Han Yong-un

Last updated

1937 hanyongun.jpg
Born August 29, 1879
Died June 29, 1944(1944-06-29) (aged 64)
Language Korean
Nationality South Korean
Citizenship South Korean
Han Yong-un
Hangul 한용운
Hanja 韓龍雲
Revised Romanization Han Yong-un
McCune–Reischauer Han Yongun
Pen name
Hangul 만해
Hanja 萬海, also 卍海
Revised Romanization Manhae
McCune–Reischauer Manhae
Birth name
Hangul 한유천
Hanja 韓裕天
Revised Romanization Han Yu-cheon
McCune–Reischauer Han Yuch'ŏn
Courtesy name
Hangul 정옥
Hanja 貞玉
Revised Romanization Jeongok
McCune–Reischauer Chŏngok
Dharma name
Hangul 한봉완
Hanja 奉玩
Revised Romanization Bongwan
McCune–Reischauer Pongwan

Han Yong-un (Korean : 한용운, August 29, 1879 – June 29, 1944) was a twentieth century Korean Buddhist reformer and poet. [1] This name was his religious name, given by his meditation instructor in 1905, and Manhae (만해) was his pen name; his birth name was Han Yu-cheon.

Korean language Language spoken in Korea

The Korean language is an East Asian language spoken by about 77 million people. It is a member of the Koreanic language family and is the official and national language of both Koreas: North Korea and South Korea, with different standardized official forms used in each country. It is also one of the two official languages in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture and Changbai Korean Autonomous County of Jilin province, China. Historical and modern linguists classify Korean as a language isolate; however, it does have a few extinct relatives, which together with Korean itself and the Jeju language form the Koreanic language family. The proposal that Koreanic in turn belongs to the largely discredited Altaic language family is no longer supported by academic research. Korean is agglutinative in its morphology and SOV in its syntax.

Korean Buddhism

Korean Buddhism is distinguished from other forms of Buddhism by its attempt to resolve what it sees as inconsistencies in Mahayana Buddhism. Early Korean monks believed that the traditions they received from foreign countries were internally inconsistent. To address this, they developed a new holistic approach to Buddhism. This approach is characteristic of virtually all major Korean thinkers, and has resulted in a distinct variation of Buddhism, which is called Tongbulgyo, a form that sought to harmonize all disputes by Korean scholars. Korean Buddhist thinkers refined their predecessors' ideas into a distinct form.

Korean poetry

Korean poetry is poetry performed or written in the Korean language or by Korean people. Traditional Korean poetry is often sung in performance. Until the 20th century, much of Korean poetry was written in Hanja and later Hangul.



Manhae was born in Yucheon in Chungcheongnam-do, Hongseong. During his childhood, he studied Chinese classics in Seodang, a popular elementary school during the Joseon Dynasty. Prior to being ordained, he was involved in resistance to Japanese influence in the country, which culminated in the Japanese occupation from 1905 to 1945. [2] He lived in seclusion at Ose-am in the Baekdam Temple from 1896. During this period, he studied Buddhist sacred texts and several books of modern philosophy. In 1905 he received the robes of the Jogye Order of monks and in 1908 he went to Japan and visited several temples to study Buddhism and Eastern philosophy for six months. [3] In 1919 he was one of the patriot signatories to the Korean Declaration of Independence. [4]


Seodang were private village schools providing elementary education during the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties of Korea.

Joseon Korean kingdom, 1392 to 1897

Joseon dynasty was a Korean dynastic kingdom that lasted for approximately five centuries. It was founded by Yi Seong-gye in July 1392 and was replaced by the Korean Empire in October 1897. It was founded following the aftermath of the overthrow of Goryeo in what is today the city of Kaesong. Early on, Korea was retitled and the capital was relocated to modern-day Seoul. The kingdom's northernmost borders were expanded to the natural boundaries at the rivers of Amnok and Tuman through the subjugation of the Jurchens. Joseon was the last dynasty of Korea and its longest-ruling Confucian dynasty.

Korea under Japanese rule Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910–1945

Korea under Japanese rule began with the end of the short-lived Korean Empire in 1910 and ended at the conclusion of World War II in 1945. Japanese rule over Korea was the outcome of a process that began with the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1876, whereby a complex coalition of the Meiji government, military, and business officials sought to integrate Korea both politically and economically into the Empire of Japan. A major stepping-stone towards the Japanese occupation of Korea was the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1905, in which the then-Korean Empire was declared a protectorate of Japan. The annexation of Korea by Japan was set up in the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1910, which was never actually signed by the Korean Regent, Gojong.


As a social writer, Manhae called for the reform of Korean Buddhism.

