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Subprojects by M.A.-students at RUB

Gwendolin Arnold

Her project focuses on the Haein sammae ron, a diagram of verses with attached auto-commentary, usually attributed to Myeonghyo (fl. 8th c.). Through the analysis of the text and its contextualization, the project attempts to contribute to a better understanding of the cross-regional currents in early Hwaŏm/Hua-yen/Kegon, and in particular of the impact of the Wŏnhyo-gye throughout East Asia. During the first project period, Ms. Arnold worked herself into the pertaining secondary literature and subsequently prepared a draft translation of the diagram and commentary. To obtain a more nuanced understanding of the genre and historical background not only of the diagram as such, but also of the underlying verse composition, she has been writing on an additional paper on the genre of dharānī in India and China. In the next phase, open and hidden quotations from the Haein sammae ron in Chinese and Japanese works shall be traced through systematic electronic searches in the CBETA and SAT online data bases for parallel occurrences of less common phrasings. Based on the thus established intertextual links, the impact of the text in East Asian Buddhism will be gauged, and by trying to relate the textual witnesses to each other an attempt will be made to trace the actors and institutional pathways involved in its transmission.

Sin Ji Oelkers

Having studied, among other things, the import of Western books in Chinese language to Korea during the first project year, Oelkers is now going to write her master thesis which will investigate the transformation of the understanding of ancestor worship in Korea. After Catholicism was introduced in Korea in the late 18th century, ancestor rites (chesa) were the biggest issue on which the newly introduced religion conflicted with traditions. The Catholic Church in the 18th century chose to interpret ancestor rites as a religious ritual that assumed the actual presence in the wooden tablet of the soul of the deceased. So it was not approved for Catholics to hold ancestor rites. Accordingly, the Chosŏn government defined Catholicism as an evil religion in 1791, and Catholicism became officially prohibited. However in 1939 the Vatican revoked its previous decision and authorized ancestor rites as an indigenous custom. But for Korean Christians (Protestants) it is quite common to hold Christian memorial services (ch’udo yebae) nowadays, instead of traditional ancestor rites. Her thesis will carefully examine the factual and theoretical aspects of the interferences and conflicts between the traditional Confucian understanding of ancestor worship and Catholic ideas and the emergence of Christian memorial worship services in Korea.

Florian Poelking

Up to this semester he has concentrated on identifying connections between Korea and China throughout history to show how ideas originating from different contexts of Chinese historical circumstances spread to the Korean peninsula and how they were interpreted there, and vice versa. Undoubtedly a spectrum of thoughts coming from China has been intensely worked on by Korean scholars and in this way developed in what might be called “Korean way of Chinese thinking”. The adoption of Chinese thought by Koreans can be traced back to early Korean kingdoms, but especially with the rise of what nowadays is known as sirhak, European ideas mingled into the flows of knowledge in North East Asia. Paralleling the Chinese experiences Korea encountered multiple obstacles throughout its so called “opening period” in the 19th and early 20th century. While developing ideas how to match East Asian and European science and philosophy, Korean scholars looked closely at the thought of Chinese scholars like Li Hongzhang, Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao, adapting it to Korean circumstances. These adaptations of knowledge flowing into Korea can in several aspects be linked to recent developments, in particular since the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, of South Korea attaching itself more closely to the global economic system and the ongoing debates on how far cultural adaptation should go. Poelking is going to focus in more detail on these historical links during the next year. By combining his fields of study he will be able to highlight how certain ideas are conveyed through time and are manifested in different contexts.