Tripitaka Koreana

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Haeinsa Temple Janggyeong Panjeon, the Depositories for the Tripitaka Koreana Woodblocks
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Korea-Haeinsa-Tripitaka Koreana-01.jpg
The Tripiṭaka Koreana in storage at Haeinsa
LocationSouth Korea
CriteriaCultural: iv, vi
Inscription1995 (19th Session)
Coordinates35°48′N 128°06′E / 35.800°N 128.100°E / 35.800; 128.100
Tripitaka Koreana is located in South Korea
Tripitaka Koreana
Location of Tripitaka Koreana in South Korea
Tripitaka Koreana
Revised RomanizationPalman Daejanggyeong
or Goryeo Daejanggyeong
McCune–ReischauerP'alman Taejanggyŏng
or Koryŏ Taejanggyŏng

The Tripiṭaka Koreana (lit. Goryeo Tripiṭaka) or Palman Daejanggyeong ("Eighty-Thousand Tripiṭaka") is a Korean collection of the Tripiṭaka (Buddhist scriptures, and the Sanskrit word for "three baskets"), carved onto 81,258 wooden printing blocks in the 13th century.[1]

It is the oldest intact version of Buddhist canon in Hanja script, with 52,330,152 characters which are organized in over 1496 titles and 6568 volumes. Each wood block measures 24 centimetres in height and 70 centimetres (9.4 in × 27.6 in) in length.[2] The thickness of the blocks ranges from 2.6 to 4 centimetres (1.0–1.6 in) and each weighs about three to four kilograms. The woodblocks would be almost as tall as Mount Baekdu at 2.74 km (1.70 mi) if stacked and would measure 60 km (37 mi) long if lined up, and weigh 280 tons in total.[3] The woodblocks are in pristine condition without warping or deformation despite being created more than 750 years ago.[4][5] The Tripiṭaka Koreana is stored in Haeinsa, a Buddhist temple in South Gyeongsang Province, in South Korea.

There is a movement by scholars to change the English name of the Tripiṭaka Koreana.[6] Professor Robert Buswell Jr., a leading scholar of Korean Buddhism, called for the renaming of the Tripiṭaka Koreana to the Korean Buddhist Canon, indicating that the current nomenclature is misleading because the Tripiṭaka Koreana is much greater in scale than the actual Tripiṭaka, and includes much additional content such as travelogues, Sanskrit and Chinese dictionaries, and biographies of monks and nuns.[7]

The Tripiṭaka was designated a National Treasure of South Korea in 1962, and inscribed in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 2007.[8][1]

Haeinsa has decided to open the Palman Daejanggyeong, which was limited to Buddhist events, to pre-booked members of the public every weekend, morning and afternoon from 19 June 2021.[9]


Tripiṭaka Koreana sutra page in 1371
Tripitaka storage

The name Goryeo Tripiṭaka comes from "Goryeo", the name of Korea from the 10th to the 14th centuries.

Work on the first Tripiṭaka Koreana began in 1011 during the Goryeo–Khitan War and was completed in 1087.[10] Choi's Goryeo Military Regime, which moved the capital to Ganghwa Island due to Mongol invasions, set up a temporary organization called "Daejang Dogam".

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.[11][12] The first Tripiṭaka Koreana was based primarily on the Northern Song Tripiṭaka completed in the 10th century,[13][12] but other scriptures published until then, such as the Khitan Tripiṭaka, were also consulted in order to identify items in need of revision and adjustment.[10] The first Tripiṭaka Koreana contained around 6,000 volumes.[10]

The original set of woodblocks was 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 incursions, 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 Tripiṭaka; the carving began in 1237 and was completed in 12 years,[2] with support from Choe U and his son Choe Hang,[14] and involving monks from both the Seon and Gyo schools. This second version is usually what is meant by the Tripiṭaka Koreana.[15] In 1398, it was moved to Haeinsa, where it has remained housed in four buildings.

