The Korean Tripitaka
>>Press to see certificate inscribing Tripitaka Koreana on the
World Heritage List (press!!)
Haein-sa, being the place where the Korean Ttipitaka is kept, is known as the temple of the
Dharma, the teaching. The 81,340 wood blocks (often the number 84,000 is given, a
mythological number signifying a large amount) consists of the rules for monks along with
the stories that caused the rules to be made, the teachings of the Buddha, the philosophy and
commentaries added down through the ages.
The entire Korean Tripitaka was carved twice during the Koryo Dynastry (918-1392),
times on wooden blocks. The king and the people believed that the presence of these sacred
texts would help to drive back invasions and also bring good luck. The carving of the first
set of blocks was completed in 1087. Great care was put into the compiling of the material
resulting in a Tripitaka which was far more complete than its Chinese counter part.
Unfortunately and ironically, it was burnt in the invasion of the Mongolians in 1232. Then in
1236, the nation again set out to carve the texts on wood blocks under the orders of King
Kojong (r. 1213-1259). Special attention was paid to the completeness of the texts and to the
quality of the editing. Sixteen years later, the present-day Korean Triptaka was produced in
1251. It is this set that you can see at Haein-sa today. At first kept on Kanghwa-do, an
island to the west of Seoul, it was moved to Chich'on-sa in Seoul and then to Haein-sa in
1398, during the reign of the first Choson king. Fear of Japanese sea robbers was the reason
for moving it to remote (in those days) Haein-sa.
The creation of the wood blocks is a facinating process. First of all high quality white
birch trees (Betula platypbylla varjaponica) were chosen from the islands. The logs were
wholly submegred in sea-water for three years, then cut into planks and boiled in sea water
before being dried in the shade. After the planks had been thoroughly dried, they were
soothed and the letters were painted on with a brush before being caeved. About 30 people
carved the 52,382,960 characters: one character being carved after bowing to the Buddha.
Because of the uniformity of the carving, it seems as if the work was done by one man. Not
only were the characters beautifully written and carved, but there is not a single mistake in
the entire collection.
Moreover, the Tripitaka contains many suttas (like the Liao Tripitaka which is not found in
the Chinese Tripitaka), hence it is known as one of the best collections of texts and so was
used for the creation of the Japanese Tripitaka.
Information about changgyong-gak Library, Where the Tripitaka
Koreana is housed...(Press!!)
The Korean Tripitaka has great national significance to the Korean people. It represents their
steadfastness in adversity and their wish to maintain their cultural identity. In some ways it
is the national conscience of Korea. Also, as an early from of publishing and printing, it has
had an impact on the whole world.