Some recent discoveries in korean temples and their relationship to early eastern christianity



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SOME RECENT DISCOVERIES IN KOREAN TEMPLES AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP TO EARLY EASTERN CHRISTIANITY.
BY E. A. GORDON. TOKYO.
Ladies and gentlemen :—

It is with very great pleasure that I endeavour to comply with the request of your Recording Secretary to send you a paper embodying my findings in Buddhism during my recent visit to Korea.

These, I regret to say, are very few—but only because of the limited time at my disposal, and of the immense distances which had to be covered, involving great fatigue to one no longer young.

But, fortunately, these drawbacks will not apply to your-selves who are on the spot —in the midst of what Dr. Scranton thus happily describes in his letter to me;”I can assure you it is a virgin field!”

And this is what makes research in Korea so delightful, so full of promise; for when this “virgin field” is explored by people with open hearts and minds, whose opinions are not warped and biassed by pre-conceived theories which they have picked up elsewhere from books, or hearsay, then we may confidently look for and expect magnificent results in every direction and, especially (I am more and more convinced of this), with regard to the remarkable evidence of early Christianity in Korea prior to, as well as synchronous with, the patriarch Nestorius of Constantinople, whom the Council of Ephesus condemned for heresy A. D. 431.

These evidences are strongly confirmatory of the ancient [page 2] Faith held by the Syriac “churches of the Messiah” throughout Asia, as well as by the Greek and Latin speaking churches, west of Antioch, perhaps more particularly in the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries of our era, universally known as “anno domini.”

Should you desire, ladies and gentlemen, to examine the proofs by which I have reached these conclusions step by step, blazing (as it were) a track through the jungle, you will find them in my three books, viz : “Temples of the Orient and their Message” (Kegan Paul, London); “Messiah, the Ancestral Hope of All Nations;” and the one just out: “World-Healers, or the Lotus Gospel and its Bodhisattvas.” *

Therefore I shall not waste valuable time by attempting to prove my points as we proceed, but simply request you, my hearers, to be so good as to take for our present purposes the following statements as facts already proven elsewhere, and not “theories” in any sense of the word.

Members of the Royal Asiatic Society are aware that in the year a. D. 399,† Fa-hien, (Pop-hien 法 顯) a Buddhist pilgrim, travelled from Sianfu (西安府) to India “in search of the good law,” and that in 630, he was followed by the yet more renowned monk Huen-tsang, (玄 奘) whose name (so beloved to this day in Japan as Genzio Sanzo, the teacher of many of the great Japanese monks) Dr. Aurel Stein has found still powerful to conjure with among Chinese officials in the heart of central Asia.

Both these chinese pilgrims described a very wonderful image of Maitreya which they saw on the borders of N. W. India, in the valley of Ta-li-lo the site of the old capital of Udyana. Fa-hien (法 顯) (“Buddhist records of the Western World.” p. xxx.‡), says :

“When I asked the men of that land when the eastward
* Maruzen, Tokio; Christian Literature Society, Shanghai; and Eugene L. Morice, London.

† Travels of Fa Hien pp. 25. n. 3.

‡ Dr. Legge ; S. Beal.
[page 3] passage of the Religion of Buddha began? they all said there was an Old Tradition that from the time of the setting up of the image of Maitreya Bodhisattva and afterwards there were monks (Sramanas) from India who dispatched the Dharma-Vinaya beyond this (Tsung-Ling) river (葱 嶺.)

“The setting up the image took place rather more than 300 years after the Nirvana of Buddha.*

“According to this we may say that the Extension of the Great Doctrine, i.e. Mahayana, (Japanese, Daijo 大 乘, Korean, Tai Seung) began from this image.

“If then, Maitreya Mahasattva be not the Successor of Sakya, who is there who could cause the Three Treasures (Jewels) to spread everywhere, and frontier men to understand the Law?

“As we certainly know that the origin of the mysterious revolution is not mens work, so the dream of (明 帝) Ming-Ti (at Lo-yang (洛 陽) A. D. 61) was from this also.”

The dream of Ming-Ti was that Fo,the Buddha of the West, had been born.

