Defending the Dharma: Korean Buddhist Guardian Paintings

For much of Korea’s history, Buddhism has been a powerful force influencing the culture and spirituality of the Korean people, from the royal court to common society. During the Joseon dynasty (1392–1897), however, the court officially espoused neo-Confucian doctrines, which focused on maintaining social order and honouring ancestors as a means to cosmic harmony. The government turned against Buddhism, withdrawing its patronage from Buddhist temples and often oppressing those who practised the tradition. Buddhist temples moved from the cities to rural and mountain communities, where Korean Buddhists found creative ways to continue their practice, often incorporating new imagery and deities.

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