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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Silla Superiority Complex, Part XX: Royal Tomb of King Beopheung, Gyeongju, Northern Gyeongsang - Buddhism as the Official Religion of Silla Kingdom


King Beopheung (Hangul/Hanja: 법흥왕/法興王; Reigned: 514–540 CE), whose born as Kim Won-jong (김원종/金原宗) was the 23rd monarch of Silla, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. He was preceded by King Jijeung-Maripgan a.k.a Kim Jidaero (Reigned: 500–514) and succeeded by King Jinheung a.k.a Kim Sammaekjong.

By the time of his reign, Buddhism had become fairly common in Silla, as it had been introduced much earlier by Goguryeo monks during King Nulji-Maripgan's reign. One of King Beopheung's ministers, a man named Ichadon, was a Buddhist convert who had even shaved his head and took the tonsure. He constantly implored the king to adopt Buddhism as the state religion, and in fact King Beopheung himself had become fond of Buddha's teachings. 

However, the other ministers of Silla were greatly opposed to this, and expressed such defiance to the king. Beopheung, having been persuaded by his ministers, was at a crossroads, and encountered great reluctance to change. At this time, Ichadon suggested his own martyrdom and pleaded with the king to execute him in public for the cause of Buddhism. This the king refused to do, and so Ichadon deliberately insulted the ministers of the kingdom, thus provoking the anger of the king. 

In the end, Ichadon was executed in public, but before his head was cut off, he stated that the blood spilled from his body would not be red but milky white. According to the Samguk Yusa, his predictions proved correct, and Ichadon's milky blood horrified the ministers of the kingdom. As a result of Ichadon's matyrdom, King Beopheung finally chose Buddhism as the state religion. However, true Buddhist freedom in Silla would not begin until the reign of King Jinheung. King Beopheung died in 540 CE and buried at Hyohyeon-dong 63-beonji, Gyeongju, Northern Gyeongsang - near to Gyeongju University.