This majestic image’ of Maitreya was carved in sandal wood, to express the Fragrance of His Doctrine, by a disciple of the Buddha’s favourite apostle Ananda (阿 難)―viz: Madhiantika (who is said to have converted Kashmir) soon after the Great Council held at Gandara near the Indus at which the canon of the Mahayana scriptures was fixed ; at which also, the great split took place between the Old and New Buddhism le. the Hina and Mahayana schools, or “Methods of Salvation.”

This council was held about the middle of our First Century under the auspices of the Indo-Scythic King Kanishka (迦 膩 色 迦), the Venerable Par’sva (婆 粟 濕 縛), and his convert (馬島) As’vaghosa, who wrote the “Tai-Seung Kishinron (大乘記信論), or Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana,” which Dr. T. Richard pronounced seventeen


* Gautama Buddha died in A. D. 477 according to the latest scholarship. [page 4]
Years ago to be “asiatic christianity under buddhist nomenclature.”*

As’vaghosa died A.D. 100, the same year as St John at Ephesus.

For many reasons the Mahayana has been called, and I venture to think correctly, “Scythic Buddhism”† as opposed to that born on the Ganges under Gautama (驢 暴), or Prince Siddartha (悉 達 多), nearly 500 years before.

Huen-tsang,‡ (the other Chinese monk referred to above) further describes the image of Maitreya, whom he calls “Tsechi-pusa” (Jap. Seishi bosatsu, 勢知菩薩, Korean, Sei-chipo-sal), and says that:—

“from the completion of the image one branch of the stream of the law was directed towards the east.”

It is of importance to observe that whilst Kwannon (Kwan um 觀 昔) always occupies the same place in the Buddhist Trinity, usually on the right hand of Amitabha (阿 彌 陀 佛), the heavenly father, that on his left is occupied interchangeably by Tai Sei-chi (大 勢 知) “the Lord of life over death (who put an end to transmigration and receives the soul at death to present it without spot to Amida), and by Maitreya, (Jap. “Miroku,” Korean, Miryok,) who (accordingto Eitel’s “Handbook of Chinese Buddhism,” p. 92) is the “expected Messiah of Buddhists.”

In the faith of this coming Miryok, tens of thousands of Japanese―from emperors to peasants―have been laid to rest in the magnificent forest-cemetery of Koyasan (高 野 山), on the
* It is surely significant that Yuima, a devout lay man who wrote the Yuima kyo, a commentary on the Faijo (Tai seung) Kishinron (which is the authoritative scripture for the Zen Buddhists), is said by the Japanese to have been “the dear and intimate friend of Sakyamuni.” the discrepancy of dates is instructive.

† From the tradition that in King Kaniska’s time S’akya re-appeared on earth, this period is known as the Sikya era.”

‡ see Beal’s “Life of H. T.” p. 66.

Ⅱ cf. Jude. V.24.


[page 5] assurance of their great saint Kobo Daishi (弘法大師,* Hong-pop tai sa) that when he returns with Miryok to earth, their bodies shall return to life and be re-born in the pure land―the same message of comfort with which St. Paul consoled the bereaved Christians at Thessalonica!†
* Kobo Daishi gathered his disciples together, and in soothing tones earnestly said: “At first I thought I should live till I was a century old and convert all the people ; but now that you nave all grown up there is no need for my life to be prolonged, so I shall enter Kongo-jyo—(the Diamond World)一and leave my physical self here to protect the Faith from injury. But you must not therefore grieve, for though my body will die, my spirit will survive and watch your conduct.

“Therefore, never suffer yourselves to be idle because of my apparent absence. After my death, I shall go to Tushita and serve Maitreya. But I shall re-visit this world in company with Maitreya Boddhisattva and bear witness to those who have believed the Faith ; and in the interval my soul will daily come and watch over my disciples.”

Three months later O Daishi, having purified himself, awaited his decease. His disciples gathered round him and praying earnestly repeated with one voice the Name of Maitreya Bodhisattva.

The description of the last hours of the great Chinese Pilgrim Huen Tsang―some 150 years before, is very similar.

