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Lee Chang-nim

(1891-03-30)March 30, 1891
Inje, Gangwon, Joseon
Died August 22, 1977(1977-08-22) (aged 86)
Mangwolsa, Uijongbu
Revised Romanization Chunseong
McCune–Reischauer Chunsŏng
Pen name
Hangul ,
Hanja ,
Revised Romanization Chunseong, Muaedoin
McCune–Reischauer Ch'unsŏng, Muaedoin
Birth name
Hangul 창림
Revised Romanization I Changnim
McCune–Reischauer Yi Ch'angnim
Dharma name
Revised Romanization Chunseong
McCune–Reischauer Chunsŏng


Dharma Wheel.svg

Basic terms


Gautama Buddha
Dalai Lama


Nyingma Kagyu Sakya Gelug


study Dharma

Chunseong (Hangul: 춘성; Hanja: 春城), born Lee Chang-nim (이창림, 李昌林; March 30, 1891 – August 22, 1977), was a Korean Buddhist monk, scholar, poet, writer, and philosopher. His courtesy name was Muaedoin (무애도인, 無碍道人) or Chunseong (춘성, 春性).

Early life

Chunseong was born on March 30, 1891, in Inje county, Gangwon Province. His father was Lee In-oh (이인오, 李仁五) and his mother was Lady Park of Milyang (밀양박씨). He was their fifth son. Chunseong's family line was of the Pyeongchang Lee clan (평창이씨, 平昌李氏). His father was a tenant farmer. Although Chunseong's birth name was Lee Chang-nim (이창림, 李昌林), his Dharma name was Chunseong (춘성, 春城). He was often called Chunseong Chunseong (春城 春性).

Early monk life

In his early years, Chunseong went to the Baekdamsa (백담사), a famous Buddhist temple in Inje. He begged to be a pupil, but abbess Manhae Han Yong-un (만해 한용운, 萬海 韓龍雲) rejected him because he was too young. Eventually, at age fifteen, he became a Buddhist monk, apprenticing under Manhae Han Yong-un.

Chunseong was required to read through Hwaeomgyeong (화엄경, 華嚴經) and Geumganggyeong (금강경, 金剛經). He studied them so well that he could recite the Hwaeomgyeong backwards. Because of this, he earned the nickname "Hwaeom monk" (화엄법사, 華嚴法師).

March 1 movement

In November 1918, Chunseong's teacher published Yusim (translated as "whole mind"), a series of magazines that written to make Buddhism appeal to the youth. The following year, Yong-un was imprisoned for his involvement with the March 1 movement. Chunseong remained dutiful to his teacher while he was in prison and was the only head monk who regularly visited and sent over food and supplies. Even though his temple had plenty of firewood, Chunseong refused to use any heat during winter and slept in a freezing cold room:

"My teacher is shivering in a cold cell in Seodaemun Prison because he was captured by the Japanese while fighting for independence. So how can I, his disciple, sleep in the comfort of a warm room?"


Throughout his life, Chunseong slept without a quilt or blanket. In the Korean language, the spelling of quilt is "Yibul" (이불). Because the word "Yibul" had another meaning, "to separate from Buddha," Chunseong refused to sleep with a blanket (이불, 離佛, to separate Buddha).

Chunseong did not believe in owning things. Even when his followers gave him clothes, he would give them to beggars and vagrants he encountered. Because of this, he had to hide his naked body until he could return to the temple at night. He also generously gave away all the money he received from his followers.

Korean War

In the 1940s, he was told to cooperate with the law of Sōshi-kaimei (창씨개명, 創氏改名) and change his name to comply with the Japanese colonial authorities, but he refused.

In 1944, he went to the Doksungsan Sudeok Temple, where he studied under Mangong Song Wolmyon (만공 송월면, 萬空 宋月面). Mangong was top of the Korean Ganhwaseon (看話禪, 간화선). He trained for Mangong. In 1946 he returned to Mangwol Temple (망월사, 望月寺) as its head. Chunseong was attacked for hypocrisy, rigorism, pretended philanthropy and formalism. In July 1949, he participated in funerals for Baikbum Kim Gu (백범김구 국민장, 白凡金九 國民葬)

In 1950, during the Korean War, he escaped and returned to Mangwol Temple. At the end of the Korean War, he returned to his monks with bashfulness.

During the war, he preserved the Ganhwaseon tradition and the Mangwol Temple. In the 1950s, he became abbot of the Mangwol Temple, Shinheung Temple and the Bomun Temple.

Last years

In the 1960s, the South Korean regent was Park Chung-hee. In 1964, Chunseong was invited by him to Chungwadae (청와대, 靑瓦臺) since the First Lady, Yuk Young-su was a devout Buddhist.

In 1970, he again went to Mangwol temple. From 1970 to 1973 he practiced asceticism for Jangjabulwa (장좌불와, 長坐不臥), In 1973 he participated in public campaigns for safe driving and sobriety.


In 1977, he died in Mangwolsa, in Uijongbu. He was 86 years old.

At his funeral, he did not have a coffin. Instead, his corpse was covered with a straw mat. His funeral was short, with a short funeral march, during which the monks sang the song, "Grief of a drifter" (나그네 설움). His ashes are enshrined at the Bongkuk Temple, which is located in Seongnam.

Long after his death, Chunseong's name was a social taboo for South Korea because of his controversial words and actions along with the social influence of Confucianism. That taboo eased in the 1990s, but in 2002, Doal Kim Yong-ok used one of his anecdotes for a program on EBS. In 2004, South Korean broadcasting programs began to report more of his words and actions.

See also

  • Korean Buddhism
  • Korean Seon
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