Manhae's poetry dealt with both nationalism and sexual love, often mingling the two. One of his more political collections was Nimui Chimmuk (Lover's Silence, 님의 침묵), published in 1926. These works revolve around the ideas of equality and freedom and helped inspire the tendencies toward passive resistance and non-violence in the Korean independence movement.

Korean independence movement independence movement

The Korean independence movement was a military and diplomatic campaign to achieve the independence of Korea from Japan. After the Japanese annexation of Korea in 1910, Korea's domestic resistance has peaked in the March 1st Movement, which was crushed and sent Korean leaders to flee into China. In China, Korean independence activists built ties with the National Government of the Republic of China which supported the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea (KPG), as a government in exile. At the same time, the Korean Liberation Army, which operated under the Chinese National Military Council and then the KPG, led attacks against Japan.

In 1913, Han Yongun published "The Restoration of Korean Buddhism (Joseonbulgyo-yusimlon), which criticized the anachronistic isolationist policy of Joseon Buddhism and its incongruence with the then contemporary reality. The work sent tremors through the intellectual world. In this work, the author promulgated the principle of equality, self-discovery, the potential for Buddhism for safeguarding the world, and progress. His development as an activist and thinker resulted from his adherence to these very principles. [5]

In 1918, Han published "Whole Mind" (Yusim), a work that aimed to enlighten young people. In the following year, he played an important role in the 3.1 Independence movement with Chae Lin, for which he was later imprisoned and served a three-year sentence. During his imprisonment, Han composed "Reasons for Korean Independence" (Joseondoglib-i-yuseo) as a response to the official investigation into his political engagement. He was later acquitted in 1922, at which time he began a nationwide lecture tour. The purpose of the tour was to engage and inspire youth, an objective first established in Han's "Whole Mind". In 1924, he became the Chair of the Buddhist youth assembly.

March 1st Movement Korean nationalist movement against Japanese occupation

The March 1st Movement, also known as Sam-il (3-1) Movement was one of the earliest public displays of Korean resistance during the rule of Korea by Japan from 1910 to 1945. The name refers to an event that occurred on March 1, 1919, hence the movement's name, literally meaning "Three-One Movement" or "March First Movement" in Korean. It is also sometimes referred to as the Man-se Demonstrations.

The poems published in Han's Nim-ui Chimmuk had been written at Baekdam Temple in the previous year. This book garnered much attention from literary critics and intellectuals at the time. Despite his many other publications, from Chinese poems to sijos and the poems included in Yusim, and novels such as Dark Wind (Heukpung), Regret (Huhoe), Misfortune (Bakmyeong), this collection remains the poet's most significant and enduring literary achievement. [5] In it, love for the motherland plainly appears under the guise of longing for the loved one, as in the poem "I Do Not Know".

Whose footstep is that paulownia leaf that falls silently in the windless air, drawing a perpendicular?
Whose face is that piece of blue sky peeping through the black clouds, chased by the west wind after a dreary rain?
Whose breath is that unnameable fragrance, born amid the green moss in the flowerless deep forest and trailing over the ancient tower?
Whose song is that winding stream gushing from an unknown source and breaking against the rocks?
Whose poem is that twilight that adorns the falling day, treading over the boundless sea with lotus feet and caressing the vast sky with jade hands?
The ember becomes oil again.
Ah, for whose night does this feeble lantern keep vigil, the unquenchable flame in my heart? [6]

Han's model for such rhapsodic, long-lined expressions of devotion was Rabindranath Tagore, whose work he knew, and behind Tagore the long Indian tradition of combining mysticism with eroticism. [7]

Poetry in translation

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  1. "Han Yong-un " LTI Korea Datasheet available at LTI Korea Library or online at: http://klti.or.kr/ke_04_03_011.do# Archived September 21, 2013, at the Wayback Machine .
  2. Lee, Kyung-ho (1996). "Han Yong-un". Who's Who in Korean Literature. Seoul: Hollym. p. 137. ISBN   1-56591-066-4.
  3. "Han Yong-un" LTI Korea Datasheet available at LTI Korea Library or online at: http://klti.or.kr/ke_04_03_011.do# Archived September 21, 2013, at the Wayback Machine .
  4. "Han Yong'un". koreanlitinfo.com. Korean Literature. Archived from the original on December 2, 2013. Retrieved November 20, 2013.
  5. 1 2 Source-attribution|"Han Yong-un" LTI Korea Datasheet available at LTI Korea Library or online Archived September 21, 2013, at the Wayback Machine .
  6. Peter H. Lee, Poems from Korea, University Press of Hawaii 1974, pp.162–3
  7. Pankaj Mohan, "Revisiting Han Yong-un's Buddhist Texts and their Nationalist Contexts", pp.7–8