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Posted by on Apr 15, 2008

Ichadon, milk, and the adoption of Buddhism by the Silla Royal Court in Korea

The reason why I love Wikipedia is exactly for excerpts like this. This is in reference to a Buddhist monk, Ichadon, who was also an advisor to the court to the Silla King Beopheung (that name is another post in and of itself). Well, Ichadon had convinced Beopheung that he should adopt Buddhism as an official state religion, but the nobles had protested.

So, Ichadon, in classic Korean style, offered to stage an elaborate ruse that would end in his execution, after which Beopheung would have the justification for adopting Buddhism as a state religion. Basically, Ichadon predicted that at his execution, a miracle would occur and the nobles would be convinced of the errors of their ways. What that miracle actually involved is explained in this passage:

“When Ichadon was executed on the 15th day of the 9th month in 527, his prophesy was indeed fulfilled; the earth shook, the sun was darkened, beautiful flowers rained from the sky, his severed head flew to the sacred Geumgang mountains, and milk instead of blood sprayed 100 feet in the air from his beheaded corpse – all this a token of heaven’s acceptance of his just martyrdom.”

Milk? Seriously? I have batted this around with friends, family and other Korean amateur historians and we are rather perplexed by the inclusion of milk. Not rice? It would obviously have to be soy milk, right?

Regardless, that is a rather strange image of a severed head ascending to the mountains and milk spraying everywhere. Sounds more like a horrible kitchen accident.

The pictures are as close as I could get to expressing in visual form my delight for this Wikipedia entry.
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