† Since writing this paper Brightman’s “Liturgies Eastern and Western” vol 1, has been more closely studied by me, and in it I find the following noteworthy passages in “the Persian Rite, or Liturgy of the Nestorians,” which Kobo Daishi must have heard when at Sianfu.

“The Eternal Son, the Word of the Father, put on Manhood and was revealed in the world for the renewal of all and the salvation of man ;

“He perfected the Mystery of the Salvation of our lives by an hallowed death ; vanquished Satan and Death, and rose again not suffering. His Resurrection made true the resurrection of the bodies of mankind.

“The Mount of Olives was their appointed place on the Thursday whereon The Way of the Highest was opened for the Ascension. He gave a blessing with His spotless hands to The Twelve (Jap. Juni), and to all the multitude on the Day of His Ascension.

“An impalpable vehicle of Fire held Him, and the King rode therein in the stead of a chariot of horses,

“The spiritual Ones came down to comfort the troubled heart of The Twelve with voices of joy and re-assurance : ‘The Message to you of this Jesus, who is now gone up ; thus shall He come at the end, and evening of the world.’ “

“He hath opened a Way for our race, and made Peace in the height and in the Depth, and made them rejoice in the Day of His Ascension. He had entered into the divine Holy of Holies to exercise His priesthood for our salvation, and hath sat down on the Seat of His kingdom at the right hand of the Father who sent Him.
[page 6] Tai Seishi, and Maitreya are practically two Aspects of the Same Being, in whose respective work or mission lies the chief and essential difference between the Mahayana of the First Century A. D. and the Hinayana taught by Gautama which plunged the Asiatic World into a state of hopeless despair and atheism through its negative teachings as to God, the Soul, and the future Life.

Gautama, however, gave utterance to a very remarkable prophecy, and we must bear in mind that he lived at the same time as several of the great Hebrew prophets who were exiles in Babylonia, with which there was then constant Caravan-communication from India.

Owing to its being found in the “Kum Kang Kieng 金剛經” (ch : vi.) one of the most popular all the Buddhist Sutras, the prediction is called “the Diamond Prophecy.”

The “Diamond Sutra” is widely used in China, and also, the Hoke-kyo, or Lotus Gospel (Saddharma Pundarika) (妙法蓮華經) translated by Kumarajiva (鳩摩羅什) at Sianfu, about A. D. 400.

The Prophecy runs as follows :—

“Gautama said : ‘Five hundred years after my death there will come Another Buddha who will found His, teaching, not on that of one, two, three, or even of ten thousand Buddhas, but on the Fountain of all the Buddhas.

‘When that One comes, listen to Him and you shall receive inestimable blessings!’

‘How shall we know Him when He comes?’ questioned a disciple.

“Gautama replied : ‘His name shall be Maitreya, which being interpreted is Love.’ “*
“Lo, all the departed lay down in Thine hope that in the glorious Resurrection Thou mightest raise them up in Glory.

* * * * After Thy command (O our Lord and God) these glorious, holy, Life-giving, and Divine Mysteries arc placed on the Propitiatory Altar until the Coming of our Lord the second time from heaven.”

* Cf 1 ep. John 3, 16; 4. 8: American R.V.
[page 7]

Now, ladies and gentlemen, will you reflect for a moment upon the extreme significance of this title?

“Maitreya” is a Sanskrit word. The Chinese translate it as “Mile fo,” and the Japanese by “Miroku” ; in Korean Miryok.

But it has the same significance as the Hebrew word “Messiah,” of which “Christos,” the “anointed one,” is the Greek equivalent, and familiar to us in english as “Christ.”

Take, for example, the words of the Samaritan Woman (john 4. 25.) “I know that Messiah cometh which is called Christ”一 “that great prophet that should come into the world” (vi. 14); of St. Peter, “thou art the Christ, the saviour of the world;” and of St. John Baptist, “art thou he that should come, or must we look for another?”

You will at once perceive what a strong common bond of union this fact, once grasped, gives to the western foreigner in dealing with any of these great far eastern nations.

