Much has been written about the Chosŏn scholar-officials and the gentry but very little is known about their private affairs, such as their religious activities. To date, socio-political elite males of the Chosŏn period are accepted to have been averse to heterodox traditions, especially heterodox rituals. Despite the overall lack of research on their private lives, it seems this group of men did leave behind clear records of their activities and involvement with Buddhist temples. Indeed, these Chosŏn elites took part in Buddhist events and temple works more than has been realized. This article focuses on the donor ledgers for temple works, which reveal a trove of evidence of the intimate relationship that existed in the Chosŏn period between the Buddhist temples and wealthy gentry women and men. Not much different from the Koryŏ period, during the succeeding Chosŏn period sponsorship by the wealthy and powerful was a lifeline for Buddhism. Despite the five centuries under Confucian rule and anti-Buddhist state policies, during the Chosŏn dynasty the monastic community was able to continue its relationship not only with the masses but also with the socio-political elites. We are aware that beyond the polemical relationship between the Confucian elite and Buddhism, there existed a cultural framework where Buddhism provided to the societal elites not only religious meaning, but socio-cultural significance, practices, and identity.


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pp. 45-73
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