MY DAUGHTER JANE IS USUALLY QUITE RESERVED, slow to warm up to new people. However, one day, at the Gilsangsa Monastery in Seoul, South Korea, she grabbed a young monk’s arm and just started laughing. She was six years old, and she had come with me on a little research trip to a quiet residential neighborhood to see this monastery that had been home to one of modern Korea’s most popular monks, Venerable Beopjeong Sunim (1932–2010). I went to this temple not just because it was a renowned Jogye meditation center, but also because it was promoted by my friends in Seoul as a place for relaxation, good food, and a farmer’s market. I thought my daughter would enjoy being out of the bustle of hypermodern high-rise Seoul for an after noon.
Going to monasteries for leisure is not strange throughout the Buddhist world, as this book will show. However, Gilsangsa is relatively unusual because, according to the monastery’s official history, up until 1997, it was a high-end brothel of sorts. The Seongbuk-dong neighborhood in which the monastery sits is quite wealthy, with a number of quiet and stately homes. In the center of this neighborhood was a restaurant and private men’s club named Daewongak. It was owned by the daughter of a wealthy family, Young Han Kim (1916–1999), who had fallen on hard times. She became gisaeng (traditional female entertainer) to make ends meet and developed a following of wealthy businessmen and politicians. Near the end of her life, she decided to donate her home, restaurant, and entertainment center to Venerable Beopjeong (worth almost one hundred million US dollars), who had convinced her to focus on meditation instead of her somewhat questionable business. Today, visiting lay meditators, nuns, and monks mix here in a place that hosts charity events and children’s games. There are even toys left in different places on the monastic grounds free for children to pick up and use. This new monastery has become so successful that they opened a branch in Paris. Jane and I had so much fun that we returned the next day with my friend Beopjin, a Jogye monk himself, and a specialist in early Buddhist texts, and brought along my son and wife. Jane, who loved being the tour guide, grabbed Venerable Beopjin’s hand and led him around, laughing, dancing, and trying to pronounce (p.xii) Korean words. I had never seen her so gregarious and confident. Finally, a monastery that she felt was designed for someone just her size! I think this was the moment this book came together in my head. I had been traveling and visiting large Buddhist statues, amusement parks, monuments, and museums throughout Asia for a few years, but Jane’s laughter in that monastery led me away from simply documenting the sociohistorical contexts and architectural design of these places and placed my focus squarely on leisure distraction and the casual affective encounters that these places foster.
While Jane was the spark for this book, she was only one of the many people who inspired and informed me along the way through e-mails, casual encounters, personal tours, and astute criticisms and questions. I received advice and inspiration in various countries from Chiaki Abe, Chris Baker, Pavin Chachavalpongpun, Kate Crosby, Charnvit Kasetsiri, Tatsuki Kataoka, Charles Keyes, Jacques Leider, Tamara Loos, Mario Ivan Lopez, Sayuri Maeda, Nathan McGovern, Anake Nawigamune, Arnico Panday, Pasuk Phongpaichit, Prista Ratanapruk, Anil Sakya (Phra Sugandha), Jeffrey Samuels, Juliane Schober, Pram Sounsamut, Barend Jan Terwiel, and the late Pattana Kitiarsa.
I received materials in the mail or answers to very difficult questions from Barbara and Leonard Andaya, Ian Baird, David Barnes, Benjamin Baumann, Julius Bautista, James Benn, Ted Bestor, Bodhi Bodhiprasiddhinand, William Bodiford, Venerable Boepjin, Bénédicte Brac de la Perrière, Beth Carter, Jack Meng-Tat Chia, Claudio Cicuzza, Shayne Clarke, Steven Collins, Cliff Cosgrove, Simon Creak, Erik Davis, Michael Feener, Louis Gabaude, David Geary, Volker Grabowsky, Gregory Green, Masami Harada, Nan Hebert, Julia Hintlian, James Hoesterey, Ee Tiang Hwee, Akiko Iijima, Irving Chan Johnson, Susanne Kerekes, Ah-Young Kim, Sooja Kim, Orion Klautau, François Lagirarde, Amy Le, Kaviya Manavid, Jovan Maud, Lori Meeks, Miki Morita, Sally Ness, Oona Paredes, Aelita Parker, Deven Patel, Aaron Proffitt, Craig Reynolds, Gok Aik Sai, Jeffrey Samuels, Terenjit Sevea, Eviatar Shulman, Nicholas Sihlé, Jakkai Siributr, Pushkar Sohoni, David Spafford, Riri Tu Sri, Frederick Stange, Kanae Sunanda, Masami Tahara, Kazuhito Tanabe and his family, Anucha Thirakanont, Ruth Toulson, Ilya Vinitsky, Erick White, Thongchai Winichakul, Bella Wu, and Venerable Shi Fa Zhao. They all took time away from their own work to help me with specific problems with my research. Many guided me to particular sites, helped with translations, or just asked me the right questions at the right time. It is this type of collegial support that makes the field of Buddhist studies and my professional and personal life so rich.
