage of place names and other names, in comparison with other words. Looking deeper, in Korea they are presented much less as motifs of heaven-granted authority as in China, but more as symbols of the vital energies of water and its life-sustaining cycles as it moves through transformations – and the depictions have subtle characteristic differences.

Most Korean Buddhist temples have at least a small shrine for Yong-wang the dragon-king, and he also appears in Guardian Assembly Icons and some paintings of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. There are many interesting myths about appearances and behavior of this royal figure within Korean Daoist, Buddhist and folklore traditions. This lecture will explain about dragons and their monarch, and the role they play in eastern spirituality, while showing many colorful photos of the artworks and shrines.

David A. Mason is a Professor of Korean and International Cultural Tourism at Sejong University, Seoul Campus, and a longtime researcher on the religious characteristics of Korea's mountains. A native of the USA, he has been living in South Korea for 33 years now. He has authored and edited ten books on Korean culture and tourism, including Spirit of the Mountains about Korea's traditions of sacred mountains, the English Encyclopedia of Korean Buddhism, and Solitary Sage: The Profound Life, Wisdom and Legacy of Korea’s ‘Go-un’ Choi Chi-won. His popular website on sacred Korean mountains and mountain-spirit traditions can be found at www.san-shin.org

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Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch
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왕립아세아학회한국지부
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