We do not, perhaps, sufficiently realize that just as Greek was the language universally spoken throughout the Roman empire, in Europe and North Africa, until supplanted by the Latin—so Syriac was not only the language of commerce used all over Asia, wherever the Syriac traders went, but also the ecclesiastical language of the Christian Church east of Antioch, the third great capital of the Roman empire.

If our Greek Testament tells us that “Christians” were first so called in Antioch, (Acts xi.-26) the Syriac version (as Monsignor Duchesne has pointed out) speaks of the “people of the Messiah” ; and everywhere in the Syriac Testament “Meskikha” is used where the greek gives “Christos.”

Near Kioto in Japan there is the village of Uzumasa where there are distinct traces of the Syriac silk trade * in the 6th and 7th centuries—(if not as early as the second, in the
* “The ubiquitous Syrians had reached Treves in Roman times ; the position of the city in the 4th Century ensured their continued presence; the first bishop of Treves was Agritius of Antioch, A. D. 328.” (Dalton’s “Byzantine Art and Archeology —P. 91, pub, Oxford, 1911.)
[page 8] reign of Empress Jingo (神功皇后) and her prime minister, Nakatomi of Izumo; and in the third, connected with Prince Achi and immigrants from Korea).

The Chinese characters for Uzumasa (大秦, Tai ts’in, i.e. “Great China,” which was the Chinese nickname for the Roman Orient) are the same characters as those used on the Nestorian stone for Messiah’s birthplace.

The venerable temple Koriuji* was built in A.D. 603 by Hada Kahakatsu, the provincial governor, in his park at Uzumasa in order to receive an image—(2 feet 8 inches high) of Miryok, which the king of Pak’che (百濟) had sent from Han-yang to the Japanese crown prince, Shotoku Taishi, (聖德太子), by the hands of a Pak’che monk.

That image is preserved at Nara as a national treasure.

The Hada clan are thought to have been Syriac merchants. They founded the great silk weaving and brocade industry for which Kioto is still renowned.

In the village of Uzumasa there is a deep well like that of Sychar.† on its ancient parapet the mystic word “Y’sarai” can still be traced in Chinese characters, (井浚) (chun choon).

Cakes called katono mochi―”victory over the river”―are made at Uzumasa, marked (大) (tai), the first character in Uzumasa (ta-ts’in) ; and the stamp for them is the property of the temple. They are eaten at midnight.‡

The strange name is derived from the Hada ancestor who, when a babe, was washed up near Sakoshi in an earthen ware jar. There is a temple at Sakoshi called “David’s Shrine.” All Japanese historians agree that it is over 1200 years old. Sakoshi is on the inland sea some miles south of Himeji. (Those who desire more information on this subject may refer to Prof. P. Saeki, the lay delegate to the last pan Anglican conference from the Nippon Sei Kokwai).


* Note that Koryuji, near Kioto, is not the same as Horyuji near Nara. Although built about the same time.

† cf. Gen. Xxiv. With John iv.

‡ Prof. P. Y. Saeki.
[page 9]

To you, ladies and gentlemen, who dwell in Korea, it must be a cause for rejoicing that the Japanese propose to open up the famous “Diamond Mountain” in such a way as to make it more accessible to students of the antique

I have long felt that the name “Diamond Mountain” (jap. Kongo zan, korean, Kum kang san) must be derived from the above cited “Diamond Prophecy” concerning Maitreya, the coming Messiah of Buddhists.

A point worthy your investigation, is the reason why an immense cave on that mountain is named “Kum kang-mun,”(金剛円) i.e. “the diamond gate”?

It was on the Diamond Throne below the bodhi (wisdom) tree that Buddha was enthroned after he had conquered Mara, the evil one.

The temples on the Diamond Mountain must be very old for, as early as A.D. 515, some of them are said to have been restored by two monks in the reign of king Po-pheung, (法興王) Pop-heung wung, under whose auspices Buddhism became the state religion of Shilla, the southern kingdom.

