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Pages from the first book printed using type
Korean name
Revised RomanizationBaegun hwasang chorok buljo jikji simche yojeol
McCune–ReischauerPaegun hwasang ch'orok pulcho chikchi simch'e yojŏl

Jikji (Korean직지; Korean pronunciation: [tɕiktɕ͈i]) is the abbreviated title of a Korean Buddhist document whose title can be translated to "Anthology of Great Buddhist Priests' Zen Teachings".[1] Printed during the Goryeo Dynasty in 1377, it is the world's oldest extant book printed with movable metal type. UNESCO confirmed Jikji as the world's oldest metalloid type in September 2001 and includes it in the Memory of the World Programme.[2]

Jikji was published in Heungdeok Temple in 1377, 78 years prior to Johannes Gutenberg's acclaimed "42-Line Bible" printed during the years 1452–1455.[3][4] The greater part of the Jikji is now lost, and today only the last volume survives, and is kept at the Manuscrits Orientaux division of the National Library of France (BnF).[4] The BnF has hosted a digital copy online.[5]

Jikji Simche means, "If you look at a person's heart correctly through the Zen meditation, you will realize that the nature of the heart is the heart of Buddha.".[6]


Jikji was written by the Buddhist monk Baegun (1298–1374, Buddhist name Gyeonghan).

In May of 1351, Baegun sought the teachings of Chinese Buddhist Master Seok-ok. After receiving the first volume of Bulgyeongjisimcheyojeol from Seok-ok, he began practicing Buddhist teachings. Baegun was also taught by the Indian high priest Jigonghwasang.[7]

He later served as the chief priest of Anguksa and Shingwangsa temples in Haeju, Hwanghae Province, and was published in two volumes in Seongbulsan in 1372.

Baegun wrote and edited Jikji at Chwiamsa Temple in Yeoju in 1374, where he lived until death.[8]


The Jikji comprises a collection of excerpts from the analects of the most revered Buddhist monks throughout successive generations. Baegun compiled it as a guide for students of Buddhism, then Korea's national religion under the Goryeo Dynasty (918–1392).

The text propounds the essentials of Seon, the predecessor to Japan's Zen Buddhism.

The Jikji consists of two volumes. The metal-print Jikji that was published in Heungdeok Temple is kept in the Manuscrits Orientaux division of the National Library of France, with the first page of the last volume (Book 1 in Chapter 38) torn off. A wood-carving print of Jikji published in Chwiamsa Temple contains the complete two volumes. This is kept in the National Library of Korea and Jangsagak and Bulgap temples as well as in the Academy of Korean Studies.


Movable type used to print the first known book printed with metal type, the Jikji, in Korea

On the last page of Jikji is recorded details of its publication, indicating that it was published in the 3rd Year of King U (July 1377) by metal type at Heungdeok temple in Cheongju. The Jikji originally consisted of two volumes totaling 307 chapters, but the first volume of the metal printed version is no longer extant.

There is a record indicating that in 1377 Baegun's students, priests Seoksan and Daldam, helped in the publication of Jikji by using moveable metal type and the priestess Myodeok contributed her efforts as well.[2]

Although made using movable type, Jikji used different printing methods from Johannes Gutenberg.[9]

The surviving metal type's dimensions are 24.6 × 17.0 cm. Its paper is very slight and white. The whole text is doubly folded very slightly. The cover looks re-made[citation needed]. The title of Jikji also seems to be written with an Indian ink after the original. The cover on the surviving volume of the metal type edition records in French "The oldest known Korean book printed with molded type, with 1377 as date", written by Maurice Courant.

The lines are not straight, but askew. The difference of the thickness of ink color shown on drawn letter paper is large, and spots often occur. Even some characters, such as 'day' (日) or 'one' (一), are written reversely, while other letters are not printed out completely. The same typed letters are not shown on the same paper, but the same typed letters appear on other leaves.[clarification needed] There are also blurs and spots around the characters.

Jikji, Selected Teachings of Buddhist Sages and Seon Masters, the earliest known book printed with movable metal type, 1377. Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris.


