Kyŏnghŏ Sŏngu (1849–1912) was among the few important Sŏn (CHANschool) Buddhist leaders in nineteenth-century Korea. His rise to eminence took place at a time when Buddhist institutions were in cultural and political decline after almost six hundred years of Confucian domination.
In 1879, after secluding himself in a hut for several months in order to practice intense kongan (KŎAN) meditation, Kyŏnghŏ became enlightened. Subsequently his fame spread far and wide and hundreds of followers gathered to receive his instructions. In the following decades he revived Sŏn practice greatly and set up different monasteries as training centers. Kyŏnghŏ also contributed to the renaissance of Korean Buddhism by organizing Buddhist societies on behalf of the laity.
Kyŏnghŏ passed away in his hermitage on Kapsan in 1912. His lineage of Sŏn was continued by several Kyo important disciples, all of whom have left their imprint on contemporary Buddhism in Korea.
Kyŏnghŏ did not write any major works, but he left behind a large number of instructions for meditation, exhortations to practice, and occasional pieces, as well as many songs and poems in praise of Sŏn in particular and Buddhism in general. Among these his Odo ka (Song of Enlightenment) is the most important. Much of this material was compiled posthumously by his disciples and subsequently published. Kyŏnghŏ also compiled a manual for Sŏn practitioners entitled Sŏnmunch'waryo (Important Points of Sŏn Buddhism), which is still in use today.
Kyŏnghŏ chip (Collected Works of Kyŏnghŏ), ed. Han Yongun. Seoul: Poryon'gak, 1979. Reprint of Chungang Sŏnwŏn Chang edition, 1942.
Kyŏnghŏ pŏbŏ (The Dharma Talks of Kyŏnghŏ), ed. Kyŏnghŏ Songu Sŏnsa Pŏbŏ Chip Kanhaeng Hoe. Seoul: Inmul Yŏn'gu, 1981.
Sŏnmun ch'waryo (Important Points of Sŏn Buddhism), ed. Kyŏnghŏ Sŏngu. Seoul: Poryŏn'gak, 1982.
Sørensen, Henrik H. "The Life and Times of the Korean Sŏn Master Kyŏnghŏ." Korean Studies 7 (1983): 7–33.
Henrik H. SØrensen