From photographs shewn me, I note that in the frescoes of the Diamond Mountain temples, the teachings of the Hoke kyo (法華經) or Lotus gospel, are illustrated ; for that classic—so dear to the hearts of the far eastern peoples!―has the same key-notes as those of the fourth gospel, namely : infinite light, immortal life, and immeasurable love ; and the frescoes depict that tower which so strikingly resembles the one described in “The Shepherd,” (an allegory written by Hermas at Rome about A.D. 100) as “the Church, or new Jerusalem”; and, also, that liturgical tower which was a prominent feature in the rites of the western church―notably in the Gallican liturgy which is said to have been derived from St. John of Ephesus―(the contemporary of As’vaghosa, “the Man of Gandara”) ; and Constantine the Great presented to the Lateran Basilica at Rome a golden paten on which was a tower of purest gold surmounted by a richly jewelled dove―all together weighing thirty pounds. [page 10]

The name “Diamond Temple” was carried to Japan. In A. D. 606 Kum-kang-sa was built by the Empress Suiko’s (推 古 天 皇) by Tori, the grandson of Sumatah (司 馬 達 等) (Sama Taldeung) a Chinese missionary who had introduced Buddhism into Japan from Korea half a century before.

Then we find Kobo Daishi (弘法大師) giving that title to the monastery “Kongo-bujin” which he founded on Mount Koya (高 野 山) in 816, after his return from Sianfu, and at his death looking forward to entering the Kongo-jyo. i.e. Diamond World! (p. 5. n.*).

But, on the whole, Maitreya holds a more prominent position in Korea than in Japan at the present time; although I must confess that I was much struck by the remark of a very average Japanese shopman in Seoul who, when showing me a picture of the Buddhist Trinity, in which Maitreya occupied the central place (usually taken by Amida), volunteered the information :―

“Shaka in India ; Miryok in Chosen ; Dai Butsu in Japan!” Of course, this is perfectly true, although ordinary lay folks do not put it so clearly or concisely, but the Japanese monks make no secret that all the images, however varied their names, are but different aspects of the One Supreme Being ; or as the East Syriac Office says, “The Godhead is Three Persons but one Essence,” and, in the Armenian Liturgy, “the Threefold Personality of God undivided.”

There is a fine image of Maitreya in the Residency Garden at Seoul, and an immense one in the Museum which (Dr. Sekino told me) was brought from Kyong-ju, the capital of Shilla.

I was fortunate enough to obtain two tiny bronze images of Maitreya, excavated in Shilla, which (although so minute) shew very clearly the remarkably long right arm which you will notice in those large images.

I sometimes wonder if this long outstretched Arm be not “the Right Hand and the Holy Arm with which the Saviour-God of Israel got to Himself the Victory?”

In a nunnery close to the late Korean Queen’s tomb near Seoul you may see some interesting frescoes depicting the Ferry-[page 11] Boat, and contrasting the torments of the lost with the joys of the saved amid the music and dancing of the Celestial Land, in a manner worthy of Dante Alighieri himself.

Above these scenes are five pictures of Maitreya with the Svastika of the Rising Sun on His breast, like Amida’s image at Temaji (達 摩 寺) (one of the oldest temples in Japan) ; and it is well to remember that the Svasuka is the only cross represented in the Roman Catacomb-frescoes and found alike on the mantle of the Good Shepherd and on the robe of Diogenes the fossor!

Like the Cross, it is the symbol of Immortal Life and of harmony, i.e. At-one-ment.

In Mongolia it is laid upon the breast of the dead and dying.

Several crosses, however, are visible in this nunnery, as well as the Svastika.

In the chief Buddhist temple at Mukden there are some lovely frescoes by a celebrated modern Chinese artist. One represents the radiantly happy Maitreya seated on the waves of the sea and holding a Rosary―(His special emblem), which is peculiar to the Mahayana and not found in Hinayana.

Beside this fresco is one depicting the Descent of the Tower (Saddharma Pundarika sutra c., XI.) through the Clouds to earth, with the Gifts suitable for Divine Worship, in a manner so beautiful that it would worthily represent the Vision of St. John in the 21st. chapter of the Revelation of the New Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God, by Whom all tears are wiped away.

