Understanding the Dedication Materials (bokjang 腹藏) Found in Korean Buddhist Images

Jeong Eunwoo, Dong-A University

Bokjang 腹藏 refers to both dedication materials placed inside a hollow cavity of a sculpture and the associated ritual of installing a variety of objects within Buddhist images. Such practice was performed not only in Korea but also in many Buddhist regions, including China, Japan, and Tibet. The term bokjang, which originated from the Flower Garland Sutra and esoteric Buddhist texts, became a unique term that has been used only in Korea from the Goryeo 高麗 dynasty (918-1392) to the present day. According to an official report, approximately three-hundred instances of dedication materials have been found in Korean Buddhist sculptures. The analysis of the data reveals that dedication materials formed a certain pattern by the fourteenth century in the Goryeo dynasty and further developed into a more uniform structure centered on the “throat-bell container” (huryeongtong 喉鈴筒), which acted as the heart of an image along with different types of dedication materials. The most important dedication materials are votive inscriptions, Buddhist texts, dharani, the “throat-bell container,” and other various objects, such as textiles and garments. In addition to these objects, unusual items that reflect either personal wishes or contemporaneous social and political contexts are installed in Buddhist sculptures. However, the most significant symbolic meaning of bokjang over the past several centuries is the belief in the transformation of a material image into a divine object of worship through bokjang and eye-opening (jeoman 點眼) rituals.

Outside In: A Goryeo Seated Avalokiteshvara and Its Dedication Materials

Shin Soyeon, National Museum of Korea, Seoul

A recent study of a wooden seated Avalokiteshvara and the dedication materials found inside the image in the collection of the National Museum of Korea is the focus of this paper. The research revealed that the image, originally attributed to the Joseon 朝鮮 period (1392–1910), actually dates to the Goryeo 高麗 dynasty (918–1392). A multitude of evidence, including radiocarbon analysis, the sculpture making techniques (including the joining method), the structure and style of the crown, and the date of the woodblock print found inside the head, indicate that the sculpture was produced during the Goryeo dynasty in the thirteenth century. One of the most significant findings of the study is the discovery of five wooden bottles. The dating of the bottles is still debated as they were found together with various objects that were later installed during the early Joseon period. However, this paper will highlight that the five wooden bottles are an earlier representation of obobyeong 五寶甁 (five treasure bottles), which, despite their name, were later made in the form of textile bundles during the Joseon period.

Understanding Textiles Found inside Buddhist Images in the Late Goryeo Period

Sim Yeon-Ok, Korea National University of Cultural Heritage

Although textile artifacts started to appear in Korean Buddhist statues in the thirteenth century, the practice of installing a large quantity of textiles and garments became prevalent in the fourteenth century. The most representative Buddhist images of this period that had textiles discovered within them include the Buddha Amitabha (1302), the gilt bronze Buddha Amitabha from Munsusa 文殊寺 (1346), the gilt bronze Medicine Buddha from Janggoksa 長谷寺 (1346), and the wooden Buddha Vairochana from Haeinsa 海印寺(late fourteenth century). Over five hundred kinds of textiles varying in textile type, color, and weaving technique were found inside the sculptures. These objects are an important resource for understanding the textile culture of the Goryeo 高麗 dynasty (918-1392). Most of the textiles were offerings made by donors, and some were used for bokjang 腹藏 rituals. This paper will discuss the characteristics and types of textiles discovered inside Goryeo Buddhist images with a focus on the features of textile production and the significance of textiles used in bokjang rituals.

The Wood and Construction of a Thirteenth-century Seated Wooden Avalokiteshvara

Park Youngman, National Museum of Korea, Seoul

Wood identification and methods of construction can provide useful information in studying wooden Buddhist images. The wood of a seated Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara from the thirteenth century was identified as needle fir (pinaceae abies holophylla). The head and high topknot, the upper and lowers arms, the two legs, and the left and right side of the torso were carved separately and joined together. Most of the parts were joined using staples, but long nails were used to connect unbent limbs. However, the front and back of the head and the left arm were joined with no trace of nail. A total of fifteen pieces of wood were used to create the sculpture, and individual parts were joined using staples and nails.

How Does a Tree Become a Buddha?: Carving Sacred Images

Jeon Sangyong, Korea National University of Cultural Heritage

Traditional and contemporary characteristics of Korean Buddhist sculpture are examined in this paper by focusing on the work of Jeon Kiman (1929–), a master of wood sculpture and a Living National Treasure of Korean Cultural Heritage. Master Jeon has faithfully executed the style and spirit of wooden Buddhist sculptures from the late Joseon 朝鮮 period (17th–19th centuries) while maintaining his own personal style. The cultural context and characteristics of traditional Korean Buddhist sculpture will be examined by showing the entire process of making a wooden Buddha. However, a Buddhist sculpture, which is hollow inside, only becomes a “Buddha” through bokjang 腹藏, an image consecration ritual.

