The Amazing Tripitaka Woodblocks.

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
Trip End Dec 31, 2018

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Flag of Korea Rep.  , South Gyeongsang,
Friday, April 1, 2011

How would you preserve 80,000 beautifully carved woodblocks of the complete Buddhist scriptures for 7 centuries?

You'd have to ask the original monks of Haeinsa in Korea because they succeeded where modern technology failed. During the 1970's the President of South Korea ordered the construction of a modern storage facility for the woodblocks which are UNESCO Heritage listed. The facility was equipped with advanced ventilation, and temperature and humidity control but some test woodblocks began to grow mildew and the plan to move and house them elsewhere was scrapped. The original library building they were placed in, in the 14th century still stands and was built by the monks with its own perfect ventilation system. The woodblocks are back where they belong.

We journeyed to Haeinsa to see one of the most beautiful temples in a forest and mountain setting and to absorb and learn the history of the woodblocks. The carving of the woodblocks took 16 years to complete. Every stage of the process was carried out with future preservation in mind. The monks carefully selected birch wood, soaked then boiled in brine to protect against vermin and as a preserving process. The sacred texts were written in calligraphy, first on paper then transferred to the woodblock as a template and them meticulously carved so that future copies could be printed through eternity from the woodblock.

More than 80,000 of them.  

We were able to peer through the slats of the huge library, but photography was forbidden, unfortunately.

Walking back down the mountain we came across a beautiful pond with a coin wishing font out in the water. A group of Koreans were trying their luck, throwing coins in an attempt to land them in the font. As luck would have it Avan had a go and first coin went in, much to the excitement of our fellow Korean travellers, with many we presume congratulations (in Korean). Avan now expects at least several years of good luck. 

On leaving Haeinsa we had another wonderful moment of assistance the Koreans are so good at. We were waiting at the bus stop for a bus to take us back to the city of Daegu where we had to change to a bus for our next stop Busan. This was going to be around 3 to 4 hours of travel. A lady asked where we were going, we explained, and she said, "Oh no you don't need to go back to Daegu" and she advised we could get off halfway through the journey and connect with another bus, to cut our travelling time almost in half. She wrote all the instructions in Korean so we could show other people what we were doing, in case we had trouble. Bless her!   

Footnote: Haeinsa Temple Janggyeong Panjeon, the Depositories for the Tripataka Koreana Woodblocks are UNESCO World Heritage listed.
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