The production of the Tripiṭaka Koreana was an enormous national commitment of money and manpower, according to Robert Buswell Jr., perhaps comparable to the US 1960s Apollo program moon landings.[16] Thousands of scholars and craftsmen were employed in this massive project.[15]


The Tripiṭaka Koreana is the 32nd National Treasure of South Korea, and Haeinsa, the depository for the Tripiṭaka Koreana, has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[17] The UNESCO committee describes the Tripiṭaka Koreana as "one of the most important and most complete corpus of Buddhist doctrinal texts in the world".[18] Not only is the work invaluable, it is also aesthetically valuable and shows a high quality of workmanship.[19] Currently, the Palman Daejanggyeong is one of the three woodblocks in the world that are registered on UNESCO.[20]

Haeinsa, the temple in which the Tripiṭaka Koreana is stored,[clarification needed] While most of the wood blocks have remained in pristine condition for more than 750 years a few were damaged when a new depository was built in the early 1970s (by the Park Chung-hee regime) and a few blocks were transplanted to the new building on a trial basis. Those blocks were damaged almost immediately. They were subsequently moved back to their initial spots and the new building was shut down. That building is now the 'Zen Center'. Currently there are ongoing debates as to the quality of the current storage area.[5]

The historical value of the Tripiṭaka Koreana comes from the fact that it is the most complete and accurate extant collection of Buddhist treatises, laws, and scriptures.[2] While it is a popular misconception that the Tripitaka Koreana does not contain a single error;[21] a survey found that the text does indeed have missing characters and errors.[22][23] The compilers of the Korean version incorporated older Northern Song Chinese, Khitan, and Goryeo versions, and added content written by respected Korean monks.[2][24] Scholars can get an idea of the older Chinese and Khitan versions of the Tripiṭaka from the Korean version today. The quality of the wood blocks is attributed to the National Preceptor Sugi, the Buddhist monk in charge of the project,[2] who carefully checked the Korean version for errors.[24] Upon completing the Tripiṭaka Koreana, Sugi published 30 volumes of Additional Records which recorded errors, redundancies, and omissions he found during his comparisons of the different versions of the Tripiṭaka.[10] Because of the relative completion of the Korea edition of the Chinese Buddhist Tripitaka, the Japanese Taisho edition of the Tripiṭaka was said also to have been based on the Korean edition.[2] Some of its texts even were used in the Chinese edition of Zhonghua dazangjing which was based on the Jin edition which in turn was a sister edition sent to Korea.

The Tripiṭaka Koreana was one of the most coveted items among Japanese Buddhists in the Edo period.[16] Japan never managed to create a woodblock Tripiṭaka, and made constant requests and attempts to acquire the Tripiṭaka Koreana from Korea since 1388.[25] 45 complete printings of the Tripiṭaka Koreana were gifted to Japan since the Muromachi period.[16] The Tripiṭaka Koreana was used as the basis for the modern Japanese Taishō Tripiṭaka.[15]

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

Each block was made of birch wood from the southern islands of Korea and treated to prevent the decay of the wood. The blocks were soaked in sea water for three years, then cut and then boiled in salt water. Next, the blocks were placed in the shade and exposed to the wind for three years, at which point they were ready to be carved. After each block was carved, it was covered in a poisonous lacquer to keep insects away and then framed with metal to prevent warping.[26]

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 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 30 men carved the Tripiṭaka.[2][24]

Modern edition[edit]

The modern edition has 1514 texts in 47 volumes.