Do not forget that Maitreya’s heaven is called in Sanskrit “Tushita”—i.e. Mirth, which is the old significance of the Saxon word for Gospel—“a right merry and joyful sound.” “Serve Him with mirth,” as the Psalmist said, and mirthfulness is a characteristic note in Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress,” as well as in the Roman Catacomb-frescoes. (The Japanese word for Heaven—Goku-raku―Korean, Kuk-nak) means, “Infinite Joy”!)

[page 12]

Speaking of Mukden brings one to the interesting point of THE ROUTE by which the Mahayana Doctrines of “the Great Way of Salvation” reached Korea—certainly in the Fourth Century, if not earlier―from Gandara. Dr. Aurel Stein has proved conclusively that “all the Buddhist Art which reached China, Korea and Japan found its way from Gandara and Graeco-Baktria through Khotan”―the most inaccessible part of Central Asia with which, however, the traffic in Jade (the speciality of that “ade Kingdom”) was carried on by Indian merchants from Gandara and Kashmir and, through Tung-huang, the “Jade Gate” of Western China, to the Imperial Court at Sianfu.*

In the Fourth Century A. D. a so called “Buddhist” monk went from Gandara to Yeh (the modern Chang-te-fu in North China, where he made himself invaluable as a Councillor to the King of Jao (趣王),”Stone Tiger” (石 虎), of whose troubled reign Dr. J. Ross has told in his book “Corea.” This Buddhosimha, like his contemporaries the Monks of the West” (see Count Montalembert’s splendid History) and, in especial, St Martin of Tours, was considered a great miracle worken By his gentle teachings and character Buddho-simha certainly exercised a miraculous influence over the wild Hun soldiers of his time and deserved the title of “Wonder-worker.”

Presently a young Chinese monk from Che-Kiang in S. China arrived at Yeh, whose enthusiastic nature so won the heart of the Gandara monk that he taught him the precious doctrines of the Mahayana literature, and Do-an thenceforth became an ardent translator.

Filled with admiration for Buddho-simha, the youthful Do-an became ambitious of imitating him in his useful career as “Sleeve-Adviser” to a Monarch, and an upholder of Righteous Government, Law, and Order in those terribly lawless times. After the appalling siege of Yeh―when the citizens were forced by famine to kill and eat each other―Do-an sent two of his


* (See Stein’s “Sand burled Khotan”; “Ruins of Desert Cathay”).
[page 13] disciples into the distant West of China (Szchuan) and going himself south reached Sianfu on the Yellow River, the ancient capital of China, which, founded before B.C. 1100 was the goal of all the great Caravan routes in Asia from time immemorial.

Here, Do-an (or “Tao-an of Wei,” as he is sometimes called) won the regard of the Emperor Fu-Kien (that very remarkable Tibetan chieftain who had succeeded in unifying and uniting the 62 contending tribes of China under his own rule)一 and became a great influence lor good at the Court of Sianfu. Whilst living at Yeh, Do-an had long endeavoured by means of correspondence with the renowned scholar Kumarajiva of Kuche (龜兹), one of the “Four Garrisons” in Tokharia, to make a worthy translation of the Saddharma Pundarika (Jap. Hoke-kyo) into Chinese, and on reaching Sianfu he persuaded the Emperor Fu-Kien to send for Kumarajiva to accomplish this important work. Unfortunately, such were the difficulties of the road, hostile armies, etc. etc. that Kumarajiva did not reach Sianfu till long years after both Do-an and Fu-Kien had died— but when he came he produced the finest translation that has ever been made of this wonderful Sanskrit Scripture―from which we have now an English translation pronounced by Dr Iyan Takakusu of Tokyo, to be “not only an accurate translation, but to have preserved the very essence of Kumarajiva’s original.” This translation (published in “The New Testament of Higher Buddhism,” by Dr. T. Richard), is well worth your study, as the “Hoke kyo” (Saddharma Pundarika Sutra), and As’vaghosa’s “Tai Seung Kishinron” (The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana) are among the Five Sacred books to be found on the lecterns in roost Korean temples, and are standard works among the Mahayana Buddhists.




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