The Korean Bokjang 腹藏 and Esoteric Buddhist Practices in East Asia

Lee Seunghye, Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art

The Korean tradition of bokjang 腹藏 is the practice of installing objects within the inner recesses of Buddhist images at the time of their consecration. The specific contents, ritual procedures, and scriptural sources of bokjang differentiate it from similar practices found throughout Buddhist Asia. Extant bokjang deposits from the Goryeo 高麗 dynasty (918-1392) reveal connections to various esoteric Buddhist texts that form the core of the Sutras on the Production of Buddhist Images (Josang gyeong 造像經) codified in the Joseon 朝鮮 period (1392-1910). The objects mentioned in the Sutras on the Production of Buddhist Images,and commonly found in Joseon bokjang deposits, were already in use during the Goryeo dynasty. This presentation examines two sets of seed syllables and five treasure bottles of those common elements and elaborates on their meaning in relation to relevant scriptural sources. This line of inquiry will contextualize bokjang within the broader ritual repertoire of esoteric Buddhism.

Korean Sutras on the Production of Buddhist Images: The Formation and Contents of the Josang gyeong 造像經 in the Joseon Period

Richard D. McBride II, Brigham Young University

The five Korean woodblock editions of the Sutras on the Production of Buddhist Images (Josang gyeong 造像經) published during the mid- and late Joseon 朝鮮 period (1392-1910) build upon a foundation of canonical texts that describe the benefits of making, washing, and bathing Buddhist images. The woodblock editions transcend these scriptures on merit-making by further developing image rituals known collectively as “procedures for devising images.” The first four editions published at Yongcheonsa 龍泉寺, Neunggasa 楞伽寺, Hwajangsa 華藏寺, and Gimnyongsa 金龍寺 from the late sixteenth to the mid-eighteenth centuries are primarily concerned with empowering images by enshrining objects in their chest cavities (bokjang 伏藏/腹藏). The expansive Yujeomsa 楡岾寺 edition (1824) presents a broad Huayan/Hwaeom 華嚴 context for the image ritual. It also exhibits similarities with dharani texts and ritual manuals from the mid- to late Joseon period due to the widespread inclusion of the spells, Siddham, and procedures associated with the eye-dotting ceremony (jeoman 點眼).

Bokjang 腹藏 in Buddhist Paintings of the Late Joseon Period: Enshrinement and Mantra

Lee Yongyun, Research Institute of Buddhist Cultural Heritage

It is not well known that dedication materials (bokjang 腹藏) are placed in Buddhist paintings in addition to Buddhist sculptures in Korea. Although it is uncertain when this practice of bokjang began in Buddhist paintings, it is clear that it was well established by the late Joseon 朝鮮 period (1392-1910). Unlike Buddhist sculpture, which places dedication materials inside a hollow cavity of an image, dedication materials are either wrapped in a pouch and hung from the top of a painting or installed on the back of a painting. Two methods for installing dedication materials in a painting exist: either the “throat-bell container” (huryeongtong 喉鈴筒) is placed inside a pouch with a small quantity of dharani and sutras, or only the “throat-bell container” is installed on the back of a painting. The difference in the location of placement and quantity of dedication materials compared to Buddhist sculptures is closely related to the space available for storage. This difference in space for installation has influenced the bokjang practice in Buddhist paintings to develop differently from that of Buddhist sculptures. For instance, mantras used during the image consecration ritual were written either on the front and back of a painting or on the images of Buddhas and bodhisattvas themselves. Mantras were also written to indicate the place where a “throat-bell container” was stored. Furthermore, the shape of a “throat-bell container” changed from a cylindrical to a square form when the preferred format of mounting Buddhist paintings changed from hanging scroll to frame. This paper will further discuss how this practice of bokjang in Buddhist paintings developed differently from that of Buddhist sculptures.

Practicum 2: Birth of a Holy Image and Bokjang 腹藏

Ven. Gyeongam, Bokjang Ritual Specialist

Bulbokjang jakbeop 佛腹藏作法, or Buddhist image consecration ritual, refers to a religious ceremony of installing dedication materials (bokjang 腹藏) into the hollow cavity of a Buddhist sculpture, transforming the material image into the divine being for religious worship. This ritual practice, which is still performed in contemporary Korean Buddhism, was recently designated as the National Intangible Cultural Heritage. This paper will introduce individual objects that are placed in Buddhist images by examining dedication materials found in two wooden Buddha Vairochana from Haeinsa 海印寺 temple.