Friday, March 2, 2018

Yong-wang, King of the Dragons

King of the Dragons
The Yong-wang and other Dragons in Korean Shrines

Both pictures as posted via RASKB email transmission of the event, Nov 2017
Professor David Mason has a fascination with Yong-wang, the Dragon King, an ancient mythological spirit here in Korea. For years David has sleuthed around Korea watching ceremonies related to the Dragon King, intensively studied the shrines dedicated to the Dragon King in the back regions of Buddhist temple compounds, and trailed images of dragons and other iconography that, for those in the know, depict the Dragon King. When I heard that David gave a lecture at the Dongguk University Seon Center on Nov 19, 2016 on the topic, I asked if he would change his upcoming lecture for the Royal Asiatic Society on 
Solitary Sage: Korea's “Go-un” Choi Chi-won Book By Professor David to this unique lecture on the Dragon King. Obviously he did! Thank you, Professor!

A summary of his Yong-wang lecture:

Dragons have always played a key role in Oriental traditions, especially in religious and governmental artworks. They are plentifully employed in Korean royal palaces, Shamanic and Confucian shrines, and Buddhist temples as uplifting and protective spiritual guardians of the heavens. They are found depicted on furniture and on many artifacts, believed to bring good fortune to the owners. 

“Dragon” is one of the 12 auspicious figures of the oriental zodiac  as the leader of them all. The word itself is heavily employed in all eastern languages, and appears within an extremely high percentage of place names and other names, in comparison with other words. Looking deeper, in Korea they are presented much less as motifs of heaven-granted authority as in China, but more as symbols of the vital energies of water and its life-sustaining cycles as it moves through transformations – and the depictions have subtle characteristic differences.

Most Korean Buddhist temples have at least a small shrine for Yong-wang the dragon-king, and he also appears in Guardian Assembly Icons and some paintings of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. There are many interesting myths about appearances and behavior of this royal figure within Korean Daoist, Buddhist and folklore traditions. This lecture, well depicted through many colorful photos of the artworks and shrine, will explain about dragons and their monarch, and the role they play in eastern spirituality.
The video link to this unique lecture is on the Royal Asiatic Society blog site titled Lecture Video: King of the Dragons, or on YouTube: King of the Dragons: The Yong-wang and other Dragons in Korean Shrines (1:12:19).

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