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Tripitaka Koreana (lit. Goryeo Tripitaka) or Palman Daejanggyeong ("Eighty-Thousand Tripitaka")


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The Tripitaka Koreana (lit. Goryeo Tripitaka) or Palman Daejanggyeong ("Eighty-Thousand Tripitaka") is a Korean collection of the Tripitaka (Buddhist scriptures, and the Sanskrit word for "three baskets"), carved onto 81,340 wooden printing blocks in the 13th century. It is the world's most comprehensive and oldest intact version of Buddhist canon in Chinese script, with no known errors or errata in the 52,382,960 characters which are organized in over 1496 titles and 6568 volumes. Each wood block measures 70 centimeters in width and 24 centimeters in length. The thickness of the blocks range from 2.6 to 4 centimeters and each weights about three to four kilograms.

The work is stored in Haeinsa, a Buddhist temple in South Gyeongsang province, in South Korea.

The name "Goryeo Tripitaka" comes from "Goryeo", the name of Korea from the 10th to the 14th centuries. It served as reference for the edition of the Taisho Shinshu Daizokyo.

The Tripitaka Koreana was first carved in 1087 when Goryeo was invaded by the Khitan in the Third Goryeo-Khitan War. The act of carving the woodblocks was considered to be a way of bringing about a change in fortune by invoking the Buddha's help.

The original set of woodblocks were destroyed during the Mongol invasions of Korea in 1232, when Goryeo's capital was moved to Ganghwa Island during nearly three decades of Mongol attacks, although scattered parts of its prints still remain. King Gojong thereafter ordered the revision and re-creation of the Tripitaka; the carving took 16 years, from 1236 to 1251. This second revision is usually what is meant by the Tripitaka Koreana. In 1398, it was moved to Haeinsa, where they have remained housed in four buildings.

The Tripitaka Koreana is the 32nd national treasure of Korea, and the Haeinsa Temple Janggyeong Panjeon, the depository for Tripitaka Koreana, has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site [1]. The UNESCO committee describes the Triptaka Koreana as one of the "most important and most complete corpus of Buddhist doctrinal texts in the world." [2]. Not only is the work invaluable, it is also aesthetically valuable and shows a high quality of workmanship. [3].

The historical value of the Tripitaka Koreana comes from the fact that it is the most complete and accurate extant collection of Buddhist treatises, laws, and scriptures. [4]. The compiliers of the Korean version incorporated older Northern Song Chinese, Khitan, Goryeo versions and added content written by respected Korean monks. [5]. Scholars can get an idea of the older Chinese and Khitan versions of the Tripitaka from the Korean version today. The quality of the wood blocks are attributed to the National Preceptor Sugi who carefully checked the Korean version for errors. [6]. Because of the accuracy of the Tripitaka Koreana, the Japanese, Chinese, and Taiwanese versions of the Tripitaka are based on this Korean version. [7].

Each block is made of birch wood from the southern islands of Korea and was treated to prevent the decay of the wood. They were soaked in sea water for three years, then cut, then boiled in salt water. Then, the blocks were placed in shade and exposed to the wind for three years at which point they would finally be ready to be carved. After each block was carved, it was covered in a poisonous lacquer to keep insects away and was framed with metal to prevent warping.

Every block was inscribed with 23 lines of text with 14 characters per line, Therefore, each block, counting both sides, contained a total of 644 characters. The calligraphy employed was a Song Chinese style of Ou-yang Hsun, a master calligrapher. The use of this script is one of the reasons the Tripitaka Koreana is appreciated for its aesthetic value as well as a historical and religious significance. The consistency of the style, and some sources, suggests that a single man carved the entire collection but it is now believed that a team of thirty men did the job. [8]. [9].

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Haeinsa (Temple of Reflection on a Smooth Sea) is one of the foremost Buddhist temples in South Korea. It is most notable for being the home of the Tripitaka Koreana, the whole of the Buddhist Scriptures carved onto 81,258 wooden printing blocks, which it has housed since 1398. [1].

