Won-Hyo (617-686 AD) was the noted Buddhist monk who introduced Buddhism into the Silla Dynasty in 686 AD. Won-Hyo, born in northern Kyongsang Province, was said to be wise from birth. As legend has it, he was born in a forest in Chestnut Valley under a Sal tree. The Sal tree is significant, as reference to it is usually only found in the legends of very revered figures.
Won-Hyo's official name, given to him at birth, was Sol Sedang. He derived the pen name Won-Hyo (meaning dawn) from his nickname "Sedak," which had the same meaning. He assumed this pen name in later years after he had become more accomplished as a Buddhist philosopher and poet. In the past, Koreans were identified by many names. Each person had a nickname as well as an official name. A person of intellectual or artistic talents might also be given a pen name. Monks and apprentices were often given yet another name by their masters.
Won-Hyo began his career at the age of 20 when he decided to enter the Buddhist priesthood and converted his own home into a temple. However, Buddhism was not a popular religion in Silla at that time. Although this religion had been introduced into the kingdom of Koguryo in 372 AD and Paekche in 384 AD, the general population of Silla was reluctant to accept it. The monk A-Tow was supposed to have introduced Buddhism to Silla between 417 AD and 457 AD, but the religion was mainly confined to the royal family and was rejected by the people.
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