My friendships with the Sister Alice, Prapod Assavavirulhakarn, the Biggs Family, Erik Braun, Anthea Butler, José Cabezón, Linda and Frank Chance, Suchitra Chongstitvatana, Paul Cobb, the Cortez Family, the Davis Family, the Dawursk Family, the Debrabander Family, Mir and Jamal (p.xiii) Elias, Filemon Gemil, the Genuardi Family, Michael Keogh, the Leibman Family, Thongchai Likhitpornsawan, Angela Locatelli, Carla Locatelli, Ann Matter, James McHugh, the Miller Family, Greg Miller, Jin and Michael Montesano, Manjita and Projit Mukharji, the Palagi Family, the Powell Family, Annette Yoshiko Reed, Thomas Roach, Ruangsasitorn Sangwarosakul, Suwanna Satha-Anand, Arthid Sheravanichkul, the Shipper Family, the Simon Family, Mitesh Thakar, the Walton Family, the Weitzman Family, the Woodward Family, Matthew Wheeler, the late Avery deBoye Wright, and all of my friends from Samut Sakorn Burana in Mahachai, have sustained me through the process of research and writing. I often say the wrong thing, forget birthdays, talk too much, and don’t listen well, but they keep humoring me and putting up with me. I can’t imagine my life without them.
Rough drafts, chapters, and particularly troublesome sections were kindly read by Thomas Borchert, John Holt, and Richard Jaffe. Their harsh criticisms and insightful comments greatly improved this book. They cannot be blamed for when I chose to take comfort in my own mistakes. Pattaratorn Chirapravati, Christoph Cueppers, Yoko Hayami, Masao Imamura, Yohei Shimizu, Hwang Soonil, Kazuko Tanabe, Woon Wee Teng, and Toshiya Unebe were particularly supportive at every stage of this process, reading closely, recommending sources, and identifying problems. It is especially encouraging when scholars of such experience and integrity take an active interest in your work. I owe them a great deal. Anne Blackburn, Anne Hansen, Peter Skilling, and Steven Collins have consistently been supportive and critical mentors. As always, Luang Pho Sombun is my preceptor and Donald Swearer is my achan.
I received generous research funding from Kyoto University, Nagoya University, Chulalongkorn University, Otani University, Ryukoku University, Dongguk University, the National University of Singapore, the Asian Civilizations Museum, the National Endowment of the Humanities, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Henry Luce Foundation, and the University of Pennsylvania. My colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania have made the publishing process go smoothly with their advice and friendship. I am so fortunate to teach alongside wonderful colleagues.
I value the comments of the external readers. The editorial group at University of Hawai‘i Press, particularly Emma Ching, Stephanie Chun, Patricia Crosby, and Mark Rowe as well as Michael Bohrer-Clancy at Westchester Publishing Serivces, were supportive at every stage of the publishing process. Finally, it is the time spent with my complicated and wonderful family—the Fitzmaurices, Seips, Reddingtons, O’Dwyers, Coppingers, Brignolas, and Galvins—that gladly took me away from my work and gave me the renewed energy to write with fresh eyes. My brother Garvan, my sister-in-law Monica, and my in-laws Wendy and Thomas have been constant supports. My dear (p.xiv) parents, Adelene and Thomas, gave me the best gift any parents could ever give a child—the gift of no expectations. They have expressed their warmth and love at every stage of my life and have never asked why I chose to engage in this very unexpected field of study. Jane challenges me intellectually and overwhelms me emotionally. My son Henry is more a phenomenon than a person. I am just continually stunned by his words, thoughts, and actions. His meals and music feed me. Christine and I have been together for a quarter century. She is my memory. She is my weather. I follow her like a sailor follows the stars.