Volume Text Title
32 1064 Written by Huiyuan Yinyi (慧苑): Korean title: Shin Yeok Dae Bang Gwang Bul Hwa Eom Gyeong Eum Ui, Chinese title: xin1 yi4 da4 fang1 guang3 fo2 hua1 yan2 jing1 yin1 yi4 (新譯大方廣佛華嚴經音義), English title: Huiyuan's Dictionary.
34 1257 Written by Ke Hong (可洪), a monk of the Later Jin dynasty (後晉): Chinese title: xin1 ji2 zang4 jing1 yin1 yi4 sui2 (新集藏經音義隨函錄)
35 1258 Written by T'ai Tsung (太宗) of the Northern Song dynasty (北宋) (976–997): Chinese title: yu4 zhi4 lian2 hua1 xin1 lun2 hui2 wen2 ji4 song4 (御製蓮華心輪回文偈頌)
35 1259 Written by T'ai Tsung: Chinese title: yu4 zhi4 mi4 zang4 quan2 (御製秘藏詮)
35 1260 Written by T'ai Tsung: Chinese title: yu4 zhi4 xiao1 yao2 yong3 (御製逍遙詠)
35 1261 Written by T'ai Tsung: Chinese title: yu4 zhi4 yuan2 shi4 (御製緣識)
38 1402 Collected by Sugi in the 38th Year of reign of King Kojong (高宗) of the Goryeo dynasty (高麗) (1251): Chinese title: gao1 li4 guo2 xin1 diao1 da4 zang4 jiao4 zheng4 bie2 lu4 (高麗國新雕大藏校正別錄)
39 1405 Chinese title: Da4 zang4 mu4 lu4 (大藏目錄)
45 1500 Collected by Yŏn Sŏnsa (連禪師) during the reign of King Gojong of Goryeo (1214–1259) and published with an appendix by Chŏn Kwang-jae (全光宰) in Jinan (晉安), Gyeongsang Province (慶尚道) in the 9th month of the 35th year of the reign of King Gojong (1248) of Goryeo: Chinese title: nan2 ming2 quan2 he2 shang4 song4 zheng4 dao4 ge1 shi4 shi2 (南明泉和尚頌證道歌事實)
45 1503 Written by Qingxiu with the help of two disciples, Ching (靜) and Yun (筠) in the 10th year of the reign of Emperor Li Jing (保大) of the Southern Tang (南唐) (952): Chinese title: zu3 tang2 ji2 (祖堂集)
45 1504 Collected by Chen Shi during the Ming dynasty (明) (1368–1644): Chinese title: da4 zang4 yi1 lan3 ji2 (大藏一覽集)
46 1505 Written by Hyesim in the 13th year of the reign of Gojong of Goryeo (1226): Chinese title: chan2 men2 nian1 song4 ji2 (禪門拈頌集)
47 1507 Written by Kyunyŏ (均如) (923–973), of Goryeo. Chongi (天其) found this passage in Gap Temple (岬寺), in the spring of 1226: Chinese title: shi2 ju4 zhang1 yuan2 tong1 ji4 (十句章圓通記)
47 1508 Written by Kyunyŏ: Korean title: Sŏk hwa ŏm ji kwi jang wŏn t'ong ch'o, Chinese title: shi4 hua1 yan2 zhi3 gui1 zhang1 yuan2 tong1 chao1 (釋華嚴旨歸章圓通鈔)
47 1509 Written by Kyunyŏ: Korean title: Hwa ŏm gyŏng sam bo jang wŏn t'ong gi, Chinese title: hua1 yan2 jing1 san1 bao3 zhang1 yuan2 tong1 ji4 (華嚴經三寶章圓通記)
47 1510a Written by Kyunyŏ (均如): Korean title: Sŏk hwa ŏm gyo pun gi wŏn t'ong ch'o, Chinese title: shi4 hua1 yan2 jing1 jiao4 fen1 ji4 yuan2 tong1 chao1 (釋華嚴旨歸章圓通鈔)
47 1510b Written by Hyŏk Yon-jong (赫連挺), the 1st month of the 29th year of the reign of Munjong of Goryeo (文宗, 1075). Chinese title: (大華嚴首座圓通兩重大師均如傳幷序)
47 1511 Total of Wang Tzu-ch'eng of the Yuan dynasty (元) (1280–1368) with a foreword by Yi Sun-bo (李純甫) written in 2nd year of the reign of King Kangjong (康宗) of the Goryeo dynasty (1213): Chinese title: li3 nian4 mi2 tuo2 dao4 chang3 chan4 fa3 (禮念彌陀道場懺法)
47 1514 A Catalogue: Korean title: Ko-ryŏ tae-jang-gyŏng po-yu mong-nok, Chinese title gao1 li4 da4 zang4 jing1 bu3 yi2 mu4 lu4 (高麗大藏經補遺目錄)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Printing woodblocks of the Tripiṭaka Koreana and miscellaneous Buddhist scriptures". UNESCO Memory of the World. United Nations. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Haeinsa Temple Janggyeong Panjeon, the Depositories for the Tripitaka Koreana Woodblocks" (PDF). UNESCO World Heritage Centre. United Nations. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  3. ^ Park, Sang-jin (18 September 2014). Under the Microscope: The Secrets of the Tripitaka Koreana Woodblocks. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 6. ISBN 9781443867320. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  4. ^ World Heritage in Korea. Cultural Heritage Administration (South Korea). 19 November 2011. p. 188. ISBN 9788981241773. