|Supplementary Entries and Texts for the
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF KOREAN BUDDHISM
by the Venerable Hyewon and Professor David A. Mason
|Text that was cut from an Entry:
yong or ryong 용 or 룡 龍 pages 601-03
They represent both the highest-status powers of Heaven in general, with a rising or
uplifting energy, and the entire dynamic hydrological cycle that sustains earthly life:
from clouds around the high mountains to rain and storms, to springs and streams,
down to rivers and ponds, out to the seas, and all the water-beings such as fish.
In China and in Korean Neo-Confucian culture they are symbols of heavenly powers,
and in pungsu-jiri-seol (風水地理說), Korea's own version of oriental geomancy or
feng-shui, they symbolize Earth-energies (especially as mountain-ridges, as blue or
yellow dragons), but to Korea's folk-culture they have mostly been associated with
water-forms in a wide variety of ways. Dragons are a case of a remarkable
integration across different cultures in Buddhism.
Colorful and dynamic (frightening, regal or playful) dragons are found carved and
painted on the upper structures of nearly all Buddhist Halls, employing their uplifting
energy to hold up the roof over the beams and pillars. Dragon heads are carved on
each side of the balustrades, along the steps leading to the sanctuary. Some more are
found carved out of beam-ends on each side of the entrance door, while their tails
appear inside the hall. Quite often the dragons are either carved or painted on the
ceiling of the Buddha Hall, and they are frequently painted on the two main roof-
supporting beams of a hall’s interior, usually a blue dragon on the eastern beam and a
yellow one on the western -- and their tails may follow on the other side of the beams,
even to the outside of the building on rear or side walls.
In another case the Dragon is regarded as the motive spirit power of the Banya-
yongseon (般若龍船, Wisdom Dragon Ship) that carries human beings from one shore
of the Ocean of Suffering to the Jeongto (淨土, Pure Land). In a sense the Buddha Hall
as a whole is believed to be a large boat, carried and sheltered by dragons whose
heads at the entrance represent the prow. Sometimes, one can find frescoes depicting
a boat which carries the blessed, escorted by Jijang-bosal (地藏菩薩, Ksitigarbha, the
Bodhisattva of Salvation from Suffering). This is the case in the Pure Land of Ultimate
Bliss Halls in Yangsan City’s Tongdo-sa Temple (梁山 通度寺) and Bongeun-sa
Temple of Seoul (서울奉恩寺). The fresco of the later temple is contemporary and
indicates that this tradition still flourishes in the Korean temples of today.
For more information, and many photos, see on this website.