Haeinsa is one of the Three Jewel Temples of Korea, and represents Dharma or the Buddha’s teachings. It is located on Gaya Mountain in South Gyeongsang Province. It is still an active Seon practice center in modern times, and was the home temple of the influential Rev. Seongcheol, who died in 1993.

The temple was first built in 802. Legend says that two Korean monks returned from China, Suneung and Ijeong, and healed King Aejang wife's of her illness. In gratitude of the Buddha's mercy, the king ordered the construction of the temple. [2]. Another account, by Choe Chi-Won in 900 states that Suneung and his disciple Ijeong, gained the support of a queen dowager who converted to Buddhism and then helped to finance the construction of the temple.

The temple complex was renovated in the 900s, 1488, 1622, and 1644. Hirang, the temple abbot enjoyed the patronage of Taejo of Goryeo during that king’s reign. Haiensa was burned down in a fire in 1817 and the main hall was rebuilt in 1818. [3]. Another renovation in 1964 uncovered a royal robe of King Gwanghaegun, who was responsible for the 1622 renovation, and an inscription on a ridge beam.

The main hall, Daejeokkwangjeon (Hall of Great Silence and Light), is unusual because it is dedicated to Vairocana where most other Korean temples house Seokgamoni in their main halls.

The Temple of Haeinsa, the Depositories for the "Tripitaka Koreana" Woodblocks, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995. The UNESCO committee noted that the buildings housing the Tripitaka Koreana are unique because no other historical structure was specifically dedicated to the preservation of artifacts and the techniques used were particularly ingenuous. [4].

The temple also holds several official treasures including a realistic wooden carving of a monk and interesting Buddhist paintings, stone pagodas, and lanterns.

[edit] Janggyeong Panjeon (National Treasure No.52)

The storage halls, known as the Janggyeong Panjeon complex, is the depository for the Tripitaka Koreana woodblocks at Haeinsa Temple are also designated by the Korean government as a national treasure of Korea. They are some of the largest storage facilities made of wood. [5]. The halls were designated on December 20, 1962. Remarkably, the halls were untouched during the Japanese invasion during the Seven-Year War and the halls were spared from the fire that burnt most of the temple complex down in 1818. All told, the storage halls have survived seven serious temple fires and even a near bombing during the Korean War when a pilot disobeyed orders because he remembered that the temple held a priceless treasure.

Janggyeong Panjeon complex is the oldest part of the temple and houses the 81,258 wooden printing blocks from the Tripitaka. Although when the hall which houses the Tripitaka Koreana was first built is uncertain, it is believed that King Sejo expanded and renovated the hall in 1457. The storage complex is made up of four halls arranged in a rectangle and the style is very plain because of its use as a storage facility. The northern hall is called Beopbojeon (Hall of Dharma) and the southern hall is called Sudarajang (Hall of Sutras). These two main halls are 60.44 meters in length, 8.73 meters in width, and 7.8 meters in height. They both have fifteen rooms with the two adjoining rooms. Additionally, there are two small halls in the east and west which are two small libraries.

Several ingeniuous preservation techniques are utilized to preserve the wooden printing blocks. The architects also utilized nature to help preserve the Tripitaka. The storage complex was built at the highest point of the temple and is 655 meters above sea level. Janggyeong Panjeon faces the southwest to avoid damp southeasternly winds of the valley below and uses the mountain peaks to block the cold north wind. Different sized windows in the north and south of both main halls are used to ventilate the halls and the they utilize principles of hydrodynamics. The windows were installed in every hall to maximize ventilation and moderate temperature. The clay floors were filled with charcoal, calcium oxide, salt, lime, and sand which reduces humidity when it rained by absorbing excess moisture while retaining moisture during the dry winter months. The roof is also made with clay and the bracketing and wood rafters prevent sudden changes in temperature. Additionally, no part of the complex is exposed to shade. Apparently, animals, insects, and birds avoid the complex but the reason for this is unknown. These sophisticated preservation measures are widely credited as the reason the woodblocks have survived in such fantastic condition to this day.

In 1970, a modern storage complex was built utilizing modern preservation techniques but when test woodblocks were found to have mildew, the intended move was canceled and the woodblocks are still stored at Haeinsa.

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