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  5. ^ a b Park, Sang-jin (18 September 2014). Under the Microscope: The Secrets of the Tripitaka Koreana Woodblocks. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 131. ISBN 9781443867320. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  6. ^ Kim, Tong-hyung (4 November 2013). "'Tripitaka Koreana' may be renamed". The Korea Times. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  7. ^ Yun, Suh-young (3 September 2013). "Name of Tripitaka Koreana should be changed". The Korea Times. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  8. ^ "Printing Woodblocks of the Tripitaka Koreana in Haeinsa Temple, Hapcheon". Cultural Heritage Administration. Korea Tourism Organization. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  9. ^ Ki, Jung-hoon (12 June 2021). "World Heritage Tripitaka Koreana, also visible to the public". YTN (in Korean). Retrieved 12 June 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ a b c d Park, Sang-jin (18 September 2014). Under the Microscope: The Secrets of the Tripitaka Koreana Woodblocks. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 21. ISBN 9781443867320. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  11. ^ Turnbull. Page 41.
  12. ^ a b p. 191.
  13. ^ Park, Jin Y. article "Buddhism in Korea" in Keown and Prebish 2010 : 451.
  14. ^ Park, Sang-jin (18 September 2014). Under the Microscope: The Secrets of the Tripitaka Koreana Woodblocks. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 60. ISBN 9781443867320. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  15. ^ a b c Buswell, Robert E. Jr.; Lopez, Donald S. Jr. (24 November 2013). The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton University Press. pp. 442–443. ISBN 9781400848058. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  16. ^ a b c Bae, Ji-sook (3 September 2013). "Scholar suggests name change for Tripitaka Koreana". The Korea Herald. Herald Corporation. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  17. ^ "Haeinsa Temple Janggyeong Panjeon, the Depositories for the Tripitaka Koreana Woodblocks". UNESCO. Retrieved 14 April 2008.
  19. ^ Park Sang-jin : „Printing Blocks Remain in Perfect Condition after 760 Years“ . Koreana - a Quarterly on Korean Art & Culture
  20. ^ "'선을 넘는 녀석들' 전 세계 딱 3개! 유네스코에 등재된 목판 기록문화유산, 장판각의 '유교책판'" [Only 3 'Those Who Cross the Line' in the world! 'Confucian Books' of Jangpangak, a UNESCO-listed woodblock documentary cultural heritage]. iMBC 연예 (in Korean). 5 January 2020. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  21. ^ Ch'oe, Chun-sik (2007). Buddhism: Religion in Korea. Ewha Womans University Press. p. 146. ISBN 978-89-7300-758-5.
  22. ^ Kim Jong-myung (2002). "The Tripiṭaka Koreana: Its Computerization and Significance for the Cultural Sciences in a Modern Globalized World". Korea and Globalization: Politics, Economics and Culture. Psychology Press. p. 158. ISBN 978-0-7007-1512-1.
  23. ^ Yi, Kyu-Gap (Autumn 1994). "Koryô taejanggyông âi chônsanhwa wa ich'eja ch'ôri munje" [The digitization of the Tripitaka Koreana and non-standard forms of familiar characters]. Tabo. 11: 76–81.
  24. ^ a b c "Tripitaka Koreana at Haeinsa Temple". Cultural Properties Administration. Archived from the original on 6 May 2009. Retrieved 14 April 2008.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  25. ^ Park, Sang-jin (18 September 2014). Under the Microscope: The Secrets of the Tripitaka Koreana Woodblocks. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 6–12. ISBN 9781443867320. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  26. ^ Mason, David A. (4 March 2010). "Tripitaka Koreana: ural Treasure". The Korea Times. Retrieved 30 September 2016.

Cited works[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°48′N 128°06′E / 35.800°N 128.100°E / 35.800; 128.100