The metal-printed Jikji became known to the world in 1901 through its inclusion in the appendix of the Hanguk Seoji, compiled by the French sinologist and scholar of Korea, Maurice Courant (1865–1935). In 1972 the Jikji was displayed in Paris during the "International Book Year" hosted by the National Library of France, gaining it worldwide attention for the first time. The book was "rediscovered" by Dr. Park Byeongseon who was working as a librarian in the National Library of France. Dr. Park died in 2011.

The Jikji was printed using metal print in Heungdeok Temple outside Cheongjumok in July 1377, a fact recorded in its postscript. The fact that it was printed in Heungdeok Temple in Uncheondong, Cheongju, was confirmed when Cheongju University excavated the Heungdeok Temple site in 1985.

Heungdeok Temple was rebuilt in March 1992. In 1992, the Early Printing Museum of Cheongju was opened, and it took the Jikji as its central theme from 2000.

Only the final volume of the Jikji is preserved by the Manuscrits Orientaux department of the National Library of France.

On September 4, 2001,[10] the Jikji was formally added to UNESCO's Memory of the World.[11] The Jikji Memory of the World Prize[12] was created in 2004 to commemorate the creation of the Jikji.


The restoration process of the lower volume of Jikji was completed in 2013, restoring pages 2 to 14 by January of 2012 and pages 15 to 29 in January of 2013.[13] In March of 2013, the Cheongju Early Printing Museum commissioned the Humanities Research Institute at Kyungpook National University to research further restoration processes to complete a full restoration of the two volumes of Jikji.[14]

The completed restoration of the Jikji metal movable type was revealed at its Metal Type Casting Training Center, having successfully replicated the 31,200 characters in the upper and lower volumes of Jikji with a total of 78 plates engraved with 400 characters per plate.[15] This restoration work, done by expert Im In-ho, was done by reproducing the printed type of Jikji using the wax casting method that was used widely at the time of Jikji's original creation.[16]

The wax casting method engraves letters by attaching the letters to beeswax that were procured by heating honeycomb. A mold of the letter is then made by wrapping it with soil and pouring molten iron into the spaces where the wax has melted.

Because only one incomplete copy of the metal type printed Jikji remains, missing information was filled in by referring to the woodblock print version of Jikji, published a year after the metal type printed version. The new restoration then now includes the page of the lower volume that was lost in the copy at the French National Library. The typeface replicates the type of Jabi doryang chambeop jihae, which is known to have been produced at Heungdeoksa Temple in Cheongju around the same time period. [17] Characters not found in the Jabi doryang chambeop jihae were created by combining strokes as printed in the lower volumes of Jikji.

In total, Cheongju city invested a total of ₩1.81 billion(~$1.5 million) on the Goryeo era metal type restoration project from 2011 to 2016.


Towards the end of the Joseon Dynasty, French diplomat Victor Collin de Plancy bought the second volume of the Jikji in Seoul and took it to France, where it is now kept at the National Library of France in Paris.

In May 1886, Korea and France concluded a treaty of defense and commerce, and as a result in 1887 official diplomatic relations were entered into by the treaty's official ratification by Kim Yunsik (1835–1922) and Victor Emile Marie Joseph Collin de Plancy. Plancy, who had majored in law in France and went on to study Chinese, had served for six years as translator at the French Legation in China, between 1877 and 1883. In 1888 he went to Seoul as the first French consul to Korea, staying until 1891. During his extended residence in Korea, first as consul and then again as full diplomatic minister from 1896–1906, Victor Collin de Plancy collected Korean ceramics and old books. His official secretary, Kulang, who had moved to Seoul, classified them.

Although the channels through which Plancy collected his works are not clearly known, he seems to have collected them primarily during the early 1900s. Most of the old books Plancy collected in Korea went to the National Library of France at an auction in 1911, while the metal-printed Jikji was purchased in that same year for 180 francs by Henri Véver, a well-known jewel merchant and old book collector, who in turn donated it to the French National Library in his will.

