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In Session: Performing Proselytization: Religion, Economics, and Entertainment in Premodern Asia
2: The Itinerant Monk Performers in Late Chosŏn Literature and Paintings
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
University of Georgia, United States
My paper is concerned with “kŏllipp’ae,” a group of itinerant musicians and dancers in pre-modern Korea. The expression “kŏllip” is the generic term for a performing art involving folk music and dance, and the word “p’ae” means a group of people. “Kŏllipp’ae” was organized on a variety of occasions when a community needed to raise funds for a public project; therefore, the term refers to diverse kinds of troupes that served for specific economic purposes. One such group was historically affiliated with Buddhist monasteries. This band was called “chŏl kŏllipp’ae” (temple performers) as it consisted of monks who visited villages, collecting donations from audiences after their performance. Rice and money that were offered to the troupe were then used by temples to construct a new building or make a large bell. This troupe was originally made up of monastic members, but it later began to be secularized, mixing lay performers with monks in their tour. Eventually, temples hired a group of non-monastic professional artists for the sole purpose of fund-raise. This demographic change greatly influenced the development of secular performing troupes.
Documents on itinerant monk performers are quite limited. Therefore, my paper will first examine written sources of information from the Chosŏn period that are relevant to them. This will be followed by an investigation of their representations in selected nectar ritual paintings. Details of the monastic figures, their musical instruments, and their postures in the canvass of each painting will be discussed.