The Significance, Various Manifestations and Roles of Kwanŭm Tales as Found in Samguk Yusa

The Significance, Various Manifestations and Roles of Kwanŭm Tales as Found in Samguk Yusa


  • Journal title: International Journal of Korean History
  • ISSN: 1598-2041 (print) 2508-5921 (online)
  • Publisher: Korea University, Center for Korean History
  • Country of publisher: korea, republic of
  • Date added to EuroPub: 2018/May/12

Subject and more

  • LCC Subject Category: History
  • Publisher's keywords: The Significance, Various Manifestations, Roles, Kwanŭm Tales
  • Language of fulltext: english
  • Full-text formats available: PDF


    Tae-suk Kihl



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In Samguk Yusa, Kwanŭm employs many different appearances when manifesting herself to humans1 (the divinity derived from the Indian Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, who was a man. Somehow, as Mahayana Buddhism developed in China, a change of gender occurred, and the divinity, whose Chinese name is Kuan Yin, became popularly known and worshipped as the “goddess of mercy”. Her name is pronounced Kwanŭm in Korean and Kannon in Japanese). For instance, she appears as a female monk in another person’s body, as an elderly woman, and as a beautiful young woman who attempts to tempt a monk. It is written that when Kwanŭm appears before people, it is to teach them about the great virtue of Buddha or to help humans in their period of suffering. And as such, manifestations of Kwanŭm found in Samguk Yusa are not a strange occurrence. Nevertheless, given the differences between herself and other Buddhas, it is only natural that people begin to wonder what the relationship is between her various appearances and her actual role as a Buddha.

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