The right of ownership remains disputed, with the French National Library maintaining that the Jikji should remain in France, while Korean activists argue it should belong to Korea.[18] The National Library of France says that as an important historical artifact of all mankind, the Jikji should remain in France as it represents a common, worldwide heritage, and does not belong to any one country. In addition, they claim the Jikji would be better preserved and displayed in France because of the prestige and resources the Library possesses. On the other hand, Korean organizations claim that it should belong to its country of origin and that it carries historical significance for the Korean people. The Committee to Bring Jikji Back to Korea led by American Richard Pennington[19] is one such organization in Seoul, Korea that is working to repatriate the Jikji back to Korea from France. The French President François Mitterrand promised to investigate ways to return various Korean books including the Jikji, should the French high-speed rail technology be exported to Korea.[18] From April to June 2011, 297 volumes with 191 different Uigwes of the Kyujanggak (Oegyujanggak), were shipped back in four separate installments and subsequently kept at the National Museum of Korea.[20] However, Jikji was not included, following opposition in France, including a protest lodged by the librarians at the National Library.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Baegun hwasang chorok buljo jikji simche yojeol (vol.II), the second volume of "Anthology of Great Buddhist Priests' Seon Teachings", unesco.org, accessed June 2011
  2. ^ a b Memory of the World, unesco.org, accessed November 2009
  3. ^ Jordan, Nicole, ed. (2012). Michelin Green Guide South Korea. Michelin Guide. p. 387. ISBN 978-1907099694.
  4. ^ a b "Jikji: An Invaluable Text of Buddhism". The Korea Times. April 1, 2010. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  5. ^ 백운화상초록불조직지심체요절. 白雲和尙抄錄佛祖直指心體要節 Päk un (1298-1374). Auteur du texte. Bibliothèque nationale de France, accessed October 18, 2020. 1377.
  6. ^ "직지심체요절". terms.naver.com (in Korean). Retrieved 2021-03-28.
  7. ^ "청주고인쇄박물관 - 직지란?". www.cheongju.go.kr. Retrieved 2022-10-11.
  8. ^ "청주고인쇄박물관 - 직지란?". www.cheongju.go.kr. Retrieved 2022-10-11.
  9. ^ "직지심체요절". terms.naver.com (in Korean). Retrieved 2019-10-16.
  10. ^ "The invention of movable metal type: Goryeo technology and wisdom". Google Arts & Culture. Retrieved 2023-11-08.
  11. ^ "Baegun hwasang chorok buljo jikji simche yojeol (vol.II), the second volume of "Anthology of Great Buddhist Priests' Zen Teachings"". www.unesco.org. Retrieved 2023-11-08.
  12. ^ "Jikji Prize ceremony to be held next week in Cheongju, Republic of Korea". www.unesco,org. Retrieved 2023-11-08.
  13. ^ "청주시 '직지' 상권도 복원 착수". 동양일보 (in Korean). 2013-04-17. Retrieved 2022-10-05.
  14. ^ 박, 상현. "佛국립도서관에 '직지'보다 앞선 고서 있다…유일본 여럿 확인". Naver News (in Korean). Retrieved 2022-10-11.
  15. ^ "직지 금속활자 옛 주조방식 그대로 복원". Hankook Ilbo (in Korean). 2016-01-19. Retrieved 2022-10-05.
  16. ^ "직지심체요절구결(直指心體要節口訣)". Encyclopedia of Korean Culture. Retrieved 2022-10-11.
  17. ^ "jabi doryang chambeop jihae (A Collection of Commentaries on the Repentance Ritual of Great Compassion". Retrieved 2023-05-23.
  18. ^ a b cceia.org Archived 2010-08-21 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ "The Jikji Prize Award Ceremony in Cheongju—September 12, 2013". 13 September 2013.
  20. ^ Lee, Claire "Ancient Korean royal books welcomed back home" Korea Herald. 6 December 2011. Retrieved 2012-04-23
  21. ^ Lee, Kyong-hee. "Joseon Royal Books Return Home after 145 Years in France." The JoongAng Ilbo. koreana.or.kr

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