Transformational Journeys and Encounters: Pilgrimages to Kumgangsan in Early Modern Korea (1650 to 1900)


The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowships in Buddhist Studies


Kress Foundation Department of Art History


Department of History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University


The Kumgang Mountains (Korean: Kumgangsan) have traditionally been one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Korea. This project is a case study of Kumgangsan’s Buddhist communities surviving in the hostile environment of early modern Korea (1650–1900). Survival strategies included collaborating with the cultural elite, appealing for state support, and maintaining an extensive support network of wealthy donors. Religiously motivated conflicts and violence continue today, but this case study demonstrates an alternative to violent behavior and contributes to a deeper understanding of how a religious community can survive in a hostile environment by adopting non-violent survival tactics.