|Supplementary Entries and Texts for the
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF KOREAN BUDDHISM
by the Venerable Hyewon and Professor David A. Mason
Choi Chi-won 최치원 崔致遠
great scholar and spiritual master “Go-un” Choe Chi-won
Choi Chi-won (857-?) was a scholar and eminent religious figure of the end of the Unified
Silla Dynasty (統一新羅, 668-935) period. Originally from the Gyeongju Choi (慶州 崔,
also spelled Choe) family, his pen-names were both Go-un (孤雲, Lonely Cloud) and
Hae-un (海雲, Ocean Cloud). He spent his youth studying Confucianism and Daoism in
late Tang (唐) Dynasty of China, and his middle-age serving as a national official there.
He returned to Silla and entered its government in 894, trying to reform its corruptions
and save it from collapse, but was ignored and failed. He became pessimistic with the
troubled times and roamed the countryside mountains practicing Daoism towards
“immortality” while often staying at Buddhist temples. He wrote a half-dozen historical
inscriptions for biseok (碑石, steles), many poems and other works, distinguishing
himself with his literary skills.
In his later years he lived near or in Mt. Gaya-san Haein-sa Temple (伽倻山 海印寺),
forming close ties with Masters Hyeonjun (賢俊) and Jeonghyeon (定玄). Many people
believe that he attained spiritual immortality on the summit of Gaya-san instead of dying.
He exemplifies the spirit of Silla’s waning days, and the incipient harmony among
Korea’s Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism.