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Tripitaka Koreana

The Tripitaka Koreana in storage at Haeinsa.
Korean name
Hangul 팔만 대장경
also 고려 대장경
Hanja 八萬大藏經
also 高麗大藏經
Revised Romanization Palman Daejanggyeong
also Goryeo Daejanggyeong
McCune–Reischauer P'alman Taejanggyŏng
also Koryŏ Taejanggyŏng

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 weighs about three to four kilograms. The work is stored in Haeinsa, a Buddhist temple in South Gyeongsang province, in South Korea.


File:IMG 0277Korea2.JPG

Tripitaka Koreana sutra page in 1371.

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 Chinese Buddhist canon.

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.[1]

The original set of woodblocks were destroyed by fire 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. To once again implore divine assistance with combating the Mongol threat, King Gojong thereafter ordered the revision and re-creation of the Tripitaka; the carving took 16 years, from 1236 to 1251, with support from the Choe House and involving monks from both the Seon and Kyo schools. 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.[2] The UNESCO committee describes the Triptaka Koreana as one of the "most important and most complete corpus of Buddhist doctrinal texts in the world."[3] 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 compilers 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.[5] Because of the accuracy of the Tripitaka Koreana, the Japanese, Chinese, and Taiwanese versions of the Tripitaka are based on this Korean version.[4]

Copy of a Tripitaka Koreana woodblock at Haeinsa complex grounds used to allow visitors to make an inked print of the woodblock while at the temple. See: for image of woodblock print.

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 the shade and exposed to the wind for three years at which point they were 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 Ouyang Xun, a master calligrapher. 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.[5][4]

See also


Further reading

  • Turnbull, Stephen (2003). Genghis Khan & the Mongol Conquests 1190-1400. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-523-6. 

External links

Template:World Heritage Sites in the Republic of Korea

Coordinates: 35°48′N 128°06′E / 35.8°N 128.1°E / 35.8; 128.1 ko:해인사 대장경판 id:Tripitaka Koreana ja:高麗八萬大蔵経 no:Tripitaka Koreana pt:Tripitaka Koreana ru:Трипитака Кореана vi:Bát vạn đại tạng kinh zh:高丽大藏经